This is strictly an opinion piece and therefore open to debate which I invite, but as always, be charitable in your comments to me, to one another, and to Nik Wallenda!
So last night, daredevil Nik Wallenda made his historic walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope with no tether and no safety net, gluing countless numbers of viewers like myself to the live broadcast. In addition to the drama of the stunt itself, I was struck by Wallenda’s public profession of faith as he called on the name of Jesus and offered praise to Jesus throughout his stunt. But that’s what bothers me about the whole thing: it was a stunt. I have no doubt that Nik Wallenda is a good man and a man of deep faith and that his faith in Jesus Christ helped him to remain focused as he crossed the wire. I am not questioning the man’s faith. I admire his talent and ability to stay focused and to accomplish amazing fetes. Heck, I can barely keep my balance and chew gum at the same time so I have great respect for what he can accomplish. What I do question, however, is why this stunt is being held up by Christians as a model for faith and especially for evangelism. People are saying that his faith guided him, kept him calm, kept him focused, and enabled him to do a mighty deed that most people could not (and should not) even attempt. True enough. People are also saying that his faith was so strong that he was willing to risk death and that what he did is comparable to what the apostles did in the name of Christ in the Acts of the Apostles or for that matter, what any Bible hero accomplished in the name of God: they were mere mortals calling on the name of God to perform mighty deeds…same with Wallenda.
There are 2 HUGE reasons why we should not be comparing Wallenda’s fete to the mighty deeds performed by people in Scripture in the name of God. First, the fact that Wallenda was willing to risk death should trouble any Christian. It is one thing to trust that God will walk you through the flames of the fiery furnace or the lion’s den to which you have been sentenced to die because of your faith in God. Nobody was holding a gun to Wallenda’s head and telling him that he had to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon without a tether or a net because of his faith in Jesus. He chose to risk death as part of the stunt, merely for the sake of titillation to which I and many other gullible viewers succumbed. If, God forbid, he had fallen to his death, that would not make him a martyr, which the Holy Father described yesterday as those “who are imprisoned or killed for the sole reason of being Christian” nor would it qualify for the Pope’s description of “daily martyrdom” which consists of people “doing their duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus” – it was not Wallenda’s duty nor was it the “logic of Christ” to walk that tightrope without a tether or a net. There’s a reason that the Apostles were never referred to as “daredevils.”
Secondly, what Wallenda did was a stunt. On the other hand, miracles – mighty deeds – in Scripture are never stunts. A stunt is something that is done to draw attention to the stuntman or woman (something that Jesus was tempted by the devil to do – see Mt 4:5-7). Sure, Wallenda said, as he crossed the high wire, “let it be for the glory of God,” but there is no reason to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon without a tether or a net other than to draw attention to oneself. Mighty deeds done in the name of God, and particularly, in the name of Jesus Christ, are done to draw attention to the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God and thus, their purpose is to reveal how God’s plan for us is to be delivered from sickness, lack of sustenance, natural disasters, and ultimately death itself. Walking across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope without a tether or a net may inspire us to be better focused under stress and to overcome obstacles in life but it does nothing to reveal God’s ultimate plan for us which is why it does not measure up to the mighty deeds performed in the name of Christ in the New Testament.
I’m glad Nik Wallenda accomplished his stunt. His wife and family need him. I’m glad that he professes faith in Jesus Christ and I’m glad that he modeled for us the powerful and universal prayer, “God help me” which is the proper stance to take before God when faced with the challenges of this world (preferably not self-created challenges like crossing the Grand Canyon on a high wire). But please, let’s not make his stunt out to be the model for evangelism.
What do you think?