January 15, 2009
"American Idol" and Becoming What We Worship
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com
This week countless fans across the country (and world) are breathing easier because the long wait is over: "American Idol" is back! And from what I've read about the much anticipated season eight debut, there was plenty to keep viewers interested: a bikini contestant, new judge and a guy so nervous that he couldn't stop sweating. Riveting.
I'm not one to say that over the years I've never enjoyed "American Idol." I have. And honesty compels us to admit that there has been talent on the show. Carrie Underwood can sing. But as a Christian I do cringe at the mainstreaming of idolatry resulting from the show's success.
Christian: stop and say out loud, "American Idol."
Millions of people will spend the next few months "worshiping" their favorite performer. With each karaoke session the zeal for a person will intensify. Can this be healthy for the soul?
I'm currently reading G.K. Beale's new book, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. In the book Beale argues that "we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration." Beale explains one of the primary assumptions of his book: "...God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation" (16).
The Apostle Paul tells us that we have been saved with the goal of being “conformed to the image of his Son.” Why conformity to Jesus? Paul continues, “in order that [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). In salvation we are being restored to reflect Jesus Christ so that a people more numerous than the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore can pay Him the ultimate compliment, namely, imitation.
Do you remember the ad campaign by Gatorade where we were encouraged to “Be like Mike”? The ads contained images of kids and adults trying to mimic Jordan on the basketball court. Of course, the campaign’s ultimate aim was to get those same kids and adults to “copy” Jordan by drinking Gatorade. The ads gave Michael Jordan the ultimate compliment by assuming (rightly in the 90s) that millions of people wanted to “Be like Mike”--to imitate him.
We exalt God by reflecting his Son in us--by imitating Jesus. So how do we do it?
2 Corinthians 3:18 shows us the way: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” By looking to Christ--revering Him--we are transformed increasingly into his image.
I suppose it's possible to enjoy "American Idol" without committing idolatry. In fact, I’m sure it is. But I'm praying "Idol" fans will not end up reflecting what is consistent with ruin rather than restoration.
Intersecting Faith & Life: How can we better “behold Jesus” so that we can better “reflect Jesus”? If you’re like me, this will include a combination of shunning certain things while including others. Take some time in the New Year, if you haven’t already, and set out a plan to behold Jesus in 2009 to the end that you are transformed increasingly into His image.