Michael Jackson and Christians

Here, I’m posting comments about Michael Jackson, by myself and others. They relate to Michael Jackson and Christians/Christianity.

1. In his post, Better to Say Nothing At All, BryanL states the following:

“You know if someone famous dies who is loved by many it seems better to say nothing at all if you don’t have something nice or compassionate to say about them. Why would you choose to use their death (specially if it were untimely) as an opportunity to jump on a soap box or tear them down when you normally would not have said anything about them?”

I respond to Bryan: “One thing that makes me sick is the patronizing attitude of a lot of Christians on the death of Michael Jackson. ‘Oh, if only he had accepted Jesus into his heart, then he wouldn’t have gotten all that plastic surgery.’ ‘We learn from Michael’s life that the things of the world don’t satisfy.’ On Facebook, a Christian had all these pictures of Michael (from his childhood to his later years), and you were supposed to circle the Michael that was ‘closest to the image of God.’ Barf!”

2. Felix had a post, Thoughts on the Jackson tragedy and the other departed celeberties: The spiritual and theological perspective. He included some links.

One was by Bob Thiel, an Armstrongite scholar (who, to his credit, has a knack for finding patristic sources to support his positions): see here. Felix linked to it because it supports the possibility of post-mortem opportunities for salvation, even for those who did not accept Christ in this life.

But I didn’t care much for Thiel’s article, to be honest. It seems to be using Michael’s death to advertise the usual Armstrongite position on the three resurrections. Plus, even when Armstrongites present a more loving God than we find in other strands of Christianity, their writing style carries a tone of “look how right I am, while everyone else is wrong!” Have you ever met anyone who turns you off even when he’s right? (People described me as that kind of person in high school!) That’s my feeling when I read Armstrongite literature (which is not to say that I think they’re always right).

Felix also included a link to an article by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who was a spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson: see here. Boteach talks about some of his disappointments with Michael Jackson, but he also discusses the positive things that he did. Michael’s gentleness and kindness influenced Rabbi Boteach to be kinder and gentler, and Michael also demonstrated humility, even as a celebrity:

…there was something very special about him. A superstar who could sit so humbly at Shabbat table and make others feel important. A very busy father who all but refused to travel anywhere without his children. And I’m left with forever vacillating between feelings of pity and feelings of disappointment.

I replied under Felix’s post: “That Rabbi Shmuely Boteach article is beautiful! I think a lot of Christians lately have focused on Michael’s deficiencies to prop up their hackneyed evangelistic spiels, and that has made me sick. But this article goes into the complexity of the man–the good and the bad.” By “hackneyed evangelistic spiels,” I had in mind the sorts of things I mentioned on BryanL’s blog (see 1).

Felix responded: “Rabbi Boteach is an articulate in every sense of the word. He is one of the few men who makes a lot of sense to me compared to those as you aptly mentioned those who ‘prop up their hackneyed evangelistic spiels’. People like that are making Christianity irrelevant by the second. Boteach knows how to be relevant, no matter what faith you are.”

I’m beginning to understand what Felix means by “relevance”–whether he’s talking about evangelicals or the Republican Party. Evangelicals may criticize Michael Jackson in an attempt to promote their “accept Jesus and be happy like I am” message, but the only people saying “Amen!” to them are other evangelicals! A lot of people don’t find anything in that sort of approach that speaks to them, feeds them, inspires them, or gives them guidance.

3. And, speaking of Christians who sound like “sounding brass” (I Corinthians 13:1), there was a discussion about Michael Jackson on my Christian dating site. Many were saying that Michael was not a Christian and was burning in hell, but a liberal Christian lady offered another perspective:

Yes, I was watching several of his videos from youtube and each one he mentioned his belief in God and his wish to be like Jesus and to love everyone unconditionally. His family was Jehova Witness but I don’t think he followed that church anymore. When he married Lisa Marie he was asked if would become a Scientologist and he said no. He always began every performance with a group prayer. His face would light up when he talked about God.

There are several videos on youtube telling about how Michael prayed with the Crouches and had Andre play the song “I’m leaving soon” (I think that was the name) and he gave himself to Jesus. That was just 3 weeks before he died so his friends think he knew he was going.

So maybe Michael was a man of faith, as flawed as he may have been.

Some may argue that I’m doing the very thing that I criticize others for: that I’m using Michael’s death as a prop for my own agenda, only mine is more anti-evangelical. That may be a valid criticism. At the same time, is there a way for Christians to remember Michael Jackson without being so smug? Can they learn lessons, not only from his deficiencies, but also from his assets? Wouldn’t that be a better way to honor him after his death?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Michael Jackson and Christians

  1. ftloveblog70 says:

    Hi James, to answer the “relevance” part, I am talking about evangelical Christianity and all it’s “clap-happiness”. The Republican party has nothing to do with this discussion except to note that it was my favourite Republican President, Ronald Reagan that actually invited Michael Jackson to the White House and gave Michael an award dealing with his charities in fighting drug and alcohal abuse.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Right, Felix, I was addressing there your broader discussion of relevance–you have said that the G.O.P. is in danger of becoming irrelevant if it sticks with the same old themes. The same is true of evangelicalism. I just meant that I’m beginning to appreciate your point more.

    I’ll post your comment on my blogger blog so people there can read the clarification.


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