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29
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'American Idol's' Colton Dixon: Is the Heat on to Tone Down the Religious Rhetoric? (Video)

The Season 11 finalist reveals how show producers really feel about his passionate -- and very public -- displays of faith. Plus: THR looks at whether religion will hurt or help his chance of winning.

Colton Dixon Top 9 performance P
Michael Becker / FOX

American Idol finalist Colton Dixon hasn’t exactly kept his religion under wraps. The season 11 contender has spoken of faith and how God brought music into his life often while competing on the Fox show, and on Wednesday’s episode, he went one step further: choosing to perform Lifehouse’s “Everything,” which he explained was his favorite “worship song.” (The week’s theme, mentored by Stevie Nicks, was “songs by your idols.”)

None of this is foreign territory when it comes to Idol. Plenty of contestants have sung spiritual songs or hailed from strict religious households and backgrounds, and when you think about it, it’s not exactly a liability. Winners such as Scotty McCreery, Carrie Underwood and Ruben Studdard, finalists Mandisa, Melinda Doolittle and Chris Sligh, runners-up like Lauren Alaina and Danny Gokey -- all are devout Christians, to a certain extent, which makes the inevitable controversy involving Colton Dixon all the more curious.

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To recap: Dixon said in an interview that show producers initially warned contestants against posting messages on social media that are overtly religious or political -- that they could lose fans as a result. A few days later, it appeared Dixon ignored the missive (like he did Tommy Hilfiger’s suggestion that he cut his hair), quoting scripture on his Facebook page and Twitter feed and forming a cross from the letter T in his first name. In short order, he earned a new moniker: the Tim Tebow of American Idol.

All the religious chatter building over the last couple weeks was enough to spark a rumor that executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was somehow planning Colton’s exit, to which the salty Brit responded via Twitter, “UTTER CRAP!”

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A few hours after the tweet went out, Dixon delivered “Everything” and gave it everything he had. The reaction from the judges’ table was unanimously positive: Randy Jackson said Dixon could win it all, Steven Tyler called him “a dream come true,” while Jennifer Lopez wiped away tears.

As for how the producers felt about his passionate show of faith, and whether they’ve discussed or discouraged it during the broadcast? Dixon says absolutely not. “They totally didn’t get on me about my faith,” he explained to The Hollywood Reporter following Wednesday’s show. “They respect my faith and have actually helped me push it in many ways. I’m very thankful for that. The media twists things.”

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If one thing is for certain it’s that Dixon makes no apologies for the God talk, whether by Facebook wall posts such as this one: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Or when asked about his choice in song, which yielded this reply: “I believe one hundred percent that God gave me a voice.” Thus, the worship song. Dixon explained: “Anything that I can sing that’s directed to Him would be considered a worship song. It could be a church song or it something you hear on the radio. It’s just music that moves you where you’re just like, ‘Wow, God, I feel you in this.’ And that was totally me tonight.”

With that in mind, and still buzzing from his show-stopping performance on Wednesday (the first to take the stage that night), you would think the religiousness of it all could only help him get further along in the competition, not hinder his progress. Indeed, as one blogger put it a little more bluntly: “To those who say [Colton's] religious tweets and Facebook posts might undermine his Idol potential, I say, don't underestimate the power of G.O.D. in the U.S.A. And it’s not like the teens and grannies who can give a promising Idol contestant a competitive edge are going to penalize a good-looking kid for loving Jesus and praying every day.” Can’t argue with that.

Where do you stand on the issue? Is Dixon’s devotion starting to feel like an agenda? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin