Tim Adams of The Observer in a story in the lead-up to the release of the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It, also refers to Jackson’s religious experiences.
It was not the easiest path for a budding King of Pop to follow. In the services at Kingdom Hall, which Jackson attended four times a week with his mother, into his 20s, when he was in town, he would hear adamantine scripture: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor homosexuals, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Even in 1984, when he had become the most successful entertainer the world had known, he was still knocking on doors with her for the Jehovah’s Witnesses “twice a week, maybe for an hour or two”. He would go in disguise, a moustache, a hat, and glasses, clutching a copy of the Watchtower. When the Thriller video came out he was threatened with expulsion by the church leaders and forced to preface the film with a disclaimer: “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.”
It was four years later that Jackson finally decided that the religion was not compatible with his life, and he formally left the church, which, for a Jehovah’s Witness, is the “unforgivable sin”. Thereafter it seemed he had a God-shaped hole in his life. Jackson’s soul was up for grabs to any religion that could whisper persuasively in his ear. There have been claims that Lisa Marie Presley, his first wife, was intent on his joining her in the Church of Scientology.
These dramas played themselves out in his later years, when he developed a strong messiah complex, suffering for the world’s sins against him; it has continued after his death – everyone wants Jackson’s soul in their bit of paradise; his brother Jermaine, now a practising Muslim, has thanked Allah for his mercy; Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, which oddly supported Jackson by providing security through his trial, has been revealed as an influence in the “re-negrofication” of his last years, in particular through Dr Tohme Tohme, the Nation-associated Lebanese businessman who suddenly took control of Jackson’s finances, reportedly against his will, and Grace Rwaramba, his children’s nanny until recently, who first introduced him to Farrakhan’s organisation.
In 2009 –
In his anxiety Jackson turned to all manner of “spiritual advisers” for help. I met one of them, Rev June Gatlin, in Los Angeles. “I’m a seer,” she told me. “You’ve heard of oracles, I have that ability, it’s in my family lineage.” In her flat there was a huge ceremonial sword resting against a grand piano, piled high with religious texts. Gatlin said Jackson had called her in to see him several times in the 18 months before his death. On the last occasion, in March, she said she sensed that something was gravely wrong with him.
“He wanted me to check his body,” she said, raising her hand and closing her eyes, recalling how she did it. “I scanned his body. I was watching his life ebbing away, but inside I was asking: ‘God, please let him live. He looked at me, like: ‘We know something they don’t know, June.”‘
Jackson seemed to want spiritual fulfillment, seemingly only finding some misguided fulfillment in the imaginary world of Peter Pan. What waste.