I can’t say we were ever big fans of Michael Jackson, even in his glory years growing up. We enjoyed Weird Al Yankavich’s renditions of “Bad” and “Beat It” more than the actual songs Jackson put out. Having him pass brings to mind what a following he had, and what a fanatical presence he had in our generation. The generation of most parents today.
We spoke at the Christian Home Educators of Colorado a week ago on two topics. The first was our regular “Cheaper by the Dozen” talk on how to be frugal and fruitful. That talk was rehearsed, interesting, fun. It was a safe talk.
The second talk was “Love in the House.” Sure, we wrote the book two years ago, but we had yet to speak in a formal public setting on the most important (in our opinion) issue facing families today: LOVE. Or the lack of it. We spoke for 60 minutes on two settings of love and how parents (especially those in the home school community) are failing to place love in the center of them: marriages and raising children.
There were some people sobbing through the talk. Like, uncontrollably sobbing. We emphasized the need (that’s NEED, not option) for married couples’ mutual submission to one another. We both spoke to parents and those children (everyone could relate) that “got under their skin.” Our talk reminded people that they had dreadful relational challenges in their lives. These are opportunities to let love in. In several situations, love is the only hope parents have.
But back to Michael Jackson, one of seven children. I haven’t been really into the media frenzy, but my daughter, Cynthia, suggested I read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s take (see his article here). I have enjoyed Shmuley’s writings (particularly his book Face Your Fear). Apparently he had a friendship with Michael Jackson and counseled him for several years. Shmuley quotes Michael Jackson:
“I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved…”
Michael Jackson now joins John Lennon as a deceased rock star who died singing about love yet never really knowing it. The number of critics crying foul over Jackson’s hypocrisy are stacked to the ceiling. They point at his molestation charges (not conviction), his obsession with his face, his addiction to prescription drugs. All of these things are ugly consequences of a life overwhelmed with worldly fame and fortune, but so empty of God’s love.
It would be too easy to condemn Michael Jackson for missing the mark on love, so don’t add me onto the list of stone-throwers. For a moment, hold your judgment and ask this question: “Are we singing about love?” Don’t blow this one off. LOVE IS IT, and if we’re not singing love—in all who we are and in all we do, especially in our marriages and in our families—the music we make in our lives are loud noises, just gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1).
This is heavy stuff, apparently the heavy stuff Shmuley claimed was the real problem with Michael Jackson. He had not love. Couples at CHEC shared with us their stuggles in their marriages and with their children. There were genuine tears of sorrow from several people who were met with the reality that their lives were absent of love.
We home-schoolers are real good at building up the image of our homes and flaunt about how great we are. Our kids excel far above the national average and are getting such better education than the common folk. Our talk on love was nicely placed (PTL) in one of the most popular home school conferences in the nation.
One of the more convicting parts of the talk was off-script:
“We entertain ourselves when we visit churches or their Web sites or their book stores. If love is truly the most excellent way as Scripture says, I wonder how many sermons are preached on love, or how many books on love they are selling. Most of the time there is not one. Our churches are speaking on a whole host of other things, but not on love.”
Perhaps…because of the church’s empty message of love, we are faced with a popular culture who cry out the for real thing.
The rock stars and Hollywood–twisted as their message may be–are attempting to articulate love. Churches treat love like window dressing, like feel-good fluff, expendable discussion points much less important than more meaty topics like theology, or truth, or you-fill-in-the-blank. Who is coming closer to hitting the mark?
Michael Jackson asked Shmuley the right question. He at least aimed at the right target. He did (at least at that point of his life) understand that love was “the most excellent way” (1 Corninthians 12:31), the Greatest Commandment, one where “all the laws of the prophets hang on these.”
So Wendy and I will keep preaching this message of love. It is overwhelming at times, feeling like we are mere students of love and of each other. But there are few message bearers out there that are singing of the most excellent way.