The American Bible Challenge officially set sail on August 23. The television viewing public was introduced to three teams of very likeable people, all vying for $20,000, all for the sake of various charities and countless folk in need. It is theoretically a good idea, well-produced and wrapped in all the requisite game show bells and whistles and helmed by Jeff Foxworthy, possibly the most perfect human being that could have ever been chosen for this kind of gig.
But does it work?
The show starts off with some softball questions (“what sign did God establish that he would never flood the earth again?”), with 4 possible answers, including one which is obviously false (“Mount N’Dew” is clearly not the answer to “After an exhausting journey, the Ark rested on top of what mountain?”)
Attempts are made to come up with creative contexts for each round of questions rather than staying with straightforward multiple choice. For instance, one round poses the questions as if they were occurring on Facebook (If God had a Facebook page as ‘the Burning Bush’, who would friend him?) This approach also functions as an effort to connect with a younger demographic. That latter point is vital—if The American Bible Challenge becomes “that Bible show that old people watch” then the whole thing will wither on the vine.
As one would expect, things get trickier as the show goes on. This author would have failed, in fact, when the question was posed: “According to the Gospel descriptions, which three of these items were at the Last Supper: towel, table, fork, oven, swords, or olive oil?” (we had…ahem…forgotten about the swords…a simple mistake anyone might make, we’re sure…cough, cough)
The last round of the show is called ‘The Final Revelation’ (naturally), by which point one of the three teams has been eliminated. It is the most difficult part of the show, calling for rapid fire answers on a given biblical subject. The round calls for ten minutes of private Bible study to prepare for the questions (which, in this case, happened to focus on “women of the Bible”).
At the end of it all, of course, there were winners, and there were losers, and people cheered and gave each other high-fives. As to the original question: yes, the show works. It has that power that all good game shows have—that mysterious ability to sink a hook into you even as you’re clicking through channels. Certainly, many who watch will be biblically conversant and solidly religious, but we are confident that those who are currently irreligious and secular will watch, as well (whether they admit it or not). The show provides a completely unthreatening space for them to seek God—a kind of Bible Study Group For People Who Hate Bible Study Groups. So, to the Game Show Network: we congratulate you. The American Bible Challenge is a nice leaven in the dough of popular entertainment, which is a reference to a parable of Jesus from which two Gospels: Mark and Matthew, Mark and John, Matthew and Luke, or Simon and Garfunkel?