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American Idol Ministries (No. I’m not kidding.)

March 5, 2009

Danny Gokey’s charity, Sophia’s Heart Foundation, appears to be doing a gala in 2010. While the One Heart Gala is in its planning infancy, the woman planning it has decided to start a blog about, well, the planning.

Meanwhile, all over Milwaukee, people are going Gokey crazy. Including area veternarians and Starbucks baristas. Nice to see Milwaukee doing their part for their hometown boy. As long as they’re not heading in droves to his church, of course.

Lots of people think the criticism of Faith Builders International Ministries is unwarranted. Alas. Another blogger has accused me, and others of posting things with sadistic glee. (The least she could have done was linked back to me, ya know?)

Take a look at who’s orchestrating the backlash

Besides particularly vicious remarks about Danny’s widower status (some even referring to him as “Dead Wife Guy”), most of the anti-Danny Gokey people are savaging his Christian faith and even denigrating the church he attends–copy ‘n pasting things from Faithbuilders’ website and ridiculing them with sadistic glee.

The comments are typically teeming with obscenities and juvenile name-calling. They truly exhibit the mindset of people who obviously have not even a nodding acquaintance with compassion or heart.

Meanwhile, uber-Idol fan Leesa Bellesi has set her sights on Gokey. Have you heard about Leesa Bellesi?

Bellesi has literally started an American Idol Ministries of sorts. As in, this woman likes to help out Christian contestants’ families by giving them housing, airfare and spiritual support while they’re in the big, bad city of Los Angeles.

Bellesi, with the help of her husband, Pastor Denny Bellesi, started something called AI Ministry Resource at the beginning of season 7. They basically fly people in and out, give them a place to stay, et al. Very recently, Bellesi even flew Jamar Rogers back to Milwaukee for his 27th birthday. 

(And if you’re a Jamar fan, you can have him mix you a drink at a P.F. Chang’s somewhere in Los Angeles.)

The Bellesis are the founders of something called Kingdom Assignment. They’ve made a name for themselves by handing out $100 to members of their congregation and telling them to do something good with it, inspired by 2000’s ridiculously overly-sentimental film, Pay It Forward. They’ve even been featured on Oprah, as she used some of their philosophies in her Oprah’s Big Give show. Apparently, they’ve also been featured in People and on Dateline.

I won’t begrudge anyone for giving out money for others to do good deeds, however…

I’m sure you could say how nice it is for this woman to help out these fellow Christians and their families, but some might find this a little odd. It does seem that starting a ministry might be a good way for some Fan Frauen to get closer to their Idol Messiah. Contestants who have benefitted from Bellesi’s “good will” include Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado, whose parents stayed at residences owned by the Bellesis while they were on the show. 

Bellesi has done an exceptionally good job of getting close to Idol contestants, as indicated by her blog. (She even has the McPheever!) I’ve seen compelling evidence of many women who spend excessive amounts of money to follow their Idol favorite(s), but this is perhaps the most well-orchestrated and elaborate plans I’ve ever witnessed. 

While the Bellesis have done a lot of good as far as charitable works go, it still seems a bit odd and unnecessary to create an outreach ministry for American Idol contestants.

But at this point, nothing surprises me.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Sane Jason Fan permalink
    March 5, 2009 11:40 pm

    Season 7 was more about talent. Maybe because they have a successful winner in Cook they think they can just put on a good TV show this year with all these sob stories. I think it’s a big mistake though.

  2. March 5, 2009 10:21 pm

    Hey Leesa, my cat died years ago. Send me some money to get over it. *sniff*

  3. Sane Jason Fan permalink
    March 5, 2009 3:12 pm

    I’m not saying religion has been a huge focus but it’s starting to seep in and I’d prefer to plug up the holes rather than have the dam burst.

    Danny’s desire to “inspire” everyone worries me. I hope he means with his singing but judging by what I’ve seen so far he has something more in mind. I hope the show doesn’t go in that direction. I’ve already heard way too much about Danny and his situation. I would prefer that the winner is picked based on talent and their ability to be a successful recording artist and not because they’ve had a tragedy in their life and they’ve been saved by faith.

    • brie permalink
      March 5, 2009 7:10 pm

      But is anyone griping about whether if Scott wins it’s because he’s blind or if Lil wins it’s because of her sob story and etc. The part that bothers me is that some people only seem to be concerned if one of the religious guys should happen to win.

      Also since when has Idol ever been about finding the most talented? It is about whomever the voting public deems their favorite and if that happens to be Gokey, then so be it.

      • Sane Jason Fan permalink
        March 5, 2009 8:04 pm

        People ARE griping about Scott advancing. What’s next? Wheeling someone out in an iron lung?

        I don’t remember all this going on to this extent in previous seasons. In fact, some contestants like David Cook refused to allow their personal stories to be exploited by Idol.

        Obviously Idol is part popularity contest but if you emphasize that to the extent they are this season you run the risk of having a winner who isn’t successful. And if you have too many unsuccessful winners then the show loses credibility.

        • brie permalink
          March 5, 2009 10:24 pm

          I like David Cook, but S7 was different. Yes, Scott is getting flack. But it’s not even NEAR the controversy around Gokey. And while Cook did remain quiet, which I like him for doing, it was also in a season that wasn’t nearly as much about the personal. We also had two Mormons that barely mentioned their affiliation and even with Castro, I don’t think he ever mentioned his religion on Idol, nor did we experience a church visit.

          I don’t like the new direction of the show, but they did say going into this season that it was going to be more about the backstory. I don’t like it, but if they ware giving us the extensive backstory on everyone it levels the playing field so to speak. Well I guess unless you don’t have a hook.

          • TopIdol permalink
            March 5, 2009 10:38 pm

            With Castro, crazy fans only found out what church he went to late in the game. We didn’t see the church on any of the “back story”.

            I think letting people into a place that you worship…people you don’t know…to me, that just does not see right, you know?

            • brie permalink
              March 6, 2009 1:05 am

              That’s true. Maybe the fans found out later, but it doesn’t change the fact it was always his backstory. Granted I don’t think he’s a worship leader and I’m glad they didn’t go there. Say what you want about Jason, but he doesn’t seem to be the guy that brings his religious views into every conversation and I appreciate that.

              As for the show, I the changes are because Simon declared last season boring. Last season was actually my favorite season of any season, but Simon dinged the Idols for not having enough personality and not bringing enough drama. Granted I’ve heard from a few sources that last season’s group was actually the nicest (supposedly according to the production people.) In the sense that there really wasn’t any drama to push. People got along and nobody was off the charts crazy. But Simon has more power this season to have things as he wants them.

  4. brie permalink
    March 5, 2009 2:39 pm

    But I guess my question is how much though is the show focusing on religion so far and how much are the gossip sites/Idol sites choosing to focus on religion? I’ve seen far more religious discussion this season outside of the actual show.

    I don’t think the show is putting through certain people just because they are worship leaders or necessarily portraying them as more worthy contestants. Adam is quite the pimped one as well. As is Lil.

    I do agree Gokey has been pimped and he’s done a few things I’m not so happy with so far, but in terms of what’s been on the actual show I don’t feel like I’ve been hit over the head with his religion. I haven’t heard a peep out of Kris or Michael Sarver yet far, at least on air. That’s where I have an issue with condemning them before they actually do anything worth condemning…

    For the record, I know that there were segments filmed at the churches of the above, but we don’t even know what footage AI will use as yet. I’m sure they also filmed other aspects of these kids daily life, which will be edited into a 30 second package.

    • TopIdol permalink
      March 5, 2009 2:44 pm

      I’ve actually be wondering…do they just shoot a bunch of stuff and then use it throughout the season? That’s what I’m thinking they do.

      I guess we’ll just have to see.

  5. Sane Jason Fan permalink
    March 5, 2009 2:19 pm

    American Idol is supposed to be a singing competition not a forum on Christianity. Everyone is entitled to practice the religion of their choice but I would prefer that it not be front and center on the show. Let your singing do the talking. There’s been way to much attention on backstory this season. I know there’s always some but it’s getting distracting this year.

    If someone wants to join Faith Builders or any of these churches that’s their choice. I hope they do it for the right reason though and not just because their favorite Idol contestant is a member. And it’s always a good idea to do your homework before you write a check. Just sayin….

  6. March 5, 2009 1:26 pm

    P.S. Sorry I just wrote a book!

  7. March 5, 2009 1:25 pm

    Hi there…wow, reading my Danny Gokey post now, I can see I was guilty of quite a bit of hyperbole. I was obviously annoyed when I wrote it.

    There’s a reason I didn’t link back to you, though. I wasn’t referring to you. The “sadistically gleeful” posts I read were part of some forum on another website.

    That said, I really do think some people have just decided to get a hate-on for Danny just because he’s a Christian. One blogger even criticized the camera including Danny in a shot on one of the recent episodes, even though ALL of the made-it-through-to-the-top-12 people were shown and mentioned equally! He wrote, “I’m so sick of his dead wife!”

    Wow…wasn’t it just appalling how Idol pimped Danny and his dead wife at that particular moment? Except, no, they didn’t.

    Another blogger referred to Danny as “the holy and self-righteous Danny.” Huh? Based on the fact that he said he was a church music director? I’ve yet to see him expound on his faith during the show, so I honestly don’t see where they’re getting that.

    And everyone that’s sick of his dead wife being mentioned, better acknowledge the constant mention of Scott’s blindness, Lil’s housing situation, etc., etc.

    Believe it or not, even though I’m a Christian, I probably don’t agree doctrinally with several of Faithbuilders’ tenets. But I respect their right to believe as they do–just as I respect the right of Buddhists and Muslims, even though I don’t agree with their beliefs.

    Anyway…off my soapbox. This looks like an interesting blog, and you’re a talented writer, and I honestly wasn’t talking about you when I was a little riled up :), in that post. I need to lighten up…it’s not the end of the world. It’s just American Idol! 🙂

  8. March 5, 2009 12:51 pm

    Hey Leesa Bellesi here! This is fantastic… I got this google alerted to me today and though I have never responded to anyones blog before regarding the contestants I thought I would jump in. I don’t know who it is that is supporting me, but thank you… yeah you’re right it does hurt when people question stuff that I don’t get a chance to respond to, but I did not go out searching for American Idol contestants. This came to me. It was a “here I am Lord send me” moment that I had and felt a burden to pray for Katharine McPhee… didn’t know her. A month later a cute couple came up to me at the church where my husband was preaching at the time (Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena) asking if they could get together with Denny and I for coffee… we exchanged info and agreed to get together the following week. As I turned to talk to someone else he asked me if I would pray for her. I turned around and said; of course. He then said; “do you watch American Idol” I was a little embarrassed cause… yeah this Pastor’s wife hadn’t missed a show in a while. Well… he said; “she’s going to be on American Idol. Standing in front of me was Katharine McPhee asking me to pray for her. I didn’t recognize her. The story is long, but since then I have had what anyone who will listen will agree about 30 miracles with AI of things only God could do. I could not of orchestrated any of it, if I had tried, which I didn’t. I just had a willing heart and believe more than ever that God hears our thoughts and prayers and He loves to use His children if they are willing. Write me through our website I’d love to hear from you! Let’s keep the conversation going… Oh and BTW yes it is true our ministry is Christian based, but it is not just for the Christian contestants. We will help anyone, all they have to do is ask.

    God’s richest blessings to you and your own daily assignments for Him – Leesa P.S. That cute couple (Katharine and Nick Cokas) my husband, being their Pastor, had the privilege of marrying in Feb. 08.

  9. March 5, 2009 10:47 am

    It IS possible for people to do good just for the sake of doing good. I’m sure Leesa will be hurt to know that someone thinks she is doing JUST to get close to the idols. OF COURSE she is happy to meet the idols but to say she is doing just for that is ridiculous. Some people actually enjoy helping people for no reason other than to do good for someone.
    And why would it be so bad for Milwaukee folks to head in droves to church? It might actually be a good thing for people.

    • TopIdol permalink
      March 5, 2009 11:27 am

      I’m not saying she’s not doing any good. I just think its a bit odd to do stuff for people on a TV show, that’s all.

      If you read some of the stuff on here and other sites, you’ll see the lengths people go to with Idol contestants…expensive gifts, plane tickets, et al.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with what her and her husband are doing. In fact, its a lot more reassuring to know there are people like them out there giving something back when there are a lot of churches who do nothing but take.

      I didn’t say people in Milwaukee shouldn’t go to church. Hey, I can’t control what people do. I just think some churches, like FBIM, appear to be more concerned with lining their pockets than anything else.

  10. brie permalink
    March 5, 2009 1:56 am

    If these people are doing good in the community and not just out helping Idols, let them be. I’m not sure why the overwhelming topic of this blog of late seems to be that Christianity is the evil. Or any Christian on Idol is automatically evil.

    Again, non Christian non religious person here. But your obsession with the religions of the contestants right now is just about on par with the obsession of the Fraus that you claim to hate.

    I’m supposed to automatically hate on the kids who are open Christians or are worship leaders, but automatically love the open homosexuals if for no other reason then because they are gay and they like to have fun? Which again, total stereotype, but whatever.

    I don’t care for Adam as a singer because I find his singing rather over the top. Mind you he has tons of talent and a killer voice, but his style isn’t my thing. I don’t like Gokey either for that matter. But I’m certainly not going to spend the season obsessing over who is a worship leader and automatically rooting against them because of their chosen religion. Or for that matter hating on people who seem to be doing good in their community just because they dare help out some AI people in their spare time.

    • TopIdol permalink
      March 5, 2009 2:31 am

      I’m not really “hating” on them. I just find it a bit odd.

      And only time will tell if I like Adam Lambert or anyone else on the show. Right now, there really isn’t anyone whose album I would buy. I would just prefer seeing people on the stage who have fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. He could get really old really fast.

      I just prefer contestants who are different and not singing the same old tired crap.

      As far the religious stuff, it’s just kind of interesting.

      • brie permalink
        March 5, 2009 10:21 am

        I prefer the people who are different on Idol too, but more so in terms of voice and style. That is why I liked last season because I thought they did change it up and give us some different styles than the usual divas and country crooners. I know you don’t like Brooke and I know Stoner J is a common target around these parts, but they were at least different and it was appreciated, or at least by me. I guess I just don’t care what religion or sexuality these people are as long as I like them as performers.

        • TopIdol permalink
          March 5, 2009 11:35 am

          I prefer the people who are different on Idol too, but more so in terms of voice and style. That is why I liked last season because I thought they did change it up and give us some different styles than the usual divas and country crooners. I know you don’t like Brooke and I know Stoner J is a common target around these parts, but they were at least different and it was appreciated, or at least by me. I guess I just don’t care what religion or sexuality these people are as long as I like them as performers.

          I really, really, really wanted to like Brooke. Alas. I couldn’t. As far as Stoner J goes, I championed him all season. I was totally pulling for that kid. It was the stuff after that really turned me off, i.e., the actions of many of his fans and the seemingly greedy nature of his family.

          I think more people should be like you and not care about someone’s religion or sexuality. That’s my point, with all of this — why should it matter? The religious stuff seems to be a real selling point this year, or maybe the new format is just bringing it to light how it is a factor?


  1. Ask the leadership coach » American Idol Ministries (No. I’m not kidding.) « Top Idol

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