Michael Jackson & Religious ‘Holidaze’
Birthdays, Babies, and the Bible
When Michael Jackson was one of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses in good standing with the organization he neither celebrated the anniversary of his own birthday, nor that of Jesus Christ. Years later, however, a video was released on national television just last month showing the King of Pop celebrating the birthday of one of his children, and another showing him celebrating the birthday of at least one other person. As one who is acutely aware of the facts surrounding these events I feel compelled to offer an explanation. Hereâ€™s what a conflicted Michael Jackson believedÂ (and taught)Â about birthday celebrations.
Jews & Christians:Â Regarding Jews and early Christians of Bible timesÂ Michael Jackson knew what the substance of the bookÂ entitledÂ TheÂ HistoryÂ ofÂ theÂ ChristianÂ ReligionÂ andÂ Church,Â DuringÂ theÂ ThreeÂ FirstCenturiesÂ (New York, 1848), by Augustus Neander (translated by Henry John Rose), p. 190, stated on the matter: â€œThe notion of aÂ birthdayÂ festivalÂ was far from the ideas of the Christians of this period in general.â€ (p. 190) AndÂ TheÂ ImperialÂ Bible-DictionaryÂ (London, 1874), edited by Patrick Fairbairn, says: â€œThe later Hebrews looked on the celebration of birthdays as a part of idolatrous worship, a view which would be abundantly confirmed by what they saw of the common observances associated with these days.â€–Vol. I, p. 225.
Customs &Â Origin:Â Michael Jackson knew about the source of traditions surrounding birthday celebrations. For example,Â SchwÃ¤bischeÂ ZeitungÂ (magazine supplementÂ ZeitÂ undÂ Welt) says that â€œThe various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating–complete with lighted candles–in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming yearâ€¦.Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom.â€–April 3/4,Â 1981, p. 4.
And particularly telling is the book,Â TheÂ LoreÂ ofÂ BirthdaysÂ (New York, 1952) by Ralph and Adelin Linton. It says: â€œThe Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit orÂ daemonÂ who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born. The Romans also subscribed to this idea…This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the guardian angel, the fairy godmother and the patron saint…The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks.â€
It further states: â€œHoney cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of [Artemis]â€¦Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishesâ€¦Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are thus an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortuneâ€¦Birthday greetings and wishes for happiness are an intrinsic part of this holidayâ€¦Originally the idea was rooted in magic…Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day.â€ (Pp.Â 8,Â 18-20) Michael knew of these details.
Birthdays in the Bible:Â The Bible only mentions two birthday parties. Curiously, neither one was a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. Both parties were, in fact, for men who werenâ€™t worshippers of the God of the Bible. The first one was of a Black man who was Pharaoh of Egypt. He ended up getting angry at one of his officials (who was also a Black African), and had his head chopped off at a birthday party that was thrown for the king. (Gen. 40:19-22) The second one was at the birthday party of another king, Herod, who lived in Jesus day. (So Jesus was well aware of birthday parties.) After a seductive dance by his step-daughter Salome that equates with todayâ€™s pole dance at a â€œgentlemenâ€™s club,â€ King Herod promised the young vixen whatever she wanted. Now, her mother Herodias, who was drop-dead gorgeous but wicked, was naturally Herodâ€™s wife, who he unnaturally stole from his brother. (Yea, he married his sister-in-law.) Now Godâ€™s man, John the Baptist, put both Herod and Herodias on blast. He condemned the union, and was subsequently jailed by Herod.
Though angry with him, Herod still liked John, so he just kept him in jail. Herodias, though, had more vindictive, sinister thoughts about John. When Herod told Salome heâ€™d give her virtually whatever she wanted, she went to Herodias (who was teaching her to be as wicked and treacherous as she was) for advice. â€œGive me here upon a platter the head of John the Baptist,â€ Salome respectfully demanded. (Matt. 14:1-11) Itâ€™s what Herodias wanted, and Salome readily obliged her. It demonstrated particular venom on Herodiasâ€™ part. She didnâ€™t just want John killed (which was bad enough!), and leave it at that. No, she wanted to humiliate him, even in death! His head on an ornate platter was in effect her trophy.
Note that in both Biblical instances someone lost his head. Today, people still lose their heads at birthday parties by consuming too much alcohol; or even when envy, jealously, bitterness or anger erupts at these gatherings.
Okay to Have Fun:Â Now, this is not to say that the Bible condemns throwing a party. The Good Book describes Jehovah as being â€œthe happy God,â€ and he wants his servants to be happy too. (1 Tim. 1:11;Â New WorldÂ Translation) Jesus performed his first recorded miracle at a party–a wedding celebration. When celebrants ran out of wine, he replenished the supply, and with a better quality of product at that! (John 2:1-11) Many centuries earlier, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they threw a party. (Ex. 15:1, 20, 21) It was all good. However, Michael firmly believed that there are some parties that God disapproved of, like the one these same Israelites threw almost forty years later. This time they invited people who didnâ€™t worship God and ended up â€œpar-ti-yinâ€™â€ â€œall night long,â€ and getting their swerve on along the way. Yes, I mean fornicating. They even worshipped other gods for extended kicks! Needless to say, God was not pleased. And so, he punished them. (Num. 25:1-9; 1 Cor. 10:8) Given all the above, little wonder that the Bible doesnâ€™t indicate at all that Jesus or his disciples celebrated his birthday.
Some Celebrate Anyway:Â â€œMany people know that Christmas is not the birthday of Jesus,â€ says one publication. â€œThey even know that on that day pagans had a celebration that was not pleasing to God. But many celebrate Christmas anyway. They are more concerned with having a party than with finding out what God really thinks about it. But we want to please Jehovah, donâ€™t we?â€
The private video of Michael celebrating his daughter Parisâ€™ birthday was not meant for public consumption. More than a celebration, it was an education. He wanted his children to know what it was like, then he was going to tell them of the pagan origins. Thatâ€™s why he didnâ€™t sing Happy Birthday, and why no other children (not even cousins their age), were there. Family members, Witness or not, werenâ€™t even invited. And when he finally celebrated his own birthday when Elizabeth Taylor threw him a party several years after leaving the Witnesses, he went into the bathroom and cried. Why?Â Â
Because Michael Jackson told me himself that he loved exposing the truth and preaching the good news of the kingdom from door-to-door as one of Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses, and the truth of the matter is the Bible does not support the idea of birthday celebrations. He felt the same way about other religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. All are rooted in paganism. So, dazed in the maze of his mind he was going against his Bible-trained conscience. Still, from my vantage point, I am convinced that his heart was in the right place. And I know that his loving God Jehovah will be the final judge of his actions.
In keeping with the Michael Jackson theme, stay tuned for the article, â€œMichaelâ€™s Murky Murder Mystery?â€ Peace and blessings to all. Amen.