Saturday, July 04, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: Celebrity Worship; Call to Prayer for Military

The celebrity worship of Michael Jackson alledgedly led to the death of at least 12 Jackson "followers"

Baptist Press (BP) weekly columnist Kelly Boggs got a bit philosophical this week as he took a look at celebrity worship.

With the recent death of Michael Jackson and Boggs' note that 12 Jackson fans, as of July 2, had reportedly committed suicide over the death of a pop music star they likely, never met, Boggs may have a righteous point.

Boggs credited 17th century writer Blaise Pascal to make his case that people are filling a natural void meant to be filled by God with something other than God. Pascal said, "Inside of every man there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill," wrote Boggs. "...if God is not filling an individual's spiritual vacuum, the individual will seek to fill it with something or someone else," and Boggs believes celebrity worship has reached religious proportions.

"I am of the opinion that entertainment, as a whole, has achieved religion status. And, like the Greek pantheon of old, entertainers are the gods who are worshiped," he wrote.

It is a sad testiment, to be sure.

12 people were so devastated by the death of Jackson that they felt they could not continue in life without him.

12 people reportedly committed suicide over his death.

12 people who, if they had had their faith vested where it belonged in the first place, would have been more inclined to draw strength from the One they worshiped, rather than devastation and loss of hope.

What madness.

Boggs, then, drew parallels between religion and celebrity worship, in the end reminding us all that the God shaped void in our hearts is meant to be filled by Jesus Christ.

We'll always, ALWAYS, be disappointed by people but, if we spend the appropriate time getting to know and love the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed. Remember, "Love never fails," 1 Corinthians 13:8a, and there is no greater love than the love that God has for human kind.

Fourth of July fireworks can set off memories of war; Call to prayer for our military

Iraq Military Commander Chris Plekenpol lamented, "Fireworks remind me of an arcing transformer sending electric ash to the ground. The next thought is that of an Iraqi male about 40 years old running and screaming in Arabic, carrying a little girl who is bleeding profusely." ...Read more

And, as is always appropriate, Sara Horn, the wife of a Navy reservist and founder of Wives of Faith, a faith-based military wives support organization, called for us to pray for the military this summer.

Horn reported on a conversation she had with Army Chaplain Jim Murphy who was stationed just south of Baghdad.

"We could tell a difference when the people back home were praying for us and when they weren't," Chaplain Murphy told us. "It was like night and day."Besides the scorching temperatures, summer also brought many reports of death, when conditions were the worst and morale was the lowest. But, Chaplain Murphy said, "When people started praying for us again toward the end of August, that's when things started turning around."

Horn asked that people visit to purchase a bracelet with a service member's name on it or to register a name for prayer. The Web site is a ministry of Del Rio, Texas' Northside Baptist Church.

Operation M'Brace's mission "is to bring every member of the United States Military under the intercessory prayer of concerned Christians."

To read Horn's column, recommended, click here.



Anonymous said...

Well, Jackie, your observation and reflection upon the poor souls who allegedly committed suicide as a result of Jacko's untimely demise is interesting. Would you care to speculate on the possible number of people who have committed the same act as the direct result of the ultimate despair of the realization that God has abandonned them?

I wonder how many people have taken their own lives because, no matter how devoted to God they may have been, they believed their lives were devoid of any true spiritual revelation. Is it, perhaps, possible that some of these people actually did experience some sort of uplifting spiritual ecstasy by listening to Michael Jackson?

If that is the case, could it be argued that Michael Jackson, in some inexplicable way, helped certain people realize their spiritual connection with God? Is it possible that Michael Jackson could have inspired such people to lift their face and voice to God in spiritual rejoice?

If that is the case, is it possible that the death of such an influential source of joy and spirit could have devastated them to the point that they no longer believe life was worth living? Personally, I believe that it is misguided to place such faith in anybody or anything.

Living your life according to Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu or Buddhist principles is admirable and can be a source of genuine fulfillment and gratification. To precariously base your entire existence upon such a belief system is misguided, however. Blind faith in any entity is one of the most travelled roads to disillusionment and disappointment. Faith must be tempered by common sense.

Some things just don't have anything to do with your spiritual beliefs. In some instances, you have to be able to say, "It is what it is." If you want to be fundamentally Christian about it, then God is the final judge of everything and it is not the place of Mr. Boggs, the Baptist Press, you, or myself to pass judgment on anyone for any of their actions. Unfortunately, that would result in total anarchy and something akin to "Hell on Earth."

Isn't it simply sufficient to say of these poor souls, "What a tragedy for their families and loved ones," rather than to postulate on the out-dated speculations of an 17th-century philosopher and the spiritual vaccuum created by the iconization of popular entertainers? Such a postulation leads me to believe that the person proposing it is one of those people who has to blame something or someone for the all-to-common personal tragedies that occur everyday.

Seeking to place such blame is misguided and trivializes the actual events of human existence by over-intellectualizing them.


Jackie Melton said...


I'll be giving your response some real thought before replying to it.

Jackie Melton said...


You asked if I would like to speculate on the number of people who have committed suicide as "the direct result of the ultimate despair of the realization that God has abandoned them."

While I don't disagree there are people in the world who feel God has abandoned them and am not unsympathetic to their feelings, I don't believe God abandons those who have accepted Christ as the Lord of their lives and seek to live in Him, Stu.

In my entry, I wrote: "if we spend the appropriate time getting to know and love the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed," you may think those are meaningless words or platitudes with no foundation but, I meant something when I wrote them and they are based on my own belief.

I'd refer you to a parable in the Bible as a response to your many (sometimes pejorative) questions, see Matthew 13:18-23.

You see, God (or Christ) does not promise an easy life to those who follow Him. Bad things happen to good people, whether Christian or non-Christian (sometimes, maybe even more often, bad things happen to Christians than non-Christians and there is a God ordained purpose for that, too).

Clearly, people who commit suicide suffer and some of them may blame God for their suffering, as though if God really loved them He would protect them from every bad thing. Some of their survivors may also blame God for the loss of their loved one. Unfortunately, God does not always protect His people from bad things and disappointment, and certainly, God COULD protect us all from bad things if He chose to but, let me ask you, how often do you learn lessons about life through ease and plenty? The deepest lessons I have learned about life, I've learned through pain, through suffering. In fact, the patience I have, the empathy and compassion I have for others are all as a result of not getting what I want when I want it and suffering in my own right.

God promises to never leave or forsake us, not to keep us free from pain and suffering altogether. Sometimes, I can't feel His presence as strong as I can feel it at other times but, that doesn't mean He is not there. I put faith in the promises of God.

What I meant when I wrote, "if we spend the appropriate time getting to know and love the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed," is that, because we know He will never leave or forsake us, because He promises to walk with us through pain and disappointment we can have hope in the most terrible of times and that hope, if we take the time to read His Word and understand the hope we have in Him, can give us that reason to live.

I have no doubt that Michael Jackson, in some way, filled a void in these people's hearts but, what hope did Jackson give them? What assurance?

I don't know all about God. Not even the Pastor of my church claims to know everything there is to know about God, Stu. Even this morning he said as much but, I believe when God makes a promise, God will keep that promise.

I have faith in God and His promises because I chose to have faith in God and His promises. We all have that choice. It's up to each of us to make it.

I believe those who choose Christ and then "spend the appropriate time getting to know and love the Savior, Jesus Christ" will not be disappointed but, not all those who profess to be Christians spend that time reading the Bible and building a relationship with God. Their roots do not run deep and they wither. Is it God's fault they were unwilling to invest the time to learn of His promises and build the faith which gives hope?

Life's all about choices, isn't it? Whether Christian or not, we all have them, we all make them. Some of them are good, some bad. Some of them gain us good results and blessings, some of them gain us grief, pain and hardship. God doesn't force anyone to make a particular choice but, by not chosing, sometimes we have chosen poorly, by not acting, sometimes we have acted unwisely.

So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. :)

Stu Solomon said...

Well, then we can all rest assured that Michael Jackson is with God. Through all his trials, tribulations, public scrutiny, false accusations and ultimate acuittals in the halls of justice, Michael Jackson fervently remained devout to God and his belief did not falter.

Perhaps Jackson was the victim of his own blind faith in the people he surrounded himself with, as well. All I can say is that the world did indeed lose a very talented and generous person with the death of Michael Jackson. No single individual has ever made the financial contribution to charitable organizations as Jackson did. Even though he was in dire financial trouble personally, his charity and generosity to those less fortunate than himself cannot be disputed.

I admire you for your faith, Jackie. I believe it was wrong of Boggs to castigate people who committed the ultimate act of despair. If we follow Boggs' own train of thought, and your own by extension, then the people who committed suicide following Michael Jackson's death did so because they had, at some time, despaired in God and his love for them. It may be false idolatry or whatever biblical or theological term you care to attach to it, but, when it's all done and over, these people despaired in God and, in their despair, sought to replace God and his love with something or someone else. The fact that it was Michael Jackson in these immediate instances, is simply a manifestation of their own despair in God. It does not make them reprehensible, but should rather stir our compassion and pity.

At any rate, I do think that on some level, Boggs's commentary on the suicide victims who idolized Jackson was a back-handed way to cast aspersion on Jackson without actually saying anything ill of the dead. It may have been timely, but I question the true motive. I maintain that these people should be mourned, regardless of whether or not they despaired in God and attempted desperately to replace him with a pop icon or if they were simply emotionally unstable people with an unhealthy fixation on a pop icon.

Jackie Melton said...


You can assign whatever motives you want to other people, that's your peroggative, and I don't say that to be snip about it, that's just the truth.

One thing I learned as I had two years of *on the job training* at the Community Free Press, is that even the simplest of questions should be asked because, often, what would seem to make perfect common sense in my own mind when assigning motives to others, just simply isn't usually the case when you actually ASK the individual what his or her motives were for an action they took. So, that said, I wouldn't dream of assigning a motive to Boggs without actually questioning him. personally, just as I wouldn't want others to assign motives to me without asking me, personally, why I took an action, said what I said, wrote what I wrote, etc.

Further, I don't believe anyone suggested that those who committed suicide as a result of Jackson's death should not be mourned. "To everything there is a season."

You're comments are welcome. Thank you for the discussion.