I watched part one of “Idol gives back” last night. (Where was Bono?) There are two ways to look at American Idol’s first charitable effort. One is that they are genuinely trying to help people by using the shows enormous popularity. The second is to think (cynically) that this is just an enormous publicity stunt to keep attention on the popular yet “aging” show. My personal opinion is that it is probably a carefully calculated combination of the two.
But what if “Idol gives back” is nothing but a publicity stunt? If so, it would mean that America’s number one show, At&T, Ford, Coca-Cola, and many other top corporations think that donating millions to the needy will attract customers to their companies and increase their profits! It is yet another sign that we now live in a “compassion economy” where people choose their products based on the “good” they do for the world. Examples: Starbucks, Gap (RED), etc… The effectiveness of these current campaigns can be questioned, but the desire the public has to purchase such products cannot!
Do I think that churches should do good in a substantial way because it’s currently “good marketing”? Nope, I think the church should be the most generous, charitable, and compassionate place on the planet because it was one of Jesus’ primary commands! The fact that charity and generosity are currently “fashionable” is simply an opportunity for us to lead and not follow!
So what do we have to offer (as churches)if we choose not to be “part of this “new fangled” charity/compassion fad?) Bible knowledge? Yeah, that will do it…it’s much too difficult to Google “bible study” on your laptop…people will just have to sit through a 90 minute church service if they want to learn about the Bible. “Fellowship”? Yeah, no one could possibly match our church picnics and potluck dinners…not bars, bowling leagues, Myspace, Tupperware parties,…no one. “Live Music”?… Yeah, that’s finally it. No one can beat an under-rehearsed band with 13 back up singers singing “As the Deer panteth for the water”…definitely not MTV, VH1, American Idol, You tube, your local club, junior high talent show….Nope, no one.
What if we as churches offer the Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus preached? What if we cared more about doing good IN our communities, than looking good TO our communities? What if we actually lived like we would be judged by how we treated “the least of these“? What if we invited our friends and neighbors to join us in our mission-regardless of their “beliefs”. What if we actually changed our community? Even though I’ve never voted for and American Idol contestant….I would “vote” for that!