Thursday, September 17, 2009

COLUMN: Wanna be startin' ... a religion

I read a few years ago how a growing number of people had started listing “Jedi” as their religion on their census forms. This makes perfect sense as a religion — it’s a powerful force for good and it’s open to everyone, as long as your midichlorian levels are high enough. And if you know what midichlorians are, George Lucas has you exactly where he wants you.

Still, it was starting to feel like it was time for a new fake belief system to pop up. Which is why I’m happy to report that a brand-new religion, “Cult of Michael Jackson” — yes, that Michael Jackson — has officially opened up shop in the heart of Jerusalem. Well, actually it’s at an art gallery in Brooklyn, but I’m sure when you’re there it feels like Jerusalem.

“We are the world, and if you are ready, you can be part of one of the most elite societies on the entire planet Earth,” claims the Cult, and I’m hoping that motto works better for them than it has for Scientology. According to their press release, “Leaders of the Cult … fully believe that the world would be a better place if everyone took Michael Jackson’s words to heart.” His actions, meh, presumably not so much.

Now, in the interest of journalism, I did some serious research into this organization, by which I mean I visited its Web site. And after looking at it for a good five minutes, I’m still not sure if they’re serious. But I guess that doesn’t matter — the Rev. Sun Myung Moon probably didn’t think people were going to take him seriously at first either, and now he spends his weekends marrying entire stadiums full of people, many of whom were only there to watch the ball game.

The religion’s legitimacy is also evident in the fact that the Cult of Michael Jackson has a Facebook page and, as of this week, 369 fans. (Well, they said it was elite.) This is exactly how Jesus would have done it if he were starting out today: “Peter, tonight before the rooster crows you will click ‘Ignore’ on me three times,” etc.

I have to admit I’m a little skeptical, though. If you’re going to pick a recently deceased celebrity to base a religion on, why not go with someone like Walter Cronkite? It’s very easy to picture acolytes in dark blue suits going up to people in airports with little Cronkitism pamphlets, asking, “Would you like to know the way it is?”

But besides Michael Jackson’s questionable personal decisions — the chimp, the hyperbaric chamber, the behavioral issues that have already proven problematic to certain other religions — there’s the fact that, like much scripture, his words were often inscrutable. For instance, I just listened to “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” at, and I could swear that these are the actual lyrics:

Blubber, is the fill enough?
Fever, to put your swaz in now;
Powder, is the post office,
That makes it happen,
In eggs no question marks;
Paul McCartney, is evil, EVIL!

Actually, I just made up that last part. But you get the idea.

Granted, the Web site does transcribe some of the lyrics-based scripture, such as “You shall blame it on the boogie, knowing you are a danc’in machine.” But even that raises questions, such as: If I’m not pro-boogie, will I not get into Michael Jackson heaven? And more importantly, do we really need a religion that makes us feel guilty because we’re not following some arbitrary set of rules? (Another one, I mean.) And what’s with the apostrophe in the middle of “danc’in”?

Here’s what it comes down to: Personally, I think we should appreciate Michael Jackson’s vast contribution to popular music and mourn his untimely passing, but try to avoid, if at all possible, praying to him. I’m no religious fanatic, but I’m starting to think people should be pickier about who their deities are.

Which reminds me: May the force be with you.

Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England; this column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

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