If you are one of the 28.8 million people who watched American Idol's season finale Wednesday night, you already know that Kris Allen, the 23-year old worship leader from Conway, Arkansas, beat out Hollywood rocker and musical theater vet Adam Lambert for the eighth season's title. Many saw this final battle as yet another chapter in the red-state/blue-state struggle, pitting Christian wholesomeness against bombastic worldliness. But in the days following Allen's surprise victory, the conversation has shifted from questions of whether devoted Christian voters propelled Allen past the season-long frontrunner, to the strong friendship the two performers have forged during the season.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the role of faith on American Idol. While contestants like Allen may benefit from "the Christian vote," non-Christian performers like Adam Lambert have been similarly embraced by voters who do not share his worldview. By allowing him into their homes (via TV) for the past few months, many viewers came to see Lambert as more than his sexuality. Writes Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times:

Each singer has fans who should be rooting for the other one, according to the usual patterns linked to the culture wars. Some commentators have tried to make a stir over Lambert's sexuality - Bill O'Reilly questioned Lambert's appropriateness as a singing role model on his Fox News program. But he seems to have many Christian admirers.
"My husband and I are Baby Boomer Christians and we LOVE Adam Lambert! After 8 seasons, we finally have the contestant who defines the title," wrote one reader in the comments section of Newsweek magazine's Pop Vox blog.

Allen's friendship with Lambert, who was his roommate for the duration of the show, ...

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