Learning to Race - Racing to Learn
This interim course is built on the understanding that competition and cooperation are embedded in all aspects of life, yet are rarely acknowledged as important concepts to explore and understand. Depending on whom you ask, competition is either glorified as what makes everything better, or vilified as the source of all that is wrong with the world. Is the Christian life completely compatible with competition, resistant to it, or somewhere in between? Diligent Christians are left to sort out these concepts on their own in their work and play...or they participate in the Amazing Race.
Phase one of this race began in southern California. The races required map reading through the city, courage in the heavy surf, fitness in a variety of speed events, and cleverness on the problem solving challenges. In many cases, cooperation became a necessary element of success, even in a competitive environment. In these early challenges, the teams were exploring how to maintain a positive social standing within the larger group while still pursuing task excellence and a competitive advantage. For those near the top of the rankings, the questions were, “Will my classmates still talk to me if I am really trying to win?” Is it ok to maximize my strengths when it means others will be left behind? “ For those near the bottom the questions were often different. “Am I giving it my all?” Do I have the capacity to compete at the highest level?” Is there something I can learn about myself in losing?”
Competition means there is an “other” who desires the same thing as you. This person, team, or entity values the prize, and when done well, agrees to work within a set of parameters or boundaries. On the surface, the concept of competition seems at odds with the Christian faith. For instance, to selfishly go after my own goals while working to block others from the same achievement seems inconsistent with loving your neighbor as yourself. Yet this approach to competition is incomplete since it denies the merits and possibilities of competition in work and play. Day by day, the racers in this interim are experiencing the excellence and failure, joy and despair, admiration and envy, satisfaction and pride, hope and insecurity that accompany competition in our fallen and redeemed world. Along the journey, they are learning to race, and racing to learn.
Follow the Star
In LA, several different races introduced the students to a variety of vocations and challenged them physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Calvin alumni are major contributors to this interim, offering opportunities for the students to see aspects of their vocations in and around the races. One in particular was Rachel Macy, our connection for the “Hollywood Stars” race, which required the teams to race up and down a busy Hollywood Boulevard connecting stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rachel also used her connections to make it possible for the group to attend a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the game show Jeopardy. But first, Rachel spoke to the group about her calling in Hollywood. She views her work in and around television and movies as a mission for Christ in a hostile land. She encouraged the students to view the public and private workers in Hollywood as people, not commodities - people that are faced with tremendous pressure to fit in, and people that need constant prayer. In fact, Rachel arranged for our group to participate in a prayer walk with the Hollywood Prayer Network on the Sony Studio Complex.
Coincidentally, Jay Leno’s guests for our taping were Bill Maher, an outspoken atheist who makes a living poking fun at Christianity, and Snooki and Jwoww, two stars from the Jersey Shore, a show many would call representative of all that is wrong with our current American culture. All the guests stayed true to form and shocked the audience with outrageous and largely inappropriate statements to get attention and laughs. Our group was amused, but we couldn’t help but think of Rachel’s request for prayer for both the saved and lost in Hollywood. God is competing with Satan for their attention. Rachel Macy and the Hollywood Prayer Network are examples of Christians living out their callings, affecting culture in Hollywood through the power of prayer. Rachel’s influence and our days in Tinseltown reminded the students of cultural and spiritual powers and framed the call for each of us to follow the Star.
Course instructors Amber Warners and Brian Bolt