February 19, 2014

In addition to vocal coaches and hair and fashion stylists, "American Idol" has brought in "spiritual advisers."

They were introduced on the show as "nondenominational spiritual advisers." (The spelling on screen was "advisor," but my research says "adviser" is the more standard spelling, and it's what I've used on this blog whenever I've paid attention to this pesky spelling problem.) One of the advisers said: "For these folks, this is a dream opportunity, but it comes with a lot of pressure. We're here to answer and help them through some of that."

My immediate response was: "That's ridiculous! That's New Age-y! What about the contestants that have serious religions or who don't want any religion? Why don't they just have psychological counselors? Why 'spiritual'? Ugh! 'Spiritual'! That grotesque gray area between real religion and no religion! A great example of the seemingly middle moderate position being the most offensive place of all." (Or something to that effect.)


Here's an article in USA Today about these advisers. They're Billy Mauldin, president and CEO of the Motor Racing Outreach ministry, and wife Julie, who have been plying their trade since 1999 in the NASCAR milieu.
"The expectations here are the same for what we do for NASCAR: To be there for the people, be present, help with the spiritual side of life and some of the struggles they may deal with as they're going through the competition," Mauldin told USA TODAY Sports.

The idea was the brainchild of David Hill, the former Fox Sports chairman who was tapped to oversee an Idol overhaul this year in the face of a ratings decline. Hill had been watching tapes of past seasons when it struck him how many contestants grew up in a faith-based environment and began singing in church.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow, it must be really tough to go to this intense competition – and this show does change lives – and if you're used to being in a church-based organization, that would be a huge adjustment," Hill told USA TODAY Sports. "Especially for kids who are 16, 17, 18 years old and away from home for the first time."
So maybe this does make some sense.  You have the contestants plucked from a hometown religious context and tarted up in sexy clothes, singing songs about love affairs instead of Jesus, and receiving adoration (and condemnation) instead of giving adoration (and receiving absolution).
"I couldn't think of anyone better to advise these kids than Billy," Hill said. "In my mind, NASCAR is the most intense athletic competition in the country because if you make a mistake, you're risking serious injury and death."
Interesting to analogize the soul-crushing of the entertainment industry to death in a fiery car wreck. 

32 comments:

Scott said...

The concept of an institutional non-religious spiritualism was mainstreamed by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. I think the distinguishing characteristic is that unlike religion, spiritualism proscribes nothing. (AA has 12 "steps" but they are framed as suggestions and not commandments.)

Henry said...

Airports have chapels too. Armies have chaplains. Maybe the terminology is PC, but the actual impact could be useful.

Spiritual advisor is one type of helper, but it seems reactive. The idea seems to be that we, Show Biz, are going to mess you up and as we mess you up we'll have someone on hand to comfort you.

Another type of helper would be the American Idol Dula. In this concept the idea is that we, Show Biz, are going to mess you up, and because we know we are going to mess you up, we will have already assigned you an advocate who will push back against our palpable assholery.

If that sounds too new agey, we could call them agents. Or lawyers. Why doesn't American Idol assign every contestant a lawyer?

phx said...

Is this one of the topics it's okay to be offended about?

lgv said...

This is the one in ten post where I agree 100% with the Althouse post. As a reformed fundamental Baptist turned agnostic, this spiritualism type stuff is in its own useless niche. It is a creation defined by not strictly contradicting any existing religion. It's as man-made as Scientology.

Maybe they should have some est trainers available, too.

The Crack Emcee said...

"My immediate response was: "That's ridiculous! That's New Age-y!"


Ha! Ann, Ann, Ann,....

It was inevitable,...

Alexander said...

"Spiritual but not religious" is just a... polite... way of saying, "I see God in Me". Nothing at all surprising that a show called American Idol would fully embrace and advertise its solipsy.

We can expect to see more of the secular culture devolving into a secular cult.

traditionalguy said...

Religion done right is spiritual advice.

Singers from Pentecostal traditions, such as the Brooklyn Baptist Tabernacle, do singing right. One such singer was named Elvis Presley.

Tibore said...

"Spiritualism": The attempt to have the benefits of religion without adhering to the obligations.

Or in short: Free milk from the cow.

-----

Changing topics:
""In my mind, NASCAR is the most intense athletic competition in the country because if you make a mistake, you're risking serious injury and death."

Stick it in your tailpipe, Reverend. Indycar - and Formula One, since there's now the Austin race and they're hoping for a New York/Jersey one - goes waaaaay faster than any Cup car and has far less protection surrounding the driver. The racing world does not begin and end with NASCAR, and no, they're not the "most intense athletic competition in the country". Not with Indycar, F1, and with fewer wheels Moto GP out there. Let me know when your racing series gets to the point where it must avoid contact instead of openly invite it (Google "Have at it, boys"), and only then can you talk about "risking serious injury and death".

Ralph Hyatt said...

My immediate reaction when I saw this was that they are counselors for people who are under tremendous amounts of stress (more than most people can even imagine.) However, instead of calling themselves counselors (or therapists) which would have negative connotations for quite a few people, they call themselves spiritual advisors which does not carry the "could be crazy" stigma for their clients.

Ralph Hyatt said...

Thus during the Monica Lewinsky scandal the Clintons had Jesse Jackson come to the White House to give them spiritual advice even though a marriage counselor would seem to have been more appropriate.

Scott M said...

"Spiritual but not religious" is just a... polite... way of saying, "I see God in Me".

I heard this from a lot more women over the years than men, for some reasons.

Usually, you can end this conversation pretty quickly if you choose to do so. When they say they're spiritual, you ask if that means that humans are spiritual beings, body and soul (or the equivalent). They'll almost always answer yes.

Ask them when they believe that soul leaves the body. They will almost always say death. Then ask them when they believe that soul enters the body. Most cut from the "spiritual not religious" cloth are pro-choice. This last question is usually sufficient to get them out of your hair.

The Crack Emcee said...

Alexander said...
"Spiritual but not religious" is just a... polite... way of saying, "I see God in Me". Nothing at all surprising that a show called American Idol would fully embrace and advertise its solipsy.


Funny - I just posted this yesterday:

"New Age spiritualism has co-opted some of the language of physics, including the language of quantum mechanics, in its quest to make ancient metaphysics sound like respectable science. The New Age preaches enhancing your vital energy, tapping into the subtle energy of the universe, or manipulating your biofield so that you can be happy, fulfilled, successful, and lovable, and so life can be meaningful, significant, and endless. The New Age promises you the power to heal the sick and create reality according to your will, as if you were a god."

Unknown said...

Alexander, good call, I missed the connection between "American Idol" and "Ye shall make you no idols...for I am the Lord your God." Of course they need a spiritual adviser to make an idol.

Henry said...

Stick it in your tailpipe, Reverend.

Thoroughbred racing. Bull riding. Big wave surfing. Etc.

MadisonMan said...

I agree with Ralph. They are calling them spiritual advisers, but they are really therapists in disguise -- that's how I see it from the outside.

I could very well be wrong. Maybe these advisers are all done up in beads and reek of patchouli.

The contestants are under enormous pressure. Good to read that Fox tries to help.

Bob R said...

Anyone else want to weigh in on the advisor/adviser controversy? We seem to use "academic advisor" pretty consistently around here. Seems to agree with this Wiktionary entry.

madAsHell said...

Is the NEA involved??

Levi Starks said...

Contestants cannot under their own power be expected to handle the effects of the micr-aggression heaped on them by both audience, and judges.
It seems that anyone who watches said show is complacent in this aggression. In order to have a clean conscience I recommend they change channels.

jacksonjay said...


Anyone who watches that trash and takes it seriously needs an adviser!

MadisonMan said...

If you can tell me which TV shows I should take seriously, I'd appreciate it. I value your guidance. Most highly.

mrs. e said...

"They are calling them spiritual advisers, but they are really therapists in disguise -- that's how I see it from the outside."

Not if they're invoking God or a Higher Power of some sort.

Christy said...

Wow! Just think, thanks to Obamacare all those tone deaf wannabes we see in the try-outs will be able to quit their day jobs and follow their dreams.

m stone said...

Whenever I think of spiritual advice, I think of NASCAR.

john said...

This kind of celebrity help has been available for years.

R. Chatt said...

Good point about the irony of bringing in spiritual advisers for a show about to create a new star who young people will worship as an idol.
Maybe the advice was, don't let it go to your head.

Naked Surfer said...

Chewing. I too feel raw reactions against Idol and their chic use of spiritual advisers. I’m a poor judge, incompetent really, for any of this. I have a preexisting bias against Idol no matter what they do. Not a religious bias, I don’t think. A blinding bias for sure. Maybe a commercial and consumer bias. Bizarre to quote Austin Powers against Idol , “it’s not my bag, baby.” Too many issues in all of this.

Something of a hard truth, maybe a truth a bit too gut-level in, “That grotesque gray area between real religion and no religion!” Yes. And ouch. What effect and power does media have in creating – propagating and creating – this “none” of-a-religion for base commercial purposes in attempting to ramp up more viewers to ramp up more advertising revenue?

Not that the great cathedrals of old and the mega-churches of now are any less media and hype driven for their own base purposes of generating revenue. Something about the love of Mammon. So maybe Idol is taking cues from modern mega-religion committed to “seeker-friendly” (or seeker sensitive) warm and glowing psychic auras.

There is a resonance function between Idol and mega-churches today. Shared memes. Maybe shared Mammon.

And resonance functions tend toward catastrophe. And catastrophes can be a good thing – house cleaning.

Something about Jefferson on revolutions ... maybe the blog needs a new tag, micro-revolutions? - micro-religious-revolutions?

jacksonjay said...

Mr. MadisonMan,

I would recommend that you start with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It's probably the most serious reality shows!

kentuckyliz said...

Unlicensed occupation, cheaper than getting a licensed professional. No protection of the public interest. No liability. No lawsuits. Think like a lawyer, perfesser. Spelled with an -er.

Patrick O said...

I'm not sure what the big deal is. "Spiritual" is being used in a non-denominational way, not in a "we believe in good feelings" sort of way. I haven't done research, but I would guess they're Christian. But like with military chaplains, limiting their services to one sect is missing the point.

Henry points out the similarity to chaplains and it's very apt. The military doesn't have chaplains to feed into some new agey chic. They have chaplains because men and women who are in the midst of high stress, far away from family or support networks, actually have spiritual and emotional responses. That all are under 30, and many are under 20, heightens the comparison. It's good for morale to respond to people's actual responses. It makes for better singing and competition.

That's what this year seems to be about, getting the best, focusing on the music (for the most part), and bringing out the best. They're genuinely supportive and looking to maximize potential. Addressing concerns about morale and such is entirely appropriate, especially since they highlighted the couple in the context of other guides.

SJ said...

Odd note.

and if you're used to being in a church-based organization, that would be a huge adjustment...

Most of the musicians I've known began in a religious context.

Some have even become semi-well-known. At least, among the religious-musicians community.

Generally, there's a combination of talent, dedication required. The better religious organizations work to keep their well-known musicians and worshipers from building cults-of-personality.

I don't know if these spiritual advisors are paying attention to such things.

Or if there merely trying to be a voice-of-sanity in the insane world of "American Idol."

Unknown said...

American Idol already had a perfectly good spiritual adviser in the form of guest judge and former yeshiva student Chaim Klein, who advised a youth pastor that singing pop was likely to conflict with his ministry.

True story.

Trina Feliciano said...

It's about indoctrination...about changing the way people think about what is "spiritual". Obviously, American Idol is a vehicle for convincing America to let go of any beliefs that homosexuality is wrong...and by default, that what the Bible (our true spiritual reference point) says about it is wrong. Choosing two blatantly obvious homosexuals for the competition is part of the process. Then that whole melodramatic part where Kieth Urban emphasizes the "the world is changing" when they picked the lesbian girl for the show. The New Age is about redefining spirituality to be whatever one wants it to be. It's about being your own god. It is eastern religion...embracing ourselves fully (yin and yang, darkness and light, evil and good). A belief that good does not exist without evil and therefore evil is essential, and in a way, not evil at all. Everything becomes a matter of perception. So contrary to Biblical teaching, and SOOO dangerous. We can see that this philosophy is embraced by American Idol, as they definitely mix good and evil as entertainment. Truly they are as Babylon of old, whose king was emboldened to put his wine into the holy vessels from God's temple to drink from them at his party, right before Babylon fell. God has a will, and we have a need to follow that will, whether it agrees with current societal thinking or not. We are to be loving at all times, but that does not mean that we accept as good those things which God's Word has declared to be evil and an abomination. I don't watch American Idol after the auditions. I remember the year they brought in the Medium to talk with the contestents. How creepy that was. Yeah...American IDOL is a great name for the show. There's very little a Christian, that is trying to walk with God, will find to watch on TV. Best to spend our time really getting to know God's Word, because I can totally see it being altered or banned with further hate crimes laws being ennacted in the future, which aim at even protecting others from the words that are said (or read) that cause hurt feelings. If you didn't think Christians could ever be persecuted in this "Christian nation", think again.