This past week, an unlikely coincidence occurred with my teaching. A coincidence that left me wondering…is there really any such thing as true coincidence? It just so happened that on the same two days that I was preparing my English 102 classes for my usual presentation on symbolism in the Black or White video, I was also covering The New Testament and the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in World Lit. I certainly had not put any forethought into this when I planned my respective syllabi for those two courses! Yet here I was, realizing that at the same time I was prepping to teach two sections of 102 that would center around Michael Jackson and his message to the world on racial harmony (or the lack thereof, more aptly) I was also preparing another class to talk about Jesus. Yet somehow, going from Michael Jackson at 9:00am on a Wednesday morning, to Jesus at 10am, did not seem that jarring of a shift. Understand, mind you, I am not saying they are one and the same. Nor am I one of those zealous fans who is always trying to put Michael on the same pedestal as Jesus-or God, for that matter.
But as many have aptly pointed out, the parallels in their lives are certainly striking! The more cyncial can say what they want. But what can’t be denied is that both came from humble beginnings, rose to become too powerful and too feared, and were persecuted for daring to speak truths that the masses were not yet ready to hear. Perhaps one could even argue that they were both, in a sense, crucified.
I wanted to share with you some things that especially stood out to me as I was reviewing those excerpts from The Gospels that are included in our class text. I think you will agree with me why it might have given me more than a few goosebumps to go from “Don’t tell me you agree with me/when I saw you kicking dirt in my eye” to The Sermon on the Mount, all within a matter of minutes. “The Beatitudes” in particular-that section of The Sermon in which Jesus reminded his followers who would be the blessed ones, and why, seem to have especial relevance when we compare them to everything we know about Michael’s life and how it was lived.
From Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7:
Blessed are the pure in heart, because they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, because they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for their righteousness, because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are you when they shall revile you and persecute you and and speak every evil thing of you, lying, because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because your reward in heaven is great; for thus did they persecute the prophets before you.
From The Tenets of Discipleship:
Do not judge, so you may not be judged. You shall be judged by that judgement for which you judge, and your measure will be made by that measure for which you measure. Why do you look at the straw which is in the eye of your brother, and not see the log which is in your eye? Or how will you say to your brother: Let me take the straw out of your eye, and behold, the log is in your eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye, and then you will see to take the straw out of the eye of your brother. Do not give what is sacred to the dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and rend you. (This last reminds me of the public scorn and mockery that followed so many of Michael’s most sincere and heartfelt public statements regarding children and the state of our planet, or how many of his more politically important and profound songs were scorned by critics who only wanted him to remain a happy song-and-dance man for us!).
Jesus made a conscious choice to teach in parables, just as Michael used the medium of music to get his messages across. When Jesus was asked by his disciples why he taught in parables, this was his response:
Lastly, consider this account from Matthew 27-28 of how the high priests conspired to cover the truth of the Resurrection, and to convince the masses that Jesus’s body had disappeared as a result of simple thievery, rather than the fulfillment of divine prophecy. This excerpt picks up with the disciples having been instructed to go forth and spread the news in the city:
“And as they went on their way, behold, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the high priests all that had happened. And they met with the elders, and took counsel together, and gave the soldiers a quantity of money, saying: Say that the disciples came in the night and stole him away while we were sleeping. And if this is heard in the house of the governor, we shall reason with him, and make it so that you have nothing to fear. And they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this is the story that has been spread out among the Jews, to this day.”
Does this not sound eerily like the same way the mass media operates today? Does this not bear at least some resemblance to exactly what Michael was telling us, over and over, in songs like Money and Tabloid Junkie? A truth must, by all means, be suppressed, out of fear. In its place a lie is given, to keep the truth suppressed. Money exchanges hands, all for the purpose of perpetuating the lie. Money continues to exchange hands. The lie is picked up, passed on-and believed.
One might ask: What was it that the high priests feared? It is a simple answer. They feared that if the truth of the Resurrection was known, they would have to admit they were wrong. And in admitting they were wrong, they would lose control and power. There would be no stopping The Believers-and no stopping of Jesus’s influence.
I can’t help that this reminds me more than a bit of all the recent controversy over the Sullivan book, and how the media has rushed to embrace its perpetuation of the MJ caricature. In fact, it reminds me far too much of how the media has handled most everything when it comes to Michael.
Several weeks ago, I had a strange dream. I dreamed that I heard on the news that Michael had died. I remembered thinking, in my dream, how hard it was going to be to have to log into Allforloveblog and write a post on the death of Michael Jackson. It would be the hardest post I would ever have to write! I even recalled seeing the date on the calendar, plain as day: February 13th (oddly enough, Prince’s birthday, though I did not make that connection in my dream). I remembered how I marked that date in my dream, as the day Michael Jackson died.
When I awoke, I continued pondering about the strange dream. The irony is that Michael has been “dead” ever since I’ve been writing this blog! Perhaps in my subconscious, this stemmed from the fact that writing about him on this blog keeps him very much alive for me. But in the world of my dream, it was as if I had always been writing about him as a living figure-as if June 25th, 2009 had never occurred.
So what did my dream mean by his “death” occurring on February 13th, 2013?
Again, I had cold chills as I realized this was the first date for which I was scheduled to teach the Black or White video to my class! What could it mean?
I continued to wonder. But as February 13th came and went without incident-and as I found myself teaching a class of very eager and engaged students (attendance was overflowing that day!)- I realized that dreams sometimes mean the mirror opposite of what we think they mean. For example, a dream of going to a wedding may mean you will end up attending a funeral, or vice versa. A dream about death can often signify a dream about birth-if you believe in that sort of thing, of course.
Michael Jackson certainly didn’t “die” again on February 13th. At least not in body. But maybe, in some way I have yet to comprehend, he may have risen again.
I like to think so, anyway.
For sure, to bring this full circle, it certainly did not feel odd that day to shift gears from MJ to JC. In fact, it did not feel like any gears shifted at all, but more like coasting in “drive.”
I am coming to believe, more strongly than ever, that nothing happens by coincidence.
In fact, I have begun to question if “coincidence” is a concept that exists at all.