Idols of the Heartland? The Megachurch Background of American Idol

The LA Times has a story chronicling an interesting connection between some evangelical megachurches and contestants on American Idol (HT: Bill J.).

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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10 comments

  1. Interesting article and observations. The LA Times seems to have completely ignored last year’s Runner-Up, the obviously and flamboyantly homosexual singer, um, Adam Lambert. No surprise at that correctness. One wonders how many megachurchers ignored or failed to notice Lambert’s gender bending? I seem to recall the final count was very close.

    American Idol as the musical wing of American Civil Religion .

    One could almost become an instrument-eschewing exclusive psalmist in reaction. Almost.

    • Chris D,
      “True, “Idol” could hardly be called a religious show. It’s secular enough to earn many complaints for bleeped-out obscenities and risque guest performances, an inevitable result of the show’s need to connect with the hip-hop and R&B styles that top today’s charts. A crotch-grabbing performance by Usher earlier this season offered but one example of the family-unfriendly antics that make some traditionalists wince.”
      -Homosexuality would probably fall under what they are talking about here.

      Daniel Chew,

      – – ‘where is the idea of holiness and separateness in the churches?”
      It may be that they’re not churches to begin with. What is the operating definition of churches in this article? Christians/-anity?

  2. Check out the lyrics of “I beleve” by Fantasia Barrino. Faith in faith. Maybe not so foreign to American Idolators.

  3. I cringe at this (the LA times’) article. One almost wants to embrace Exclusive Psalmody after reading this – where is the idea of holiness and separateness in the churches?

  4. This goes with the evangelical liturgy video from a few days ago, you know the one, the “contemporvent” service that promises “grotivation”.

  5. This just appeared in our local Christian high school’s community events calendar:

    “Women of Faith Conference will be held August 20 and 21 in Indianapolis, IN. Speakers include Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Sandi Patty, Anita Renfroe, Lisa Whelchel, and Andi Andrews. Music by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, Sandi Patty, American Idol’s Mandisa, and Women of Faith. Reserved floor level tickets are available now.”

  6. Similarly, the Pop 40 group Life House’s lead vocalist Jason Wade got his start as a
    “worship” leader at the Malibu Vineyard. Some of their hits started out as “worship” songs.

  7. Sad, but not suprising [LA Times Article]. I am afraid that many in our reformed churches practicing regulative worship are ‘in’ to this type of music during the week, and I wonder if they are not somewhat “let down” or bored with truely majestic and honorable music to the Psalms and hymns on the Lord’s Day. May the Lord Jesus “visit this vine and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted.” Psalm 80:14-15.

    • Joel, that’s an interesting question. I’m into reading all kinds of books through the week, does that make the Bible boring or a let down on the Lord’s Day? I buy all sorts of stuff with money throughout the week (including VanDrunen’s book last night!), does that rendering my tithes and offerings as boring? I eat all sorts (too much) of tasty things everyday of the week, does that make me disinterested in mere bread and wine?

      I think it tends to (or at least is can tend to) work the other way around. The words, prayers, tithes/offerings, music, food, reading and preaching of the Word in worship on the Lord’s Day gives value/guidance to all the things that go on through the week. Worship, being a microcosm of life, informs and energizes all of life. The rest of life is quite distinct from corporate worship. Our daily lives ought to be filled with wonderful things for which we give thanks. We learn to give thanks over a tasty Mexican platter (partially) because we’ve learned to give thanks over bread and wine. We learn to rejoice in Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs (partially) because we’ve learned to rejoice in singing gloria patri with the brethren in worship.

  8. Tim, good point. I agree that our week is different than corporate worship of necessity. But my point was that when we begin to worship God during the week with music or thought patterns from the ungodly it may end up making us desire it in the church.

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