Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Idolatry never changes

Jackson’s service was an representation of pluralism. Everybody involved wanted to invoke God’s name as you’re supposed to do when remembering a loved one Unfortunately, most of them invoked a god made in their own image. Even those who spoke of Jesus or who prayed to Jesus did so without any clear reference to the Jesus of the Bible. They spoke of a Jesus who accepts all, even those who had rejected him. I don't know that Michael Jackson ever gave any evidence of putting his faith in Jesus Christ, yet those who watched were assured, over and over, that he was now safe in the presence of the Lord, waiting there for the rest of us. Words and phrases invoked God and used Christian talk without any reference to the gospel, the true gospel, the gospel that saves. Lost men declared to other lost men untruths about the god they wish for, not the God who is.

During the singing of the song We Are the World, those who watched saw religious symbols from all faiths across a video screen. All faiths are the same, don’t you know? Why dwell on such small distinctions? God is whoever you want him (or her or it) to be. We are the world. Heck, we are even god.

Of course his brothers and sisters and daughter were distraught and that's normal, but so too were many of the fans who so loved him. I read a report a radio interview with a woman from Toronto who attended a screening of the service. She told how when she heard of Jackson’s death she collapsed and was inconsolable, at least until she could go to a tattoo parlor and have “Gone too soon” tattooed onto her body; that was the beginning of the healing process. She had brought her young son to the memorial service so he could see his mother’s love for this man she so venerated. Maybe that's an extreme example, but I believe there are many more similar. All across North America, all across the world, there are similar stories of worship. Can we call it anything other than worship? I don’t think this is too strong a word. For many people, Jackson was a god; for many people celebrity is idolatry.

Yesterday we saw idolatry of a whole different order than what is discussed in the Old and New Testaments. Idolatry that really is no different than it ever has been. There are some who, in their idolatry, bow low before gods of wood and stone and burnished bronze. There are others who, in their idolatry, live vicariously through celebrities and who bow low before the spirit of the age. Michael Jackson’s funeral, where God’s name was invoked and where Jesus’ name was supposedly held high, was as vivid an expression of idolatry as is the footage Indian Hindus dancing with joy and veneration before their statues. One is a base, simplistic idolatry, the other is more sophisticated. Both are the same ancient sin, the same ancient rebellion against the one true God.

I couldn't fault anyone for buying an album of his, or liking some of his music as he was very talented in dancing and singing. I too have music that I enjoy. Nonetheless, the worship ascribed to him, or any celebrity is a sad part of the culture in which we live.

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