Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

Andrew Sullivan has a brief, thoughtful post on the death of Michael Jackson. I think he has good insight into how the culture that we have created was largely responsible for Jackson's restless life:
There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.


  1. Jackson also suffered from lupus--which left a butterfly rash on his face and affected his joints, heart and kidneys and liver. As a young man, he must have been extremely driven to have danced throughout all that pain, as an older man at 50 years old, it must have been hell. When I saw the music video, "Scream", for the first time, I saw not just a man with physical pain but also deep emotional and spiritual pain as well.

    How Jackson dealt with that pain is probably the same as how we all tend to deal with our own pain--with sin.

    Anything to feel better for a few minutes.

    As crazy as Michael seemed to appear, he wasn't all that different from the rest of humanity.

    I would have liked to hear about Jackson healing, repenting, loving and growing to be a grandpa in his rocking chair enjoying the fruit of all God blessed him with, as well as his musical legacy.

  2. On a weird note, back in 1991, I wrote him a letter, sharing my testimony, the gospel and encouragement to receive Christ. I included my phone number, for some stupid reason.

    A few days later, I got a strange anonymous phone call with an ear piercing scream. It was similiar to the famous scream I heard in Jackson's music. I hung up--it was too implausible for me to imagine it was who I thought it was.

    I also wrote the same kind of letter to John Denver (I don't know why), while we lived on Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay area. Not far from there Denver had his plane accident years afterward.