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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Day The Music Died: The Life and Death of Michael Jackson

"A man is more that the sum of his deeds". That's what I said audibly to myself as I watched parts of the Michael Jackson memorial service yesterday. I didn't even realize that I was talking out loud until that very moment (I surprised myself, actually). But the reason for such a response came as a knee-jerk reaction to what the pundits on television were saying, and seeing the crowds of people. There is a fine line between veneration and idolatry and I believe that yesterday, on some level, that line was crossed - and with reckless abandon.

That being said, I have to point out that Jackson did indeed have a gift for performance and music. His God-given talent makes the work of so many others pale in comparison. No one can take that away from him. But, what seemed to be getting lost in the shuffle of the celebration of his life was...well...his life. Every commentator and interview talked about "what he gave us". The positivity of his music and his message ruled the day. There was no doubt about the concentrated effort to whitewash so many aspects of his life under the guise of celebrating the music. This is what struck me to be the most peculiar:

"We are here to celebrate the gift of music that he gave to us."
"He gave so much to so many through his music."
"We will always have his music to cherish."
"His legacy is his music."

No one really talked much (at least not in the meaningful way) about the legacy of the man himself. I'm not even talking about the accusations of child molestation. After all, legally, he was never found guilty of those charges - regardless of the shadow that was cast by those allegations. Besides, I believe that there where shadows cast much broader, bigger, and earlier in his life that led to other situations. There is one question that remains in all of this: While everyone is celebrating the music, was anyone really paying attention? Many of the songs that didn't have as much commercial success (especially in his later years) told quite a tale of a person in distress. But that's just too depressing. So, we go ahead and we make him up. But here, I'll say it again:

A man is more than the sum of his deeds (Isaiah 64:6).

Here lies Michael Jackson - a man apart.
A broken man who died of a broken heart.
From childhood to the bitter end, we bled him dry,
Now we all shout, "why God, why?!"
He was loved by millions, yet never felt loved at all.
He could never grow up because he felt so small.

I read where one fan stated that, "he was more important than Jesus". Here is where the problem lies. Too many saw him as a savior of sorts, but he didn't have the Savior. He began to give himself over to a distorted view of self and love. He repeatedly changed his appearance because he just couldn't accept himself; never fully understanding that our true identity is found in Christ (Acts 17:29, 1 Cor. 15:10, Colossians 1:15-16). So the music, in essence, became his salvation. It was through it that he would gain an identity and feel some semblance of love and worth. The only problem is that it left him lacking. So he always had to have more. It was through it that he sought immortality - failing to realize that you can never find permanent comfort in a temporal world (Matt. 6:19-20, James 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24). I believe that Quincy Jones said it best when he stated that not being grounded in the realization that you were made as a "vessel for the Divine" can have serious consequences (Acts 17:28, Romans 1:28). Michael was the King of Pop, not the King of Kings. But sadly, he was all too often surrounded by people who made too much of him and not enough of Christ, which tragically left nothing of him at all (Eccl. 5:7, John 3:30, Phil. 3:8). And now, sadly, it is a lesson that he has learned too late (Hebrews 9:27).

The death of Michael Jackson should have been mourned properly - both publicly and privately. I say this in hopes that maybe he is the figure big enough to show both those in the entertainment world and those of us who enjoy the dangers in putting too much stock in things and people of this world.

Eventually the music stops for everyone. On June 25, 2009, it stopped for Michael Jackson (Luke 9:25, 1 Cor. 10:31)...

Soli Deo Gloria,

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