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Although I consider myself current with pop culture, this is the first season I’ve watched “American Idol.”
In years past, I’ve seen the last 15 minutes of some of the final shows to see who wins, but not knowing who’s who, I didn’t really care one way or another.
This season, mostly because I hate being left out of the water-cooler conversation, I decided early on to watch every episode – from first auditions to finale – and I even hope to buy tickets to see the Top Ten Idol contestants when they go on tour this summer.
I have to say, “American Idol” is a brutal show. During the auditions they show the best performers as well as the worst, and the only reason they show the worst is so people like me can laugh and make fun.
I also think the producers single out certain contestants they want viewers to love or love to hate. Early on, the love to hate included Bikini Girl, who showed up with a haughty attitude stuffed in a skimpy bikini; Tatiana, the most annoying person on the planet and “headband boy” Nathaniel, a tattooed and pierced drama queen.
I’m not sure how badly Bikini Girl wanted to be “Your. American. Idol,” but Tatiana and Nathaniel wanted it so badly that they begged the judges and cried.
It was pathetic — and quite entertaining.
But they’re history now. Now the real competition has begun. We’re down to the nail-biting, stomach-knotting, one-by-one eliminations.
Like I said, it’s a brutal show. They make the contestants sweat. First, they take turns singing. Obviously.
After all, this is a singing competition.
But then after the contestants sing, one by one they stand alone on the stage while 25 million viewers watch as a panel of judges make pronouncements.
“Yo, Dawg. That just didn’t do it for me,” or, “That was pitchy and that song was all wrong for you.” That’s from the nice judges.
When it comes to Simon Cowell, who pretty much hates everything, he might say it was “bloody awful” or “indulgent nonsense.”
Sometimes a performer will sing his or her heart out and appear to be thinking, “I nailed it. Even I think that was awesome,” only to be chopped off at the knees by the judges’ criticism. Even Adam Lambert, this season’s most amazing performer who’s all swagger and sass and by far in a league of his own, becomes a pile of insecure quivering Jell-O while being judged.
When everyone’s finished singing, America votes for its favorites, with the results revealed and the loser announced the following night, but not without more dramatic suspense. The three contestants with the fewest votes, the bottom three, are set aside on stools opposite that week’s winners.
All that’s missing are the dunce caps and “Loser” signs around their necks.
At the end of the show when the two “safe for one more week” contestants rejoin the winners, that week’s loser has to endure watching a video montage of his or her “American Idol” journey and then has to sing the song he or she lost with (while processing the news that this is the end).
It’s cruel and humiliating — and a lot like how people think God treats his people. Even those who call themselves Christians and who believe that Jesus has taken away their guilt and stain from sin often still think that God watches what they do and then tells them, “That was pure rubbish. It was awful — atrocious.”
To me, the most comforting words in the Bible are these: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
I love reading those words and love telling them to others.
There’s no being in the bottom three. No voting. No “singing for your life” in front of a panel of judges just in case they might use their one-time-only “save” option.
The judgment of God has fallen on Christ and those who are set free are set free. No more condemnation. No more judging. No more performance anxiety or crossing fingers or hoping God’s in a good mood.
As far as God is concerned (and forgive the obvious corn factor), his children are all American Idols. Those who belong to him have already won.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria – I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at (352)564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at email@example.com.