Monday, February 12, 2007

Adventure Sports and Christ

I have just watched a bit of evening TV and saw on One was an account of Michael Holmes whose main chute got snarled up so that he could not open his reserve and then plunged into blackberries somehow surviving with a collapsed lung and a broken ankle. The other is Andrew McAuley and Australian explorer who has gone missing near Milford Sound kayaking from Australia to NZ.

Having seen the accounts of both, Michael was exceedingly lucky (or blessed depending on your perspective on God's involvement) while Andrew on the other hand, is not so.

What has happened to Andrew is terribly sad and my thoughts go out to the family.

These two events however, make me ask the question; where is the line for Christians between celebrating our humanity with exploration an/or life-threatening activities and treating life as a precious gift to be celebrated and not wasted with excessively dangerous activities?

On the one hand, life is to be explored, enjoyed, celebrated. God is with us as we do things, and so extreme sports and death-defying adventure can be seen as a glorious part of living, of being human. I also wonder where we would be as a civilisation without the risk-taking of our forebears who travelled land and sea to experience the world. Our very existence depends on the explorers and colonialists who left Europe in great danger and broke in the land. Conversely, one can see this as a unmitagated disaster whereby indigenous cultures were raped and plundered!

On the other hand our lives are a gift. We are God's temple and as such we can ask whether we as God's people whose lives are gifted for God's purposes should put our lives on the line with death-defying activities. Similarly, one has to question the motivation of such people? Why do it? What in God's eyes is gained with extreme skiing, kayaking the Tasman etc? Is it really the quest for honour, glory and prestige which drives such people?

My take on it, is firstly that the world would be a boring place if we do not take risks. Indeed, there is risk in getting up, crossing a road etc. We as God's people should lead the world in enjoying God's creation and experiencing life with joy and freedom. However and secondly, I think there are limits defined by wisdom and honouring our God who has given us life as precious. I question activities that have a high degree of probablity of death or serious injury.

I would not want to dictate a rule for all Christians but do think that we need to weigh these two dimensions up. So for example I really struggle with the thought of kayaking solo across the Tasman. A few years ago I was asked to join a team to row the Tasman in a race (akin to the trans-Atlantic Race). I heard that one of the organisers who is a prominent NZ rower would not himself row it because he felt it was too dangerous. I felt as a father, husband and Christian that it was not something that I should do.

I think I come out on the conservative side of these two factors. Guys like me probably need to get into life and take a few risks and enjoy the experience. Others I observe treat their lives with cavalier and almost stupid freedom. Such people probably need to take stock.

Other situations come to mind. I watched 'The Fastest Indian' and Bert Munro was a risk taker. Yet in his own eyes he was not, he was a brilliant mechanic and knew what he was about. Then there was Steve Irwin. He died young, but he really lived. I feel he crossed the line and I was not surprised when he died. But he brought great joy and caused people to celebrate God's creation, so it is difficult to judge.

As for parachuting, I think it is a pretty safe activity now a days. I am not sure it used to be.

No comments: