Why Adam Lambert Didn’t Win Americal Idol (or, the problem with religion)
If you are surprised I am writing about American Idol on this blog, let me just say – not more than I am.
But I simply can’t get past my view – and anger – that Adam lost because he is gay, and because Kris Allen is an evangelical Christian that did missionary work. I just can’t get past the idea that this is a referendum in the ongoing religion-fueled culture wars of the U.S.A.
I have been trying to tell myself otherwise all night and morning. I have been saying, ‘But Kris seems like a great guy, and he is really talented’, and ‘It doesn’t matter – Adam’s success is already assured, he will go on to a long and illustrious career’. Or ‘Kris’s song choices were more mainstream, hardcore rockers like Adam never win’, and finally, ‘Geez, Lisa, it’s just a TV show – get over it!!!’
I’m sure I will (get over it, that is.) Probably by tomorrow, when I’ll do the Blog Sharing/Link Love post I had planned for this week. But not before I vent a little today (Ok, you’ve received your vent warning, so if you keep reading and end up mad, it’s not my fault.)
From my perspective, it is completely naive to think religion or Adam being gay had nothing to do with this upset. For weeks, media outlets have been running articles along the lines of MSNBC’s Is America Ready for a Gay Americal Idol? The LA Times ran a front-page article on how these two represent this country’s cultural and religious divide. In the interviews leading up to the finale, the contestants were consistently asked ‘do you think religion will play a result in the vote?’ (to which they both – good friends – said, ‘I hope not.’) But since Adam has never publicly expressed any religious views, it’s hard to escape the fact that ‘religion’ in these questions was really shorthand for ‘religious views on homosexuality.’ On a darker note, the blogosphere has been alight with vitriol from supporters of both contestants, most of it aimed at their beliefs and personal lives.
It’s the vitriol on both sides that really gets me. And THIS is the problem with religion. The New Testament is 100% about love. That is almost all Jesus talked about. Sure, there are some other statements about the social and political situations of that time. But when asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus makes himself pretty clear, “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” and then “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love, love, love. Buddha rarely used the word ‘love’. He focused more on connectivity, on the essential oneness of us all. But the essence was the same. And of course Jesus and Buddha were just two of the more famous messengers – there have been many more, within virtually every religion, and many outside of them all. They each found this love, this truth, for themselves, and then they said ‘here is how I did it, here is one way to find this out for yourself.’
Somehow, over time, after a messenger is long gone from this earth, the message always gets mucked up. Someone comes along that wants to use it for political purposes, or just has an axe to grind, and the ‘one way’ changes to ‘only way’, and the focus on ‘love’ shifts to ‘righteousness.’ And one great teacher’s realization gets morphed – in my view disfigured – into a religion.
Don’t think this has only happened with Christianity. I have been on many Buddhist forums over the years, and have often been shocked with the views on what makes a ‘true Buddhist.’ I have read that you can’t be Buddhist and 1) eat meat, 2) drink wine, 3) be pro-choice, 4) be a Republican. Since 3 and 4 rarely go together, you can see it would be tough to meet everyone’s standard for ‘Buddhist.’ I have also run into strong opinions about meditation, about what is ‘real meditation’ and what is not, and what I should or should not be teaching regarding the chakras. This is in the Los Angeles progressive new-age community, so self-righteousness is not something reserved only for the Bible Belt.
And this is why I don’t define myself as anything anymore. And why, even though I hold deeply spiritual beliefs, I was interested in the mostly atheist views of Raising Freethinkers. Because even though I am a ‘believer’, I sometimes think maybe the world could use a few centuries of atheism, or at least secular humanism, to clear itself out and start afresh on the spiritual front. (As an aside, after giving my intro spiel at a meditation class last Fall, one woman raised her hand and said, ‘Ok, let me get this straight. Your credentials for teaching this class are that you are an ex-Episcopalian, ex-Atheist, ex-Buddhist making things up as she goes along.’ To which I could only respond, ‘yes’.)
OK, I think I’m done. I feel much better. I will return to my usual ‘all religions share common themes’ and ‘all religions are different paths to the same truths’ next week. For today, I mourn for us all. I mourn for Adam because he deserved to win. I mourn for the teachers past and present who have tried to show us how to love one another, and whose messages have continually been lost. I mourn for the world my children will inherit, which I am profoundly worried about.