Michael Jackson passed into eternity today. With phenomenal talent, he debuted on the professional music scene at the age of 11 as part of The Jackson 5 and began a solo career at the age of 13. In time, he would become one of the most celebrated pop stars of all time, with a series of best-selling albums and a worldwide audience. He would amass a mind-staggering amount of money. He literally lived in a Fantasy Land. Yet he remained (and in all likelihood died) confused (about his gender, his race, his very human identity), without hope, and without the Greatest Treasure in the universe.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 reads, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Jackson’s death is an occasion for reflection–for those of us who know Christ, that we would take greater pains to make Him known in our words and deeds. And for those without Christ, that they might consider the certainty of death and their desperate need for a Sin-Bearing Savior, Lord, and Treasure.
Andrew Sullivan offers this powerful reflection:
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.