Yeah, yeah. I know. This is probably old news and a stale observation to many. But something occurred to me the other day. I’ve been listening to my late brother JJ’s music collection out of curiosity and to get to know him a little better. And the songlist turned to Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits CD. It’s called “HIStory.” There’s a song on there called “Heal the World” and it’s about the power and innocence of children to bring healing to all that’s broken in the world. In other words, the innocence and love innate in children has the possibility to bring salvation.
This is not a new idea, especially in our secular post-Christian culture. Lots of people believe that babies are born innocent and are only later corrupted by the evils of their environment. Some even think that is what Jesus meant when he commanded to let the little children come to him, for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:13-15). So this doctrine that being innocent like little trusting children will usher in the kingdom of righteousness has religious and secular manifestations.
What struck me was that Michael Jackson devoted the better part of his life to lead the way to creating a utopia by adopting the demeanor, values, and innocence of children. Just reflecting on his life ambitions and music will reveal what he valued most. Some other songs besides “Heal the World” that reveal Jackson’s desire to transcend personal and society problems include “Man in the Mirror“, the “We are the World” project, “Black or White“, and perhaps “Beat It“.
In a sense, he was inadvertently set on this path by his parents when he had surgery as a child to preserve his vocal cords in their immature state. This would lend him the appearance of eternal childhood. His message of world peace, caring for children, and preserving the magic of childhood through fantasy and play struck a cord with millions of fans worldwide. Remember how immensely popular Michael Jackson became? He was adored and admired by the young and young at heart. It also didn’t hurt that his music was infectiously fun to listen and dance to. But it was the message of self-salvation that he preached that won him cult-hero status and made him what the Bible calls a false messiah.
Go back and listen to his music to see what I mean. His music stirs up certain emotions when you also listen to the lyrics. It gives you a sense of purpose and empowerment that if you just decide to make a difference, then you can do your part to save the world. Again, this is just warmed-over romanticism and sentimentality in the form of legalistic self-righteousness. But coming in the overwhelmingly attractive package and talent of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, it seems possible and doable. After all, he went from being the “Thriller“, to being “Bad“, then to “Dangerous“, and finally “Invincible“! If anyone could lead us out of world poverty and hunger, the hostility of the Cold War, and into the new age of love and peace, Michael Jackson, the Apostle of the Children could do it!
But false messiahs always fall hard. Ironically, their strength is often exposed as their weakness and is ultimately the cause of their fall from grace. In Michael Jackson’s case, his love for children was his strength and weakness. The innocent eternal youth turned out to be none of these things. Like all false prophets and messiahs, he led his followers into spiritual danger (salvation apart from Christ) and let them down by his well-documented fall. No one follows Michael Jackson anymore (at least not in droves). His disciple-fans have moved onto other false saviors. Can you identify false messiahs today?