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FOX's Culture War

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Significant battles in the culture war are seldom fought in high-profile locations (think Dover, Pennsylvania). Likewise, we are seldom aware that we are witnessing one of these battles until after the fact (think “wardrobe malfunction”). For these two reasons, tonight’s winner of the eighth American Idol (AI) competition—which is held in Hollywood and is being incessantly hyped by the media as a battle between a Christian and an alleged homosexual—finds himself in the unlikely position of not just becoming America’s newest pop-star, but also becoming a casualty in the ongoing culture war.


Although three of the four judges constantly harp on the fact that AI is a singing competition, Simon Cowell—the eminent voice of reason on the show—is always quick to point out that the voting public is seldom voting strictly on vocal talent. Personality, charisma, back story, confrontations with the judges, and now sexual orientation, all appear to play a factor in who stays and who goes each week. The two remaining contestants, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, are genuinely talented guys with radically different styles and stage presence, and both are getting an early lesson in the power of the media in this country. In an interview on Monday, Kris and Adam both expressed their concern about the voting being focused on peripheral issues:


"For me, I hope that having the Christian vote doesn't help with anything," said Allen, a 23-year-old college student who has worked as a worship leader at the New Life Church in his hometown of Conway, Ark. "I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff."


Lambert, a 27-year-old theater actor from San Diego who once worked in the Los Angeles cast of "Wicked," heartily agreed. He said he does not think the contest "has anything to do with your religious background, what color you are, your gender. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It's about music. That's really important to keep in mind."[1]


You can just picture Simon rolling his eyes in the background. Of course the contestants are going to say this, what else could they possibly say? The problem isn’t with the two guys on the stage; the problem lies with the media making everything into a cultural battle. If the media gets its way, a vote for Adam has little to do with how well he sang, but has everything to do with supporting the homosexual agenda that is being foisted upon the American public at every opportunity.


Last week, prior to Danny Gokey being sent home and leaving only Kris and Adam, Newsweek entertainment writer Ramin Setoodeh had this to say:


We're down to the wire on American Idol. Tonight it's two songs for each of the final three performers, and the judges will no doubt be pimping out Adam Lambert like crazy. But that still doesn't mean he's guaranteed a spot in the finals.


Lambert has been called the best Idol singer in the history of the show, thanks to his Celine Dion-like pipes. But he's also one of the most controversial, thanks to his Marilyn Manson-like wardrobe and his (not-so-)ambiguous sexuality. Entertainment Weekly reported that he might be gay (is he or isn't he?!); he's the first Idol contestant to grace the cover of the magazine alone before we'd even voted for a winner, and he was the subject of a history-of-outing story in The New York Times. He's also the target of Idol's most vitriolic mudslinging campaign to date, after a number of photos leaked that appear to show Lambert making out with guys and dressed in goth attire. All this, and he's still the front runner to win it all. Paula practically gave him the Idol crown the first time he performed.


But most of his groupies have overlooked a possible roadblock to the title. Idol is the No. 1 show on TV at least in part because it's so family-friendly, and it also appeals to a large demographic of Christian viewers. These are the same fans who made High School Musical and Dancing With the Stars huge TV hits. Many of Idol's previous winners—Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Ruben Studdard—are devout Christians. Coincidence? Perhaps. But we don't know much about Lambert's faith, and that might hurt him with Christian voters. He could be extremely religious, but he's kept his religious beliefs quiet.


His two competitors, on the other hand, are a different story. Kris Allen and Danny Gokey both introduced themselves as devout Christians who are very involved in their churches, and both have gotten substantial interest from Christian blogs and websites. In February, multifaith website reported that:


Before Idol, Danny Gokey was the praise and worship leader at both Faith Builders International Ministry locations, in Beloit, WI, for the morning service and then he headed to Milwaukee for the afternoon service, as well as doing mid-week services. Faith Builders is his home church.


Kris Allen has been working with the worship ministry at his home church, New Life Church in Arkansas, on both the Conway and Little Rock campuses since 2007. He is also involved with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Central Arkansas.


So who goes home tomorrow night? Adam is still the best singer in the competition. But since Idol isn't really a singing competition—despite what Randy Jackson tells you every week—don't be too shocked if there's a shocker elimination this week.[2]


Setoodeh’s prediction didn’t come to pass last week, but as various sources have pointed out, with Danny Gokey gone, Kris has a much better chance of picking up the “Danny” vote than Adam does. Setoodeh was a week ahead of the curve, but the rest of the entertainment news sources are all over this now. Bill O’Reilly even had Setoodeh on his show, where he said much the same things as he said in his blog post.[3] One might even be tempted to say that it was O’Reilly who made this a culture war issue (remembering of course that AI and The O’Reilly Factor are both owned by FOX, a very important point that should not be overlooked), giving Setoodeh’s short blog piece far more attention than it was receiving on its own. And, as Setoodeh points out in his article, the media was already falling all over itself, declaring Adam as the hands-down winner of the show. It was Setoodeh’s blog post that seemed to be the one voice of dissent, making the obvious point that AI is primarily a family show and that Christianity has had a pretty steady showing in previous winners. Was the media hoping that Adam would slip on through to the winner’s circle, strictly on singing talent, and then, after the fact, declare it as a victory for the homosexual agenda? Maybe, but thanks to Setoodeh and O’Reilly, we’ll never know for sure.


It’s difficult to determine if O’Reilly is brilliant or lucky and it’s a shame that what should be a celebration for either Adam or Kris has been turned into a media circus of political agendas. And after watching the performances last night, the singing will probably have little to do with it. Neither contestant was overwhelmingly better than the other; both had their ups and downs. For my money, I still hope Kris wins—even if it would be a hollow victory—because Adam annoys me. Both of them are star quality; Kris in a quiet, reserved, but confident sort of way, and Adam in a loud, boisterous, yet humble sort of way. My suspicions are that it won’t matter who wins though. The media will either ignore Kris if he wins, or puff Adam if he wins. But which ever way America votes, neither of the two contestants are capable of living up to what their respective side of the culture war will expect of them. Adam doesn’t have the charisma to carry the rainbow crusade any further than it has already gotten and Kris doesn’t seem to have the stomach for playing politics. Both will ultimately end up as casualties on the cultural battlefield, and that is the real shame of the whole sad ordeal. Today’s heroes become tomorrow’s chumps when the media machine has no further use for them; they are nothing more than temporary fuel for the furnace of humanism.




[3] Watch the interview here:
Caution: As this a “culture war issue” be mindful of the comments section, not everyone uses nice Christian words.


Article posted May 20, 2009

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