I don’t know if Jennifer and I will watch American Idol this year or not. Each year, I try to act as if I’m not interested, and each year I get sucked into listening to and rooting for my favorite singer to win the contest. Part of my interest in the show is the plethora of sermon illustrations it provides.
Our country is obsessed with the famous and what it takes to become famous. Jake Halpern’s book, “Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction” expresses this truth in great language:
After all, we live in a country where the ultimate competition for celebrityhood-American Idol-has more viewers than the nightly news on three networks combined.
We love watching famous people. We worship famous people. We follow their every move, wear what they wear, eat what they eat, smoke what they smoke, drink what they drink, drive what they drive, do whatever they do. We mock the Star Wars guy that dresses up like Obi-Wan to go to a movie premier, all the women who buy HUGE sunglasses to cover their entire face like so and so, the celebrity, are no different. You’re just as creepy. Our thirst for celebrity culture doesn’t seem to be losing any steam in any area. A survey Halpern conducted among 650 middle school students in 2007 revealed something frightening. When asked who they would like to eat dinner with if given the opportunity, only 2.7% would have eaten with the President of the United States, 3.7% with Albert Einstein, 16% with Jesus, which I guess would be comforting, if he was the winner. But, alas, he wasn’t the winner. The biggest vote-getter was American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez with 17.4%.
In the same survey, when the teenagers were asked what job they would like to have the most, out of five choices ranging from CEO of a major corporation(9.5%), NAVY SEAL (9.8%? Come on! How cool is that job?), etc., the overwhelming majority (43.4%) chose to be a personal assistant to someone famous. So they would rather get coffee for an actor than be the president of a company. Wow.
The show American Idol has so many viewers because we as a nation worship celebrity and have made being famous the new American Dream. The language of dreaming is used a lot. I love it when people without a shred of talent cry on national T.V. because they will never be famous. The delusion is that everyone deserves to be famous. This is the most appropriately named show in the world!
What Can I Do?
There are a few things we as Christians can do as we live and move in this culture:
1. Don’t be a dumb sheep. Use your mind as you watch anything on television. The knee-jerk of many of us will be to boycott American Idol and resign ourselves to watching re-reuns of Touched by an Angel, which may be more dangerous than the former. The better thing to do is to watch with a theologically critical, biblically informed eye, pointing out to your children the obsession with celebrity that they shouldn’t run after as Christians (Matthew 6).
2. See and Savor Jesus: Refuse to worship celebrity. Cancel your subscriptions to stupid periodicals like “E” or “US Weekly” or “People” and spend the money on something worthwhile, like a subscription to TableTalk, or to buying good books. Do whatever it takes to help you worship Jesus instead of celebrity. Throw down all idols, American or otherwise.