Friday, July 24, 2009

Why we grieve when an icon dies

The media storm over the King of Pop's death is still raging.
Who was responsible?
Was there foul play?
Where is his body?

Just watch the news. A news cycle doesn't pass without him making the news (and boosting record sales).

Some people have taken it hard. They had a personal attachment to Michael and feel a genuine sense of loss. I didn't have that connection--though I'll admit to trying to moonwalk more than once, no dice--but I've known the feeling. I felt palpable grief when Mother Theresa and Princess Diana died in the same short time frame. My connection: Mother Theresa--one my heroes, Princess Di--long before 24 hour TV, I stayed up until 3am as a 7 or 8 year old and watched her wedding.

So why do we feel this way? We don't know these people. We have no one-on-one connection with them, and still we mourn.

Here's my stab at it
When an icon dies, we mourn because that person's art/life created something in us. Their art created beauty for us, and beauty indelibly becomes part of our soul. This is, I think, how God intended it. We live and die by beauty. So when the person who brought us beauty dies, we go through a small identity crisis. Who am I without this person who gave me so much? I'm pretty sure there's a thick layer of sentiment tied to that, but generally speaking, that rings true.

So where is Michael now?
Aside from my own conspiracy theory that this is a ploy to get Michael out of the limelight and boost record sales to generate income, the question remains for many Christians: is Michael Jackson in heaven? To many, Michael is suffering the due recompense for his (according to them) wanton and flagrantly immoral life. He is burning in H-E-double hockey stick.

He was certainly insecure (why else the numerous face changes?).
He was immature--but I also don't know what forces shape the soul when you have a driven father pushing you onto an international stage from your earliest memory.

Michael is responsible for the person he became, to be sure. But God alone knows what a person must overcome to be who they were meant to be. And what's more, the Gospel means that we are all finally judged in light of Jesus, not our accomplishments and/or dysfunction.

As Dallas Willard says it (and I paraphrase):

God will let everyone into his heaven everyone who, in his considered opinion, can stand it.

What do you think?

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