How Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Reveals Our Idolatry and Contempt for the Gospel

Written by Mark Farnham

On November 29, 2010

Few Christians would openly defend viewing a show like Rock of Love, but who doesn’t get teary-eyed watching the final moments of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Never mind that it’s a spinoff of a show about radical plastic surgery, EMHE pulls together a whole community to give a deserving family a new, grandiose home. Who could argue with that?

Which brings me to the three most disturbing words on television: “Move that bus.”

Again, there’s no arguing with the warmth and altruistic sentiments of the show. The families who have been profiled always seem to be wonderful people, I don’t impugn them or the show’s creators with secret evil intentions. But a disturbing thing happens in the final moments of the show. After profiling the family’s suffering, after talking about hardship and perseverance, after recruiting an army of volunteers, the family is brought in front of the new home, which is hidden from view by a large touring bus. They count down and call out those three words, and the reaction can only be described as worship. There are tears and shouting while people fall to their knees, hands raised in the air.

Here it is on bold display: the ultimate hope of most Americans. It’s as though a phantom voice is responding to their suffering with the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Here is your reward: dreamy bedrooms, big-screen TVs, privacy fencing, and wireless internet. We watch. We weep. And we hope for ourselves. It’s yet another gospel alternative, this one packaged as a heart-warming vision of the way life is “supposed to be.”

Instead of just asking yourself about lust when you watch a film, ask yourself about hope. What’s the hope being proclaimed? What other desires are being stirred? Does it feed your sense of self-righteousness? Does it give you cause for contempt? Or does it give you a call to worship at the feet of the American dream?

Good art tells the truth, and sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes people who suffer don’t receive a reward. Sometimes the truth involves sinful people doing sinful things, and in telling a story (even a redemptive story) it’s necessary to talk about that darkness. Sometimes what appears to be good for the heart and the family is actually an idol in disguise.

Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky

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  1. Jon Bell

    To me the most disturbing part of the show (while I don’t disagree with the post!) is the number of times that the concept of “deserves” is put forth. It just makes my hackles rise because all I can hear is the great truth of our condition being undermined. All any of us deserve is the anger and judgement of God and that makes me so thankful for all the grace and mercy that I receive every day! It is by His mercy that we are not consumed every day!!

  2. Daniel Kreger

    The idolatry aspect certainly bothers me. Something else that bothers me is the “feel good” distraction aspect that the workers get out of it – they feel like they are accomplishing something important when all they are doing is feeding the family’s idolatry of finally having the American dream. The same thing happens when we take part in various charity organizations like running, walking, or riding for cancer research, MS, etc. While participating isn’t wrong in itself, our feeling of “doing good works” can keep us from doing what God has commanded us – giving the gospel and participating in efforts that advance the gospel. I no longer participate in some of these events because it was taking me away from doing what God has commanded me.


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