Faking Risks

In the movie What About Bob, Bill Murray plays a neurotic patient named Bob who goes to see a psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss.  Halfway through their session, Bob clutches his chest, gasps for air, falls to the floor, flops around for a while making guttural noises, and then lies there silently.  

Unfazed, the psychiatrist leans over and asks him if he’s finished.  Bob climbs back into his chair and the psychiatrist asks him why he’s just faked a heart attack.

“Because if I fake it, I don’t have it,” Bob replies.

I don’t have a TV, but I was loosely aware of Nik Wallenda, who walked over the Grand Canyon on Sunday.  I read reports of how he prayed while he was walking across.  How Joel Osteen was on hand to cheer him on.  How Christians around the country praised him for being “brave.”

And it made me sick to my stomach.  “It would be great if Christians took risks that actually mattered,” I said to my friend. (Ok, I didn't really say it to my friend. I tweeted it. But that's kind of the same thing.)

And then I started wondering why most Christians don’t take real risks -- not real risks, anyway.  Not for the sake of the Gospel.

Why we claim that we’re being “persecuted” when we get backlash for stiffing a server her tip and leaving a tract instead, for using company time to “witness” to a coworker, for spewing hate speech at people that God loves.

Why we claim to do “brave” but completely inane things for God, like walking a tightrope or sinking a game-winning shot or moving to a new city or changing our college major.  (While all of these things can and should be done for God’s glory, let’s not call them brave, okay?)

It leads me back to my question -- why don’t Christians take risks that matter?  Because, like Bob faking his heart attack, maybe if we take fake risks, we won’t have to take the real ones.


  1. I'm kind of torn on this. On one hand, the guy is praying because, well, I'd be praying too. Also, I have seen some unimportant things in life, (in my case, Little League) be used for God's purposes.

    On the other hand, much of American Christianity is about comfort, so I see how you are urging people to take real risks that matter. My church sends people to dangerous places seemingly weekly, so I am surrounded by people willing to give it all for the sake of the Gospel. So I just want you to know that there are many believers out there doing the very thing you wish they would.

    So I'm not convinced one way or the other. God may very well have given this guy this forum to proclaim Jesus to the masses.

    I'm definitely on board with you about the presence of Osteen in this thing, though.

  2. I watched it on TV and the next day told a coworker "A guy walked across the Grand Canyon." If you put it simply in those terms, and don't try to spiritualize any, it's pretty cool and on that level it was worth watching. I think what made me so uneasy was Joel Osteen's presence, and the fact that this guy had to pray out loud, assigning it a purported greater purpose that overreached the act by far. I didn't like the version of Christianity it put in the spotlight. If he wasn't so outspoken, and we only found out about his faith later, I don't think I would have been tempted to ignore what's otherwise a pretty cool stunt. But sometimes we just need to enjoy something for what it is and stop trying to assign it the meaning that suits us.