I'm terribly, terribly sorry. I lived outside the United States from 1967 to 2006 -- most of my adult life -- and besides, I don't pay much attention to the pop music scene or to the evolution of modern religions. No one had ever bothered to tell me that pop music and revealed religion had merged here during my absence, thus the earthshaking event of last Thursday came as a great shock to me.
I had heard of Michael Jackson, knew that he was an entertainer -- knew, even, that he was odd looking and that he had a sister who had bared a breast, accidentally or otherwise, before the television cameras during some sort of sporting event. (None of my friends in Europe, where I was living at the time, could understand why this had created a scandal. "Was her breast ugly?" was the closest any of them, male or female, could come to fathoming the issue.) What I did not know, however, was that at some point during my long absence from the country this Jackson fellow had replaced Jesus Christ as the primary object of worship for most Americans.
Fortunately, I was traveling in the Midwest from Friday until Tuesday morning, thus I had the incredible privilege of taking in an enormous quantity of television "news" in hotel lobbies and breakfast rooms, in restaurants, and in a few private homes. My imagination was fired by the rare chance to see how the early prophets of a new religion manipulate the masses. And on Saturday, when I realized what was about to happen, I began to tremble all over. I may not be a follower of any religion, but I've studied the religious music of many great composers and can recite the Nicene Creed by heart; and I knew -- yes, I really knew -- what would take place that day: "Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, / Et ascendit in coelum".... Thursday-Friday-Saturday.... it was the third day! The new Savior would be resurrected, according to Scripture, and would ascend to heaven, just as his predecessor had done.
Midnight came and went, in Jerusalem, in LA, and finally at the International Date Line, and nothing happened. I was horribly disappointed: I admit that I was hoping to see the clergy, who for centuries had been telling everyone about a first resurrection, thrown into disarray by a second one. But my disappointment was swept away by a new shock. It seems that millions of Americans were truly surprised to discover that a high-ranking politician -- the governor of a state that, as I recall, opted to fly a Confederate flag over its capitol building only a few years ago -- could be a lying windbag and a hypocrite and could use public funds to go off to Argentina to spend some quality time (is that term still in use, or have I missed the boat again?) with a lover.
These events have made me so ashamed of my ignorance of the society to which I have returned that I am thinking of taking a course in modern American mores, or of reading Mencken for the first time since my teens. In the meantime, please send substantial contributions to this writer, who is planning the construction, in Manhattan, of the First Church of Michael. ( Look for my postal address in a forthcoming blog entry.) I'm hoping that the resurrection has merely been deferred.