For those of you who didn’t watch last night’s American Idol, you missed a profound shift in the cultural understanding of the power of faith in God.

Throughout its insanely dominating reign over the airwaves, AI has had contestants verbalize and demonstrate Christian faith. Ruben Studdard was overtly Christian, and his genre is Gospel music. Should-have-been AI from last year, Chris Daughtry, was the lead singer in a Christian band for a while and remains committed to his faith. Carrie Underwood’s song about a girl’s near-fatal car accident has been sung in churches across the country as a musical parable of surrendering one’s life to Jesus.

Hundreds of auditions and songs by contestants have been songs of faith. Yet last night raised the bar and turned the 2-hour special “American Idol Gives Back” into a near-worship concert as the remaining contestants closed the show with Darlene Zschech’s song “Shout to the Lord.”

What is the dynamic occurring with AI that seems to consistently lean it toward Christian faith? Have the producers “got Jesus?” I don’t know, but I did notice that although Dolly Parton sang freely about Jesus the week before, “the name above all names” was edited out of the first lines of “Shout to the Lord” last night. (Update: Even as I was writing this, Carolyn started watching our TiVo of tonight’s show, and they opened with “Shout to the Lord” again! This time, they left “Jesus” in the opening!! What is up?!)

It’s interesting that in a culture that preaches and rabidly enforces “tolerance,” there’s apparently little for that particular name being sung in a song (or mentioned by political candidates in this election year). It’s OK to default to an innocuous and occasional “God” or “Lord,” but Jesus’ name seems to be forbidden fruit.

Why? Simply because there’s “something about that name.”

Yet, the entire stage was filled last night with white-wearing, swaying singers, backed up by a choir, singing one of the most moving and popular Christian choruses of this decade.

Is it because when AI gives back, they discover a profound spirituality present when humanity shares? Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Is this brush with holiness caused by the fact that rampant generosity short-circuits evil? That by giving, we release control and seek another’s good?

Another interesting observation is simply that it’s music that has provided the medium for TV’s largest viewing audience to once again experience the passion of love present in the person of God in Christ. There are varieties of music, of course, but it’s distinctly Christian music that resonates deeply with every human heart.

It’s one thing to sing about the gal who left you or the dog who got run over, or about killing a cop or rude sensuality. It’s another thing entirely touching to sing about themes that reverberate within the human soul – love, hope, peace, patience, kindness, joy, purpose, beauty. These themes in music lift the heart and mind above the temporary and base affections we’re so prone to and revive our souls.

Though the American infatuation with AI borders sometimes on true idolatry, last night’s show rose above the cultural noise to glorify the Author of Generosity, Love, and Music. Jesus took the wheel.

On this day...