Michael Jackson…Pop theologian?

Anthea Butler makes the case at ReligionDispatches:

We loved the music, but the trash sold much more. Yet, for all of the crass tabloid fodder, Michael was his best when singing these hopeful songs that called listeners to become better human beings. He most certainly reached more people than the average religious figure, and his songs had an effect on an entire generation weaned on MTV. His own religious journey, from his childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness, to a foray into the Nation of Islam, to finally professing Shahada to become a Muslim shows an interior struggle, despite all of the fame, to find the peace he so often sang about. In all of the accolades and obituaries to come, Jackson will never be called a theologian, though he was one. A Pop theologian, to be sure, but a theologian nonetheless. Struggling with his humanity, half man, half child, he danced as much to entertain I suspect, as to take away his pain. In the dance, he became transcendent, divine. And in the end, it was the very body that he used to beguile millions that failed him.


Butler is a historian of American and African American Religion in residence at Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program. Her argument is well done, I think, but also overdone on that point–or too much so for me. And I doubt the Jehovah’s Witnesses would go for the “becoming divine” part. Nor would Muslims, for that matter.

Yet Butler’s piece is very beautiful, especially the lead, in which she pulls together the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Jackson, with Ed McMahon as the obligatory third of the celebrity death trinity:

The ’70s died for me on Thursday, June 25, 2009. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, both icons, died on the same day. Entertainment folklore has it that stars die in threes; so adding in Ed McMahon’s death earlier this week truly means the ’70s are dead and gone.

MJ & FF.jpg

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment

posted June 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

I hope that in Mr. Jacksons last few minutes he had time to repent. I would most certainly hope that each and every one of us have that chance.When it comes down to it ,although talented Michel was a man just like you and I,and all the music, money and fame is meaningless now. I would like to think that he will not be missed, every time his music is heard he will come back to life.We shopuldn’t spend so much time mourning the loss of this life ,when we have so much more to look forward to in the next.

report abuse


posted June 28, 2009 at 4:01 am

Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowshipped Michael Jackson after they instilled their Watchtower apocalyptic phobias.
Rest in Peace Michael Jackson,many of MJ’s dysfunctions arose from the conflict of his repressed Jehovah’s Witnesses belief system and the life of a rock star.
FACTS-Google *Jehovah Witness Watchtower * for a million pages that expose their cult-like harmful practices.
70-80% of all kids raised in this cult LEAVE becase it is so abusive

report abuse


posted June 29, 2009 at 11:17 am

M.J., an evil spirit with demonic energies.
good-bye to that guy forever.
may the memory of him begin to fade.
he has gone to where he belongs.
Christ Victor, Christ Ruler, Christ Commander
and King Father God of the Eternal Ages to come.
To Him Alone be given glory, forever and ever. Amen.
“out the mouths of infants,
You have found perfect praise
to foil Your enemies.”

report abuse


posted June 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Those who claim to know a person’s eternal destination may be surprised to find themselves in the same place.
You know NOTHING Algae. God have mercy on your soul.

report abuse


posted June 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I beleive we tend to over-look the gifts that God gives to us in the form of other people’s talents until the gift has been taken from us. I belive Micheal Jackson was one of those gifts, seeing that he brought so much joy to our hearts and many positive messages to our ears and minds.
RIP Michael, you will always be loved the world over.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.