Michael Jackson is dead in Los Angeles at age 50. He was an odd, tortured man who was often accused of having inappropriate relationships with children. It is very likely that he was a criminal who got away with some of the worst crimes our culture has to offer.
I have not come to bury Michael Jackson, however. Michael Jackson was a complete hero to me. I was 15 years old when Thriller came out. Every song was magic. He moved in ways that seemed impossible and easy.
As the last child in a family of seven hard-rocking, double-album-pot-cleaning, Uriah Heap-feeling family, I had gone through the late 70s and early 80s with the sour, defensive, and ultimately indefensible position that disco sucked.
Michael Jackson and this record changed all of that. He gave me what I needed, with a beat and a speed that satisfied me, and lyrics that went somewhere. He made me dance, and that made all the difference in high school.
As I teach CCD to 7th grade kids, we often come across the Immaculate Conception and the concept of the virgin birth of Jesus. They're dubious, as you can imagine. I tell them that sometimes it's OK to let yourself believe something, to give yourself permission to completely believe that something is true, without reservation or strict proof.
The ability to do this, as far as we can tell, is uniquely human. So believing in the Immaculate Conception, or any other concept that requires faith, is a celebration of your humanity.
I tell them we might all be wrong. I give them an example. In early November 2004, I fully believed that Senator John Kerry was going to be elected President of the United States. Apparently I was wrong.
Then I give them another example. I fully believe, with my entire heart, that Jesus Christ Himself came down from heaven in 1982 and sat next to a man named Michael Jackson while he wrote a record called Thriller. I believe this. And no one can tell me it's not true.