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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Book Review: Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke

BOOK review
Started on: 22 May 2019
Finished on: 25 May 2019

Title: Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age
Author: Tony Reinke
Publisher: Crossway Books
Pages: 160 pages / 160 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication: 2019
Price: Rp 160,684 (

Rating: 4/5
*This e-book was received as a review copy from Crossway
"In a consumer society, images are the language of transaction. Images aim to provoke something in us in order to get something from us. New images ask us for all sorts of things—our time, our attention, our outrage, our money, our lust, our affection, and our votes. Is it possible to resist them? Should we try?"
We live in a world full of shiny distractions, faced with an onslaught of viral media constantly competing for our attention and demanding our affections. These ever-present visual “spectacles” can quickly erode our hearts, making it more difficult than ever to walk through life actively treasuring that which is most important and yet invisible: Jesus Christ. Through this book, Tony Reinke shows us just how distracting these spectacles in our lives can be and encouraged us to ask critical questions about what we're focusing our attention on. It offers practical steps to redirect our gaze away from the spectacles of this world and onto the Ultimate Spectacle, which leads to the joy and rest that our souls truly crave.

"The resolve to turn away from worthless things is a pointed way of asking: What really brings value, meaning, and purpose to our lives? Biblical ethics is not about simply avoiding corrupting things, but learning to see and enjoy and embrace eternal things that truly bring meaning and purpose and joy into our lives."

I've been an avid listener of Ask Pastor John podcast, in which Tony Reinke is the host. I've always enjoyed listening to his soothing and relaxing voice in the podcast, but this is actually the first time I've read one of his books. I was really interested to pick this book up because it's so relevant to our generation which is surrounded by medias and we live in a world full of competing spectacles. My daily life is surrounded by various feeds from Instagram, videos from Youtube, and many more. So I started reading this book with hope that it would help me learn how to treasure Christ even more in this digital and media age. As I'm trying to digitally detox myself, this book has been a good companion that encouraged me to unplug and reorder my priorities in life.
"Unfortunately, we are all very easily conned into wasting our time on what adds no value to our lives."
"We have limited amounts of time to focus in a given day, and now every second of our attention can be targeted and comoditized.
The rarity of gold and silver once gave substance to the worth of cash. Today, the scarcity of human attention brings value to accrued likes and plays and shares."
The book is divided into two parts: Part 1: The Age of Spectacle and Part 2: The Spectacle. The first part consists of 14 different chapters that analyzes the digital environment that we live in and the many different spectacles around us, such as: social media, gaming, television, merchandise, politics, and many more. The second part of this book focuses more on the world's greatest spectacle, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—a spectacle that we've only read about and remains invisible to us. As Tony Reinke writes, the great spectacle of Christ crucified is a spectacle for the ear, not a spectacle for the eye. For faith comes not by seeing, but by hearing.

The first part of the book really opened my eyes to the reality of our generation, especially about the scarcity of human attention. We all know that the human attention span is shrinking. With that in mind, the digital media companies strive to get our attention. What we sometimes do not realize is the fact that through this media consumption in our day-to-day lives, our hearts is blinded when we fill our eyes with worthless things. That's why the second part of this book helps us learn how to live well in this media age. I love how Tony Reinke states that our calling today is not to shut everything down, but we are called to recognize what is worthless and develop personal disciplines to resist the impulse to fill our lives with vain spectacles. I'm grateful for the reminder to be mindful with what I feed my mind each day instead of consuming whatever is presented in front of me.
"When we turn our attention to Christ—our ultimate Spectacle—all the flickering pixels of our culture's worthless things and beloved idols grow strangely dim."
After acknowledging the reality, the writer provides practical application for us to thrive in Christ while we live in this day and age. Tony Reinke listed ten thoughts; and I'm going to list a few that really resonates with me. The first one that I'd like to share is about resisting the manipulation of worthless spectacles. I feel like this is important especially because there are times when I mindlessly see some things and I did not realize they are affecting my thoughts. It's easy for us to get used to something and make it seems normal, even when it's not. For example, violence and eroticism. The more we see it in the movies or TV shows that we watch, it will slowly become normal for us. In point number six, Tony Reinke states that we must not attempt to relieve every spectacle tension too quickly. He said, "The antinomian who watches whatever he wants in the name of Christian freedom is just as naive as the legalist who celebrates his rejection of all television and movies and screen time as evidence of his Christian holiness." I really liked that statement because I've known people who became a stumbling block because of their radical rejection towards media. It is important for us to continually seek wisdom through Scripture to help us wisely walk forward in this age.

Overall, this book is very well-written and I learned a lot from it. Even though some of the parts are not necessarily relatable to me because I live in a different country, Tony Reinke still managed to deliver the message he wanted to relay. Even though the book contains a lot of concern towards this media age, the writer is not pushing some form of media legalism towards the readers—which I really appreciate. He emphasized that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of our failing and faltering in this age of intrusive media so that we might get stuck in perpetual guilt. We might've made stupid decisions with our time and attention, but the message of the cross tells us that we are free in Christ to live for something greater—and that's what we need to strive for. Reading this book has definitely encouraged me to be mindful with what I bring my attention to and how I'm spending my precious God-given time. Will definitely be picking up more books by Tony Reinke in the future :)
"Like a smartphone screen made blank by the rays of direct sunshine, one day we shall see Christ's face. On that day, all the vain spectacles in this world of illusions and all the pixelated idols of our age will finally and forever dissolve away in the radiance of his splendor."
by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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