Strip away all these things and you’ll get to the bare purpose of the show: A.I. praises those who are successful, those people who seem to have it all together (the beautiful, the talented, the charming) while making fun of those who don’t (the awkward, the struggling, the unaware the socially inept, the ugly).
Back up a minute though. Is this mere television? Haven’t we seen this format somewhere before? Let’s take the “tv” out of the phrase. This is "reality. "
I grew up in church learning that if I acted a certain way, dressed a certain way, said the right thing, memorized the write words, I could achieve significance. Whether or not the church accepted me was based on how well I could pull off my “togetherness.” In many ways I still feel this way.I don’t think I'm alone. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of room for losers in the Christian boxes we’ve created.
It’s easy to love people different than us. In fact, it’s downright cool. We can easily add how accepting we seem to our performance stats. If I’m white and you’re black we can be friends. If you like country and I like hard rock we can easily move past that. But what about people who are really different? What about the Idol losers? The awkward, the struggling, the socially inept, the ugly, the difficult, the prideful, the poor, the weird, the addicted, the ungrateful? It seems that we have a strict limit to how much love we’re willing to dish out. We’ll give a few bucks to a homeless person if we’re convinced he’s using it to buy food or shelter. The minute we grow suspicious he’s spending it elsewhere, we stop. We’re willing to by a Gap T-shirt to help fight the AIDS crisis in Africa, but once we realize the amount of Africans who continue to live promiscuously even after education, we become disenchanted.
We’re a compassionate generation…on our terms. It isn’t really compassion if we look at people solely through the lens of their sin and circumstance and not as a fellow sibling of the King Creator. That’s real hope and change, but I’ll admit it’s much harder for us to move toward this than it is to move toward the Gap T-shirt rack.
…because if we really believed we are just as depleted as those we distance ourselves from….that would change everything about the way we live.
Here are two examples from my own life:
The first one is about a guy named Saul who used to work in my college cafeteria. We never knew exactly what it was but it was clear he had profound mental disabilities. They weren’t the kind of mental disabilities that made him endearing, fun to be around, or particularly inspiring if you knew him as an acquaintance. He wasn’t the guy you would root for in the Special Olympics. He didn’t give you the warm and fuzzies. Saul was extremely difficult to love. He was the kind of mental case that would latch on to you if he liked you and never let you go. He would seek you out, hug you when you had a tray full of food in your hands, sit next to you at lunch, then proceed to insult you and your friends, ramble about how angry he was at life, and oftentimes bring up the fact that he was a devout misogynist. Yet if you peered hard enough past the discomfort you could see Saul was just looking for acceptance.
We’ve been conditioned to accept the people we can handle, those we can wrap our minds around. We plant churches in neighborhoods with like-minded, well-established people who are likely to provide us with the proper income to support our staffs. Our most popular churches are filled with similar looking people (whether you’re a college church with Christian Hipsters or a contemporary one sporting members in polo shirts and golf dockers).
When did church become so much like American Idol? When did it become a contest to see who could look the best, sing the best, teach the best program, or give the best sermon?
And where the he[[ are all the William Hungs???
If the church (being you and I) doesn’t come a long side the unlovable, the outcast, the wretched, and the poor no one will. Christ warns us flat out that it’s not easy. In fact, we’re guaranteed persecution. When we live completely opposite to the American Idol formula, that’s to be expected from those who thrive on it. But deep down no one truly thrives on self maintance. We all break down. We all need repair.
I have a great idea…a few of us should get together and repair those who need it most, giving them tangible hope and love all the while introducing them to Christ even when it’s difficult and stretches us to the core….we could call it church.