Review of Competing Spectacles

As a child of the 90s, my entire life has been spent in the digital age, with ready access to video games, movies, and—not long into my life—the internet and social media. In his new book, Competing Spectacles, Tony Reinke sets out to help us navigate life in this media filled age in a way that is honouring to Christ. Knowing my need and the need of my daughter, who will grow up in this age, I was pleased to receive a copy of Competing Spectacles as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program. Reinke wants us to see that visual media and Christ are two competing “spectacles,” in the sense of “ a moment of time, varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment” (15). That is, “A spectacle is something that captures human attention” (15). Christ is, of course, a person, so he does not fit readily into this definition, but Reinke argues that in the incarnation and crucifixion, the glory of God is seen in Christ Jesus in such a way that captures our gaze and attention. Furthermore, through the Lord’s Supper and preaching of the Word, this spectacle is displayed before us: “the great spectacle of Christ crucified is a spectacle for the ear, not a spectacle for the eye” (85).

Though only 154 pages, Competing Spectacles is divided into two parts and 33 sections. Reinke is a good writer, and each section is relatively short, so it is a book suitably adapted to the busyness of modern life. Part 1 is a diagnostic; it displays the current situation from various perspectives, showing how the media age is designed and often succeeds in capturing our gaze. Part 2 then juxtaposes Christ and his crucifixion with the spectacles that seek our attention. Reinke is not dismissive of media; he does not argue that it is wholly bad. Instead, he calls for wisdom in navigating the spectacles of this age so that we would not become bored with Christ and lose sight of the one who ought to have our full attention. “In sum, all my concerns are dwarfed by this one: boredom with Christ. In the digital age, monotony with Christ is the chief warning signal to alert us that the spectacles of this world are suffocating our hearts from the supreme spectacle of the universe” (143).

Reinke successfully highlights the dangers of this age and calls our attention to the way media competes with Christ for our full attention. Competing Spectacles is balanced and fair. It will be helpful for those who find themselves entrapped by the spectacles of our age. It is intended for those who need to break from the spectacles of this age and be captured by the spectacle of Christ, that they might spiritually thrive. In this, I think it succeeds well.

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