April 12, 2008

How About Some Separation Of Church And American Idol

I've admitted here before that I am an American Idol fan. But this year for some reason I'm noticing way too many Jesus songs.

There are two possibilities here. One, the Christian Right has something major to do with the advertising that goes on with the show, or American Idol has a very large Christian Right audience. I'm not sure which is true. But I do know one thing, this Jesus crap is getting annoying. And yes, I know I can always change the channel. I did that on Wednesday night for the Idol Gives Back show. No matter how great a cause is, my brain just melts down when I see multi-multi-multi millionaires asking me to donate. This makes it very hard for me to enjoy the entertainment that goes with it.

I noticed a rash of Jesus songs during the ridiculous Dolly Parton week. To get the contestants to do Dolly Parton songs was sadistic at best. Many of her songs contains praises for that guy who probably never existed (Jesus Christ). We got a good dose of Jesus that week, capped off by Dolly's new single: JESUS and GRAVITY. I actually laughed at that song. I was thinking of the article from the Onion: Intelligent Falling: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity.

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University...

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

The past week, the theme was Inspirational Songs, and of course this led to more Jesus or Lordy type songs. They probably wanted to appeal to the Jesus freaks to open up their wallets and give. I get it, but what I don't get is forcing the group of singers to sing a Jesus song. Actually a controversy arose. In the telethon show at the end, the contestants all sang an evangelical Christian song called "Shout The Lord." The first line of the song is "My Jesus, my Savior." This line was replaced with "My Shepherd, my Savior." Thanks to complaints by the Christian Right, the song became the opener on the elimination show on Thursday, and they changed the lyrics back to the original.

Michael Giltz sums it up way better than I can:

1. It's unfair to the performers who want to win -- Pressuring them to sing an evangelical number is wrong. Who wants to be revealed as the Idol who refused to sing a song about Jesus? Think that might hurt their chances with Middle America? They should never have been put in that position.

2. It's unfair to the performers of conscience -- I'm a Catholic and that's a tune we would never sing in Church, though none of its lyrics are of the sort that conflict with my faith. (Though many evangelical tunes, in fact, do and entire trends in Christian music are embraced by liberal evangelicals, rejected by conservative evangelicals and vice versa.) But what about the Idols who aren't Christian? Maybe some of them are Buddhist or agnostic or Jewish or Muslim or god forbid, atheist.

3. It's offensive to the viewers -- I'm a Catholic and I was offended. I don't turn on Idol to be converted or evangelized to by the show -- and that's exactly what a group sing-along is. It's a statement by the show, not individual kids. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world (and I live in Queens, New York -- the most religiously and ethnically diverse corner of the world). That's something to celebrate and it also means respecting other faiths and people of no faith. You don't do that by hijacking Idol to make all the kids sing about Jesus. Even if each and every one of them is born again and dying to sing the praises of the Lord, you don't alienate the viewers like me -- and most Americans are not evangelicals -- who don't identity with that particular strand of Christianity.

Dropping the "Jesus" from "Shout to the Lord" was a big mistake. Making all the Idol contestants sing it together in the first place was an even bigger one. If any individual Idol wanted to sing it, fine. But a group sing-along? Wrong.

Aside from all that, I couldn't believe the very talented Michael Johns was eliminated. I know that his choice of inspirational songs, Dream On, was not what the producers were looking for, and this probably led to him not getting a reprise like what happened during Idol Gives Back Week last year when they didn't dismiss anyone. I still don't know why Ryan Seacrest actually teased him by stating it as if they were going to let him stay on and then abruptly told him "this year, you will be leaving," or something like that. Maybe he was rubbing it in his face for his choice of song that could have been written about drugs (some say it was a song about cocaine), and at the very least has agnostic overtones. The song is about living for today because you might die tomorrow, and death MAY not be all the great, or why care if you die tomorrow? At least we know we can sing today. Anyway, if the Christian Right had a huge influence on the voting and voted those who sang more Lordy Lordy Christian type songs the past week, "The good Lord" really did take him away...at least from the show.

A few other things, since this is probably going to be my only Idol post this year. First, I still laugh to myself when I think of the line that Kristy Lee Cook said to Simon Cowell weeks ago, after Simon said some bad things about her singing. Kristy said "I'm going to BLOW YOU out of your socks." Everyone on Idol was uncomfortably grinning after that one.
Jordin Sparks (last years Idol) new single was the worst song I think I've heard in years (was it really a song?). I would have rather heard nails screeching on a chalkboard.
I think Simon Cowell has to be atheist or agnostic. He is just too clever to be a theist.
Paula and Randy though, they are believers. Nothing is holding them back.
David Archuleta is going to win this year. He has a great voice, and being so young, he has a great future.

Michael Johns "Dream On":


  1. It seems that as the world is bending over backwards to accommodate Muslims, the Christians are miffed (justifiably) that they are being ignored. It's a sad day when us atheists will have to take side with the Christians in the war against Islam.

  2. What are you complaining about? Television is the opium of the people. :)

  3. Most singers are cool with singing Christian songs because like it or not, most of the best, most beautiful, emotional songs are about religion, and the ones that are well known and popular in this country are Christian ones. I mean, unless you get into genre music or European stuff, Christian music is usually just what's available and shows voice talent and ability to express emotion through song.

    I doubt this was some veiled attempt to convert the heathens, but when you want family-friendly fare (so songs about sex, violence, or mental illness have to be limited), and you aren't having them write their own stuff, there's only so much you can have them sing that still has the emotional sound. I bet if there was a non-Christian singer who was truly offended, they would have dug up a Dolly Parton song about her three-legged horse or something.

    Besides, I think we're missing the real travesty here. They were forced to sing DOLLY PARTON songs. I mean, that's pure torture.

  4. Okay, I'm going to have step in and defend Dolly here. She has written some gorgeous songs (Coat of Many Colours, To Daddy, just for starters.) And though I am an atheist, a lot of Christian music is very beautiful, and really allows singers to showcase their skill. That said, I do not watch American Idol (too busy watching America's Next Top Model!) so can't comment on the night BEAJ has written about here.

  5. I don't care how it happens, I just want this show to be canceled.

  6. I think that these shows must appeal a lot to the Christian Right. My fundie relatives spend a lot of time watching "heathen" television. (They are also big Jerry Springer fans.)

    I also notice on a lot of these "reality" shows that some of the participants talk about god and Jeebus while on a show where they take turns tongue kissing a man whore.

    I like the Groucho Marx quote, "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."