I’m a little fuzzy on specifics, but one day after musical icon Prince’s sudden death, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly reported he was garnering more internet attention than had Michael Jackson following his 2009 passing. If true, that’s astonishing; the “King of Pop”, after all, was sui generis, an undeniable pop universe legend.
Heightened drama involving a rumored — as yet unverified — prescription-drug addiction’s possible role in Prince’s untimely end has certainly boosted cyberspace searches. And, no doubt, his popularity as a versatile, multi-talented musician played the signal part in stirring interest. He was a superstar — and gone too early. (Yes, fifty-seven years old is early; you twenty-something observers will understand that soon enough, trust me.)
For my part, I’m old enough to remember when the chap styled “Prince” was a relatively new face in record stores. It was during my college years, he was making waves with snappy tunes and explicit, sexually-electrified lyrics. He’s endured ever since, cranking out hits, scoring praise as a capaciously gifted artist. A friend of mine, a semi-professional musician himself who wouldn’t exactly be a Prince enthusiast, taking sharp issue with his notoriously raunchy subject matter, nonetheless mentioned to me one time how impressed he was with the Minnesota native’s creative and skillful music-making abilities.
The flamboyantly attired, hyper-kinetic Prince was truly an original — sort of a stylistic cross-over between Jimi Hendrix, the aforementioned Mr. Jackson, Little Richard and James Brown. At one point, he dropped his familiar moniker, opting to be represented by a weird, ankh-like symbol and referred to as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, he converted to the Jehovah’s Witness sect in 2001; and the soft-spoken performer wasn’t especially shy about it. He even, reportedly, went door-to-door as part of the denomination’s required proselytizing program.
In a scrap of overheated prose, the Washington Post depicted him thusly, “With the death Thursday of Prince Rogers Nelson, you may see a strange mix on your Facebook feed of sex and religion. That’s because perhaps one of the raunchiest, steamiest pop culture figures in the past quarter-century was a conservative Christian. Religious and spiritual themes ran through a huge amount of his work.”
Certain post-mortem analyses have speculated aloud about his spiritual fate: Is the late musician now in Heaven? Can Christians take comfort that he was a-okay because of His professed faith in Jesus?
The situation with Jehovah Witnesses, of course, is problematic for orthodox Christians. JW.s are widely considered a heretical cult by Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ. They embrace a modified, contemporary form of a condemned fourth-century error labeled Arianism — which denies the divinity — i.e., deity, “God-ness”, eternal self-existence — of Christ; instead Jehovah Witnesses categorize the Savior as an elevated form of created being.
New Testament writer Paul didn’t mince words about those who present “another Jesus”, one different from the Scriptures’ God-man: they are to be unhesitatingly rejected (2 Corinthians 11:3,4; Galatians 1:6-9). The biblical Christ is the “Son of God”; both fully God and fully human; second person of the “Godhead”, or “Trinity”; member of the one, true, triune God Who reigns forever and simultaneously as Father, Son (Jesus) and Spirit.
Did Prince know this Jesus? Had he trusted in this Christ for forgiveness of sin and salvation? Only the Creator who examines the hearts of all men can know for sure. But the quirkiness of Jehovah’s Witness’ beliefs provides a point of concern for those whose authoritative spiritual touchstone remains the Old and New Testaments.
There’s also been discussion about how Prince’s alleged awakening affected — or didn’t — his preposterously salacious career. The verdict, by my lights? Decidedly unclear. Did his commitment to “Christ” at least tame the hormone-dripping coloration of his material? Perhaps, but I don’t recall the Purple One ever issuing a full-out denunciation of the filthy stuff; on the other hand, he’s on record deploring modern culture’s excessive profanity and inappropriately libidinous themes. He’s also quoted purportedly expressing serious misgivings over the unholy grail of today’s sexual anarchy: gay marriage and homosexuality. (Some Prince advocates insist he’s been misquoted on this.)
Refreshing for me in this debate is the mildly unanticipated reminder that not a few folks still expect someone who talks about a relationship with God to show it in the practical outworkings of his life. Y’know, like that person actually embraces what he claims to believe — in a way that shapes his practical behavior.
So, rock-and-roll juggernaut Prince has met Jesus? Where’s the evidence in his living that he means business?
This attitude is also, flatly, biblical Christianity 101: “By their fruits shall you know them”; “Faith without works is dead … I will show you my faith by my works”; “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep his commands.” Authentic, repentant belief in Jesus Christ — faith from the heart — always, eventually, generates a manifestly transformed individual.
Once more, the Apostle Paul, ever no-nonsense, exhorted, “Having received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him.” (Colossians 2:6)
Take Denise “Vanity” Matthews, for instance: erstwhile Prince protégé and frontwoman of his “Vanity 6” girl group, she received Christ in the mid-1990s, following a near fatal crack cocaine overdose. This step launched a lifestyle revolution — she even repudiated her much-publicized nickname. Shortly before her death earlier this year, coincidentally also at the too-young age of fifty-seven, Matthews wrote: “Prior to finding my Lord and Savior I lived in the bottomless pit of Hollywood’s deception. Lust, drugs Rock n Roll … I repented … I am Denise! [N]o longer Vanity, for the name means WORTHLESSNES[S]… We are not worthless.” Breitbart’s John Nolte added, in poignant memorium: “[S]he never cashed in, never sold out, never broke her promise to Jesus, even though the riches were there for the taking” — more than outlasting the scoffers who predicted her steadfastness wouldn’t hold.
There’s little doubt about Ms. Matthews’ sincere devotion. Prince’s commitment to the holy God who sent His Son to clean up all our lives, however? Many are left still wondering about that one — hoping for the best, but not assured.
For those proclaiming Jesus as Lord, it shouldn’t ever be that way.