Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Michael Jackson and the Moral Compass of Evangelicalism
Everyone seems to be weighing in on the death of Michael Jackson. Song writers, vocal artists, actresses, politicians, and news anchormen are offering their tributes and perspectives on the life and music of the famed singer. It is, of course, no surprise to see many Christians commenting on this issue.
What is surprising is the number of Christian bloggers condemning any believer who dares say anything negative about Jackson. Some offer excuses that are little more than psychobabble, (such as, "you must understand he never really had a childhood"). I suppose then we should overlook the scores of half-naked elementary-aged catamites he "cuddled" with in his bedroom.
Others take a position that could be called axiological schizophrenia ("we must overlook his obvious [ethical] faults because his phenomenal musical [atheistic] abilities"). Perhaps we have too quickly forgotten the second phrase in Martin Luther King's dream that one day his children would not be " judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character".
My personal favorite are those who resort to pious-sounding "feel-goodism"("this is a tender time for his family, so we should only say positive things about Michael. After all, that is what Jesus would do"). Really, somehow I doubt Jesus would write a blog post praising the Moonwalk or the "programmatic masterpiece" we call 'Thriller'.
I remember one of the Father Brown stories written by Chesterton. In the story, two young men engage in a pistol duel. One is killed, and the other flees the scene--supposedly in great remorse. When the man is finally tracked down, the priest is the only one willing to decry the earlier action as murder. The 'pious feel-gooders' accuse Father Brown of mean-spirited judgmentalism, claiming we must "forgive this man for a tragic mistake he made in his youth". Later in the story it is revealed that the man who is alive is really the man everyone thought was dead. He had killed the other man in cold blood, switched identities, and ran off. As the others become enraged and demand justice, Father Brown stands ready to forgive (because the man had come to him repentant). Turning to the crowd the priest says something like, "You have to pardon me if I didn't take your earlier accusations against me with much seriousness. You see, you were willing to forgive this man when you didn't think he really did anything worth forgiving".
I wonder if this somehow relates to the approach many Evangelicals have taken regarding Jackson. They are enraged when other believers decry Jackson's ethical aberrations: pedophilia, self-indulgence, and lyrical humanism. Perhaps the reason is because they see no real problem. Certainly the pedophilia was never proven, but the self-indulgence and humanistic musical genre stand clearly evidenced. For many of these Evangelicals, Jackson was a musical hero who captivated their hearts and imaginations. Lacking any discernment, Jackson's life and music were idolized, and--like Demetrius the Ephesian idol-maker--they cannot stand to see their idol's flaws when held next to the Gospel-light.
Christians have a moral and biblical obligation bring the Gospel to bear on such situations. Yes--we must be operating within the context of gentleness and love. But,these were never meant to be displayed in the absence of truth. The Gospel, by definition, is "truth in love". In the absence of truth, God-authored love doesn't exist. Far too many have betrayed the Gospel by seeking to suppress the truth-love of Jesus' message. Instead of cherishing those whose "feet bring the Gospel of peace", they would stone them.
It makes one wonder who they are really worshipping.