Often Imitated, Never Duplicated
My little children, keep away from idols. – 1 John 5:21 (VOICE)
I could have been the Season 3 winner of the megahit television series, American Idol.
I suspect that, like so many others, I was drawn to American Idol because of its grandiose claim: win here and be elevated from “undiscovered” to your rightful throne! Idol seemed like an express train to a rare kind of fame that is borne out of an opportunity to win over a fan base of about 3.2 billion global audience members before ever recording an album.
But like the biblical golden calf, the American Idol is a work of precise construction. How else could the show be on its 20th season? It turns out that some of the show’s finalists, in fact, were already recording artists (Google “ringers of season 7”), some winners are bought not born (Google “textgate”), and even voted-off cream rises to the top (Google “Jennifer Hudson”).
Idols may be shiny and even talented, but they are always hoisted by our fantasies and demolished by our spite. Idols skew our perception of everything, including ourselves. Worse, idols entice us into worshipping what looks good instead of what is good. The writer of 1 John ends the book by repeating this evergreen warning: beware idols who worship love but don’t live love.
God, you are the prototype. You are the real deal – your shine never fades and your dynamic love never hardens. Help us resist the forgeries of life. Mold us to take the shape of you.
Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart is a Black queer preacher, teacher, and agitator. She is an adjunct professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and is the founder of Salt | Yeast | Light, where she develops spaces of theological candor, disruption, reflection, transformation, and public action.