What do we as Christians make of the life and death of Michael Jackson? The first thing I would say is that he was surely one of the most brilliant performers of history. I have never seen someone who could sing and dance like him. As one who could create brilliant songs with dramatic and creative performances he is unrivalled. He was a great performer.
Yet his life and death bring out a whole lot of things. First, it should tell us that we need to take care as parents how we seek to cultivate and/or handle brilliance? His life was corrupted irrevocably by a father who pushed him mercilessly seemingly to fulfil his own dreams. I have such mixed feelings when I see footage of him as a child performer. Yes, he was brilliant, but what sort of childhood was it? He never recovered being pushed where no child should be forced to go; despite the apparent glory! Here's a lesson to us parents. We have to find the balance between encouragement and urging them on, and pushing them too hard and violating their childhood. Clearly the Jacksons went way too far!
Secondly, it tells me that character is always more important than talent. Like us all the talent eventually dries up as we age and can no longer move like we used to. In his case, the decline was accelerated by the way he treated himself. He clearly had a corrupted self-image and completely wrecked his very good looks as a boy and young man. This indicates that while he was dynamic on the outside, inwardly he was a mess. He did not have a clear belief in himself, a clear identity. The entertainment industry must test character like nothing else. Without a well-formed identity and sense of self, you will go down. Sadly for me, his brilliance was completely overwhelmed by his character flaws.
Thirdly, the world of Hollywood is a have. They are self-absorbed and congratulate each other living in the bubble of their own creation. They feed off each other. They feed off the media but moan about it when the media puts the heat on. The problem is you can't have it both ways as Princess Diana knows. If you play it, you have to be prepared to have it turn on you. Then, when one of Hollywood's own, who is clearly a person with immense problems dies, they glory in the person's life despite its hypocrisy. I find the whole thing tragic. Sadly we feed it everytime we buy a CD, watch a movie and tune into another Hollywood gossip artist telling us about the lives of these people. It is shallow and pathetic. It is one of the saddest features of 21st century western life. It is rank and status, elitism, and it has no depth.
Fourthly, the world of these people is in many cases, corrupt. It is all on now. Accusations of murder, greed; fights for custody and no doubt for the rights to his music and that of the Beatles etc; and poor Michael Jackson as a victim are well underway. No doubt it will get messy and the winners will be the lawyers.
For me, it is a tragedy and it is a product of western civilisation's greed, hedonism and voyeurism.
So we can learn a lot from the Michael Jackson debacle. What a waste of talent. For me it reinforces that we have to move beyond the shallowness of western pop culture. This is a lesson for the church which mimics this world. What would Jesus say?