HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I
June 20th, 1995
I attribute my apostasy to Michael Jackson’s HIStory.
I remember the time. I was eleven years old when my brother received the double-cassette on Christmas morning.
We were allowed to open one present before heading to church.
St. Barnabas was unnecessarily lofty for the Church of England: incense baked into pews, stained glass revealing the crucifixion and a righteousness that suffocated the humour out of the holiday season.
I took it all way too seriously. Feared damnation exactly like I was taught.
A life-size statue of Jesus stood in an enclave nearby. The self-belief in his stance recalled the monument of MJ on the album cover I’d seen that morning - all alabaster and glory.
“What have we done to the world?” I swear I heard him whisper.
I brought my mind back to the sermon, eyes to the front. In God’s house, He had complete access to my thoughts and fears.
A terrifying prospect for a boy waking up with unexplained erections.
Lord have mercy!
Finally, He spoke to me. His voice faint, gentle, melodious.
But it wasn’t Him…
My brother was concealing a headphone in his ear. He’d smuggled his walkman in and had been listening to ‘HIStory’ throughout the entire service.
I panicked. My immediate concern was for his soul.
“I am here with you,” Michael sang, as if from inside a distant cave, a predicament not foreign to the Gospels.
Suddenly aware of MJ’s presence, I began to follow every word. I couldn’t not: such pop perfection.
I stopped hearing my own thoughts, my own prayers.
With MJ in my head, what chance did I have of hearing Him? What chance did I have of Him hearing me??
I tessellated with anxiety to the beat of ‘Tabloid Junkie’.
A smug smile cracked across my brother’s face that stated his position: MJ was more appealing than Jesus. Not a glimmer of concern in his expression.
His disregard for the wrath of God was thrust upon me like a new immune system to a leper:
It gave me… life.
Before the end of the service, my mum caught my brother head-bobbing. She confiscated the walkman but the damage was done.
That my brother was willing to risk eternal damnation, for a few bars of ‘Scream’, suggested that this religion thing might not be everything I assumed it was.
I shifted from Christian to Moonwalker.
For a while.
Until he was also impossible to believe in anymore.
Drink: A bottle of full-bodied red wine, preferably a Cabernet Sauvignon. Pair with some freshly baked bread.