Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The deaths of McMahon, Fawcett, Michael Jackson

Much has been said about the Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson.

Dan Phillips reviews their spiritual state and the real issue at hand:
McMahon's celebrity largely rested on another's talent: the quick-witted quipster and twitchy talk-show host, Carson. He was the butt of Carson's affectionate jokes, and largely served to make Carson look good. (I once employed McMahon's role in a post about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.)
Farrah Fawcett grabbed the spotlight because of her great beauty, dazzling smile, a poster every teenaged boy (including me, as I recall) had on his wall, and some acting stints. Beyond the report that she was subjected to the (at-best) meaningless deathbed magic of Rome, I know nothing of her spiritual state.

Michael Jackson — well, what do you say? He definitely dwarfs the other two, in our culture, and for a strange amalgam of reasons.
Raised a Jehovah's Witness, Jackson appended a disclaimer to his history-making video for "Thriller" disavowing belief in the occult. In his later videos, Jackson went out of his way to distance himself from any notion of moral boundaries. They were a mixture of sweetness and creativity, and depravity. Catchy tunes and engaging inspiration were mixed with obscene or otherwise jarring imagery, in videos for such songs as "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Black or White" or "Bad." A Jackson video came to be like a dazzling table setting, spattered with dung.

As you shrink from the Frankenstein shock of Jackson's visage, reflect: mankind was created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-28), and still bears that image (Genesis 9:6). But in seeking to take God's place and make themselves gods (Genesis 3), our foreparents did to their whole beings what Michael Jackson did to his face: they horridly disfigured themselves and all of us, leaving a repulsive mockery of what we were meant to be.

He is dead at the age of 50. He had everything the world offered--but no Jesus.

Justin Taylor commented on the liner notes from an album of his, where Jackson quoted the final lines from William Ernest Henley's famous poem, Invictus:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Those are not the words you want written on your tombstone.

It is hard to think of a sadder public figure in recent years. A black man who never found his identity as one created in God's image, and who never experienced the identity of being conformed to the image of Christ. Black and white, male and female, rich and bankrupt, genius and punchline, private and public, innocent and deceptive--everything seemed to be jumbled up.

The one thing that comes to mind about Jackson is how bad he was at hiding his brokenness. Even while living in a literal fantasy land, it was obvious to everyone that this was a person--enormously gifted--desperately seeking a mask to cover, in futility, who he was.

May God use even this to increase our compassion and ministry to the lost, broken, and confused.

Andrew Sullivan weighs in:
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.

Dan Phillips concludes:
The only solution for us is not a succession of endeavors to remake ourselves. Each attempt leaves a worse spectacle than the previous, and moves us further from what we truly need.

The only solution for us is the solution to which Michael Jackson never submitted himself, as far as is known: to be born anew, under the good hand of our Creator. We do not need new faces. We need new natures. We need the miracle of regeneration, not the tragedy of manmade makeovers.

And this can only come through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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