Part of being a good spouse is participating in things that the other spouse enjoys. I admit that my marriage can be a little one-sided at times, as I read books like Kobayashi eats hot dogs, and seminary is like summertime at Coney Island. So most of my down time involves reading and talking about what I’ve read. Of course, she should have known what kind of guy she was getting when she married me, but nevertheless, I am learning to be more merciful to her this summer (though there are a few books that we are going to enjoy together).
One of the ways that I decided to be a good husband was by giving my wife the remote control so that she could watch the first part of the American Idol finale and the end of Dancing with the Stars (I should get serious kudos for that!) Though I’m still thinking about any redemptive value to three hours of celebrities dancing around in what seems to me is a modern version of “Hollywood Squares”, I did take the time to think about what is going on with the phenomenon that is American Idol. I think that American Idol could be used for the sake of the gospel. Let me explain.
The series was created to be a cool way to find “the next big star”. Really it’s no different than any other talent search, except that it’s hip and modern, and the people at home get to vote for their favorite. It is, after all, a testament to the democratic process of Western civilization. The winner of the contest is donned with the name, “American Idol”, for he or she is the one who is loved by the most people, and is therefore the one who represents the most people through their personality and music. Have you noticed that as the seasons progressed (I’ve had to go through dating and marriage, so I unfortunately know a little about the show), there has been an increasing diversity with the contestants? You have the pop diva, the rocker, the goth, the “is he/isn’t he?”, the streetsmart kid, the bubblegummer, and so on. You vote for the one who best represents who you are and who you want to become. You vote for your idol.
What amazes me about American Idol is that the “Idols” themselves have rather mediocre careers. With the exception of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who really remembers why there was so much hype for Reuben vs. Clay, or for Taylor Hicks?! In the end, the “Idols” are found to be none other than objects of useless marketing hype. They are nothing more than regular, ordinary people who have been decorated with glitz and glamour to wow us and to distract us from reality. When seen in this light, there is nothing different here from what has already been said in the Scriptures. The prophets were so astute in their attacks on the hype of idolatry. Consider Isaiah’s words:
All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 40:9-20)
As the glitz fades and reality reappears, we can ask simple questions, like, “Why is a singing contest so important to pop culture? Why do people attach themselves to the contestants in such a way that if he or she wins, they win, and if he or she loses, they lose?”
In the end, American Idol is really just another example of our worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. The futility of it all is seen rather clearly in the fact that we keep coming back every year to watch and vote for the next one. In its futility, though, we can see clearly by contrast the glory of our God, who does not have to perform or wait anxiously for anyone’s votes in order to win any contest. He is Lord of all whether we vote for him or not. And one day he will reveal his glory for everyone to see, and it will not fade away like the glory of our puny idols. His glory is infinite in its beauty and in its strength. Even Simon Cowell will one day bow and confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So as you gear up for the next American Idol contest, remember– it’s just a singing/popularity contest. Hopefully you’ve already made up your mind about who the real God is.