I’ve been good for very little lately, distracted by an upper-respiratory-tract virus that conjures new symptoms with which to persecute me every day. This afternoon I found myself turning on the TV around the time that the memorial event for Michael Jackson was getting underway. I couldn’t help but be curious as to just how over-the-top and bizarre the proceedings might be. As it unfolded, I made a few notes:

What is described in the news media as the “golden casket” containing Michael Jackson’s remains is carried towards the stage at the Staples Center, while a gospel choir sings a song called We’re Going to See the King . I have little doubt that the king whom the songwriter had in mind was the King of Heaven and Earth, but it’s almost impossible, in this context, not to infer that we are expected to be thinking instead about the “King of Pop.”

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We’re going to see the King.

No more crying there, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We’re going to see the King.

No more dying there, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We’re going to see the King.

A clergyman identified as Pastor Lucious comes to the podium, and praises Michael and the Jackson family. He also assures us that Michael is not gone, but will always be with us and will always comfort us. In his entire time at the microphone, I do not hear him refer to God, by any name—not even once.

Queen Latifah speaks for a while and asserts, “Michael was the biggest star in Heaven and Earth.”

Lionel Richie—perhaps narrowly heading off an earthquake that is about to swallow the Staples Center—then sings his song Jesus Is Love .

On that note, I find the energy to pull myself away from the TV.

Articles by Sean Curnyn

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