Michael Jackson as a Jehovah’s Witness
But it is also a personal blog for each of us who have pledged to contribute to the common job we are doing here. So whether we like it or not some personal issues will time and again affect the subject we are jointly handling.
Nothing bad about it, in my opinion. It might probably be even more interesting to our readers to hear different points of view on one and the same subject as we represent different nations and literally the opposite parts of the world which have united by some miracle to do one job.
And the subject at hand now is whether Michael Jackson was a true Christian or not.
This problem is not a minor one because in the past several months I have learned from the posts of my co-admin Sanemjfan about the passion of some of his compatriots to label Michael Jackson a non-Christian who is “not saved” and is even “damned” in their view. This idea we absolutely cannot agree to – hence the need to make it clearer whether Michael’s belief in God was true or not (if such a question is correct at all).
The fact that Michael was an ardent believer in God is not doubted here for a second, because even in his songs meant for playing at disco parties Michael was never shy to raise the eternal questions of healing the world’s ills, looking at oneself in the mirror and calling to the Creator to help us overcome our imperfect nature and its ways.
Considering that since the age of five (when his mother was baptized a JW) Michael Jackson belonged to Jehovah’s Witnesses and in 1987 he left this religious community, answering questions on his further religious views is no easy task. It is also difficult to determine whether his JW views were “true Christian” or not because each Christian denomination, “sect” and community has its own idea of true Christianity, so what is “true” for one denomination is absolutely “not true” for another one – even if we talk about such well-established denominations as the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches.
In order to begin with at least something I decided to make a short study of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs and tried to dig up information about the history of Michael Jackson’s association with these people.
Despite the fact that my computer did not manage to open a single official JW website (interesting, isn’t it?) this is what I finally found from this source http://www.religionfacts.com/jehovahs_witnesses/fastfacts.htm (the text is not mine):
Beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses
The religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses are in many ways similar to those of mainstream Christians. For instance, Witnesses rely on the authority of the Bible, worship only one God, and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation.
Some other beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from mainstream Christianity, most notably their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and the existence of Hell. Witnesses also have stronger apocalyptic expectations than most Christians – since the founding of the group, Witnesses have been expecting the imminent arrival of Armageddon and the end times.
In agreement with most conservative Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm the full inspiration of the Bible by God and the preservation of its copies over the centuries. Witnesses see the Bible as a gift from God that tells humans about what God is like, how to cope with problems, and how to please God. Witnesses use a special translation of the Bible – the New World Translation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in one God, the Creator of the universe and the God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. They stress the fact that God has revealed his personal name to humanity, which is Jehovah. Jehovah has a spirit body and lives in heaven, but sees all things. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with the mainstream Christian belief that Jesus was “fully God, fully man.” Witnesses teach that Jesus was not God, but rather God’s first creation. Jesus existed in pre-human form as God’s agent of creation and God’s chief spokesman (the Word), and took on human form as the man Jesus by means of a virgin birth.
The purpose of Jesus’ incarnation on earth was threefold in the view of Witnesses: (1) To teach the truth about God; (2) to provide a model of a perfect life for people to follow; and (3) to sacrifice his life to set humans free from sin and death.
In accordance with their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity, Witnesses disagree with mainstream Christianity that the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the Godhead. Instead, they believe the Holy Spirit to be “God’s active force.”
Meaning of Life and Salvation
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the purpose of life is to earn the right to participate in God’s future Kingdom on earth, and to help others to do so. Witnesses therefore focus on living a moral, acceptable life before God and witnessing about their faith to others.
Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the existence of hell. Instead, they hold that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. Witnesses also have a slightly different view of heaven than mainstream Christianity. Based on their reading of prophetic books like Daniel and Revelation, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will go to heaven to rule with God and Jesus. The remainder of the righteous will enjoy paradise on earth – a restored Garden of Eden in which there is no sickness, old age, death or unhappiness.
Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to a theocracy, in which all human governments are abolished and God rules the entire earth himself. This is expected to occur soon. Although Witnesses once predicted specific dates for this event, they now state that “the Bible does not give a date for these events, but it provides evidence to show that we are living in ‘the last days’ of this troubled world.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves true Christians, but most mainstream Christians do not agree that they are. The feeling is mutual, however: Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that other Christian groups are true Christians.
“Christendom” is defined as that part of the world where Christianity prevails. The nations and churches of Christendom were not, and are not, Christian. They are not God’s servants. His inspired Word says of them: “They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort. (Titus 1:16)
Jehovah’s Witnesses place a high value on moral living, teaching that “believers…will be saved to eternal life only if they continue to adhere to all of God’s requirements” and that “persons who practice things that God says are bad will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
Those who have committed serious sins before their baptism, or even after, will be forgiven by Jehovah and welcomed in the congregation so long as they abandon their sin completely. However, even after full restoration, such repentant sinners will probably never be eligible to lead the congregation as elders.
On the positive side, Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage cleanness (physical, mental, and spiritual), honesty, modesty in appearance, and many other virtues. Members are encouraged to cultivate virtue, which is “entails more than a thorough acquaintance with God’s Word. It calls for meditation on what is written there so that our hearts get filled with gratitude for Jehovah and we are moved to apply Scriptural principles in our lives.”
The February 8, 1995 issue of Awake! stated with regard to homosexuality:
True, some individuals may very well be prone to homosexuality… a Christian cannot excuse immoral behavior by saying he was “born that way.” Child molesters invoke the same pathetic excuse when they say their craving for children is “innate.” But can anyone deny that their sexual appetite is perverted? So is the desire for someone of the same sex.”
With regard to gambling, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach:
Every form of gambling is tainted by greed. So Christians do not take part in any kind of gambling, such as lotteries, horse racing, and bingo. (Ephesians 5:3-5)
Drugs & Alcohol
Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to drink a little beer or wine, but overdrinking and drunkenness is regarded as a sin that also has negative consequences on one’s health and family life.
Jehovah’s Witnesses condemn abortion, teaching that life begins at conception and life is sacred to Jehovah.
Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to participate in wars, but on primarily religious, not moral grounds. War will be right to participate in when it is conducted by Jehovah himself at the Battle of Armageddon, but:
Jesus taught his followers not to meddle in this world’s political affairs nor to get involved in its wars. He also taught them to be peace-loving, to be law-abiding, to have love for their fellow humans free from any prejudice, even being willing to sacrifice their own lives rather than take the lives of others.
Encyclopedia Britannica tells us more about the Jehovah Witnesses’ views on the secular government and its matters:
The Witnesses’ teachings stress strict separation from secular government. Although they are generally law-abiding, believing that governments are established by God to maintain peace and order, they refuse to observe certain laws on biblical grounds. They do not salute the flag of any nation, believing it an act of false worship; they refuse to perform military service; and they do not participate in public elections.
These practices have brought them under the scrutiny of government authorities. The U.S.government sent Rutherford and other Watchtower leaders to prison for sedition during World War I. In Germany prior to World War II, the Nazis sent Witnesses to concentration camps, and Witnesses were also persecuted in Britain, Canada, and the United States.
After the war the Witnesses brought several suits in American courts dealing with their beliefs and practices, resulting in 59 Supreme Court rulings that were regarded as major judgments on the free exercise of religion. They continue to face persecution in several countries, however, particularly for their refusal to serve in the military, and they are often publicly derided for their door-to-door evangelism.
The Witnesses’ distrust of contemporary institutions extends to other religious denominations, from which they remain separate. They disavow terms such as minister and church. Christian church leaders have denounced the Witnesses for doctrinal deviation (especially their nontrinitarian teachings) and have condemned them as a cult. Witnesses also oppose certain medical practices that they believe violate Scripture. In particular, they oppose blood transfusions because of the scriptural admonition against the drinking of blood (Leviticus 3:17). This belief, so contrary to modern medical practice remains an additional point of controversy with authorities, especially in cases concerning children.
I totally failed to understand that blood transfusion part, as in my opinion transfusion does not have anything to do with “drinking blood”, however information about the JW relationship with the secular governments was quite an eye-opening revelation to me. Now I have a much clearer understanding why the governments the world over frown so terribly at Jehovah’s Witnesses as a rather popular and therefore powerful trend in the world Christianity (6,5mln members the world over).
It turns out that besides strict adherence to the Bible as regards issues like marriage, adultery, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, use of pornography, greed, gambling and the like Jehovah’s Witnesses also oppose every form of human violence and refuse to meddle in this world’s political affairs or get involved in its wars.
This, from the point of view of hardliners, was clearly another huge drawback of Michael Jackson as his innocent propaganda of non-violence, coupled with his extreme popularity the world over, was going directly against the interests of world politicians. The Eastern bloc (where I come from) was most probably eyeing him with caution and suspicion shielding its nations from his songs lest their ideas contaminate the local population, while for the Western world he was someone like the “fifth column” in his own country:
- A fifth column is a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group such as a nation from within.
Now I am not sure at all that it would be such an extravagant idea to assume that the worst US hawks were sick and tired of Michael Jackson’s anti-war calls “to turn swords into plough shares” and pulled the necessary ropes for the media to slander and harass him while simultaneously giving a free hand to personalities like Tom Sneddon for his life-long prosecution.
To tell you the truth the course of action of hardliners in my part of the world would have been totally the same if Michael Jackson had been born here – with the only difference that he would have been publicly declared a traitor of national interests and would have found himself in prison in no time at all and without any court trial at that.
Let us not forget that the openly anti-war “Heal the World” song was written in 1991 and a great video to it was released in November 1992 after Michael set out on the first leg of his thunderous Dangerous tour… Am I imagining things or was the beginning of the first accusations in spring 1993 not just a mere coincidence in this context?
However let us get back to Michael Jackson’s religious views.
After reading the above there can be no doubt whatsoever that it were the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs that formed Michael Jackson’s thinking and were the source and inspiration for his masterpieces like “Heal the world”, “Earth song”, “We are the world” and many others.
Just have a look at the lyrics of these songs to make sure that everything we’ve just read about the Jehovah’s Witnesses views is reflected in full abundance in Michael Jackson’s songs:
We are the world (1985)
There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of Gods great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me
Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
Heal the world (1991)
There’s a place in your heart
And I know that it is love
And this place could be much
Brighter than tomorrow.
And if you really try
You’ll find there’s no need to cry
In this place you’ll feel
There’s no hurt or sorrow.
Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for
You and for me.
And the dream we would conceived in
Will reveal a joyful face
We could fly so high
Let our spirits never die
In my heart I feel
You are all my brothers
Create a world with no fear
Together we’ll cry happy tears
You and for me / Make a better place…
You and for me / Heal the world we live in…
You and for me / Save it for our children…
Earth Song (1996)
What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores
What about the holy land (What about it)
Torn apart by creed (What about us)
What about the common man (What about us)
Can’t we set him free (What about us)
What about children dying (What about us)
Can’t you hear them cry (What about us)
What about Abraham (What was us)
What about death again
Do we give a damn…
People will argue that by the time Michael wrote these songs he had already left the Jehovah Witnesses’ family (except for the “We are the World” song), however firm beliefs like that are not that easily discarded. And Michael Jackson left JW not because he was disillusioned with their views – quite on the contrary, he did keep to them, and it was only the manner in which he happened to earn money was somewhat incompatible with the JW views.
The content of Michael’s later songs makes it absolutely clear that his values and convictions grew only stronger as time went by.
Dr. Firpo W. Carr has written the following about Michael Jackson’s association with Jehovah’s Witnesses both before and after his disfellowship http://www.lasentinel.net/Michael-Jackson-Jehovah-s-Witnesses.html:
Curious fans of Michael Jackson want to know what faith he embraced during the years just prior to his death. They’re intrigued with what sparked the Gloved One’s spiritual fire in the waning moments of his glorious life. Rumors swirl that although he was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses he secretly converted to Islam shortly before his death.
As one who has tracked the family’s religious progression for four decades–from the emergence of the Jackson5 to Michael’s death–I’m pleased to offer my unique insight and observations.
Michael in the Moment: Michael Jackson was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there’s no doubt about that. But, he left in 1987 because a number of well-meaning fellow Witnesses severely criticized him for his “worldliness.” They apparently confused his right to make a living as the greatest entertainer in history with his alleged desire to be a part of the world. (1 John 2:15-17; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 7:31) Still, even though a distraught and frustrated Michael disassociated himself from the organization he never surrendered the Bible-based doctrines his mother taught him.
Fourteen years after officially leaving the Witnesses Michael not only continued to identify himself as one, he even asserted his official association with the group. In an interview with TV Guide in 2001 Michael was asked: “Are you still a Jehovah’s Witness?” The King of Pop unhesitatingly answered: “Yeah.” He further added: “I’ve done, you know, we call it pioneering [full-time preaching]. We do 90 hours a month. [This quota has been reduced since.] I don’t do as much now because I’m busy. You go door to door. I wear a fat suit, pop-bottle glasses, mustache, buck teeth, and, like, an Afro wig. And I knock on the door and say we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Also, back in 2004, under some rather critical, extenuating circumstances I found myself in the presence of Michael, his mother Katherine, his sister Rebbie, Grace Rwaramba (the children’s nanny), Michael’s daughter Paris, and son Prince Michael. We were at Michael’s rented home in Beverly Hills. I was surprised when he beckoned me into an adjacent room. Paris insisted on being not letting him out of her sight, so she and Prince Michael accompanied us into the next room, after which Michael closed the door.
He then told me, among other things, that he wanted me to study the Bible with his children, and that he wanted them to be raised by his mother as Jehovah’s Witnesses should anything happen to him. This explains in part why these same children were being seen attending a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses here in Los Angeles after his funeral.
…. Michael Jackson had not formally or officially reconnected with Jehovah’s Witnesses prior to his death though he still embraced the teachings in his heart and never considered himself as belonging to any other religion.
In plain English, no, he was not reinstated after disassociating himself, but still clung to all the Bible-based teachings of the organization and was showing indications of making an official reconnection with the faith. That is precisely why he identified himself as a Witness up until the day he died.
Witness family members?: Many want to know just who are Witnesses in Michael’s immediate family. Here’s the final word: Michael’s oldest sister, Rebbie (real name Maureen), is a devout Witness to this day. Katherine, Michael’s mother, is also a conscientious Witness. LaToya was a Witness, and even served as a temporary pioneer for a while, but was eventually excommunicated (“disfellowshiped”).
Although Janet and the rest of the Jacksons were all raised as Witnesses, none were baptized as such and subsequently went their separate ways upon reaching adulthood. What is particularly interesting is that Joseph Jackson, Michael’s father, introduced Witness teachings to the family, but declined to become one himself. Joe’s parents, both deceased, were also Witnesses in Arizona, having joined the faith later in life.
Michael’s Mysterious Memorial Service?: Actually, the private memorial service for Michael Jackson was no mystery at all. According to People magazine, “About 70 relatives gathered at Forest Lawn, where Jackson’s cousin Wendell Hawkins conducted a Jehovah’s Witness service.” Though not officially a Witness service, it had all the trappings. Hawkins told all in attendance, including Michael’s three children, that Michael’s “life was connected with Jehovah.” A Washington Post article dated July 8, 2009, also expounded on Michael’s Witness upbringing.
According to one source, it certainly couldn’t be true that Michael converted to Islam because Muslims don’t embalm the body, let alone display it. Also, they have an aversion to autopsies, and promptly bury their dead within 48 hours of death. The Witnesses have no problem these matters. Therefore, an autopsy was performed on Michael; he was embalmed; his body was displayed; and he was not buried promptly.
Finally, Ebony magazine conducted the last comprehensive interview with Michael Jackson in its December 2007 Special Collector’s Edition which carried the title, “Michael: 25 Years After Thriller.” Michael summed up just which God he worshipped when he stated, some 20 years after leaving the Witnesses, the following on page 98: “When I write something that I know is right, I get on my knees and say thank you. Thank you Jehovah!”
Amen, Brother Michael Jackson. Amen.
* * *
Now that we know that Jehovah’s Witnesses still accepted Michael Jackson even after his disfellowship and Michael remained a Jehovah’s Witness until his final day at least in the spirit of their beliefs, another question arises – is there a more or less neutral arbitrator to prove to those who are still in doubt whether Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs are truly Christian, half-Christian, a quarter-Christian or Christian at all?
I as a Christian do not doubt it for a second but are there ways to prove it to others?
(the continuation of this post is here: http://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/michael-jackson-the-first-true-christian-in-a-pagan-world/
Updated January 3, 2012
Nine months have passed since I wrote the above post. It took me a period long enough to bear a new life by a woman to finally understand a couple of simple things about the effect of the Jehovah Witnesses’ rules on the Jacksons’ children and especially on Michael as their youngest and hardest-working. The whole of the discussion is in the comments, however I decided to include one of the replies here too as a summary of my somewhat turmoiled ideas.
Formally it started with Christmas and birthdays regarded as pagan traditions by Jehovah’s Witnesses and therefore not celebrated in their families. However the real reason was my extensive reading about orphans and the nearly incurable problems they face in adult life after many years of spending their childhood in state institutions without loving parents and private space of their own. This is when I realized that Michael’s childhood was very much like that of these orphans – all of them miss so much personal warmth that it is impossible even to imagine it.
Michael’s main offender was of course Joe Jackson who seemed to derive even sadistic pleasure from abusing his children by oiling their skin before whipping, hanging Michael by his foot and beating him to near death, and all the rest of it. Add to it the fact that the youngest of the children got the most of it – most work, most isolation, most humiliation and most responsibility (just because he was the youngest) and you get a picture of utter and total misery of the child. Michael was a saint to forgive his father for what he had done to him.
But then I suddenly recalled that besides that nightmare Michael was also missing the simple joys every child has – birthdays, Christmas, etc. So in addition to all that misery he had no joys either?
It isn’t only presents that Michael was missing – he was missing the attention a child is given on these days from those he loves most. If he had had a birthday he could have asked Joe (who didn’t even want to be called a father) to take him for a walk in the park for example, or embrace him on that day, or say to him that he loved him – in short he could have made a wish and Joe should have followed it – because it is a personal day of this particular child and he has the right!
This is why when Michael became a grown-up he wanted to have an official holiday day for children that parents should observe on a national level – this day was to be so filled with joy that it could probably last an unhappy child until the next celebration came a year after.
As another measure Michael wanted a similar fixed day once a week which parents would spend with their children instead of watching football, going to a pub or attending a beauty salon. Michael even agreed to Bashir’s interview because he promised to help promote the matter of a Children’s Day in the United Nations if I remember it right.
Then I realized that while Joe Jackson was abusing his children, Katherine’s religion was actually taking away the last joys those children could have had. I liked the religion because their faith is close to what I myself believe in, but taking it so far as denying the children even the most basic of personal joys?? Initially I thought that it was some kind of a misunderstanding or that these restraints were not obligatory and could be avoided as unimportant, but a detailed discussion showed that they are not. No, there is so much theological theory behind all that, that breaking it (arranging a birthday for a poor child) is akin to a grave sin.
The fact that these celebrations are “pagan” is much more important than the feeling of comfort and love they can give to a child and could have brought to the Jacksons’ children in those circumstances. Probably in other circumstances a child will not suffer that much. If a child is showered with love every day he probably won’t mind missing his birthday or Christmas – but for the Jacksons it was their only chance! And this only chance was taken away from them! Why??? Because a birthday is “pagan”?
Though I myself see God as my only guiding spirit, I think that no religion in the world is worthy of anything at all if it places the letter of the law above love, joy and a little bit of comfort for an unhappy child. Michael stayed with God, but not with the religion and I think that his decision was correct.
He went further.