“American Idol” might just be the most Christian-friendly show on TV.
The show kicked off its seventeenth season earlier this month. And while the televised singing competition has changed a lot since the days of Simon Cowell’s brutal feedback and Randy Jackson’s overuse of the word “dawg,” “American Idol” has consistently celebrated Christian talent.
Far from simply tolerating contestants who love Jesus, the show has frequently highlighted the inspiring faith stories that shaped their journeys. Just last year, six out of the top 10 “Idol” finalists were professed Christians.
Sunday’s episode featured Tennessee high school student Drake McCain, who performed the Gospel hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” for his audition. After just a few seconds of singing, “Idol” judge Katy Perry began to sing along, providing a lovely harmony.
After the moving performance, judge Lionel Richie suggested they sing the hymn, ”Oh Happy Day,” and the two proceeded to sing about how Jesus Christ washes our sins away. McCain received a unanimous “yes” from Perry, Richie and country star Luke Bryan.
The first episode of Season 17 featured another Christian contestant, 19-year-old Kalifa Wilson, affectionately known as “Kai the Singer,” whose faith-filled testimony brought the judges (and thousands of viewers) to tears. As the daughter of traveling ministers in a large family, the South Carolina native described some of the many struggles she’s faced over the years — moving between shelters, sleeping on the floor and living in a car for a long stretch of time. Through it all, Kalifa clung to her Christian faith.
After an emotional and nervous first audition, the courageous teen won the judges over with a soulful piano rendition of “My Girl” by The Temptations.
“I don’t know how kids like you pony up and make it here,” Luke Bryan said following the performance.
“My church,” Wilson said, explaining that they basically sent her right after the service.
“You are here for a reason and a purpose. God can only do for you what He can do through you,” Lionel Ritchie told her.
Christian “Idol” alum include big names like Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson, Colton Dixon, Mandisa and Danny Gokey.
Last year, Season Eight contestant Scott MacIntyre shared his remarkable faith story with Pure Flix.
MacIntyre, who was the first blind contestant to compete on “American Idol,” detailed his struggles with kidney failure, and the painful, emotional experiences that drew him and his wife, Christina, closer to God. In PureFlix.com’s documentary, “I Am Hope: Scott MacIntyre’s Inspirational Transplant Journey,” the singer shares some of the triumphs and tests he encountered as he awaited a second transplant.
“Going through a kidney transplant twice now has really helped me to understand a lot more about God’s greater gift of eternal life,” MacIntyre said. “Here I was powerless to save myself until my kidney donors stepped in and gave me the gift of life. Well, we’re all powerless to save ourselves from sin until Jesus Christ offers us the much greater gift of eternal life on the cross.”
In a culture that seems to be growing more hostile toward Christians on a daily basis, it’s encouraging to see a show that honors the faith that unites contestants and viewers alike.