May 11, 2007

American Idol--A Teaching Moment?

capMillions of people watch each week until the list of twelve finalists is narrowed down to one, the American Idol. Suspense builds as fans vote each week for their favorite performer. Emotions run high as the voyeuristic public peeks into the backgrounds of its favorite contestant's family and watches with great sorrow as they are booted off one by one. If you spend any time watching this program you know that the driving principle is that it is about the young, the ordinary, the dreamer, and the visionary. Prior to Idol, the only people who knew of the contestants' talents were their own circles of friendships.
Throughout history we have learned about heroes who have become household names to too few of us - names such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards, Moody, Mueller, and Huss. These were ordinary people who impacted history without the benefit of makeup, image consultants, hairdressers, and voice coaches. Their lives were not marked with great approval ratings. No one phoned in their votes to keep them on the stage of life. In fact, for many of the heroes of the past the court of public opinion often called for their demise.
The Standard for Idols
The kids on Idol perform with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the motivation of a dream realized. The heroes of our faith performed in obscurity and with the promise of great pain, torture, and death. But there is one thing they have in common with Idol contestants. A dream! For the idol, the dream is money, fame, and personal success. For the heroes of our faith their dream was to be conformed to the image of Christ and to share the power of His resurrection.
2007 1513 page32Do we really measure success by beauty and image? The history of Idol shows that in the past four years, two winners have been physically attractive and talented. Two other winners have been less attractive yet equally talented. Is there a groundswell of resistance beginning to take shape? Perhaps this is the reason the overweight and the homely are staying right up there with the sensual and gorgeous. They all want to live out their dreams.
Yet in spite of the acceptance of the less than physically perfect on Idol, women still hate their hair and their figures. And there is still an unfair perception of what is attractive. A "beer belly" on a man is not as offensive as a "beer belly" on a woman. Wrinkles and gray hair on a man is considered distinguished and attractive while women shop until they drop to find the right solutions and creams to protect themselves from those little monsters of aging.
American Idol -- A Teaching Moment?
My prayer is that one's character and not their pants size, hair color, or lip density will mark them as true heroes. Parents, are you using Idol's platform to teach your children to spot a true hero? A new generation must be raised to devote real energy to character building and faith. This is not to say Christians should neglect their own physical beauty. I am not for one moment suggesting we dress in burlap and never wash our hair. Our physical appearance should be the frame for our inner beauty.
I wonder how many of our kids can name ten great heroes of the faith. I am sure they can tell us who the final twelve are on American Idol. Little Susie may be one of “Melinda’s Doolittle’s” or know every square inch of Haley’s beautiful face. They may have already proposed to Blake or want to grow their hair just like Sanjaya. Women may admire Paul and wish their husbands were as loyal to them as he appears to be to his wife. And maybe you will think your kid has a bees nest up his pants when he twists, wiggles, and slivers his way through your living room looking like Gina having a heart attack. And maybe their little eyes now “Spark” like Jordin’s.
We see the onslaught of marital failure dripping out of the ice-cream cone of Hollywood's so called successful people. On Idol, a musical legend, considered a hero to be emulated, entered the set with his newborn baby and fiancée. It is now posh to have a child out of wedlock and show off your latest "accomplishment" as you would your new Jaguar. Are you buying this? Are your kids? Teens, are you? What we should aspire to be are people who realize their fullest potential and acknowledge that all of their talents and any of their beauty (or lack thereof) comes from our God.
Christ - Our Hero
Ultimately, it is Christ who is our hero. It is His moral imperative that ought to drive us. He had no exceptional beauty. He did not have the image and stature of Saul, who was tall, dark, and handsome. He did not appear on a stage with glittering lights and cool orchestras. His stage was a cross. His audience mocked Him. His popularity was a mere 500 people after 3 ½ years. They loved Him when He fed them. They hated Him when He challenged the moral framework by which they lived. Yet, He changed the course of human history without the benefit of an Idol victory.
Genuine Heroes Without Phone Polls
The Apostle Paul may very well have been bald and short with a huge nose. The greatest of the Old Testament saints, Moses, had a poor self-image but did not need Dr. Phil. We have no pictures of Susannah Wesley modeling womanhood. Yet, she raised two children who grew to light the fires of revival. Isaac Watts had no agent. Yet, his poetry blesses our souls. Horatio Spafford did not go on a book tour but gave us his heart in ?It is Well with my Soul.? Neither Billy Sunday or Billy Graham sought after fame. Yet, God used them to bring the world life-changing crusades.

No, all of these heroes were men and women whose beauty could be best viewed in the content of their life messages. To this end may we begin to shape our kids into heroes for Christ. And may they become truly beautiful to people who desire to become just like them.


Dr. Chuck Betters has been the pastor of Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bear, Delaware since 1986. He has a daily radio program, airing since 1994, In His Grip, which can be accessed online at Along with the development of numerous audio and video resources designed to help heal broken hearts, he is also co-author of Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God's Promises, a Bible study of Hebrews 11. Visit to purchase.