Tuesday, March 28, 2006,8:39 PM
American Idol and Evangelism
So I was watching American Idol tonight (yes I do watch it) and the whole issue of how Christians interact with the world came up. One of the contestants is a selfproclaimed Christian named Mandisa. She has a decent voice, but isn’t my favorite. Tonight’s theme was 21st century songs and she chose a gospely praise song by a group called Mary Mary. From the moment she started I was uncomfortable. Having existed in the Christian subculture I remember the weirdness of celebrating anything Christian when it appears in the “secular”world (and to try to push anything Christian into that world as often as possible). In fact when that was done, it was celebrated as evangelism, as not being ashamed of Jesus Christ, etc… So I understand her choice in choosing a very preachy praise song to sing on live tv, but I cringe instead of celebrate. Obviously the judges didn’t know what to think. Randy said something about the song choice not working. Paula tried to be understanding of Mandisa’s spirituality, but ended up insulting her. But Simon I think got it right when he called her choice indulgent. As he expounded with another contestants indulgent song choice – this is American Idol and they need to respect that – in other words not make it their personal playground and soapbox.

So why did the whole thing bug me? One – it plays into the sacred/secular distinction that evangelicals have so bought into - only if something is labeled Christian can it be good or serve Christ. Why can’t Mandisa be a good singer for Christ on the show without going outside the assumed bounds and preaching. Two – it shows the lack of respect Christians have for nonchristians. By forcing a very Christian song into an arena where others would not understand it is arrogant (and indulgent). I’m sure Christians were proud of her and will blame antichristian libral bias if she gets voted off. But why can we lament lack of respect for our beliefs when we refuse to respect others’ and force our beliefs on them? I think there is a time and a place for evangelism – one that respects others and allows for dialogue. Tonights drama just reminded me in a small way of how often Christians are out of touch and miss the point.

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posted by Julie at 8:39 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/28/2006 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Hmmm, that indulgent idea makes me think, but I'm not sure I can agree completely. If she picked a 21st cen song on world hunger or some other platform, would it have been received differently? Was it received as indulgent because it infringes on the taboo of "religion and politics?" If so, is that a valid distinction?

  • At 3/29/2006 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I didn't see it, but I doesn't sound to me like politics were involved in any way. I think maybe the issue is that non-Christian people will feel blind-sided by these kinds of attempts at evangelism, as if you hit them upside the head with a sermon when they weren't expecting it.

  • At 3/29/2006 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    it was more like mike said about hitting you upside the head with a sermon. Her whole performance came across as a worship leader trying to rally a charismatic crowd up into worship. She not just sang, she shouted preachy things at the crowd. the genre of her song was outside the typical pop expectations of American Idol (as was the heavy heavy rock song of the next contestant) - both were personal choices they were allowed to make, but indulgent in that they cared more about their personal taste than the needs of the audience and the "rules" of the contest. While if Chris gets voted off for his choice to sing heavy rock people will just agree that his choice was too indulgent. But if Mandisa gets voted off it will be blamed on antichristian feelings...

  • At 4/01/2006 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Marty

    Hi Julie - I'm Marty and have come to appreciate Mike through Hemant's visit to your church and then Mike's fine dialogue on the Ebay Atheist blog.

    I very much enjoyed reading your feedback on the "American Idol and Evangelism." I did not watch it - but your comments resonated with me - as one of my pet peeves has been going to a Memorial Service for someone I loved and having little said about the deceased and instead a heavy conversion sermon preached for 20+ minutes. These experiences make me want to not be labeled a Christian.

    I would think that your comments would be appreciated and possibly create some interesting dialogue on the Athiest/Christian Discussion board at


    You may not be interested in getting into that broad a dialogue - but in case you are, I would enjoy seeing the interactions on that board.

    Your and Mike's Christianity is truly Christian and refreshing.

  • At 4/03/2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    hey Marty - thanks for posting. I read the ebay atheist blog and comment from time to time. I think its been a great discussion. I usually don't post much because I seem to have a tendency to argue my point which isn't really the purpose there :) , but I post when I can.

  • At 4/03/2006 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Marty

    Hi Julie - it's a real challenge not to push our ideas/debate rather than dialogue. I think we have all gone to school from reading Ir.

  • At 4/04/2006 03:18:00 PM, Blogger Paul West

    I didn't watch that episode, but just reading your account of it makes me cringe. It's unfortunate that the gospel has been relegated down to another form of secular entertainment. Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but I always try to visualize someone like Paul or Jeremiah or John the Baptist standing before King Herod, singing lovey-dovey stuff about Jesus, hoping to win a talent competition.

    I think the whole thing is an embarassment, and it saddens me that Christians are not divorced from worldly entertainment, as God commands us to be. Sure, we need to reach these people, but if you wanted to reach a porno star, would you audition for a part in the movie?

    Very thought-provoking post. It upset me, and I can express a soladarity with your line of reasoning.

    In Christ,

    Paul West