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Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Idol: Today's Jerry Springer

It wasn't too long ago that the Jerry Springer Show was at the height of its success. I have only seen a few of the shows in their entirety, but without fail found each one revolting. The cause of my revulsion wasn't so much the actions of the participants (before or during the actual show) or even their willingness to emotionally prostitute themselves in front of a national audience. The main cause of my revulsion was that there was such a large amount of individuals willing to support the show by watching on a regular basis. The more horrific the actions of the participants, the more the crowd (in the audience and at home) enjoyed it. If a man left his wife for another, the audience would be pretty excited; but if he left his wife for her brother, they would be ecstatic. The crowd loved it all the more when tears turned to rage. During its heyday, you would be hard pressed to find a Christian, much less thousands of them, openly talk about how much fun it is to watch the Jerry Springer Show. It's probably true that more Christians watched the show than actually admitted it, but it's telling that most saw it fit to deny that they even watched it. Unfortunately, that may no longer be the case today.

Tonight I became deeply saddened by the state of the Church. I realized that the American Idol auditions aren't that different from the Jerry Springer Show, but scores of Christians see absolutely no problem with them. I've heard more than a few pastors mention from the pulpit that they love the show and are sure to TiVo it each week. I've heard countless Christians specifically say that they only watch it in the beginning to listen to all the really bad singers trying to make it on the show. Making fun and laughing at some of the people auditioning has become so popular in general that Fox often has 'special' shows midway through just to show more of these "awful performances." I wish I could say the Church wasn't part of that, but I know She is. I really don't see how finding humor in the judges' degrading comments much different from finding humor in the Jerry Springer Show. A bad performance gets some chuckles, but a bad performance with biting comments from the judges seems to really get people rolling. How many times have you seen an American Idol contestant's tears turn to rage? Have you noticed that's when the cameras seem most interested in following the person around? I know many won't agree with this, but I just don't see God being pleased with his Church when we not only support, but enjoy, this kind of entertainment.

To make my case more concrete, imagine with me that we went to the local high school to watch their open cheerleading tryouts (or to a local college to watch student-athletes try and walk-on to the football team). If the judges at that high school began to laugh in the faces of individuals trying out and berated them because of their effort, we would be appalled. Furthermore, if I began to laugh at the judges comments you would (or should) be even more appalled at my decidedly un-Christian attitude. I don't see that being any different from what many Christians do during American Idol. Sure, some of the people are just trying to get on TV, but others are obviously not. One of the contests tonight (they called him Red) genuinely seems to have people in his life that thought he had a great singing voice. As Red began his audition he was rudely and shockingly awoken to the fact that he doesn't have such a voice. Sadly, as the judges laughed in his face, a great number of the Church laughed right along with them. I truly believe the last thing that Christ's Church should be doing is joining in on the public humiliation that people like Red faced these last couple of days.

Please understand that I'm not saying a Christian shouldn't watch the show (it may be true that they in fact shouldn't, but that's not the point of this post). I am saying that I don't think a Christian should enjoy watching others get humiliated in front of a national audience.

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