Idol Live

Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez are now household names. Or at least in the households who watch American Idol. You’ve watched American Idol, right? It’s ok. You can admit it. You’re normal.

It’s a fascinating choice of names the producers chose for this TV competition that has now become one of the most popular television shows in history: American Idol. American Idol. .

Isn’t it funny how something dangerous can begin so subtlety?  A hurricane begins as as subtle mixture of wind and moisture thousands of miles away from the coastline it destroys. Addiction begins with a few harmless experiments with friends years before a destroyed life is taken to rehab. And the things we worship begin with a small interest, a minor profit, a good feeling, a delightful taste. Then, some seasons later, instead of that small interest, profit, feeling, or taste being at our beck and call, we find that we’re at it’s beck and call. The power. The money. The experience. The person. We are the boss who has become the slave.

Ok. Let’s pause here. I’m not about to go all neo-conservative on you and rail against the evils of the media and the pursuit of pleasure. I have no interest in demonizing Ryan Seacrest, J-Lo, and the rest at American Idol. Heck, I want Ryan Seacrest’s job, for crying out loud!

But, I am going to share with you a bizarre experience I had last week. And I’m equally interested in your similar experiences.

Here’s the short of it – I don’t watch Ameican Idol regularly – but when a friend of mine said he scored some free tickets to the live finale show at the Nokia Theatre in downtown L.A., I agreed to go (calling it a “difficult ticket” has been a gross understatement for 9 of the last 10 Idol finales). I had a a free afternoon, and I’ve long said, “I’ll do anything once.”

The Nokia Theater was all lit up like and indoor Times Square – huge stage, giant screens, and bright lights. It was everything you would expect, only now it was tangible. Real. When it’s projected into your home through a 48 inch flat box, as sense of distance is created that disappears when you’re sitting in a sold-out theater with real people, real lights, real color.

And then, the weirdest thing happened. The contestants – who, as I said, do not seem real when I’m watching from my couch – were introduced to the 7000 person crowd. And the place went ballistic. Absolutely nuts! I expected this when the judges were introduced, and obviously, when the 2 finalists paraded onto the stage. But when Seacrest introduced the 8 others in the top 10 – all of which had been voted off the show already – the crowd erupted, many screaming aloud the names of their favorite top ten-er. People literally seemed to lose control – even over the losers.

And the feeling I got was very, very strange. It was worship. It was idolatry.

“These people have done nothing!”, I thought. Each is valuable, and special, and a creation of God. But none of them is God. And yet they were worshiped more fervently, more excitedly, and more passionately than I have ever seen anyone worship our God (sadly, including myself) who has not done nothing. In fact, He has done everything. Everything! And where are the packed theaters of people who have been changed forever by Him, and are now screaming His name in utter, uninhibited, worship?

The self-convicting questions flooded my mind.

“How did it become not ‘ok’ for us to scream and jump out of our seat at the name of God, and yet it is second-nature to do so for a bunch of kids who can (and can’t) sing?”

“Am I a fan of God?”

“Do I love and admire and idolize Jesus?”

“What do I worship?”

Who do you worship?

Maybe you dismiss this as teen frenzy – something every junior high kid would do. But I’ve asked myself, and I ask you….Do you react this way to a celebrity? How about a sports team? Your spouse? A beautiful stranger? Your kid? Your commission check?  Your own goodness?  Do you have an idol?

I’m wrestling with these questions too. Along with this one: why do we have this fervent reaction to 10 singing strangers, and yet the God of the universe might propel us into reflective thought and appreciation, but not outright, carefree, uninhibited worship?

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