American Idol Gives Back, but Takes Away

American Idol featured a famous contemporary praise song, but changed one of the words and thus sacrificed the message of Christ.

I watched this year’s American Idol: Idol Gives Back charity fundraising program, looking forward to some humor and good music. My heart leaped when Ryan Seacrest announced the final song would be “Shout to the Lord,” a song made famous by Darlene Zschech and Hillsong. However, when the song began, I realized that while Idol may be giving back, Idol producers also took away.

The song’s first line is, “My Jesus, my savior, Lord there is none like you.” However, producers changed the second word, making it “My shepherd, my savior.” The chorus talks about nature responding to the “sound of your name” and “the promise I have in you.”

On the one hand it doesn’t surprise me that the producers would remove Jesus from the song. On the other hand, it shocks and saddens me they would stoop so low. On the program where Maria Shriver quoted Gandhi by name, American Idol was unwilling to let “Jesus” be said on national television. I suppose they were afraid to offend non-Christians or that they simply don’t agree with Christianity. Welcome to the culture of tolerance, where every religion is accepted except Christianity; welcome to the pluralistic relativistic society that welcomes all faiths except Scriptural Christianity.

Despite the reasons for the change, removing Jesus from the song has major implications theologically. As mentioned, the song refers to nature responding to the sound of Jesus’ name. The name, or word, “Jesus” does not possess power in and of itself, for if it were so, then every person named Jesus or Joshua (where the Greek “Jesus” comes from) would also possess greater glory or power. When Scripture refers to the name of Jesus, it means the person, deity, and position of Christ. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray in accordance to who Jesus is and what he taught.

On Palm Sunday, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people shouted praises to him as king and Messiah. The Pharisees told Jesus to silence the people. Luke records Jesus’ reply:

But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
– Luke 19:40 (NASB)

This is one place where the writer of “Shout to the Lord” got the idea of nature responding to Jesus’ name. Other passages tell about the majesty, significance, and glory of Jesus’ name. Some refer to salvation and baptism in Jesus’ name:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
– John 3:18 (NIV)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
– Acts 2:38 (NIV)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
– Acts 4:12 (NIV)

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
– Romans 10:13 (NIV)

Paul writes about the majesty and glorification of Jesus’ name, declaring that all men will eventually respond to the name in recognition and declaration of Jesus as Christ the Lord:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
– Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

The apostle John reminds us how believers relate to the name of Jesus:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– 1 John 5:13 (NIV)

As you can see, Scripture places a high value and importance on the name of Jesus. Those who believe in the name (referring to the person, deity, and position of Jesus) have eternal life. The natural world responds to Jesus’ name. Those who reject the name of Jesus will face judgment. Every human will bow at the name of Jesus. God glorified and exalted Jesus’ name.

Now, when it comes to American Idol removing Jesus from the song, there are implications. The song talks about nature responding and individuals who “sing for joy at the work of your [Jesus’] hands” and clinging to “the promise I have in you.” Without Jesus, nature will not respond. Without Jesus there is no mighty work to sing about. Without Jesus there is no promise of eternal life. Without Jesus, the song makes no sense.

Nevertheless, I repeat what I said earlier: I’m not surprise by the actions of the producers, but at the same time I’m saddened by it. Gandhi can’t save us, we can’t save ourselves, only God saves us through Jesus! Amen and praise to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit!

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This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Joel

    Why are a bunch of Christians watching a show called American Idol in the first place?

    The title of the show says it all.

  2. Dubs

    We really should be lucky that they even allowed anything by Hillsongs on that show. Even with the words changed. If it makes one person closer to God, it’s time well spent. I think that the production decision was to get the telethon to pull on the heartstrings of Christians, but this works just like pizza and youth group.

    Other nations would kill us for even making references to Jesus. Christians in the US hate us because we continue to find fault in everything. We need to spread God’s love, not his wrath.

  3. Glblguy

    While I was saddened that they removed Jesus the first night, I was excited to see a pure Christian song sung on TV and even more excited that it was sung on a show with the number of viewers Idol has.

    While I certainly don’t advocate removing Jesus, it was a step in the right direction.

    Excellent write-up. Found your blog via StumbleUpon and look forward to reading more!

  4. Kathie

    The next night after Idol gives back the group sang “Shout to the Lord” again and did not change “Jesus” to shephard. They sang it as Darlene wrote it.

    On Itunes, the studio version of the song that is selling like hotcakes is the version with The Name Jesus in the lyrics.

    But if I remember right, in the bible, Jesus is called the good shephard……so what is the big deal? No other religious figure is called the good shephard, But Jesus Christ!

  5. Al Garcia

    God is into words they are very important to him. Jesus is the Word.
    and at that name every knee will bow.
    one word can change the whole meaning.

  6. Pronoun free since 2003

    Yes Troy, the worship team sounds like it was worshiping Baal. Good thing you got out of there. I’m glad the spirit of discernment is alive and well. Let me make a note for our worship team to remove all pronouns from our set list.

  7. Carol

    I concur with Pastor Rothra. He did a great thing when he wrote about the initial omission of Jesus’ name. If we are complacent about it, it brings no honor to God or Jesus. There is such a thing as righteous anger and that was the place and time for it.

  8. Fritz

    Pastor Rothra,

    I’m sorry to return to comment on your blog. I don’t want to be a pest. However, I feel compelled to call on you to do your work as an evangelist in a slightly different way than what I’ve read here.

    I have been drawn to 2 Timothy 4:1-5

    In particular the messages “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” and “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

    Today, being prepared and keeping your head in all situations means that ministers must be able to recognize new opportunities to spread His word. This includes using pop culture fads like American Idol that reach millions people.

    Having a Christian song that contains the name of Jesus on iTunes, ready to be downloaded by millions of people is certainly a new and different opportunity.

    Timothy seems to me to be speaking in part about a future when things will change and ministers will need to think fast and adapt to these new situations.

    For some reason, a wonderful Christian song with the potential of reaching millions of people worldwide has been placed on the most popular page on iTunes. It is just sitting there waiting for someone like you to use it for God’s plan.

    I think my message to you is supposed to be that you must look for positive ways to spread His word. In this case, your blog article is more likely to negatively impact Shout to the Lord. Many Christians won’t download it now because they will think the name of Jesus has been removed from it.

    You must set this straight.

    Imagine what could have happened if you and thousands of other ministers had praised American Idol and encouraged your flocks to download the song.

    “…correct, rebuke, and encourage…”

    You chose to correct and rebuke when it probably would have better for you to encourage.

    To me, it appears that the right message would have been, “This is a great Christian song. Everyone should download it.”

    The song could still be the next Internet sensation. You can help make that happen. It is just sitting there on iTunes waiting to be downloaded to the home of both those who know Jesus and (more importantly) those who do not.

    I think that when a huge opportunity like this comes about, it is likely that Satan will throw us a curve. You were given a choice to follow the positive path and help Shout for the Lord become the surprise hit of 2008 or fall into the negative trap set by Satan and stop the song in its tracks.

    I am an unlikely person to have been inspired to write to you regarding these things. I can’t recall ever having been compelled to quote the Bible or share these kinds of thoughts. There has to be a reason for that, too.

    Look for the positive message. Look for new opportunities to reach a larger audience. You have the power to touch millions of souls.

    God bless you.

  9. Fritz

    If you visit iTunes, you can download the Idol Gives Back performance of Shout to the Lord.

    It includes the name of Jesus in the first line.

    This song was recorded prior to the airing of the TV show, so obviously the Idol producers intended to release it with its original lyrics.

    I applaud the producers of American Idol for releasing a Christian song as one of those being offered on iTunes.

    This song may very well be the FIRST time a young person who visits iTunes will hear a song in the Contemporary Christian genre. That could lead that young person to Jesus.

    There are other more generic inspirational songs that the Idol producers could have chosen. But, they didn’t.

    I didn’t watch the Idol Gives Back Show. However, I can imagine that there would be a couple of good reasons for the change in the lyric. The most obvious would be that one of the singers isn’t a Christian and objected to singing His name. Big deal. There are millions of people who don’t believe in Christ. We can’t force them to renounce their own faiths.

    It is too bad that Mr. Rothra has created a big stink over what is really a wonderful opportunity to spread the word of Jesus (God bless him for his intentions though). This blog article is being picked up by newswires and it could serve to put a damper on what is a rare opportunity to spread Christian music to those who aren’t familiar with it.

    Instead of spreading negative comments about this, let people know that the recording of Shout to the Lord on iTunes is well worth the 99 cents. Pray that people who don’t know Jesus will visit iTunes will download it along with the other performances. Maybe that will inspire them to download other Christian songs.

    Log on to iTunes. Download the Idol Gives Back version of Shout to the Lord and help give it a ratings boost.

  10. Wayne


    I think that you may have been at least partially responsible for the change. Your blog was linked in yesterday’s WorldNetDaily article (see about the omission of Jesus’ name in the song on “Idol Gives Back”. WorldNetDaily said they contacted “Idol” producers about the omission. So, it is possible that feedback may have contributed to them doing the some again and making the correction.

    I agree with the main point of your article. Jesus is the one and only way and His name is above all names. In that light, I do sense that something is happening on “Idol” this season. The Dolly Parton show definitely was a testimony for the Lord. And when any such testimony is presented to 30 million people in one night, that is a great step in the right direction.

  11. John Rothra


    I wasn’t able to see the results show, so I missed what they sung. Hearing that they they returned to the original words, singing “My Jesus” is good news. I credit them for correcting their earlier decision.

    On that note, it doesn’t take away from the main point of my article: apart from Jesus there is no promise, no hope, and no salvation. Those who seek to work their way into heaven or hope that God will not judge sin and simply overlook their sinfulness are, to use a metaphor, barking up the wrong tree. The only way to heaven is by faith in Jesus as the divine Son of God.

    I give credit where it is due in applauding American Idol for reversing their previous decision and having them sing “My Jesus.” I only pray that the producers listen to the words of the song and realize that Jesus is the Savior.


  12. Wayne

    “Shout to the Lord” was sung again on the Thursday evening “Idol” show. This time the name of Jesus was sung loud and clear.

    It was amazing that the song was the only song from “Idol Gives Back” that was repeated on Thursday night’s show, but even more amazing that the correction was made. We can criticize “Idol” for the original omission, but I think it is even more important that we are appreciative of the witness that both of these nights had and that they had the guts to make it right.



  14. Troy

    This reminds me of a church my family recently attended. (We’ve recently moved and are church hunting.)

    The very first song they sang during the worship service was a simple, silly, intelligence-insulting praise song comprised of warm fuzzies like “I worship you”, “I love you”, “I praise you”.

    The object of the song was never identified, beyond the indefinite pronoun “you”. For all I knew, we were singing to our wives, our kids, our pets, or perhaps Satan himself! If the object of the song is not clearly identified – to whom is it being sung?

    Same problem here.

  15. michele

    I am sickened by the shameless omission of the name of Jesus in a magnificent contemporary song of faith. People are being led, (misled), into believing than humanism is the new god, and on an equal plateau with faith in the Almighty, as if donating our spare change can change the world or save souls.
    Ghandi fits that ideal better than a sovereign Lord. While it’s laudable that disadvantaged children benefit from charity and the donations that Idol Gives Back will provide, without the name of Jesus, this world is doomed.

  16. John Rothra


    Thank you for your perspective. However, I would ask what is Christianity without Christ? When Jesus is removed then all that’s left is another religious sect among many. Scripture teaches that Christ is the keystone and cornerstone of our hope and faith. The version of the song as presented by American Idol could apply to any god (little ‘g’) and any faith. Therefore, it doesn’t promote Christianity, but religious diversity and openness.

    The other songs that referred to Jesus were either selected by the contestants or guest performers. The producers give the contestants some freedom to express themselves with the songs they choose; they do not sensor third party artists. However, when it comes to songs performed by contestants at the request of the producers, the show maintains control over those songs.

    I encourage you to continue praising God and to keep searching Scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit… and to keep sharing the Gospel with others.


  17. Diana

    I honestly think we need to stop “splitting hairs” and be grateful that A LOT of Christianity has been shown in American Idol this year, at all. If you recall, this is the ONLY year that MANY of the songs have refered to Jesus freely I may add. So let us count our blessing and thank the Lord that one way or another His word is getting out there.

  18. John Rothra


    Thank you for the noticing that. I overlooked that and have since corrected it.


  19. Justin


    You mispelled ‘except’. It’s not accept. Your blogpost has been quoted on WND word for word with the mispelling.

  20. Brent

    I heard on AirOne internet radio that the TV show American Idol contestents would sing “Shout To The Lord.” I waited to the end to see if it would happen and sure enough, they replaced the first line “My Jesus, My Savior” with “My Shephard, my savior.” WHAT A JOKE! They actually changed the focus and purpose of the song. Don’t convince yourself that at least they did a Christian song, without Jesus Christ there is no “Shout to the Lord!”

  21. Aaron Brown

    I agree 100%. The world is already trying to erase Jesus from history. For the producers of American Idol to take the name Jesus out of a Christian song is ridiculous. I do believe we should request some kind of a answer.
    But also I was glad to see a Christian song on the show, but was very disappointed when I right away noticed the lyrics changed.
    What I don’t understand was the other week they sang Dolly Partons songs with the name Jesus in it and they where left in. Also Mariah Carry sang her song which also had the name of Jesus in it. So for the producers to make such a decision is stupid. They must know they are going to get a response from the Christian community by making a decision like this.
    It is true though there is something about the name of Jesus. His name is so powerful.

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