The King of Pop & the Purple Potentate Royally religious preachers
A celebration happened on last Friday, June 25, 2010, the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Joseph Jackson. The modern-day world celebrated what is arguably the first international holiday on record. Global celebrations crossed racial, ethnic, tribal, creed, and color lines; and even transcended both political and religious ideologies as the earth mourned the death of the King of Pop, while simultaneously celebrating his life. Also this past weekend millions watched as another megastar’s life was celebrated. Who might that be? Prince, the Purple One!
Let me ask you a few intriguing questions about these two: What was the common denominator between Michael Joseph Jackson, the King of Pop, and Prince Rogers Nelson, the Purple Potentate of Pop? Could it be that the Gloved One’s Swarovski-crystal-studded glove (worn during his 1984 Victory Tour) went for $190,000 at an auction last weekend while Prince’s Purple Rain handwritten lyrics went for $66,000 at the same auction? Nope, that’s not it.
Or maybe it’s the fact that both the Gloved One and the Purple One were honored at the BET Awards this past Sunday, June 27, 2010, at the Shrine Auditorium here in Los Angeles? Chris Brown performed an emotional tribute to Michael Jackson, while Prince received the Lifetime Achievement Award and was honored by Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Patti LaBelle, jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, Chaka Khan, and Trey Songz. Could this be the common denominator? Guess again.
Okay, what about the fact that, among other print media accomplishments, both Michael and Prince graced the cover of Ebony magazine? No, that’s not it either. Well, here’s a hint: when he was alive, this commonality that consumed Michael Jackson’s life, is the same one that’s the centerpiece of Prince’s purple existence. Give up? Here’s the answer: The nexus is the religion known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
While Michael was raised a Witness after the members showed up at the family’s front door, Prince’s introduction was different: He “came in through the outdoor.” VH1 explains: “As known for his groundbreaking music as he is for his raunchy performances, Prince went through a religious conversion a few years ago and appeared humble, soft-spoken even, a contrast to his earlier tendency to come off as eccentric and aloof.”
After describing Prince as having “settled into a hushed solitude” in recent years, Ebony magazine (July 2010) says of the Purple One: “A Jehovah’s Witness now for nearly a dozen years, he acknowledged that he has been seriously studying the Bible for a long time, often under the tutelage of musical legend Larry Graham, a devout Jehovah’s Witness.” Of course, like the King of Pop before him, the Purple Potentate of Pop publicly preaches the good news. “The simple act of going door-to-door-as Jehovah’s Witnesses do to spread ‘The Word’-can become sidetracked by his schedule and other factors,” reveals Ebony. “He wants to do it more and vows that he will.” As VH1 acknowledged, this is a far cry from how Prince used to be. “I was pretty wild in my younger days,” the Purple One confessed to an adoring Shrine Auditorium audience.
Both Prince and Michael heeded Jesus’ command to “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.'” (Matt. 10:7) “Into whatever city or village you enter,” continued the Lord, “search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave. When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you. Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.” (Matt. 10:11-15) Jesus clearly instructed his followers to preach from house to house. However, he warned that they would encounter resistance.
“Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.” (Matt. 10:16-18) Indeed, the “wolves” have most certainly taken the Witnesses to “local courts,” appeal courts-and even the U.S. Supreme Court-for over a half century. But, the Witnesses have managed to stay a step ahead.
Regarding the door-to-door preaching work a recent Supreme Court ruling reads: “For over 50 years, the Court has invalidated restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering. It is more than historical accident that most of these cases involved First Amendment challenges brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses, because door-to-door canvassing is mandated by their religion. As we noted in Murdock v. Pennsylvania,…(1943), the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘claim to follow the example of Paul, teaching ‘publicly, and from house to house.’ Acts 20:20. They take literally the mandate of the Scriptures, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Mark 16:15. In doing so they believe that they are obeying a commandment of God.”
“And what happens when Prince rings your doorbell?” asks Ebony. “Sometimes people recognize him,” Ebony answers, “but he says they quickly move past it.” Unlike the Gloved One who dawned a fat suit and Afro wig when he preached from door to door as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Purple Preacher declares: “I don’t wear a disguise.” Time flies. Although Brother Nelson has been a Witness now for well over a decade, in his Purplese, Purple Parlance, or PurpleSpeak-whichever you prefer-he writes: “In Scripture, one day is like a 1,000 years 2 Jehovah God.” Ebony concludes: “Although Prince believes that other sources of knowledge have value, the Bible and his relationship with Jehovah are clearly what he embraces.”
When he received his Lifetime Achievement Award, Prince thanked “Almighty God Jehovah.” In the December 2007 Special Collector’s Edition of Ebony, which carried the title, “Michael: 25 Years After Thriller,” Michael Jackson affirmed: “When I write something that I know is right, I get on my knees and say thank you. Thank you Jehovah!” For a certainty, we all have much to be thankful for. Therefore, allow me please, at this time, to add my voice to the Royal Duet of Preachers by saying, “Thank you, O Great Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” Peace and blessings to all. Amen.
Special Notice: This is the first Sentinel International article that appears in 31 languages at firpocarr.com.
Dr. Firpo Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.