Rabbi who tried to save Jackson: 'This is an American tragedy'

Rabbi Schmuley Boteach was a part of Michael Jackson’s inner circle for a time and describes his efforts to help the King of Pop find salvation, healing, wholeness, a Purpose-Driven Life, if you will.

He has written an extraordinary article for the Jerusalem Post about the superstar’s spiritual wanderings.

I think Rabbi Boteach is correct when he calls this “an American tragedy.” Jackson’s life and his death are an indictment of our country’s sick, shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture.

Updated: June 26, 2009 — 5:22 pm

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  1. I really like Rabbi Schmuley. I watched his show on TLC, and I’ve read his books. It doesn’t surprise me that he resonates with Michael Jackson–he’s quite the publicity hound himself, and came to his ministry out of a search for love and connection when his parents divorced. His social commentary is hardly “PC” in many respects, but it is so right on target and very engaging.

  2. After reading the article and contemplating some of the scenes I have seen in the media, I wonder if the connection in the music parallels the emotions in Michael and his fans. My heart goes out to his kids, I hope they have a fulfilling life.

  3. “Sick, shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture.” I don’t know. Perhaps that is our culture. But what does that have to do with Michael Jackson’s demise? You can’t honestly be claiming that only celebrities become addicted to prescription drugs, or surround themselves with yes-people who will enable their self-destruction. That’s absurd, as any oxycodone-popping housewife can tell you.

    On the flip side, stars every bit as iconic, every bit as “worshipped” and indulged seem to be in absolutely no danger of self-destruction. Madonna is an excellent example of this. Like the energizer bunny, she will be touring far into her 80s, indestructible and not at all inconvenienced by “celebrity culture”. You can list U2’s Bono as another. The latter of course has devoted his life and celebrity to very worthy causes, such as stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa. Hardly sick, and hardly shallow.

    So really, where does the shallowness lie here?

  4. Of course, Bono only devoted himself to “worthy causes” after he became rich, a time in one’s life when it is easy to do good. The criticism, as I understood it, was of our society’s obsession with celebrity and money and fame, not the experiences of any one celebrity. And I think the criticism is valid: Our society is obsessed with people whose fame is of the most fleeting sort, and particularly obsessed with those who have achieved a fuller form of celebrity.

  5. Caleb –

    Having what exactly to do with Michael Jackson’s death?

    And I have no idea when Bono became rich. I do know he was one of the first celebrities to publicly associate himself with fighting AIDS, something that at the time was a dangerous thing for a celebrity to do. So his fame didn’t seem to affect his bravery or character or ability to care about something other than himself.

  6. Caleb (cont’d) –

    In great contrast to conservative Evangelicals, who took decades to begin taking AIDS seriously as more than just a stick to beat the gays with.

    Give me the celebrities any day.

  7. There again, you’re not comparing apples to apples. I agree that conservative evangelicals will always be the last ones on the train no matter what the train is; they were the last to sign on to equal rights for women and minorities, and still aren’t there for gays and lesbians. But, they are only a small part of the religious community in this country, and others, such as we liberal Episcopalians, were among the first to realize the import of AIDS and its impact on society. Other groups, like the Quakers, have been witnesses for justice for decades. So, if it’s Michael Jackson vs. Jerry Falwell, like you, I’ll take Jackson any day. But remember there’s a much bigger religious world out there.

  8. Niall, I don’t think anyone on here is criticizing Michael Jackson. We’re just suggesting that, just as there is a big world of celebrity out there, there’s also a big world of religion, and it’s no more proper to lump all religious people together as it is all celebrities.

  9. Caleb –

    I believe the gist of the comments was that Jackson’s death exposed a “sick, celebrity-obsessed culture.” I just pointed out the problems with that diagnosis.

  10. Its not Michael Jackson the reference is being made about, its we the people, that put him in his idol iconic state.

  11. Perplexed:

    Not so. I quote:

    “Jackson’s life and his death are an indictment of our country’s sick, shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture.”

    And if anyone put Michael Jackson in his “idol iconic” state, it was himself and Quincy Jones. Not me.

  12. perplexed:

    Is that a serious question? Michael Jackson’s career is very well-documented, particularly his meteoric rise to solo fame. It’s not a state secret.

  13. Niall, if you bought his music or listened to it on the radio, you are as much to blame as Quincy and anybody else associated with his career. It was the promoters that targeted the media and the young audiences that made Michael a star. I can remember watching him on tv and trying to do some of his moves. I was lucky enough to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s when we had music. It brought the masses together in a hostile time. Black and white, yellow, brown, it didn’t matter, everybody enjoyed his music. Michael was a product of good managers that just didn’t have the faculties to know what to do with his eccentricities. Don’t kid yourself, this is life buddy, whether you like it or not, your part of it.

  14. Michael Jackson was a serial child molester who paid his victims and their families for their silence. Read Maureen Orth’s fine investigative reporting in Vanity Fair.

  15. SIgh. Yes, of course, I’m to blame for Michael Jackson’s problems because I bought a record of his once. Spare me your indiscriminate moralism. I guess by that logic I’m responsible for Madonna’s success, because I bought a CD of hers once. Now you’ve just gone off the deep end.

    Did you ever buy a GM car? If you did, you’re partly to blame for GM’s excesses and demise.

    Etc.

    Michael Jackson was master of his own fate. He was crafty, manipulative, and ruled those around him with an iron will. His fans didn’t make him that way.

  16. Edwin –

    I agree wholeheartedly! Jackson was a cunning, calculating child predator. Which just makes me want to laugh when people portray him as the helpless victim (I just need love!) of a godless obsession with celebrity.

  17. Hmmm, let see, Vanity Fair/Investigative reporting, need to make a note of that next time I need to research a project!

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