We have heard a number of compelling stories among the Christian music artists competing on American Idol Season 8.
Danny Gokey’s wife died just a few weeks before he auditioned last summer. My mother just passed away in January and I am watching my father struggle through his days trying to find his footing without his soul mate. The insensitive wit masters on the American Idol blog sites can deride his openness about his loss, but I know that he is struggling to heal a wound that will never mend while facing the pressures of American idol.
Lil Rounds has struggled to keep her family hopeful while they live in temporary living facilities after a tornado destroyed their home. My father, my sister and her family live on the Gulf coast. I have seen them displaced three times in the last three years by hurricanes. I have observed, firsthand, the stress that dwelling displacement can put on a family.
Scott MacIntyre has spent his life blind. While his amazing accomplishments (see our article introducing Scott) prove that he has not allowed his loss of site to hold him back, he still cannot see. He cannot experience the overwhelming visual beauty God has placed on Earth.
We all know about Michael Sarver’s journey. He is the oil field worker who can sing and loves music. He wants to make a life for his young family before he dies in one of the most dangerous jobs in America. This is what we all thought American Idol was about, didn’t we? The talented amateur pursuing a dream that could change their life is the great American dream and we can watch it play out over five months every year. But Michael Sarver is about more than that.
“This is Jasper, Texas, and for 10 years there has been a cloud over our city …” Sarver said during a brief visit home. “This is more than about Michael Sarver. It’s about Jasper, Texas, and a city that has more to give the world than hate.”
Jasper, Texas was the home of James Byrd, Jr. In 1998, Byrd was dragged to death, chained to the back of a pickup by three white men after they offered him a ride home one late night in June. Jasper, Texas is a typical small town in Southeast Texas, and probably a typical small town in many parts of the country. I know, I grew up in one of those small Southeast Texas towns.
We continue to struggle with racism is this country. For most this racism stems from segregation. They do not understand those who look different. Granted, for some, racism grows into hate, as evidenced by the brutal murder of Robert Byrd. But Jasper, Texas and it citizens were unfairly stigmatized with that moniker of hate. Most people in Jasper do not hate and many simply are not racists.
Michael Sarver falls into the category of those who simply are not racist. According to the pastor of Michael Sarver’s church ”I do think that’s his heart, not just a quote[see Michael's quote above],”. ”He does have multi-cultural friends, and I believe it’s from his heart. I think that God gave us all a platform.” Michael Sarver is a worship leader at Harvest Church in Jasper. Harvest Church is the largest multi-racial church in Jasper, with a congregation that is 30% black and 5% Hispanic.
Michael Sarver feels an obligation to use his platform of success on American Idol to help rehabilitate the reputation of Jasper’s citizens who feel that they have been unfairly painted with a moniker of hate by the national press. Everyone in Jasper is not a hate-filled racist. I know some of these people. Sarver also believes that he has a responsibility to provide some healing and unification to this town. It may be working already.
According to a message posted on The Beaumont Enterprise’s Idol Chatter blog at the beginning of the month, the Byrd family will be part of the city standing behind Sarver.
“I am sending you this message to congratulate you on behalf of the Byrd family in Jasper, Texas, for your outstanding performances on American Idol,” wrote Tenika Boatner Brooks, Byrd’s niece.
“You will continue to be in our prayers and may your light forever shine through the dark clouds that have hung around our city since the tragic death of my uncle.”
American Idol may be great entertainment for us and it may be the chance to fulfill dreams for many who compete. But for several of our Christian music artists competing in American idol Season 8, their performances carry weight beyond the songs they sing.
God bless, Michael Sarver.
Download his American Idol Season 8 performances from iTunes