February 23, 2015
Winners… and, losers.
This morning, ISIS has been crowded out of the headlines. Terrorist threats to America’s cathedrals (our retail shopping malls) over the weekend have been taken in stride. In a culture more inclined to entertainment than engagement, Oscar trumps the field of nasty newsmakers…
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a professional honorary association, with just under 6000 members. No one volunteers to be part of the Academy; membership is by invitation by the Academy Board of Governors. The roster is a guarded secret, but in 2012 the Los Angeles Times managed to identify 88% of the membership: 94% were Caucasians, 77% were men, 54% were over 60, 33% are former nominees, and 19% are past winners.
If the size of your television audience is any indicator, there’s no contest between the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl. It’s too soon for numbers from last night, but last year saw an audience of 111.5 million watching the competition between the Seahawks and the Broncos for the Lombardi trophy, and 43 million watching the competition between American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash for the Best Picture statuette. Young, buff men in uniforms on astroturf out-draw young, buxom women in designer gowns on red carpets by 2:1.
Super Bowl features one big half time show, with a featured musical guest to create a break for beer and bathrooms. The Oscars depend on serendipity for highlights: last night, it was host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear, and presenters and winners taking their unscripted moment to make passionate political declarations.
Oscars. Super Bowl. Presidential Campaign 2016. Global Terrorism. Promotions at work. Contracts for future opportunities. Proposals for lifetime matrimony. Upgrades on long flights. Recognition for extraordinary efforts that benefited someone else. You can’t go through a day without being reminded that winning and losing is embedded in the rhythms of life.
There are 24 Oscars awarded each year; there are dozens of nominees competing for them. Thousands of professionals in the movie business spend a lifetime in their careers without nomination. Reality: most winners progress to a future where they’ll be forgotten in their achievement and assigned a place on the NetFlix backlist.
Paul – one of the lead actors in the History of Humanity (you know it as The Bible) – had a pretty clear sense of the field: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). People? Fickle creatures, whose approval was not that important to Paul.
If the trophies of the temporary aren’t compelling – for people who are wired to win – how do you give meaningful attention to the competition that matters? “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things…” (Philippians 3:13-15).
Winning does matter, clearly. But, picking your arena of approval is even more important. Better to finish in the pack in the right race, than to win the trophy in the race that doesn’t matter.
May you win your race: the one that matters. The only vote that will be cast – for winner or loser – is from the One who has the only agenda worth serving…