Acrobats, Daredevils, and … “Thank You, Jesus”?

This evening, Discovery Channel aired a two hour special wherein Nik Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, with no fall protection. The Wallenda family is several generations deep of acrobats, and tight wire performances. They aren’t amateurs at this sort of performance, but I was taken aback by something different.

Besides Joel Osteen being there, the entire time he was walking across the tight rope, he was saying “Thank You, Jesus” and “he has no power over me” and the camera would switch to a view of Joel Osteen with eyes closed, which I presume to be a prayer position for him. It struck me strangely. Here was someone endangering their life…

So I turned to my old trusty olde schoole catechism. Sure enough, there’s something relevant here.

We are under a strict obligation to do nothing that tends to destroy health or life.
Consequently it is a sin to rashly hazard one’s life, wantonly to injure one’s health, or to take one’s own life.

1. Those persons generally risk their life without a thought who perform hazardous feats, or who neglect due precautions.

Acrobats, equestrian performers, lion-tamers, and the like commit sin unless they take all necessary precautions to avoid fatal accidents; the professions they follow are objectionable on moral grounds, and even unlawful. Performers of this character are too often dissolute in their manners, and their hazardous feats frequently cost them their life. The same may be said of those who are foolhardy, and willfully risk their lives in athletic sports, or public games, such as the bull-fights which are the national amusement in Spain. Want of ordinary prudence is also highly reprehensible, as for instance, to cross the line when a train is approaching, by which many have lost their lives, or to stand under a tree, or otherwise expose one’s self during a thunderstorm. Again, in the case of infectious disease great precaution is necessary; only the priest, the doctor, and the nurse, should be allowed access to the sick-room. There are other ways whereby one may place one’s life in jeopardy: by drinking cold water or taking a cold bath when violently heated; playing with loaded fire-arms; jumping into or out of a train while it is in motion; touching the electric wires with the bare hand, or hanging on behind a carriage as children are wont to do, with the chance of getting their limbs crushed by the wheels. Therefore be prudent and never risk your life rashly.


Now, I’m not going to hazard a guess as to whether Nik was well trained well enough to risk walking on a tight wire in windy conditions without fall protection and consider that not risking one’s life. After all, he is a performer — and as a performer it heightens the entertainment to work up an expectation in the audience that it’s riskier than it might really be. What struck me was the emphasis on praying for a safe outcome. Was it a parlor trick to enhance the audience perception of fear?

Whatever it was, it still seems odd. To ask for the help of God, and to call on the Most Holy Name of Jesus when you are putting yourself in the risk…. Then it hit me. It seemed to me like this was just like the second temptation of Our Lord in the desert. I am positive Nick didn’t intend for it to be like this, but here’s a guy over such a tall fall calling on God the whole time.  Compare that to this passage:

Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

(Matt. iv. 1-7). Maybe there was some aspect of the show that prevented us from seeing a safeguard, and I’m sure no one set out to re-enact tempting God in the way the devil suggested to Our Lord, but it certainly seemed similar.

Meanwhile, I’m still not sure about the caution against “taking a cold bath when violently heated.”

This article, Acrobats, Daredevils, and … “Thank You, Jesus”? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • Whatever happened to Jesus’: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”? (Mt.4:7)

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