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MTV Interview: The Church & American Idol

A while back I wrote a blog called American Idol: Good for TV, Bad for Church which came to the attention of MTV Senior Writer, Gil Kauffman. Gil wanted to know why so many Christians were not only tuning into "Idol" this year, but also performing on the show. He took a couple of quotes from our conversation and put them into his story for Here's an excerpt:

Just as this season kicked off, freelance writer CJ Casciotta penned an essay for faith site titled "American Idol — Good for TV. Bad for Church," in which he questioned whether the show's shunning of the "awkward, the socially inept, the ugly, the difficult" during the often cruel early rounds shouldn't be a call to action for the rest of us to embrace those whose lives are a struggle.

Casciotta's interest was piqued when he heard "Shout to the Lord" on "Idol" last season, and he suspects that the inclusion was an overt attempt to court Christian viewers. "The people at 'American Idol' are not idiots. They realize that there's this huge percentage of America that watches TV as a family, and a lot of families go to church. ... [The viewers] know worship leaders and musicians in church, and why not bring that aspect to the show?" he said.

He suspected that the inclusion of so many people of faith on "Idol" this year is part of a trend Christian music has been undergoing over the past decade, growing out of its cloistered corner and going more mainstream without losing its core values. "People who are Christians have a platform through 'American Idol' to write their songs and share their stories, and it doesn't have to fit in with the traditional Christian or worship genre," he said.

In fact, Casciotta said, he thinks Christian voters could end up being the deciding factor in this year's finals. "I would hope for people of faith that they would judge solely by talent," he said. "But if it came down to it, and the two [finalists] were equally talented and one was Christian, people would vote for that person who shares our faith."

To read the full article click here.

I also mentioned to Gil when we talked that I believe the church has had it backwards for a few decades now. Instead of creating culture, we instead settle for copying it. Centuries ago it was  quite the opposite. The church was the epicenter for culture creators. Everything from music, to art, to architecture was birthed from it. Perhaps one of the reasons so many Christ Followers are auditioning for American Idol is, in a small way, due to this new renaissance of artistic expression erupting from within the church walls and overflowing to the "outside world." Perhaps, and hopefully, Christians are  sensing the freedom to use their unique gifts and talents in and for a culture where every circumstance carries some kind of spiritual significance to it. 

I'm interested, what are your thoughts? Do you see this shift happening too? If so, where? Do you agree that this is a good thing? Does anything concern you?


A great video featuring one of my heroes, Craig Detweiler, that hits on my point exactly about halfway through:



I believe that CJ is right on on several points. The one that I want to land on is "Christians are sensing the freedom to use their unique gifts and talents in and for a culture where every circumstance carries some kind of spiritual significance to it. " I don't know if this is the case across the board but it seems to be for me. I have the experience of playing my "Christian" music in a wine and coffee bar fairly regularly and I am finding it really refreshing to share my heart through music in that setting. It is one of my favorite places to play. Also, trying to be relevant to those listening based on the belief that when we speak/sing something that is true, it resonates in our very being not matter if we claim Christ or not. With that in mind. It is an interesting place to be truly trying to express "The Truth" so that is helpful to all and not just comforting those who have bought the message already.

I'm just now reading this since it's been a while since I've been here.

I agree with most of what you say. About Christians no longer setting the trend for art like Religion used to, I whole heartedly agree. It's been on my mind a lot lately why that is the case. Even today, even a lot of "relevant" things the church is doing are just copying the outside world. Why? This frustrates me to NO end! And I hear this cop out all the time for it's justification, "there's nothing new under the sun" I don't by it. If we are living our artistic passions from the place deep inside us that say's we HAVE to create then why aren't we creating new things? God is certainly capable of giving us new idea's. And there are artists out there doing them, most of them just don't happen to be in the church. Why are the most "relevant" and deep artists out there that can move us to tears with their art, not Christians and yet doing more for people than some of the collective church is?

I'm sorry if that sounds incredibly harsh, but it's been my thought for about a year now. And I'm not saying good things aren't coming out of the church. I just don't see a lot of original things coming out of the church, or even dare I say it "inspired" things with regards to art and artistic expression....

Now for Christian artists moving into the mainstream. This is another thing which has been on my mind for a little while now. I think it's easier for Christian singers or bands to be in that world than Christian actors, producers, filmmakers. Even within "relevant" churches.

I recently have found myself in So Cal living with my Grandmother who is recovering from a moderate stroke. The move was sudden, but for me much needed. And being unemployed for almost a year I'm finding myself in an odd place of job freedom. Meaning I can choose any career I want. Acting for film and tv is something I've always been interested in. And yet I find myself struggling to allow myself to pursue it freely without feeling guilty that I will be disowned by church friends or my faith called into question because this type of art is still not mostly accepted within the church. These are stupid reasons not to pursue it especially when it's an perceived perception and may not always reflect the truth. But I can't help but wrestle with it, is this something God would really allow me to do/bless & support? And I can't find a single reason why he wouldn't, other than the church for some reason say's you can't be in Hollywood and not be corrupted. And I have a hard time moving past that....

I'm sorry that's a lot, it's late and I'm throwing a lot out there. All of that to say, I'm glad you raise the questions you do about art and Christianity, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks about some of this stuff and I'm glad MTV took notice and interviewed you to continue the discussion...

My hope and prayer for my lifetime is that we will see the love of CHRIST permeate this country to it's core and become the influence it *should* be and set the standard. Not waiting to take our cue from the rest of the world and either trying to package it into what God say's or condemn it all together as being evil and run the other way....

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CJ is a writer, artist, and cultural communicator with a passion for raising a new generation of innovative leaders and forward thinkers. He is's Social Evangelist and manages their Undiscovered Artist Platform.