Just Plain Human

Michael Jackson's destruction wasn't a revealing documentary, but setting himself up as an idol to be worshiped.

BY: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach


This article first appeared on Beliefnet in February, 2003.

  • My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom
    A personal essay by Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson has endured many scandals in his career, but none like the one he is enmeshed in now. While accused of child molestation in 1993, he was never arrested, charged, indicted, or convicted. But now he has gone on international television and announced that he regularly invites children into his bed. I have seen Michael around children, including Gavin, the innocent young boy tragically stricken with cancer who was featured in the recent documentary, on countless occasions. I have no reason whatsoever to believe that he has ever abused a child. But that doesn't excuse the preposterous act of an adult inviting someone else's child into their bed, however innocently.

    Two years ago, Michael and I delivered lectures together at Carnegie Hall, Oxford University, and other places, as part of an effort to get parents to take a more active role in nurturing and raising their children. During the time that I spent in Michael's company, we spoke often of his need, after the '93 allegations especially, to preserve the highest standards of propriety with regard to children. Michael understood and agreed, which is why I was shocked and saddened by his appalling revelation. I passed along a message to Michael last week through a close mutual friend, that rather than defending the practice, or attacking the reporter Martin Bashir, which seems to be Michael's current strategy, he should admit to just how misguided he has been and immediately stop. As a marriage counselor I have been asked many times by husbands whether it was OK to share a bed with another woman, a platonic friend, when there was absolutely no possibility of sex taking place. I made my absolute revulsion for such practices clear. The same is true when it comes to children, if you are not the parent.

    Many chart the beginning of the fall of Michael Jackson to the '93 molestation accusations. I find a different starting point. It took place when Sony launched his "History" album in 1995. Accompanying the release were, unbelievably, giant statues of Michael placed in cities all over the world, including London and Prague, as well as a video depicting Michael as a gargantuan idol, complete with thousands of soldier-worshippers at his beck and call. I still remember watching this video with Michael at his Neverland Valley Ranch theater for the first time in August 2000. Michael was reliving the nostalgia of earlier music videos, but I nearly fell off my chair. Here was a man who had been a devout Jehovah's Witness, with an innate, authentic, and deep-seated spirituality, setting himself up as a god. Michael's mother Kathryn spends hours each day reading the Bible, and Michael himself very virtuously went "witnessing" for his church every single Sunday, knocking from door to door to sell the Watchtower magazine even after Thriller had made him the biggest star on the planet. Few people understand just how deeply religious Michael was, and in his own way, still is. But how could a man with such a deep attachment to G-d suddenly make himself into a deity?

    I'm not making this into a religious issue or implying that Michael's downfall came about as a result of sacrilege. Rather, what happened to Michael was that once he set himself up as an idol to be adored, it was but a short step to creating his own rules and living by his own set of laws. And if the world says that sleeping with another person's kids is wrong, then the world be damned!

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