In 2005, Midwestern Christian girl Carrie Underwood became American Idol’s Season 4 winner. Seven years, four albums, and 13 number one hits later, Underwood may be country’s hottest superstar.
This, for a while, has been much to my delight. When she debuted her career with the popular song "Jesus Take the Wheel," a song about a girl giving her life over to Christ after a car accident, I was excited to finally have a Christian role model in the secular and liberal entertainment industry. With upbeat and slow songs alike, Underwood’s first album was an instant success, pleasing even the most borderline country fans. All the songs were conservative and appropriate . . . well, I guess you could argue the opposite for one song called "Before He Cheats," which talks about a girl seeking revenge on her cheating boyfriend by destroying his car. Okay, I’ll admit it, revengeisn’t exactly biblical; we are supposed to turn the other cheek to our enemy. But, I thought of it as a fun, girl-power song, and wasn’t going to take the advice to heart, so I made a case for listening to it.
Two years later, Underwood released a new album called Carnival Ride. The gist was the same as her previous album. Twelve out of the 13 songs were conservative and appropriate. One, however, stuck out like a sore thumb: "Last Name." I love fun, upbeat songs as much as the next person, but this one was raunchy—not raunchy in language, but raunchy in content. Underwood speaks of going to Vegas, drinking “a little too much of that poison,” sleeping with a guy, and not even knowing her last name when she wakes up. To fit this “bad girl” image, Carrie had also changed her dress, sporting short shorts, plunging necklines, and dresses with high slits.
I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I realize now, however, that I was trying to justify her actions, wanting so desperately to hold on to that last Christian voice in Hollywood (using "Hollywood" to stand for entertainment in general).
In her next album Underwood seemed to take hold, once again, of her conservative Christian roots. Released in 2009, Play On featured an innocent-looking Carrie on the front cover with a delicate flower in her new, shorter hair. This was my favorite album yet, exposing a vulnerable girl who had been through breakups, but was still unafraid to show her fun side. Her song "Temporary Home," inspired by The Purpose-Driven Life, reveals that life on this earth is only temporary, while life in Heaven in eternal. Then, when she got married to openly Christian hockey player Mike Fisher, and again when she moved a crowd to tears in 2011 during her performance of “How Great Thou Art,” Christians were thrilled.
But, once again, my Carrie Underwood pendulum swung for several reasons. I saw a Dateline News interview with Underwood who admits to being “the good girl who wants to be a bad girl.” Interviewer Hoda Kotb had also noticed her change over the years, saying that she went from “sweet and pretty” to “a sexy siren.” Shouldn’t Christian girls embrace the “good girl” image? I'd also seen an article in Us Magazine that recorded Underwood telling celebrity Leighton Meester to not “F-ck up” her performance, which made Meester very nervous. Underwood’s response? “She’ll get over it.”
Yet what disappoints me the most is not her song lyrics, her (at times) immodest dress, or her reaching for a bad girl image, but rather the blow that occurred last week: Underwood not only revealed that she supports same-sex marriage, but she used her faith as a defense: "As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love, and want to marry," she said. “Above all, God wanted us to love others.”
I’m not judging her heart or saying that Underwood is no longer a Christian, but I am saying this: I firmly believe that fame changes people, and much to my dismay, my one-time role model did not escape the fall. God does love everyone, and we are supposed to love everyone too, but that doesn’t mean we are supposed to love the sin. The Bible is clear: The practice of homosexuality is wrong and unnatural. I was hoping that Underwood, at the very least, would admit this truth and defend the inerrant Word of God.
Perhaps she was afraid of offending fans? However, I can’t help but think of Chuck Colson’s quote in The Faith: “People may call you an absolutist and accuse you of being judgmental. This fear of offending, I’m convinced, has caused many [younger] evangelicals to weaken their view of the Gospel.”
I hope that I can one day swing my Carrie Underwood pendulum back to the side of her I like most—that sweet, yet bold, Christian woman who moved believers and nonbelievers alike to tears with a powerful voice and a simple hymn.