I have been really enjoying some of the acts on the current series of the X Factor. Watching it last weekend, though, I got thinking about how the glitz and the glam of it – not to mention viewing figures! – compare and contrast with my church.
On the surface, the church doesn’t come out too well in the comparison, especially in those audience figures! But after last night’s show, I asked myself “what is the X Factor really all about if you strip it down to the bare bones?” The glitz and the glam is (alluring?) packaging for what really moves viewers which, at its best, is watching lives being transformed for the better. The programme arguably has its downsides too – tempting us to sneer at some of those that are “losers”, inviting us to indulge in an overdose of idle gossip, and encouraging us to put material success on a pinnacle at the expense of celebrating individual self-worth wherever life finds us at this moment. But its joy is that Simon Cowell and his fellow judges give us a front row seat to observe – and cheer – the emergence of the unique artistic expression and strength of character of the contestants.
Seeing it that way, there is actually a common element with the Church of Christ, Scientist, albeit from very different standpoints! Because Christian Science is all about transforming the world one life at a time – bringing out each individual’s unique worth, unpacking their inherent spiritual purpose. It doesn’t promise or particularly parade celebrity status, although celebrities are certainly welcome! (And just to clear up any confusion, Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta are not Christian Science celebrities, they are Scientologists!) But my own experience is that it can deliver a life made spiritually new, brings to light practical solutions to relationship issues, helps resolve career choices and financial concerns, and offers a great way to effectively deal with health needs. And I am far from unique in feeling that way. Here’s a typical example of the kind of life transformation that can occur through Christian Science:
“At various points in my childhood and when I was a teenager, I suffered from rheumatic fever, tonsillitis, kidney infections, appendicitis, and a cyst. Then when I was 19 I was introduced to Christian Science…None of the physical issues that I had experienced up to that point ever came back, and as I studied and prayed, the reassuring words of the weekly Bible Lesons invigorated me, as I added to my storehouse a new vocabulary that brought health.” (Christian Science Sentinel, October 25, 2010)
As such, the Church I belong to could be said to be way more successful than the X Factor, at least in this common idea of transforming lives. The X Factor changes a handful of lives each year, dealing the winners a potentially better hand within the material framework in which the programme operates. Christian Science is transforming lives for the better day in, day out. Not only the lives of those learning of it for the first time, and often finding healing they desperately need, but it keeps on changing the lives of those who have known about it for a long time, too.
Of course, as a much-loved TV programme the X Factor entertains, touches and engages a whole lot more lives than the few to who it offers a platform for transformation – as a rapid fire of fresh “#xfactor” tweets attests to, each time the show is on. But when it comes to a meek and mighty life transformation as a result of bringing God centre stage in thought and experience?
Well, there’s no competition…!
X Factor contestant Matt Cardle has shown a penchant for holding beautiful last notes!