Monday, September 28, 2009

Strange Weekend: Michael Jackson – Ken Burns – John Muir and a Motorcycle Church.

Item 1 - Michael

I certainly appreciated Michael Jackson’s talent, but I have not been who has followed the tabloids since (or before his death). I stumbled onto the interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (the friend and taper of Michael . . . and author) on Dateline Friday night. It was somewhat by accident. There wasn’t much else on the tube and I do, usually enjoy Dateline. So I sat and watched the whole thing. I could write a lot about my impressions but I just wanted to say a couple of things.

First, about Michael in general, I find it odd how those who support him (family, fans, etc.) say that he did nothing wrong. However, I’ve heard at least two Evangelical friends say, with great confidence, that certainly Michael did molest children and should only be remembered as a pervert.

The odd thing about that is that I personally could imagine a scenario where Michael was being totally honest and one where he did molest kids. But the bottom line, it is none of my business because I wasn’t there. So the real question that pops into my mind is how are Evangelicals so confident that he was guilty? I think it comes back to the pattern where I see Evangelicals always assigning the worse possible motives to things that non-Christians do, while assigning the greatest motives to their own. So the same Evangelicals, who are confident that Michael is guilty as sin, would watch an episode of Benny Hinn, shrug their shoulders and say, “Who am I to judge one of God’s children?”

Moving on with a bit more about Michael. As I listen to his very personal tapes I feel some compassion towards the man. Being a celebrity, and such a mega celebrity as he was, I think it gives one the liberty to live raw . . . making your own mores as you go (not talking at all about molesting children). So he was abused as a child, and he spent his entire adulthood trying to recreate that lost childhood.

I can relate to the desire to live in a virtual Neverland. I’ve had this conversation with my kids before. I’ve asked them (and they are all late teens or early twenties) what would be the age they would love to be . . . perpetually? If I remember right their answer was (as was mine) almost unanimously about 6 years old. The reason is, at that age, all of life is about having fun . . . allowing your imagination the freedom to recreate your universe. You have no responsibilities and someone else (namely your parents) are your great protectors.

I’ve spent many of hours meditating—trying to imagine what the new heaven and earth will be like. I’ve always believed that when God recreates my body, my new body, that it will be in the idealized form . . . say, 21 years old and having the physique of a Michelangelo David. Was my notion of the ideal based on some Greek influence? Now I’m wondering about that. Maybe the child is the ideal. Maybe God will recreate all of us children . . . here to enjoy his garden for all of eternity.

Item 2 - Ken

I love Ken Burns . . . especially his series about the Civil War. I never watched his film about baseball, simply because I’m not a baseball fan. But the Civil War is personal to me. I grew in Tennessee and in my own neighborhood still carry scars from that conflict . . .like the cannonball above the door of the old Presbyterian Church down in Greenville. Besides that, I can remember being a small boy and seeing old men sitting around the general store and them talking about their Pas or grandpas who had fought the damn Yankees. The most moving part of that movie, in my humble opinion, was the reading of the letter from the Yankee solider Sullivan Ballou. The words are below but I will also try to embed the link to the video the Burns film.

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861

Item 3 - John

Because of my admiration of Ken Burns, I was greatly looking forward to his new series about the National Parks. I oddly caught the last hour earlier on Sunday afternoon and then the first hour later that night. Most of that first episode was focused on John Muir. I thought I knew the man . . . but I really didn’t. As the founder of the Serra Club and the father of our National Park movement, he has always been held up the bigger-than-life architech of the environmental movement. It is interesting that in recent decades the Serra Club has been viewed by through the eyes of the Evangelical Church as part of the “left wing, anti-Christian, evolutionists, tree-hugging ” establishment. But Ken Burns showed me a side of John that I never knew . . . is devotion to Christ. He was the son of a strict (probably abusive) Presbyterian pastor. He had memorized most the Bible by his early teens. Throughout his life, he saw the grandeur of the created world as the handiwork of the almighty. I now want to go back and explore his writings and I want to know the man’s heart . . . who knew how to love this earth, God’s earth, in ways that I could never imagine.

Item 4 - Motorcycle Church

Ken Burns second episode just came on so I have to go and watch it . . . I will finish this later, but I will mention that I went to a Harley church this Sunday. It's a long story that will have to wait.


NOTAL said...

Sullivan Ballou's letter was hard to listen to. War is such an awful thing. Just think, there were 620,000 other Sullivan Ballous who died fighting for what they thought was right in the War Between the States.
There have too many pointless wars throughout history, too many Sullivan Ballou's killed in the prime of their lives, and to many Sarah's left behind.

MJ said...

I of course agree. Sometimes we humans create these glorious narratives to justify the insanity but rarely is it so simple as bad guys fighting good guys and doing it for God's will.

I think of all that Civil War destruction and death . . . and for what?

MJ said...

I have to add that Sullivan's letter is one of the most beautiful and yet ugliest (saddest?) things I've ever read.