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Real Answers™
gh121
Copyright: © 2009 Gary Hardaway
690 words

IDOL WORSHIP IS IDLE WORSHIP

By:  Gary Hardaway

First, a confession. I don’t watch American Idol. However, I’ve probably seen at least a thousand promos for the show. I think I get it.

Next, a little history. American idolatry goes back several decades. In the 1940s crowds of cute bobby soxers swooned over a very skinny but highly talented young baritone named Frank Sinatra. The guy could really sing. Even so, people wondered why otherwise sensible teenage females would fly into hysterics while he crooned “All or Nothing at All.” It must have been a girl thing.

Next came Elvis, with hysterics multiplied to the third or fourth power. In those early days of 1956-7, Elvis, unlike Sinatra, lacked polish as a vocalist. (Later he matured into a pretty good singer). But his skill quotient didn’t matter at all. Neither did the lyrics. On paper, the words of “Hound Dog” are utterly senseless. They hardly rise to the level of drivel. “Don’t Be Cruel” makes a bit more sense, but not much.

So . . . what was happening?

Words and music operate mainly on our consciousness. Somehow Elvis bypassed the conscious dimension and connected with deeper, subterranean instincts and needs. Again, it was mostly a girl thing, but a lot of guys also resonated with his style and persona. That persona – that mysterious male image that Elvis projected – dominated, captivated, and transcended anything before it. It gave teenagers fits.

The song became irrelevant. The performer became the idol, and performance changed into a worship experience. The crowds embraced their idol as a god whose presence temporarily infused their lives with new meaning and joy. Though the idolatry was real, the god himself was not. He was an imaginary being who came alive on stage and ceased to exist after exiting stage right.

Soon the Beatles appeared, and there were four more idols to worship. They mastered the arts of pseudo-divinity so well that dozens, if not hundreds of copycat groups, also seeking divine status, followed in their train.

Now we have American Idol. The title is not insignificant. The producers intend to create a god and deliver a drama-packed worship experience that will overwhelm the senses and emotions with total ecstasy. The screaming throng in the auditorium must lose itself in shouting hosannas to the anointed one. 

To prepare for that epiphany, cascades of dazzling, kaleidoscopic light, blaring music, and fast-paced, multimedia special effects engulf the venue even before the performer strides (or prances) onto stage. All the technological wizardry of Las Vegas and Hollywood immerses our nervous systems in anticipation.

The Star appears. The wild mob deliriously applauds because their idol has condescended to favor them with his or her divine presence. He, or she, breaks into song. Ages ago, singers chose melodies and lyrics that spoke of love (often unrequited), longing, hope, happiness, inspiration, desperation, joy and pain. Our new idols have abandoned that kind of entertainment. Bing Crosby, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, or Pat Boone would get tossed a few seconds into their first audition.

Today’s “artists” don’t exactly sing. The performance is all about showing off. It requires the equivalent of an Olympic gymnastic routine. The voice must soar to stratospheric heights and moan to bathetic depths. The blaring melody must lend itself to frenetic bodily gyrations. All serves as a vehicle for the performer to glorify his magnificent self. In due time the adoring hosannas pour forth.

The American Idol script somewhat resembles the story of Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem a week before his death. Mighty waves of adulation echoed throughout Jerusalem, as the crowd praised One they hoped to crown as king.  It was a spectacular “triumph” of sorts.

Jesus had not sought nor orchestrated their worship, but he gladly received it. To those who objected, he replied, “If they keep quiet, the very rocks will cry out.”  By so saying, he claimed he was no idol, but the real Lord, the only One who deserves all honor and glory.

For a brief moment the world seemed to understand who he was. It quickly forgot. This week we do well to remember – and never forget.

Gary Hardaway, a regular contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate, directs Summit School of Ministry in Bellingham, WA.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; amyfoundtn@aol.com

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