Michael Jackson in a Bible Study

Not even concerts with New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys or NSYNC – each at the height of their fame – could lead to the kind of crazy/irrational behavior by young women that Michael Jackson inspired during his prime (crying, fainting, screaming his name when there’s no chance he’ll hear them). I’m not sure what female fans of Elvis and The Beatles were like, but I think it’s safe to say that there will never be another entertainer – man or woman, of any race – who will generate the kind of mass excitement and hysteria that Michael Jackson created on a regular basis during the 1980s. Here’s an example of MJ at the height of his fame in the video for “Man in the Mirror” from his 1988 film Moonwalker.

Last Friday I finished a two-week intensive course at seminary called “Genesis to Revelation.” It was the only class I took during J-term, and since it was only two weeks long and we had a lot of material to cover (the entire Bible), we met for three hours every afternoon; during which my energetic professor led me and 80 other students on a fly-by tour of the biblical story (focusing on the narratives and giving special attention to the major themes of each book). It was a great course, but I felt like I was cheating because I learned more about the Bible during those two weeks than during any two year span previously. If there was something similar to steroid allegations in the seminary education world – like in professional sports – my classmates and I would have all been accused of using some form of substance, call it a BGH (biblical growth hormone), because the increase in our biblical knowledge was much higher/faster than normal.

I’ll be honest, I don’t read my Bible as often as I like to say I do – and often times when I do read it, the words on the pages seem lifeless, boring and confusing – but this class brought the words to life, the stories were exciting, and it was all explained in a way that I could understand. I found myself taking notes on the pages of books that I had to look up in the table of contents because I had no idea where they were in the Bible (books like Habakkuk, Haggai and Obadiah).

To accomplish the course objective of “exploring approaches to teach a Bible overview in engaging ways,” the final project was to write a session on a book of the Bible that could be used within an overview Bible study. I chose to write my study for young adults on the book of James*, and as an introduction to my study I decided to use the video for Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. This may be surprising to some people, so here’s how I explained this choice,

“The book of James is an introspective book that challenges readers to take a closer look at themselves and do evaluative thinking around questions like “How am I doing?” in regards to living out their faith. Taking questions like this seriously can be difficult and often raises feelings of personal inadequacy and self-consciousness, so the introduction to this study is somewhat humorous to help ease people into the book and theme of James, and to provide everyone in the group with a similar foundation (since it is not safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the book of James). Since this study is being created for young adults, it seems natural to turn to the world of pop-culture to provide the introduction. It would make the most sense to have a video that is both funny and serious as an introduction, so the best choice is probably a serious video that is from the 1980s (since videos from the 80s are always good for a laugh). For reasons that should become clearer when looking at James 1:23-24, start the study by watching Michael Jackson’s video for the song “Man in the Mirror” from his 1988 movie Moonwalker.”

I’ll save you the time of looking up those verses and include them for you here,

Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like.

James 1:23-24 (NCV)

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*The book of James is perhaps especially controversial for Lutherans–including the granddaddy of all Lutherans, Martin Luther–because it is understood by some people to teach an understanding of faith and justification (or salvation) that are defined by what you believe and what you do to show/prove your beliefs. Luther referred to this as “works-righteousness” and he strongly disagreed with it because he believed that we are saved by “grace alone” through “faith alone.”

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One thought on “Michael Jackson in a Bible Study

  1. I noticed some of my friends on facebook were joining this group called, anewdoxology.com, so I checked it out. Ridiculously funny that the day I check it out you have a post on none other than the King of Pop. He was my first concert ever at the ripe old age of 8 and I wanted to marry him. No kidding! Your hypothesis holds true. And consequently Man in the Mirror is one of my all-time favorites. I appreciate how you weave humor into Biblical teaching. We could all use a touch of humor when looking in the mirror in order to honestly look at who we are; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Laughter is the ultimate equalizer. We sure all have something worth laughing about. If we can laugh at it, maybe we won’t so easily dismiss what it is that could use some tweaking.

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