Bob Jones on American Idol?

Well, Bob Jones himself isn’t competing on American Idol, but a former student of Bob Jones University is. Chris Sligh (a.k.a. “Fro Patro”), the son of missionaries who spent much of his childhood overseas, is doing his best to become the next American Idol. Yet some of Sligh’s Christian homies aren’t giving him a shout out while he does it.

The Associated Press reports:

Chris Sligh, the “American Idol” contestant who has won fans thanks to his curly mop of hair and soulful voice, has a few people concerned with his departure from strictly Christian music. . . Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for fundamentalist Bob Jones University where Sligh attended for several years, said: “We really are somewhat disappointed with the direction he has gone musically.”

The article goes on to report that Sligh is a worship leader at his church in Greenville, South Carolina, and that his friends regard him to be a committed Christian believer. Sligh’s pastor says, “He’s not going to back away from the fact that he’s a Christian. He’s going to let that shine through in what he does.”

This isn’t the first time that a professed evangelical Christian has made it to the top 12 on American Idol. Just last year, a Beth Moore devotee named Mandisa Hundley made it into the top twelve. Hundley was extremely open about her Christian commitment, and even the Baptist Press called her an “unabashed Christian.”

Yet there still remains a wide range of opinions among evangelicals about the propriety of Christians participating in shows like American Idol. Folks like Jonathan Pait of Bob Jones University look askance upon the Chris Sligh’s and the Mandisa’s of the world, while others think that Christian participation in pop culture is a way for believers to be salt and light in an otherwise dark culture.

I will give my opinion on this later. But for now, I’m interested to know what you think. Thumbs up or thumbs down for Christians on American Idol? Why?


  • Chad Sylvester

    Denny, thanks for sharing this. I have not followed AI this season, but have in the past. I certainly remember Mandisa even though I didn’t care for her singing. The behind-the-scene footage made it really obvious how much she spoke out for Christ. She talked about addictions etc before coming to Christ. It was a beautiful story of a changed woman.

    Bob Jones has there own issues. Our church asked BJU if they would announce that we had a senior pastoral position open. They declined saying that our church was too liberal because we sang choruses. I can only imagine the grief associated with singing something ‘secular’. Guess what? Our pastor is from Bob Jones. What a great guy! Anyway –

    I heard Chris the other when flipping through the channels and he can really sing. I don’t know what his competition is like, but for a goofy looking guy, I think he’s got a shot. AI has had worship leaders and Christian musicians try out, but few have made it this far. I know one guy was ‘eliminated’ earlier this season partly because he would only sing Christian music. I think he was a rocker.

    I think it is a great testimony for Chris to have a part in AI. I just hope that once AI is over his songs focus a little more Christ and the gospel. Can Christians glorify God by singing love songs and songs about life without mentioning God and still love Him? sure, but I’d much rather see someone who can show that their music so greatly influenced by God that they can’t leave Him out.

  • Ian Clary

    I don’t personally see anything wrong with it. We should pray that the Lord would bear him up through this experience so that he would honour Christ. The temptation can be to turn from Christ for fame and status. But it isn’t necessary for Sligh to do so, especially if he is a true child of God.
    Let’s hope he wins.

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    Well, I guess it is wrong for me to teach at a Christian University, but select **GASP**secular music for them to sing. Heck yeah, it is ‘classical’, but do you know the history of some classical composers? Trust me, Christian is NOT the term I would use to describe them.

    Yet it is my job to teach them how to sing correctly, in the Bel Canto method. This is not going to happen with only hymns, or for that matter hardly any of the CCM that is out there. Yes, I do use it occasionally.

    So from the above, I say GO CHRIS!!! Do your thing!!!!

    And NO to Andrew #4 I don’t think it is wrong for him to go in this direction musically. What is wrong is some of our CCM artists really are not who they say they are 24/7, but some can really put on a good show. I would rather have Chris being salt and light. He can sing pop music and be a Christian. I mean, come on, CCM has not been around forever ya know, but Christian entertainers have been. KWIM?

    I guess if it is wrong for him to do this, all the Christian teachers should teach at Christian schools. As well, what about Christian engineers, I hope they are working for Christian companies.

    Good grief. Not everyone who sings pop music is Britney Spears. There are some very devout Christians who are musicians but not in the CCM genre, many are on Broadway. As well, lets not forget CCM is a business, our lives are our ministry. CCM is concerned with the bottom line, trust me. The artists may not be, but the record executives totally are.

    Chris you keep being a light and not hiding it.

  • Joe B.

    If the question you are asking is “Can a Christian sing secular music and perform on a show called American Idol?” then the answer is yes – if a true Christian does so – he does so.

    I wonder if that is the right question. What about this question? Can a Christian pursue a course of life where he seeks to be the idol of others?

    Or what about this question of a man I’ve heard preach out of 1 Corinthians? Does the pursuit of being an AI cause the gospel to win in my brothers and sisters life or is it inherently a selfish pursuit?

    I’ll wait to hear your opinion.


  • dennyrburk

    Dear Joe (and the rest),

    I think I’ve heard that sermon too. πŸ™‚

    You’re hitting on what I think is the more fundamental issue. I think the distinction between sacred/secular is often an arbitrary one, and much of what comes out of the so-called “Christian” music industry is just religious fluff.

    I don’t have any problems with talent competitions, but there’s more to it than that on American Idol. We live in a culture that is eaten up with the cult of celebrity. American Idol operates out of this cult, and to some extent, so does the so-called “Christian” music industry. The celebrity culture (which tends to be self-exalting rather than God-exalting) is alive and well, and this is what is the real risk for the faithful Christian.

    I think it’s a superficial analysis to complain about singing cover songs from the 60’s or Motown ballads. As always, it’s the boastful pride of life that we need to be delivered from (1 John 2:16). I think Christians can be light in all kinds of dark places. But they need to be all the more vigilant about exalting Christ as they do.

  • Paul

    Joe B.,

    I think that someone CAN be on American Idol without seeking to be an idol in the first place. Just because the show has a dumb name doesn’t reduce its impact.

    Let’s face it, if this guy could win, and be light and salt to the “mainstream,” wouldn’t that be far better than slumming in the CCM ghetto anyway?

    That said, the two bands that I’ve heard sing about the most truly Christian themes, redemption, faith, repentance and acknowledgement have come from overtly secular bands like U2 and/or The Grateful Dead, not from Third Day or Starflyer 59.

    So, if he can be a “secular” artist who makes people think about a life lived Christ’s way instead of the world’s is doing a great service, no matter what Bob Jones University says.

    And, ummm, oh yeah, wasn’t this the same brilliant institution that banned interracial dating on religious grounds? That place is an indictment on Christianity, not a producer of great Christian minds.

  • Ali

    Denny, are you aware of Guy Sebastian, winner of Australian Idol a couple of years ago? He is a Christian, sang secular songs and won a lot of fans. He’s still around in the Australian music industry.

    There have been other Christians who have got into the final 12 in Australian Idol, also.

  • Joe Blankenship


    I’m not techno-savvy enough to provide the link to this article but I thought the quotes on the Desiring God blog from Piper on television would add to this discussion.

    Cake and Television
    March 20, 2007 | By: Abraham

    I did a word search on our site and compiled a few of the more cogent quotes on today’s favorite pastime.

    From “Justification by Faith”:

    There are millions who are numb to hope because of the God-belittling things they have done and how ugly they have become. They donÒ€ℒt lift lofty arguments against GodÒ€ℒs Truth; they shrug and feel irretrievably outside. They donÒ€ℒt defy God consciously; they default to cake and television.

    From “Take Care How You Listen! Part 2”:

    It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch–and then wonder why their spiritual lives are weak and their worship experience is shallow with no intensity.

    From “Advice to Pastors: How to Help Your People Be More Satisfied in God”:

    Help your people to turn off the television. Few things in our culture are more spiritually numbing than the television. Even the so-called “good” shows are by and large banal and low-minded and anything but cultivating of a rich, deep capacity to enjoy God. And when you add to that the barrage of suggestive advertisements that accompany virtually every program, I do not wonder why so many of our professing Christians are spiritually incapable of experiencing high thoughts and deep emotions.

    From “The Children, The Church, and the Chosen”:

    Fathers are worked to a frazzle and so are too dogged to spend quality time with children; mothers are lured away from their little children to the work force; children have their own activities, and the one thing that pulls them all to the same room makes zombies out of them all: the television.

    From “Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism”:

    One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.

    From “A Prayer for Our Church”:

    O Lord, by the truth of your Word, and the power of your Spirit and the ministry of your body, build men and women at Bethlehem… who don’t feed their minds on TV each night.

  • Steve Hayes

    The real Question is this: Is there anything that Bob Jones University isn’t against?

    I’ll await your replies.

  • Larry Jones

    Maybe this guy will do for Christianity what Amy Grant did! Aspiring to lead in the entertainment industry usually reveals an underlying problem of sin. However, liberal Christians cannot realize this because they are busy bowing down to their own Christian music “industry”. Its good for them that god is a capitalist. By the way, try getting rid of your TVs and focusing on your faith and family. I haven’t had a TV in 2 years. My family of 5 couldn’t care less who the next IDOL is. I put that in capital letters to emphasize the root word of IDOLATRY. Hmmm, yeah AI is all about Christianity! That’s why Paul named himself as the unknown god on Mars Hill… Right, Paul the IDOL?

  • Paul


    I feel like I’m reading bits and pieces from the way of life website! ( for those interested)

    Yes, Amy Grant sinned. Just like you and I both do! The only difference is, she sinned in public for the whole world to see. And she did her husband way, way, way wrong, to be sure. While you may have never strayed from your wife, I think we both know that you have indeed sinned before. I mean, if you’ve never sinned before, feel free to start casting stones, but I don’t think that’s the case.

    And I don’t think the now defeated Sligh was aiming for idolotry, simply a recording contract. In case you haven’t noticed, for us musician types, we’re not doing our jobs if people don’t hear us. He found a way to get heard. End of story.

  • Larry Jones

    Your theology is faulty. I am not a sinner. I am a born again Christian. If I sin it is the exception. Your theology allows sin to be the rule. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?… God forbid!” The fact that you are a professing Christian that sins does not make sin OK. BTW, I am not Calvinist, and no I do not believe in eternal security, perseverance, or any other version. I believe that we can overcome sin, but to do so we have to separate ourselves from the world. If a “musician type” justs regurgitates the world then he no longer has a right to represent Christ. Labels can be deceptive. Perhaps “sinning” Christians have defended their label so long that they now actully are convinced that it is accurate. I have heard people say that if Christ were here he would be hanging around the club scene, or passing time at a bar. This heresy is leading millions to hell. Jesus Christ is Holy and commands that we be Holy. The Bible warns us to even stay away from the appearance of evil. You can downplay the wording of American IDOL if you wish, but I guarantee that Christians who watch AI, spend more time in front of a TV than in prayer, Bible reading, and church combined. Get honest with yourself. No one has an excuse for sin.

  • Paul


    My theology might be faulty, but my logic isn’t. Yes, we’re both born again, and yes, we both sin. Being born again means that we’re forgiven our sins, it doesn’t mean we’re immune from sinning.

    While you’re right, we have no excuse for sin, I am simply saying that we DO indeed sin, and until you get the log out of your eye, you ain’t got no business complaining about the specks in others.

    And in my case (and probably the case of many others), you simply have no idea what you’re talking about. What about me being a Christian musician makes you think that I am, to use your words, regurgitating the world? Why don’t you do me a favor and click my name, and listen to the first song that comes up on my website. Hmmm, Amazing Grace? Interesting choice for someone who’s just regurgitating the world, don’t you think?

    And as for where Jesus would be today, if he holed Himself up in his room all day or hung out with all of the non-sinning Christians that I guess you know, He wouldn’t really be getting the word out, would he?

    You’d do well to ask before you tell, Larry.

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