by Cam Williams (Guest Post)
Competing Spectacles is a drastically sobering book about the power we let our technology hold and just how much it actually shapes our attention, actions, desires, and beliefs. Tony Reinke, in mini-chapters, systematically addresses virtually every aspect of our lives that are affected by technology. From social media and gaming to movies and news, Reinke presents a compelling call for Christians to take back their attention from the modern spectacle.
In the book he defines a spectacle as, “a moment of time, varying in length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment.” He makes the point that a spectacle puts before our eyes an object of desire which provokes a new longing for something we do not possess. Drawing attention to the fact that our digital media has become a spectacle for our eyes that far too often leads to an unhealthy, unchecked digital diet. Reinke makes the argument that we are simple creatures that are shaped by what grabs our attention, and I believe it is true. My eyes have truly been opened to how formative my phone is to me – for better and for worse. In a time where we have contact with the most information ever known to humanity we are also met with the greatest desire for more.
Upon reading this book I took a personal look at how I spend my time in digital media and realized that I spend too much time scrolling through social media, tinkering with an iPhone arcade game, or binge-watching videos. What I realized that I haven’t noticed before is that the time I spend doing those things is not passive time spent. What I mean is that I occupied time digesting these spectacles thinking I was passively taking in content, but in reality the content I was taking in was actually transforming me – even when I didn’t realize it.
The book challenged my perspective on what I give my attention to and how that attention is actually what shapes me the most. I realized that it is not what I believe that shapes me, it is what I habitually digest that shapes me. Reinke calls for the reader to take back their attention and guard their impulses in the digital realm according to their own ‘appetite and weaknesses’. “Which means that we must learn the art of refocusing a wandering mind, because “the faculty of voluntary bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character, and will”.” Therefore, instead of habitually digesting worthless media spectacles, I have tried to reorient my attention to the ultimate spectacle – Christ on the cross.
Reinke spends a large amount of time drawing attention to how the cross of Christ is the only spectacle that fulfills our hearts and orients ourselves back to God. He reminds me that we are free in Christ to choose to marvel at him, grow in him, and glorify him in our whole life – we are not slaves to digital media, we are alive in Christ.
I would recommend this book for anyone who in interested in evaluating how transformative their digital diet is and aims to give more attention to Christ our Savior. Reinke uses philosophical insights and biblical truth to draw our attention to the human condition and how Christ is the ultimate spectacle for our souls. As Proverbs 27:20 says, “…never satisfied are the eyes of man.” Reinke seeks to aid the Church in treasuring Christ in the media age.
- Competing Spectacles – Tony Reinke (Amazon)
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Cam Williams through my blog. We share the same ideals when it comes to God’s word. He is a Pastoral Assistant at Christ’s Church in Martinsville, Virginia. He loves Jesus of Nazareth, his wife Kelly, writing, and basketball. Cam also has a beautiful website called Enduring By Grace where he is “Exalting Jesus Christ through biblical writing.” Stop by it is very enlightening and uplifting.
Cam we here at Rhemalogy International would like to personally thank you for this contribution it is a real eye opener. Blessings and Peace to you and Kelly.