"Was Michael Jackson A Christian?" (why do you want to know?)

Amazing.  I read some articles on Friday about how Michael Jackson's untimely death nearly "broke the internet."  Sites all over the web were freezing and shutting down due to the enormous increase in web traffic.  It never occurred to me that I might be the recipient of some of that excess traffic.  Apparently, after writing a brief reflection on Jackson's death, and the impact of his music, I was able to ride the wave.  My daily blog traffic literally went up 500% on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And what do you think brought them here?  Apparently, a lot of folks are very concerned about the destination of Michael Jackson's soul...

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Do you spend a lot of time wondering about the "eternal destination" of friends, family, and celebrities?  I must admit, I used to.  But I spent some time in high school worrying if I'd ever get the chance to encounter Tupac's eternal soul, face-to-face...

I don't worry so much any more.  I think (although I haven't developed, chosen, or been totally convinced of a definitive soteriology)  that a "good God," a "loving God," and - yes - even a "JUST God" would desire to save whatever is worth saving.  Whatever is good, whatever is true, noble, pure, holy, gentle, just, beautiful, faithful, innocent, and so on...  and that belief doesn't even begin to venture into the territory of hell.  I'm not interested in that right now.

Here's my deal: I don't think God lovingly created something with the full understanding that in doing so, it would precipitate the moral failure and ultimate damnation of 99% (or whatever) of it.  That doesn't mean I don't think God would create something capable of evil, sorrow and failure.  I think that happened.  But I don't think God set us up to burn, so to speak.

So I think, perhaps (I'm venturing into C.S. Lewis Great Divorce territory here) that whatever was good and true and beautiful in Michael Jackson has been saved.  I think the same thing about my grandfather.  And Tupac.  And King David and Paul the Loudmouth.  The nasty parts don't find there way into redemption, but the goodness does.  I realize that's convenient for my own personal understanding of justice.  But aren't we created in the image of God?  And don't most people (without systematic theology to cloud their instincts) have an inherent understanding of goodness, grace, and parental love?  

Yes, yes, some sort of theological underpinnings will have to follow... meanwhile, if you came here searching for Michael Jackson... um... I write about him all the time!!  And I have secret information about him!  And you should keep coming back to learn more about the truth of Michael Jackson, hidden (in code) in the text of this blog!!


Anonymous said...

lies. I read the code of your blog. There's no secrets about Michael Jackson anywhere. I totally wasted 5 minutes.

Please wriet moar about MJ.

-Patrick M (yes, that one, not the other one.)

Joan Ball said...

Hi Peter: As usual, you pose a question that stopped me. "Don't most people (without systematic theology to cloud their instincts) have an inherent understanding of goodness, grace, and parental love?"

Not sure I believe that most people have an instinctual understanding of goodness, grace and parental love (and it has nothing to do with systematic theology since, while people mention this all the time, I have no idea what it is.)

Al said...

Sorry, man, I'm just not all that anxious to read about MJ.
On the other hand, your theological contemplations always catch my attention!
I must admit, my mind & heart are meandering through similar territory. As I reread your post, your comment of "Whatever is good,....innocent..." kind of caught me up short. Even the strictest fundamentalist evangelical (I think) tends to believe that if a child dies before they are old enough to understand and 'say the sinners prayer' they will still make it to heaven.
Sooooo... We understand God's goodness and justice to supersede what we might say is the 'basic requirement'.
And we also toss around the possibility of God's grace being large enough to grant eternal bliss to people from the depths of Africa, for instance, even if they have never heard of Jesus.
Soooo... Even good old fundamentalist evangelicalism doesn't completely keep within its own rules.
Thanks for bringing up some deep stuff, worthy of further thought and deliberation. (And don't bother hiding anymore exposes of MJ--I won't be looking for them!)

Peter said...

Patrick, this post was a test. Of nerdity. You failed.

Joan, I agree people are a general mess, and rarely DO "right" with any consistency. But I still find that most people I run into do have a pretty strong understanding of what kindness and goodness actually look like.

Living it is another story.

Joan, tell me more about your thoughts. I think my background raised me with a concept of "total depravity" and "original sin" without ever actually formally introducing me to those concepts.

Are humans really evil? Really inherently bad? Or do we - in general - tend to gravitate toward a goodness that whispers with loving familiarity in the back of our minds? In the depths of our hearts?

Are we basically good, or basically evil?

Anne Frank believed, in the midst of Nazi Germany, that people were basically good.

I choose to afford that same risk.

Al, I think you're ABSOLUTELY right. We ALL make "exceptions" to make room for the goodness we feel in our hearts... unless our theology actually has ROOM for such goodness. That's what this blog is all about, I think. There is something good. It whispers in my heart. It says, "I love you. I am with you. Do not be afraid..." that goodness doesn't just resonate with me because I am a Christian. It resonates with the DNA of my being - with my humanity.

CaptainMcCrank said...

So wait- did I fail to demonstrate that I'm a nerd, or did I fail to find the code.

Put another way, do I in fact win when I fail?

Anonymous said...

Wow. You are an M.Div student? What on earth do you study? The Bible? Why study it if you think it is false? The Biblic is clear, most people end up in hell. We don't get broke apart with our bad parts going to hell and the good to heaven. That is your imagination, not what God has taught in his word. Now, our hearts should break for those lost and we should do all to witness to them, but making up a system that does not exist and is not backed by the Bible is a very sad attempt to reconstruct the world as you would want it. I really feel sorry for you. You won't submit to how it is and make a dream world that doesn't exist. Sad.

Matthew 7
13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Peter said...

I can think of some other things that are sad, too...

Anonymous said...

Do your thoughts drift to anything as sad as delusion? For instance, somebody who simply tries to imagine a world where his or her gut feeling is the judge or prime reallity apart from what God has revealed?

You glorify the notion that you finally got to a point in your life that disagree with the Bible. You celebrate the notion that you now opposse what God revealed. Then you try to dish out scripture in ways that back your points. Why can't I simply disagree that I should love my enemy if you get to disagree that those who pursue lives of sin (2 Pac) get to go to heaven when the Bible claims they don't? You want to cherry pick what you want to believe and then mandate we trust our gut feelings for authority. And you really can't see the inconsistent notions you put forth in the midst of all this. But, I guess in a postmodern worldview you don't really have to worry about those little contradictions.

You want it both ways and that is truly, deeply, sad delusion.

Peter said...

I do understand your criticism, Anonymous, and I respect where you're coming from.

I honestly don't feel like I'm "glorifying" the path I'm on, but I do get excited about it sometimes. I don't disagree with the Bible, either, because the Bible doesn't present one single cogent message except that God is real and good. The Israelite and Jewish understanding(s) of God evolved so much over the course of 6,000+ years. I think we're still learning more and more about who God is. And we are (I am...) going to misread and get it wrong just as much as we get it right. Or maybe much more (in my case).

I do hope we can come to some common respect, Anonymous. You seem angry, but text can give the wrong impression at times. For example, I'm not quite as arrogant as I generally appear. And even when I'm complaining, I don't feel angry - but several good friends have called me on it anyway, which I appreciate.

Good luck to you in your faith journey.

Peter said...

I think I owe a caveat here: I am not entirely sure that the Bible DOES present a "consistent" message of God's goodness. There are exceptions in the narrative. But I observe that the Biblical evidence for God's goodness outweighs the evidence against it. And that is nearly consistent with my personal experience: I have found God to be entirely good, in my life and in the world I perceive.


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