Following a wave of comments by Christian viewers criticizing Wednesday night's "American Idol" performance that replaced "Jesus" with "shepherd" in their finale song, Idol contestants stepped back on stage Thursday, this time singing "Jesus."
On Thursday night's results show, Michael Johns was eliminated from the wildly popular singing competition, shocking millions of viewers as the contest was narrowed down to the top seven finalists. But more shocking to many viewers than the boot were performances of the contemporary worship song "Shout to the Lord," written by Darlene Zschech.
The eight finalists performed the worship song, singing all the original lyrics, including the word "Jesus." The night before, however, "Jesus" had been left out of the picture.
Christians were outraged Wednesday night during the television show's second "Idol Gives Back" charity event when white-clad Idol contestants sang "My Shepherd, My Savior" instead of "My Jesus, My Savior" in their final performance that night.
"That's their first big mistake. If you're going to sing a gospel tune, sing it. Why change that word?" said Michael Giltz, a blogger on The Huffington Post.
Some speculate the modified version of the worship song was an attempt to lessen any controversy among the diversely religious American people. But after the charity event, the "American Idol" message board had a hoard of posts that questioned the appropriateness of the finalists singing a Christian song.
"Even if each and every one of them is born again and dying to sing the praises of the Lord, you don't alienate the viewers like me – and most Americans are not evangelicals – who don't identity with that particular strand of Christianity," wrote Giltz, a Catholic. "Dropping the 'Jesus' from 'Shout to the Lord' was a big mistake. Making all the Idol contestants sing it together in the first place was an even bigger one."
When the contestants sang the song again near the beginning of Thursday's results show, many Christians were pleasantly surprised to hear "Jesus." The religious song, however, continued to irk others who did not find it appealing to a wide audience.
"Idol Gives Back" featured a wide range of celebrities, including Carrie Underwood, Fergie and Heart, Mariah Carey, John Legend, and Miley Cyrus. By Thursday's results show, the event raised over $60 million. The phone lines and Web site were still open Thursday to collect more donations for charities, which this year include Global Fund, Malaria No More, Children's Health Fund, Save the Children, Children's Defense Fund, and Make It Right.
Last year, the charity event raised $76 million. Producers anticipate this year's event will raise $100 million.