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American Idol: Here Comes Da Judge?

Have you ever tried your hand at memorizing a few verses from the Bible?

Now, before your eyes glaze over and your mind tells you that sort of thing is only for pastors and professors who toil away in dusty seminary dungeons, here’s a shocking insight –

Kind of like the kid who discovers that what he thought was candy was really something – ugh!”-  good for you, you may have already memorized Scripture without even knowing it.

In fact, let me share with you a verse from the Bible that is so well-known, it is literally the first words I often hear when sharing the message of Jesus with an antagonistic non-believer.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew7:1)

I know. I know.

Usually this verse is used as a deflector shield by those who come perilously close to the truth that living to stimulate one’s nerve endings isn’t the highest form of morality.

But the idea of  “judging not”  as Jesus speaks  it, isn’t to adopt a code of ethics with the consistency of cotton candy.

But it is a pointed warning about looking at life and people in a superficial and cynical way.

And let’s face it, it is much easier to base our judgments on outside appearances and well grooved experience based expectations  than to expend the time and effort necessary to look beneath the surface and catch a glimpse of the heart.

A classic example of the dangers of snap judgment not only happened on national television last week, but actually spawned an internet phenomenon.

OK, we’ve seen this before.

Early cattle call style auditions on American Idol.

A few gold nuggets to be found in a sea of people who have an unfortunate mix of large egos and little talent.

Presented for your approval, the strange, delusional and freakish – like this old guy who has the nerve to call himself “General”.

The judges could barely keep a straight face.

Until the real story of the “General” came to light.

Atlanta “General” Larry Platt, whose original ditty “Pants on the Ground” cracked up everyone on “American Idol” Wednesday night, is not your standard “Idol” outtake (and not only because he’s well over the cut-off age of 28).

Beaten by law officers during the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march in Alabama, Mr. Platt was nicknamed “General” by Atlanta civil rights icon Hosea Williams for his heroic role in the civil rights era. (See a picture here. Platt is the young man on the left looking at the camera.) These days, Platt is going at it alone, protesting that too-stubborn urban fashion statement: pants worn low, crotch almost at the knees – a sign, to many, of disrespect and a thumb in the eye to many civil rights activists like Platt who fought to raise the profile of black Americans in US society.

Sure, some communities – including Atlanta – have tried (with dubious success) to outlaw the fashion statement, saying low-rider pants are obscene. But Platt’s catchy ditty about youths with gold in their mouths, baseball caps turned sideways, and “looking like a fool with your pants on the ground” could do more to discourage the look than any local ordinance, especially now that his tune is getting remixed on YouTube. Unusually cheery, “Idol” grump Simon Cowell predicted: “I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit.”

It looks like Simon Cowell was right.

“Pants On the Ground” has become an internet sensation, the most downloaded song of the month on YouTube.

There is a groundswell of calls for the General to sign a record deal.

But don’t miss the point.

What looked like a play it for laughs non starter of a contestant on American Idol, turned out to be a man with a noble history and a passion to make things better in his community presently.

Appearances can be deceiving.

The case of  “General” Larry Platt underscores a powerful challenge to each of us in our day-to-day lives.

While judging others superficially may be a valuable time saver, it can end up robbing us of benefiting from the rich life experiences that sometimes can come to us dressed in unusual packages.

And the other funny thing about judging others is this –

When we judge others, we often reveal the true condition of our own hearts.

Did you catch the rolled eyes, the hidden laughing, the “Oh, brother! Not another goofball” atmosphere that dominated the panel?

Unfortunately that response said more about the panel of judges than it did about the “General”.

We need to think about that “General” principle the next time we feel inclined to put people down or write them off.


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