If the Core Course were… The X-Factor

On this week’s X-Factor… they’ve reformed churches! Written epoch marking poetry! Transformed political and philosophical systems! But now, six well-known religious figures face their biggest challenge yet: the X-Factor judges! What will they make of their caustic, but strangely specific and pedagogical deconstructions of their performances?


Song choice: “Thinking of Me” by Olly Murs

Simon: Look… it was clearly an important song for you Augustine, but this was just too personal. It was all over interiorised, like you spent your whole song getting further and further into your self. We all like to discover the real contestants, but the rap about stealing pears as a child seemed horribly out of place. If I’d wanted a sense of radical interiority, I’d have put Descartes through. So I can’t say I liked it.


Song: “You’re not the Boss of Me Now” by They Might be Giants

Louis: Luther – you’re a breath of fresh air to a competition that has become bloated, over bureaucratic and, if I’m frank, blighted by nepotism and simony. People like you, Luther – you’re different, you’re new and you’ve got a rapidly developing fan base. I think you have long term appeal and real staying power.

Simon: Luther, I know you think there is widespread corruption here. You’re not the first to say it – I feel like some of that was just reheated Conciliarism and Hussite heresy. But what I can’t stand is your constant undermining of my authority – I think that it has come to a stage where you’ll have to leave this competition. Set up your own rival show if you think that I’m so bad. See how it goes – I can’t imagine that anything will come of it.


Song: “Love you More” by JLS

Dannii: Wow Rumi, that’s the most amazing performance we’ve seen tonight. At times it seemed as if you had about seven different voices coming through in that song. My only criticism was that maybe it was a bit long – when we’ve had the Masnavi form before on this competition it has always been more concise than that…

Louis: …Danni, he is what he is. I loved the poetry and you know what I really like, Rumi? The dancing – it was superb. It left me ecstatic.



Song: “We are Not the Same” by Good Shoes

Cheryl: I just didn’t connect with any of that, Moses. It’s not that I’ve not considered the fundamental philosophical problem of the Hebrew Bible’s anthropomorphic description of God, just that I didn’t feel like it was addressed satisfactorily. It felt like you were just setting up an image of God that was too radically different from what I’m used to; a God so far out of this world that I can’t have anything to do with him.


Song: “The Ultimate” by The Roots

Louis: Shankara – I loved the staging, the robes… very Eastern, brilliant. That bit with the snake…

Simon: …it was a rope, Louis. We all knew it was a rope. Look – I think your ideas have some merit, but you were just downplaying individuality far too much. You are like the anti-Augustine. Besides, I wasn’t getting exactly what you meant by the term Brahman. Was it God? Was it “the ultimate”? It wasn’t clear and I didn’t really get it.


Song: “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon

Cheryl: I love what you’re wearing, Gandhi – it’s very fresh and now.

Louis: I just don’t see how that song fits into “Religious Classics” week – we all know how John Lennon felt about religion. It’s just ripping up the rulebook again, I’m sorry…

Simon: Oh forget the rulebook, Louis. Gandhi, the problem I have with you isn’t your delivery; it’s how convincing the material is. It’s all very well talking about peace, but how do we react to violent situations? Listen, we could all fast and engage in non-cooperation, but what impact would that actually have when people are fighting and dying on the streets? I’m looking for someone that I can market in a violent, angry world – and I’m afraid that I’m just not sure that people will buy this whole non-violent philosophy thing.


About andrewcrome

Lecturer in religions and theology at the University of Manchester.
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