Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Problem with Idols

I watch American Idol. It's true, and I'm not ashamed (most of the time).

I do try to watch through healthy lenses, though. For me, the show is a singing competition. And when the producers decide to show singing, I'm thoroughly engaged. I have watched all seasons but the first, so I know what to expect most of the time. The judges' responses are rarely a surprise. They have added too many contestants this year, but that's just my opinion.

Where the show falls apart is that someone has decided it needs to fit the mold of a traditional "reality" show. Carrying that character means the producers are forced to interject more "reality" than is truly necessary for a show that is a singing competition.

Don't get me wrong: I like learning about the contestants. I like seeing where they are from, what they do, what their experience with music is (or isn't). I love seeing the unknown talent discovered. The unknown rendition of a song brought into the spotlight. I was a huge David Cook fan last year because I loved what he did with a song, more times than not.

What I don't love is when "reality" means the producers need to focus on an aspect of a contestant's life as if it were the only part of the life worth the focus.

So, the entertainment bloggy world is full of posts regarding contestant Danny Gokey, who is one of the show's Top 12, and will go to the finals. Danny has been a "featured" contestant since the audition process, because the producers found out something about him that was worth exploiting--sadly, that's the best way to describe it.

Danny Gokey was married for less than a year when his wife died. Idol producers took that fact and have blown it up into "Danny's story"--the reason we should be following him. Some even suggest that he is an early favorite in the competition, not because of his singing but because we feel for the guy's story.

Here's what he said: "Honestly, I do feel that I was highlighted. There's no getting around that. I didn't do anything to get that. I can say this; I'm grateful that they would do that. I have no control over it," he said. "I know everyone's not going to like me -- that goes without saying. But it's a bummer when people are just real mad about it. I had nothing to do with it and I hope people can see past that and just see that I genuinely just love to sing and that's what I want to do."

When ABC News/Sports starting using the phrase "Up Close and Personal" in their profile stories, I wonder if they understood just how far that would get stretched.

* * *

The problem with Idols, and idols in general, is that the producers expect them to be perfect--perfectly fitting the role that they have "cast" for them (i.e., contestant with deceased wife). And those who believe in the idols expect them to be perfect and to perform well for the believers. Otherwise, why should we believe in them?

This was--and is--God's problem with idols. He knows that idols can never be perfect and they will never be able to do what only He alone can. That's why He said--commanded--us not to make any graven images or any likenesses of anything in Heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth. (Ten commandments, Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5) "Do not bow down yourself to them nor serve them. For I the Lord your God am a jealous God."

How many idols did the Greeks and Romans create for themselves? They had a god for everything. Can you imagine God's anger when He saves His people over and over in the process of bringing them to the Promised Land, only to have them turn around and make a cow out of gold to praise?! I like cows, but, come on! What were they thinking?!

What are we thinking?!!

Why do we want to limit the capacity of our God? He is THE Creator. You can't tag Him with just one quality, because He is every good quality. The Bible lists scores of names for God because He is all those things! Just as Danny Gokey doesn't want to be known as "the guy whose wife died," God doesn't want to be known by whatever short-term name we feel like giving Him at the time.

I think we inadvertently make idols out of the chips we take off God. We don't take Him at His full level of Godliness, and that means we're worshiping something short of the Almighty. "I worship God the Encourager and God the Blessings Provider, but not God who might be upset with my disregarding His Word."

"And I don't wanna box you in
You've been doing big things since the world began
Sometimes I just don't wanna believe
That you're big enough - but you're big enough yeah!"
--Ayiesha Woods, "Big Enough"

When we're ready to put God centerstage in our lives--to accept that He is the biggest Name around, without shortchanging Him--then we're really ready to witness an amazing performer. He truly is the only One who performs amazingly all the time!

And He will, for each one of long as we claim Him as the One to idolize.


Chatty Kelly said...

yay!! I loved this! Relevant and timely, dawg! It's so true.

I haven't watched yet this year, but I will once it's narrowed down a bit. I don't know anyone's backstory, except the ones that hit the media big - - bikini girl, blind guy, and the oil rig guy.

But I do know the backstory of the one I idolize...sometimes I don't undertand it, but I know he's always good.

The Patterson 5 said...

I'm not an American Idol watcher (me and Mr P are probably only a few of the non watchers!) I hear it's very popular. I did love watching Mr and Mrs Chatty Kelly watch it last season, their excitement was better than the show itself!

I do tend to try to "box" God into the packages I'm comfortable with, recently I have begun to see parts of my life He is not happy with and well, it's uncomfortable, and painful, but with His help bringing about transformation. Scary too because the transformation may take me out of my comfort zone as well!

Thanks for this insightful post and a new view of how we, like those Isrealites continue to fall short.....Makes me so thankful for His mercy and love through Christ Jesus.

Edie said...

Amen, Amen, and Amen!

This was so great Sue J. I don't watch Americal Idol, but then, I don't watch much tv anyway. The Bible teaches us to lift people up but it seems to me that these shows mostly tear people down.

I think if we Christians really examined ourselves well, we would discover that we have more idols than we realize.

Shauna said...

I am new here! What a great blog :)

KelliGirl said...

Sue J.,
I have a hunch you and I could spend many hours chatting and delving into all manner of issues over lattes at Starbucks!

My kids watch Idol. I usually jump in when the field gets narrowed a bit more. My daughter's favorite is Danny because she says he's "sweet" and a really, really good singer. Based on what you wrote about him, I like him too. :-)

I think we make idols because we like to control and call the shots. We want to be able to define and name our gods. It's hard to give up the driver's seat in our lives.

Did you get the snow that's just started here? Enjoy the snow day if you did.