Another thought about Michael Jackson...

It has become VERY clear to me that Michael's death has created another fissure in the illusion of racial harmony in the USA. On the day that our Supreme Court ruled to overlook the importance of healing past grievances, I continue to hear a host of well-intentioned people of faith drone on about excess - confusing celebrity/notoriety with depth of importance - when it comes to Michael Jackson. It seems to me that three truths have not been considered:

+ First, MJ has to be understood as the Jackie Robinson of the entertainment world: he broke barriers, records and expectations. To be sure, many Anglos don't even consider this reality - people of privilege rarely do - but it is undeniable.

+ Second, church people - especially middle class, white church folk - still tend to live in a high culture/low culture dichotomy that both overlooks and even denies the place of our still speaking God in popular music. There is NO question that MJ created beauty, inspired hope and cooperation in millions of people throughout the world, advanced the cause of compassion through his "We Are the World" benefit work AND... brought often opposing people together. (You see, Michael was a TRUE genre bender - an innovator who blurred lines separating male and female, black and white, street and geek and all the rest... check out the guitar on this and "Beat It" if there is ANY confusion!)

+ And third, rather than categorizing MJ as a freak - or inferior being to high culture artists - wouldn't it be better to simply recognize that Michael was a broken soul who found a way to create beauty out of his wound? He had feet of clay, without any doubt, but... that is true for us all. In this he was like Johnny Cash, much less redeemed, but on the same road.

I rarely underscore the racial/class divides within the church of Jesus Christ - they are already too obvious, painful and real - but this warrants our consideration. As the liberation theologians used to say: the good news is BAD news to some for a while before it becomes GOOD news for us all. We miss the mark when we misunderstand what the spirit is saying to us in the profound outpouring of grief throughout the world. In fact, it reminds of Jesus saying: how come you can read the signs in the sky, but fail to grasp the signs of the times? Take a look at this from the NY Times:( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/us/29race.html?_r=1&hpw)

Anyway, I still say: let's give thanks to God for Michael Jackson and mourn his passing. (And dig this GREAT tune of Michael's - damn if he didn't nail both the sound and sadness that he knew all too well in this tough world...)

Comments

SGF said…
I couldn't agree more. A great post indeed!
Kim said…
I'm struck by the fact that all of the conversations around MJ contain so many I statements--we've all shared how old we were when MJ "made it big." Somehow we are all processing this very personally suggesting the depth of the lyrics, the music, the talent and the brokeness touch us all on a deep level.

I Mourn the loss of the talent, the promise and hope, the joy of his youth and my own.

Now if only the media could leave some silence so we can process in peace and decide if and how it redefines each one of us...

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