I realize that with one blog I risk alienating up to 90% of Christian teens, parents, and even pastors who watch cheeringly & hopefully as the latest in a litany of Christian singers vies for the top spot on American Idol. I realize that for many, Idol is … um … ‘sacred.’ I know that many youth pastors have even encouraged their young disciples to watch and “support the Christian.”
But this practice is unwise and potentially destructive – and flawed in its fundamental premises.
The most recent example is Colton Dixon, a 20 year old vocalist from Murfreesboro, TN, who was eliminated unexpectedly a few weeks ago after his performance of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance.’ In an April 23 MTV.com article by Christina Garibaldi, Mr. Dixon is quoted as saying:
“I’m like, ‘I can metal the snot out of this song,’ ” Dixon told MTV News on Monday (April 23) about his thought process in choosing the song. “I just started getting giddy thinking about it. I saw the smoke and I was like, ‘I’m in!’ and I ran with it.” [As a side note, I’m curious as to how many of life’s monumental regrets begin with similar momentary thought processes.]
Dixon, although expressing remorse for his song selection, was later quoted as saying “I love her, I do. She’s a great artist and she can sing her tail off and that’s what I love. She does whatever she can and whatever she has to do to stay on top of the music industry and she does a great job of it.”
Let it be well noted that this article is NOT about Mr. Dixon. I have no intention of impugning his motives, or speculating about his background, spiritual maturity or condition, etc. I simply do not know the man.
This article is about YOU. It’s about YOUR kids, YOUR advocacy, YOUR standards for entertainment in your own heart and home – and the application of God’s wisdom to issues of right and wrong; beneficial and destructive. Because whatever you permit, you endorse. Whatever you advocate, you glorify.
Biblically, this comes down to 2 central issues: A) Whether or not Christ ordains sin as a biblically permissible mechanism for expanding His kingdom, and B) What it means to be a Holy people – set apart for Christ. So let’s examine the biblical premises of why many believe Idol to be a worthy venture for the wannabe Christian recording artist.
Anything for the sake of Evangelism?
I’ve got a plan! I will commit a heinous crime – SO heinous, that I will be splashed across every news outlet the world over. And when they interview me, I will tell them that Jesus Christ is Savior. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Repent. Love Him. Worship Him. He is worthy. What a platform! What an audience!
O.K. – I (and I’m assuming YOU) realize the above scenario is COMPLETELY absurd. So I issue a challenge to the reader… explain how the underlying premise is any different from going on American Idol, singing sinful lyrics, portraying the attitudes and garb of the selfish flesh, and using that as a platform to expand my ministry – to save people from the very sin that I’m enticing them with?
If Christ validated sin as a legitimate instrument of the Gospel, then why did He bother to cast it out? Why did He not say to the prostitute “Go, and sin, but now mention ME to your clients?” Lust as an evangelism tool? Does it get any more effective?
To be sure, she was challenged to cease from her clientele. So, to the contrary, Christ – as the Word of God – charges us with 2 messages simultaneously and concurrently:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Mt 28:19 - AND - “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea will a millstone tied to his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” John 17:1-2
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8 - AND - “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.“ Eph 5:4
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 - AND - “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” 3 John 1:11
Is it not the conclusion of scripture that we are to evangelize, but not to compromise with sin as a mechanism to do so? Yes! Emphatically, the Holy Spirit – and NOT sin – is the power of evangelism.
So in regard to American Idol & Mr. Dixon, where was the sin? To be accurate about this, I ventured to look up the lyrics of ‘Bad Romance.’ May I strongly suggest you do not? They are chock full of profanity, godlessness, promiscuity, and even a reference to an act that is commonly referred to by an Old Testament city. [NOTE: I am aware that many young people will be reading this. In the name of their innocence and discretion, I am making every attempt to communicate the message without violating the reader.]
Mr. Dixon said he changed the lyrics in some spots. But it would have been better to not invite his listeners to this poisoned well. To learn this song well enough to sing it live on national TV, he had to have listened intently to it over and over again, uncut, with the fullness of its evil portrayal and intent.
To be sure, even the secular community of just one generation ago would have possessed the moral fortitude to rise up in condemnation of this song and others like it, while today it seems a vast majority of even those who profess Christ place little guard over their ear and eye gates (or their children’s).
Pastor – are you taking care that your pulpit is not too weak to address these issues? Parents – have you allowed the young ones entrusted to your spiritual care to become vulnerable to an immoral cancer that will rot them? Do you have any idea how many children have had their innocence carelessly & recklessly robbed through the sinful portrayals of film and song?
To be fair, not all of secular music is sinful (obvious examples would be ‘Happy Birthday’ or Beethoven’s Fifth). But I am also keenly aware that every song is a sermon about something. If it is not clearly a sacred message, its content must at least not contradict or mischaracterize the eternal truths of biblical love and faith. But indiscriminate fellowship with the sinful can poison minds that Christ would be about renewing. I personally know of young ones enslaved to depression, darkness, and pornography first introduced by the media outlets they were allowed to fellowship with.
Mr. Dixon has stated that he wanted to go there as a witness. Commendable, indeed. But we were presented with two confusing and even confounding messages. James 1:8 states “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” I state this not in application to Mr. Dixon personally, but to expound upon its thesis that, in like manner, so was the ‘double-minded’ message (literally, “having two souls”) that went forth.
A Holy People
Consider the notion of Christians being singular in purpose: 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
Concerning Christian holiness, there are 2 common misconceptions: A) That it means sinlessness (something the Bible itself describes as unattainable & unrealistic for man, this side of Heaven), and B) That holiness is something we must work to attain – a quasi works-based gospel – and that once we attain it, THEN we’ll be acceptable to God! Neither of these scenarios are scripturally sound.
The Greek word translated as ‘Holy’ in the New Testament is ‘hagios.’ It means ‘separated for a purpose.’ Properly, it refers to something which is by nature ‘different or distinct’ and the context lends ‘as to the Lord.’ When you believe in Jesus the Christ as your Savior, and His Holy Spirit indwells you, you become saved – set apart from the chains & destiny of sin, and for the purposes of God through your living. You THEN belong to God. It is at THAT moment you are made holy.
Holiness is not something we can work to attain; it is imparted! Yours is to walk in accordance to what you have now become. That means laying down (dying to & continually deferring) the sinful desires of your flesh so that you can, as 1 Peter stated, “declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
It was not sin that Mr. Dixon went to American Idol (although perhaps unwise). But it was inconsistent with his holiness (separated for a purpose) to have gone there foremost to be a contestant – submitted to whatever they would have him to do for the purpose of winning – when he could have gone there solely as a witness… singing exclusively praises to Christ until they told him it was time to go. It would have been better (I will even venture to say more missionally effective) to accept elimination than to sing sinful lyrics as a condition of inching toward victory.
Victory becomes our Lord (indeed, our ‘Idol’), and NOT Christ, when we submit to sin in exchange for it. [THAT’S the deal with the devil.]
History is littered with the blood of martyrs who, rather than compromise for the sake of their freedom, submitted their bodies to torture or even death. Though their voices be silenced, their witness (for not having compromised) continues to minister volumes to us through the ages.
Matthew Henry, in his Concise Bible Commentary, eloquently states: “[There is] a strict caution against all friendship and fellowship with idols and idolaters. Those who are in communion with God must have no communication with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Henry later goes on to state “For there is more likelihood that the good will be perverted, than that the bad will be converted.”
While we have a biblical mandate to reach the sinner, we enjoy no biblical permission to employ sin as a means of doing so. Otherwise, just what is it that we are to be ‘separated’ from?
Parents & youth ministers, I leave you with a few questions for your consideration – for the NEXT time you may be tempted to direct your children to watch ‘Idol’ to support the Christian contestant:
- By viewing American Idol, will your children be exposed to indiscriminately sinful material from other artists? Will this expose their vulnerable hearts & emotions to things which could prove to be spiritually destructive?
- When they see the Christian contestant dressing or moving suggestively (like many of the other contestants), will they passively learn that these are acceptable Christian behaviors? Will they then take to emulating them?
- Where will your child be venturing to ‘follow’ the progress and news about this newest contestant? MTV? Entertainment sites? TV Gossip shows? Will you proactively preempt this from happening?
- Do you personally model for them a commitment to not consume sin for the sake of entertainment?