The Cult of Competition

Our culture grows more and more seduced by and addicted to competition. Everything comes with the assumption that there will be winners who are better than losers: every transaction or interaction in economics, sports, religion, physical appearance, personal relationships, etc. We are left with the dilemma of what to do with those people labeled as losers. Do we ignore them or discard them as they accumulate in some kind of human landfill? We begin to accept another’s demise or ruin as a normal result. The class of winners inevitably gets smaller as the class of losers grows larger. Yet we continue to crave and consume and compete until we reach a disillusioning and empty end. Like one addicted to a harmful drug, more and more of the substance is required as it produces less and less effect. This is the law of diminishing returns.

Competition is a necessary and useful part of life, but there must be limitations. There are times when cooperation trumps competition, when justice and mercy transcends supply and demand. Wendell Berry, in his book What Are People For, makes this observation, “We know from childhood that winning is fun, but we probably begin to grow up when we begin to sympathize with the loser.” Later in the chapter he says, “In war, even the winner is a loser.”

Jesus Christ had a word to describe the marginalized, the losers, of a society: BLESSED. (Matthew 5:3-12)