Thou shalt not have other idols

[WARNING: if you do not wish to read about potential progress of Brad Hudson’s stint on American Idol , SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.] Curious reader BT writes to ask a question that several of you have put to me in one form or another regarding Brad Hudson’s upcoming appearance on American Idol: “Do you think his background in SG will be a help or a hindrance as a contestant on Idol? Also what do you think his motivation would be to be a contestant?” As to the first question, it’s hard to say definitively without seeing how Hudson’s sg background does or does not play out in his time on the show. He could, for instance, get as far as the top 10 or so (which is what I’ve heard actually happens) without anything whatsoever being made of his sg history. Conversely, he and/or the show’s producers could choose to play up his gospel past as a way to create some diversity in contestant narratives. But the only way I can see his faith hindering him is he acts like a dogmatic goon or a hatefully narrow-minded prude. We’ll just have to wait and see. As to the second question (why do I think he wanted to be on Idol?), that’s something best put to Hudson himself. In the meantime, the short answer is that he probably wanted to be a contestant on Idol for the same reason most other people: they want to be a star. I’d wager pretty confidently that very few talented, young, ambitious, and telegenic sg singers haven’t pined long and hard to see their names in some other, more secular lights than the neon glow of the church sign that normally displays something like “The only way to stand is down on your knees” or “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Not surprisingly, Hudson seems to be one of those people. In all the statements I’ve found about Hudson’s departure from 3 for 1 last year, they involve some vagary about feeling led to some other form of ministry or in a new direction. My own sense is that this was about as far as he felt comfortable going by of explaining what he had in mind for himself next. And who can really blame him? Artists who leave sg or even branch out to other genres of Christian music are often treated as if they’d drank pig’s blood on stage. So you can’t expect folks like Hudson, who (from all appearances) is aiming for some kind of career in pop/secular music, to take out billboard signage to announce his plans. There’s a kind of kill-the-heretics mentality in sg that has many ugly faces, and one of them is a steadfast refusal to countenance aspirations beyond the confines of sg.That’s why Kathy Crabb, I imagine, was so carefully terse in her statement responding to reports that the Crabbs may be signing with a secular label of some sort: “We are,” Crabb said, “committed to singing songs that lyrically reflect who we are as Christians.” And you could almost see her tip-toeing her way through this particular minefield. Though Crabb’s statement is a bit more polished and savvy than Hudson’s, they both say (and don’t say) the same thing. Notice neither of them said they would always or only sing gospel or even Christian music, since - after all - it’s possible to sing secular songs that reflect general Christian principles for living and don’t violate one’s moral codes and religious beliefs. Think of a song like the Isaacs’ “Heroes,” a tune that is not overtly religious and barely Christian in any obviously doctrinal way. Such a song could easily show up on any country-music radio playlist and - with a little reworked instrumentation - more than a few soft rock stations. It’s easy to forget how much lyrical meaning derives from context. Audiences at NQC make very different assumptions about the underlying meaning of a song like “Heroes” than would an audience at, say, a bluegrass festival in Paducah, KY. For some people (perhaps Hudson, perhaps the Crabbs, probably Gaither), “ministry” admits a much wider range of possibilities than is typically associated with the word in sg. Of course, whether or not there is a viable, meaningful ministerial component to singing “crossover” songs that can “pass” for religious or secular depending on the context … well, now that’s a debate for another day.

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