Last week American Idol wrapped up their “Idol Gives Back” episode with a group rendition of “Shout to the Lord.” I’m not going to say a whole lot about this collaboration. Josh Harris has already written some very good reflections on this episode. However, I will say a few quick things. First, I was immediately skeptical the moment I heard about this ordeal. It’s one thing to take a song by a “Christian” artist or band and use it as a theme song for a show or background music for an episode. Generally it just means that the music happens to fit with the theme of a show or episode. It has nothing to do with promoting God. It’s just good music. In fact, I just heard Pillar’s new single, “For the Love of the Game,” being played as the background music to a video highlighting college football on ESPN. Do you think they wrote that song with a college football video in mind? I highly doubt it. It’s great that songs like this are being used in multiple formats. But don’t make it more than what it is.
Second, American Idol totally changed the first line of the song. Instead of “My Jesus, My Savior,” the Idols sing “My Shepherd, My Savior.” Is it a huge deal? Not really. Does it change the meaning of the song? Possibly. Why not sing it like it was written? Because shepherd leaves the meaning open to the listener. It doesn’t offend people. It doesn’t promote anything in particular. It’s politically correct. Another sign of the times. Furthermore, I think it makes the song sound very awkward to me. My opinion: if you can’t use the song the way it was written, don’t use it at all. (Though I did find out later that they sang it again the next night with Jesus included.)
In the end, I side with Josh. I don’t get real worked up about it. Some Christians will point this out as a victory path into culture. If this is our idea of engaging the culture, we might need to have another brainstorming session. However, I will say that there are several Christians laboring in the entertainment industry that need our prayers as they seek out ways to engage their co-workers and industry with the gospel. Maybe this is one way that their influence is being felt. (Read Josh’s follow up post and inside scoop for more insight on the Idol deal) I will admit that I struggle with cynicism at times. But I would never want to discourage the efforts of the people who are laboring in the fields. Praise God for those people.