Don't intend to create controversy, but I had to share something...
I was listening to Charlemagne this morning (formerly of Wendy Williams' radio show in NYC, now the host of the morning show on 100.3 The Beat here in Philly) and he brought up an interesting conversation he'd had last night on Twitter with some guy who made a VERY bold statement:
MJ is more popular than Jesus.
Now, that may initially sound blasphemous to any religious folks reading this; however, he immediately proceeded to put his comment into its proper context. What he meant was that in today's society, MJ was relevant to more people than Jesus is. He pointed to a recent study that was done with high school freshmen, in which they were shown pictures of MJ and Jesus. Practically every one of them said that they recognized MJ. Jesus? Didn't fare quite as well.
I will readily admit that there are some flaws with the study (e.g., is there such a thing as a true "picture" of Jesus? As far as I can tell, there are only artistic representations of him -- so who knows how those kids "saw" Jesus in their heads?) Nevertheless, I found it all quite interesting... so when he asked for listeners' opinions, I was the first one to call and speak to him on air.
The whole thing coincidentally reminded me of a convo that I'd had on Friday with a co-worker, the gist of which I recanted to him. She was upset that more people seemed to be mourning and/or reporting on MJ's death than Pope John Paul II. I remarked first that the Pope was VERY old and sickly for quite some time -- so people "saw" it coming; meanwhile, MJ just dropped dead at 50. Additionally, not everybody is a Christian/Catholic/etc. that views the Pope as an important figure in the same regard as those of that religious orientation.
There are plenty of Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, etc. to whom the Pope was no more than a little guy with a BIG hat; meanwhile, MJ's music touched people in all countries, of all colors, creeds, sizes, shapes, origins, etc. MJ had today's thugs in red jackets and white socks not so long ago. From bums to billionaires, MJ has reached more kinds of people than any of us could ever dare count in our lifetime -- and will more than likely continue to do so for some years to come. As for the Pope? Honestly, I don't even know the current one's name. As the young kids say, that's "real talk."
Now, don't even get me started on the commercial nature of the J-man's b-day. Most kids don't (and may never) know what Christmas is supposed to observe. They think it's about snow, trees, dinner and presents -- and probably think the pope is what their grandfathers puff on every night in the family room. While I admit that I observe it as a day for family & friends to spend precious time together, I would argue that Christmas is just as commercial a holiday as Valentine's Day.
For those that believe in him, Jesus is most certainly as important as anyone or anything comes -- but MJ is probably more widely known and/or recognizable. Mind you, there is a big difference in connotation, relative to popularity... I mean, people don't pray to MJ -- although I guess it could be argued that some worshipped him, what with all the fainting & such. I'd be willing to bet that someone in Sri Lanka is doing the "Thriller" dance in the living room as we speak... and that nobody is practicing their Pope Wave™.
At the end of the day, I think that I agree with the guy: I think that MJ is more popular/recognizable (just look at the posts he's inspired me to create) than Jesus -- but that is not to be confused with "important", "enduring" or anything like it. I acknowledge that organized religion is a powerful force in society and will not go away any time soon, considering that it has survived 2 millenia (ed. note: why does everyone call Buddhism a religion? It's more accurately described as a "way of life" than anything). I respect the religious convictions of others and would never say intentionally disrespect things; nevertheless, I feel like MJ's reach extended beyond religious & cultural boundaries -- and that's what made him more recognizable.
For now, anyway...