Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Sad Irony of Michael Jackson

The so-called “king of pop,” is dead. He had it all and at the same time had nothing; born with enormous God-given talent and exploited at every turn. He was isolated in a crowd and indulged to the point of self-destruction. A poor man made rich, a black man made white, a superstar made prisoner; the best-known and the least-known man. Michael Jackson became an idol but in the end he fell like Dagon. As the world rushes to brush aside the tragedy of this twisted and isolated life in exchange for an icon, the exploitation of this man will continue long after his death.

The string of fallen stars is long but predictable. The Bible warns us that “charm is deceitful and beauty is passing.” Once the talent, the charm, and the beauty are “discovered” the illusions begin. Promises of fame and fortune push the limits and reality is increasingly pushed aside. When fame and fortune arrive they bring with them a company of devils that are happy to hitch a ride. “What can we do for you, oh Great One?” “Fetch me my slippers,” and so it begins. In the end, it includes, “Fetch me my pills.” Fame and fortune turn out to be synonyms for isolation and misfortune. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

A while back, Michael said in an interview, “I can’t go anywhere. I just want to be normal.” It was too late; normal was out of range. All that was left was fear and the illusion of regaining what had already passed. Blinded by the lights, the future offered only a series of stumbles and falls. The devil always promises us the moon, but gives us hell. The hawks have finished and the vultures are now circling. Every bone will be picked clean.

In one way, Michael Jackson is not alone. We all have our oddities, and to the degree we are cut off from the community and indulged these oddities grow into eccentricities and weirdness. We need the reality of the broader community to check our thinking and to transform us. This is the work of the Church: conforming us to the image of Jesus through the Word by way of doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction. Michael thought he could control his destiny. We are tempted to think the same way, whether for ourselves or for our children. Michael lived in a crowd all by himself, and so can we. It is more obvious in a fallen superstar, but all flesh is subject to these temptations and to this kind of self-deception. Michael Jackson needed the real Jesus Christ―the Savior of sinners―he needed the Body of Christ to make him whole. That is what every man needs; kings and peasants alike. This is the Good News!