I don't get much choice in the matter. My family is hooked on the show. After getting enthralled by the competition and the "talent" on display last season, my wife and kids simply must watch American Idol. If you haven't seen the show, certainly you've heard about it. The Great American Talent Search -- if your idea of talent is singing ballads and cheesy dance numbers. Sure some of these young folks can belt out a tune, but in the end it really doesn't matter who wins because the top group of contestants all get a chance to make a record anyway.
My wife will watch the whole season enthusiastically. My boys start to lose interest once the more talented contestants are all that's left. And I know many more people just like them. What my precious sons love to watch are the people who are... well, not that good. They stand up before the three judges and they simply make fools of themselves. And people love to watch that. It's not because the performances are heartfelt or emotionally moving. It's that they are bad, and it's always comforting to know that other people can look even more stupid than you did when you drove off with two sacks of groceries on the roof of your Subaru.
What makes the early stages of American Idol so enticing is that the people who come in to audition are all thinking the same thing: "I'm so good. I'm going to be the next American Idol!" Each of these poor people have either deluded themselves or have been talking into believing that they can sing better than anyone else waiting in line to audition.
It can be downright painful to watch. Sure sometimes it's gratifying to see some obnoxious, egotistic singer get put in her place by an obnoxious, egotistic judge, but for the most part these people are terribly hurt when they are told bluntly that they couldn't carry a tune in a five-gallon bucket. One contestant was told that if she's going to sing in the shower she should get a soundproof shower curtain to save others the misery of hearing her. But all insults aside, Idol brings a parade of self-deluded people into a television studio and lets America watch them get hit by a firehose full of reality.
I wonder how many of these contestants continue the delusion after being denied a spot on the show. I'm sure there are many. We don't part with our pre-conceived ideas easily. If we are told repeatedly that we sing wonderfully, we typically adopt that idea and place it in our treasure chest full of truth. Nothing leaves that treaure chest unless we want it to go. Not even a videotape of a screeching-voiced audition and insults from three judges will pull it out of some truth chests.
All accepted truth is like that. If we consider something to be true, we'll be hard-pressed to discard it -- even if there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. At The Gad(d)about, Matt wrote about an opportunity to witness to a Mormon friend about Biblical inerrancy, but found that his friend wasn't paying a bit of attention to all the evidence which refuted what he'd been taught in LDS Sunday School. He would gladly proclaim the "truth" but wouldn't entertain the notion that his "truth" was the equivalent of an off-key, forgotten lyric American Idol audition. He wouldn't give up his distorted sense of reality.
I could rattle off example after example of people not accepting the evidence for Jesus Christ and show how their ideas of truth are clung to like a struggling climber gripping the lone strong reachable limb for support. And we'd all nod, say "Amen," and shake our heads sadly at the stubborn, lost people with such a distorted sense of reality. But instead, let's point the flashlight in the opposite direction, shall we?
Are we afraid to have our version of the truth challenged? I'm not really talking about original sin or the Trinity or the deity of Christ here... what about the way we determine truth? I knew a man who was convinced that God will not hear your prayer unless you end your prayer, "In Jesus' name, Amen." Say it, and God will answer. Skip it or forget it, and you've wasted your time praying. When I challenged his way of thinking, he didn't jump up and down and scream, "HERETIC!" at me. He nodded, listened to my words and arguments, and thanked me for telling him. Of course I didn't change his opinion at all. I could have spent 40 days and 40 nights explaining that those words aren't some kind of password to get God's attention, and he still would not have listened. He wasn't going to pull that "truth" out of his treasure chest. He had been taught this and had cherished it for years. He was quite happy with his distorted sense of reality.
It's a pretty common reaction, really. Too many times we've put the wrong bricks in our foundation of truth and we're scared to death to pull it out or else the whole thing could fall. Or we don't want to examine our precious truths because if one of them is wrong, couldn't they all be wrong? Yet each Christian and each collection of Christians has his or her own false truths which are treasured too much to be parted with. From "We've always done it this way," to "But I was always taught..." our reality could stand a little pruning.
I'm always happy when I hear of churches not being tied to traditions while still worshiping and serving God. Collecting an offering without passing a plate or basket, giving away smoke detector batteries or bottles of water without a tract or sermon, holding services without turning to Willow Creek, Saddleback or old traditional methods -- it shows a willingness to look at those things which so many Christians hold to as truth. When a person or a church is willing to do this, it is surprising just how little of "what we've always done" is truth rather than tradition. And more important still is the teaching of Jesus telling us not to put tradition ahead of doing what is right. Or more simply put, we can't let our comfort level determine how God wants us to worship Him, serve Him and love Him.
Still too many of us are like the tone deaf singer, shrieking the Theme from Fame, then laughing off the evaluations of the judges who told us that Aunt Martha was wrong -- we really can't sing well. We're afraid to give up our distorted sense of reality.