American Idol is an annual competition for singers which is televised on FOX. The program originated from the British reality show Pop Idol and began its first season in the United States on June 11, 2002.
Through a series of nationwide auditions, American Idol seeks to discover the best young singer in the country. In the latter stages of the competition, the outcomes are determined by public voting through the phone lines. Three judges critique the contestants' performances to facilitate the voting. The 2006 season alone received over a billion votes from millions of viewers, making American Idol the biggest reality TV show in America.
The Term: Idolatry
The dictionary defines the word idol as
"an image representing a deity to which worship is addressed," and idolatry as simply "the worship of idols." The word idol is frequently used in our society to refer to sports heroes, popular musicians, and others who are put on the proverbial pedestal of veneration.
The Bible describes idolatry as the worship of anyone or anything other than the God of Israel: "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth" (Psalm 83:18). There are many false "gods" who claim to be worthy of worship, but since all will ultimately answer to the Creator, there is only One true Living God. "For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens" (Psalm 96:5).
Throughout Scripture, God's people were always prohibited from taking part in the idolatrous worship of heathen gods. "Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you" (Deuteronomy 6:14). In fact, the first two of the Ten Commandments state, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath...Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" (Exodus 20:3-5). There is only One Who is worthy of worship (see I Thessalonians 1:9).
Idolatry can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden: "And the serpent said unto the woman, 'Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods [deities], knowing good and evil'"
(Genesis 3:4-5). When the serpent's words were chosen over the words of God, idolatry was born.
The Problem: Is "American Idol" Really Idolatry?
It comes as no surprise that the world enjoys all kinds of ungodly entertainment, but when Christians embrace and partake in the world's idolatry, that is a serious problem! "And they [God's people] served their [heathen] idols: which were a snare unto them" (Psalm 106:36). The very name American Idol should be an immediate red flag for anyone who claims to serve the God of the Bible. The show unashamedly exalts humanistic "talent" and glorifies worldly fame and fortune with pride. But God hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-17), and He will not share His glory with idols. Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."
The American Idol show (and nearly all other television entertainment) flaunts the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Such is the evil that the people of God are to detest: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (I John 2:15-17).
Right now some of you are thinking, "The American Idol show is not idolatry for me; I watch it just to enjoy a little fun and entertainment." But ponder for a moment: is not enjoying the show the same as approving of it? If you could see the Lord Jesus weeping beside you at the pagan festivities and haughty attitudes which He hates (not to mention the vain, worldly song lyrics), would you still participate?
God's people are set apart, called out of darkness (I Peter 2:9), and called into the righteousness and purity which is in Christ (I Thessalonians 4:7). "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (II Corinthians 6:16-17). As a matter of fact, those who love the Lord Jesus should expect persecution from the world, not approval. "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your
reward is great in heaven..." (Luke 6:22-23).
Here are eight biblical reasons why TV's American Idol is idolatry, and why Christians should have no part of it.
- The world promotes it. "And he [Jesus] said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God"
- The majority embraces it. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
- The contestants seek to make a name and career for themselves. The Tower of Babel was built by those who sought to make a name for themselves, but God confounded their languages (Genesis 11:4). In contrast, Jesus "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:7-9). Such is the attitude of humility that is to mark the disciples of Jesus.
- The contestants desire the praise of men. "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward"
(Matthew 6:2). Jesus said that the Pharisees "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God"
- The judges and public voters compare the contestants with each other. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth" (II Corinthians 10:12, 17-18).
- Contestants are critiqued and judged according to outward appearance and ability. "The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?"
- Both singers and fans make many sacrifices for the show. Sacrifices include money, time, and energy for the idols of fame and fortune. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger"
(Jeremiah 7:18). "And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands" (Acts 7:41). Moses chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt..." (Hebrews 11:25-26).
- The show seeks to promote the best singer based on human wisdom. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men" (I Corinthians 3:18-21)."When a man thinks himself to be something, he is nothing"
The Controversy: What About Christian Performers?
Many of you are aware that professed Christian singers have participated in the American Idol show. Can God use their witness for His glory? Perhaps He can. But if He does, it will be in spite of their involvement, not because of it. God will use whomever He chooses whenever He wishes to further His Kingdom. The fact remains that a Christian witness in a pagan festivity is weak at best. By participating, a Christian essentially says to worldly viewers, "See, you can be a Christian and still engage in all the same self-glorifying and vain acts that the pagans do." This is a confusing message, not a Christ-like witness! The Bible says, "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Followers of Jesus are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14); although they are "in the world" they are not to be "of the world" (John 17:14-16). "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you"
(John 15:19). Perhaps certain actions such as singing a song or participating in a contest are not sinful in themselves, but for the Lord's sake Christians are to refrain from that which might cause a weaker brother to stumble (I Corinthians 8:9-13) or bring contempt to the name of Christ. "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).
The Solution: A Pure Heart
The Bible warns God's people numerous times to guard against idolatry — not to indulge in idolatry or to see how close they can get, but to flee from it. "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry"
(I Corinthians 10:14). "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (I John 5:21). "Thus saith the Lord GOD; 'Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations'" (Ezekiel 14:6).
The Word of God also tells us:
- God delights in a pure heart. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation"
(Psalm 24:3-5). "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God"
- A pure heart is one without idols. "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them"
(Deuteronomy 11:16). "I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols"
(Ezekiel 23:30). "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Timothy 2:22).
A day is coming when the Lord alone will be exalted. "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered..." (Zechariah 13:2). Yet even now, only the King of Kings is worthy of first place in our hearts.