Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Reflective Lives of Michael Jackson and Mohammed Ali :Part 1-The Spiritual Evolution of MJ

The well loved Muhammad Ali made his transition,last week, and the tributes to him are endless. Much like it was, ans still is for MJ. As I watched the stories of Muhammad Ali's life, I kept thinking about Michael  What I noticed is how much alike the paths of Michael and Muhammad were. They are reflective of each other in Identity, choice of worship, political outlook, humanitarian efforts...and I suspect much more. So, starting with Michael, let's have a look at how they approached spirituality.  They each evolved, and did so fearlessly.

The matter of fear is important because often Christians are led to believe that if they do anything that does not agree with Christian fundamentalism they are in a cult and they will go to hell. There is really a lot of fear that can take place in changing faiths.  Michael however, was actually raised in the spirit of change regarding how to worship, and may not have been subjected to such fears. Michael's mother, Katherine, at some point decided to "make that change" for reasons of her own.  Possibly, it was the matter of fundamentalism, which is far to immense to be discussed here. Baptists, are often Christian fundamentalists however.

In the late 1950s, Katherine Jackson began working part-time as a store clerk in a local Sears in Gary. In 1963, Katherine, who was raised a Baptist, joined the Jehovah's Witness faith. After her conversion in 1965, all of her children followed her into the faith. While Joe, who was brought up in the Lutheran faith, also practiced the religion, it was often said he decided not to convert.

"The most important aspect of Christianity for the enslaved was the promise of heaven — a promise made by plantation owners. This idea preached the notion that for all the suffering that is done in the physical world, your soul will be preserved and you will experience a hardship-free spiritual life, according to Slave Resistance, A Caribbean Study. What this did for enslaved Black people was give them hope for the future. Converted enslaved people’s belief in heaven allowed some to passively resist their plantation owners and focus on the afterlife. With that belief, all of the beatings and lashings meant nothing because in heaven the enslaved person would be rewarded and the master would be punished."

At some point, this was not applicable to Michael. He later in life, makes it unquestionably clear that we do not have to die to go to heaven, His beautiful writing "Heaven is Here"  shows a decided change from fundamentalism.Fundamentalist's teach that we must die to see heaven. Of course, we all want to be in heaven, but none of us wants to die.  

People change their spiritual paths for various reasons. Perhaps Michael's worship practice's changed because of how confining it was to be a Witness. Michael was loved and was the Beloved of the entire world. So it was needful for him to see God in a more universal way.Michael believed that we are one, the Witnesses  did not agree. Heaven had limitations, and although Michael loved being a Witness, it conflicted with what  he believed God had gifted him to be, That meaning, it was in direct contradiction to his calling from God. As with any religion, there is speculation what is believed and why. Its my personal thought that it has much to do with unity/divisiveness as well as how God is revealed in ones life. That is not something that has been written in stone, it's only my belief. Consider the question and answer below. And how it might have affected Michael.
"I was told by a Jehovah's Witness that only 144,000 people enter heaven and that the rest will either live forever on earth or be annihilated. He quoted Revelation 14:1–3 and Psalm 39:10 to prove his point."
 "There are actually three issues to address here. The first is the number of people in heaven. In Revelation 7 and 14, we are told about a group of 144,000 people that will always be with the Lamb. If we take these descriptions of this group literally they would be only Jewish male virgins. This would mean means that Peter (not a virgin), the Blessed Mother (not a male), and Jehovah’s Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russel (not a Jew) would not be in heaven."

It should be clear, Michael loved being a Witness. It was just that he ultimately transcended the religion. He held on to being a Witness for as long as his soul would allow. In his writing "My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom. You can see his love of being a Witness, and also being spiritually lifted by having the freedom to develop the gift God gave him just to be thankful. This is perhaps the beginning of a conflict, and ultimately change.

"Sundays were my day for "Pioneering," the term used for the missionary work that Jehovah's Witnesses do. We would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern California, going door to door or making the rounds of a shopping mall, distributing our Watchtower magazine. I continued my pioneering work for years and years after my career had been launched.
'Sundays were sacred for two other reasons as I was growing up. They were both the day that I attended church and the day that I spent rehearsing my hardest. This may seem against the idea of "rest on the Sabbath," but it was the most sacred way I could spend my time: developing the talents that God gave me. The best way I can imagine to show my thanks is to make the very most of the gift that God gave me".

"Michael’s family was famously religious - they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and Michael occasionally disguised himself to join his fellow believers as they went from house to house, inviting people to think about God. As a grown man, he has moved beyond denominations of faith - his concern is not with religion but with spirituality. This gives him strength, but I think it is the joy he takes in life which keeps renewing his vitality - that, and a second factor which I shall describe in a moment."
Uri Geller, magician

It came to be at some point, that Michael was actually traumatized by the decisions he had to make, Should he follow his calling or follow his religion?. He really loved them both, but had not yet come to understand that there is a distinct difference between religion and spirituality.There was an actual conflict that led to his change, or spiritual evolution. Schmuley interviewed him regarding the effects of his religion on his art,

The Interview:
Schmuley Boteach: Do you think a hatred of pride is still a relic of your religious upbringing?
Michael Jackson: It hurt me a lot and it helped me a lot.

SB: How did it hurt you?
MJ:r... (long silence) When I did certain things in the past that I didn´t realized were against the religion and I was deprimanded for it, it almost destroyed me. Certain things that I did as an artist in my music I didn´t realized I was crossing a line with them and when they chastised me, it really hurt me. It almost destroyed me. My mother saw it.

SB: Their disapproval, their rejection?
MJ: When I did the Moonwalk for the first time, Motown 25, they told me that I doing burlesque dancing and it was dirty and I went for months and they said, "You can never dance like that again." I said 90,9 percent of dancing is moving the waist. They said, "We don´t want you to do it."  So I went around trying to dance for a long time without moving this part of my body. Then when I made Thriller with all the ghouls an ghosts, they said that it was demonic and part of the occult and that Brother Jackson can´t do it. I called my lawyer and was crying and I said: "Destroy the video, have it destroyed." And because he went against my wishes, people have "Thriller" today. They made me feel so bad about it that I ordered people to destroy it.

Thankfully, that did not happen!  Nevertheless, Michael was hurt. He still lost the religion he tried so hard to keep,  A religion can be like a living being. It is a lifeline to God as you understand God to be, a platform to communicate with those you love, who are also in the faith. If taken, it can be like a death...a certain cause for grief. Michael’s grief was at best nigh, but had not yet come full throttle.. Schumley shares what happened when it did.

“Michael was a little late arriving the next day. I was waiting in his trailer. He walked in so distraught. I didn’t understand, we were having so much fun the night before. He was silent as he sat in the makeup chair. I had to ask him please tell me. Please tell me what is wrong.
His eyes welled up with tears. “Mother called last night. The church called her, and told her that I held and fired a gun yesterday. They ordered that I have to make decision. I must leave the church, or leave the entertainment industry.” He was weeping as he uttered those words.
I was quite mortified. “What did your mother advise you to do?”
“She felt horrible. She told me it was up to me. She said she would stand by me with whatever I decided.”
“I see, you are here today”.
“Mother is supporting my choice”.”

The Watchtower Society is very clear on how a disfellowshipped person is to be treated. A disfellowshipped person is not to be associated with under any social circumstances; in fact the word "Hello" should not even be uttered to these ones, even in the kingdom hall. This treatment is far harsher than how a Witness would treat a person of the world. Yet,the Bible only said that it is the Antichrist that one should not say a greeting to. This type of treatment was not to extend to other wrongdoers such as fornicators. The Society is bundling all forms of wrongdoing as the same, and treatment is to be of the same harsh standard for all disfellowshipped people regardless of the wrongdoing that was done. Hence, a disfellowshipped Witness must not be greeted regardless of whether their "sin" was murder, changing beliefs or simply smoking cigarettes.

It is clear that Katherine did not shun Michael… Chiefly, because love is more important that “religion” . She did not support The Witnesses...she supported Michael. That in itself is the beginning of another change in her worship path.  A worship path is personal, but a religion is not. Religion cannot belong to any one person. Michael had this to say;
“I avoid using the term 'religion', because many people say 'my religion' this and 'my religion' that. Why should it be 'my' religion? I just believe what’s in the Bible with regard to which religion is involved. I simply believe.... I believe in it and I get down on my knees every night and thank God and ask Him to lead the way."

I believe that after Michael’s separation from the Witnesses, he began to see God in many ways, face’s and even places. He developed a relationship with God, not a witness to God. He expanded, as it began to show in his work.
"It's strange that God doesn't mind expressing Himself/Herself in all the religions of the world, while people still cling to the notion that their way is the only right way. Whatever you try to say about God, someone will take offense, even if you say everyone's love of God is right for them.

'For me the form God takes is not the most important thing. What's most important is the essence. My songs and dances are outlines for Him to come in and fill. I hold out the form. She puts in the sweetness. I've looked up at the night sky and beheld the stars so intimately close, it was as if my grandmother had made them for me.

How rich, how sumptuous," I thought. In that moment I saw God in His creation. I could as easily have seen Her in the beauty of a rainbow, the grace of a deer bounding through a meadow, the truth of a father's kiss. But for me the sweetest contact with God has no form.
I close my eyes, look within, and enter a deep soft silence.
The infinity of God's creation embraces me. We are one.""

It is a spiritual evolution. It takes time. It is possible that as a Witness Michael had to learn how to deal with rejection very early. Uncountable doors being slammed in one's face can could toughen up anyone to be sure.. It becomes a little trickier when the problem is you being rejected by an entire religion. Separated from all you had come to believe.

Personally,I believe God spoke to Michael and healed him from the hurt he had endured in organised religion. Organised religion is not for everyone. I mean that in an absolute way..I believe we are hearing the voice of God, as God spoke to Michael through “ Heaven is Here”  I am not speaking of some cloud floating by with eerie sounds in the wind. There are many who feel that the voice in this “scriptural” writing was Michael speaking …. I believe it is God speaking to Michael. I am saying it the absolute voice of God which was delivered by who I believe to be The Prophet Michael.

God spoke to Michael, and let him know that he may have been separated from a religion, but he was not separated from Him. God told him to reclaim his bliss. Michael could lift his head he was not alone...God was with him,  and told him not to be afraid to be who he had been called to be. Be joyful...reclaim his bliss. Michael made the change , but only because he could hear the voice of God so clearly. I see and hear God in Michael,

Michael made that change, but change is never easy. Michael evolved spiritually, and he shared that experience with us. .We can see how much is involved in just changing your faith. In Michael’s case it was generational.

Next: Part 2 - The Spiritual Evolution of Ali

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