Much to my surprise and dismay, I found that starting yesterday quite a few people came to my blog looking at a particular entry written some time ago  written about my complicated thoughts on my favorite song of 1996, “Jesus To A Child,” from a George Michael web forum for his fans. While it is normally pleasing for people to visit my blog, it is less so when they do so with deliberate desire to misinterpret what I write and misrepresent my character as a man, something I take very seriously, no matter how often it happens. What struck me as most unjustifiable was that my moral outrage of the sin that was being portrayed in “Jesus To A Child,” a moral outrage that is shared by the straightforward and open religious beliefs I hold, was considered to be an example of shocking hate speech and right-wing religious extremism, neither of which it was, and neither of which any of my speech is an example of, and about which little needs to be said. What desires more commentary, though, is the comments that were sprinkled around the misrepresentations of my own character and that discussed the personal feelings of the various posters on this George Michael fan forum themselves.
The person who originally brought my blog entry to the attention of fellow fans was a fellow from England who stated that he tended to prefer the melancholy and reflective songs of George Michael that allowed him to feel a bit self-indulgent and gloomy. Being a person who has often been accused of being extremely self-indulgent in my writings, this is a tendency I can definitely recognize in myself. Few who know me well have lacked the opportunity to see my melancholy and reflective side, whether it has been seen in person or, more commonly, through my writings. It should be noted as well that it is precisely this tendency of my own that is responsible for the fact that I find “Jesus To A Child” and other songs by George Michael to be deeply expressive of my own feelings of reflective melancholy, however different the moral context of that reflection between me and between the singer himself, and those fans who share and endorse his own behavior. It is lamentable that in seeking to label me as a particularly hateful and narrow-minded person that other people often cut themselves off from having any kind of understanding of me as a person, or recognizing that I am not so different than they are, at least in terms of personality and temperament, however different my behavior may be as a result of my own moral self-restraint.
George Michael presents an interesting conundrum as far as a musician is concerned. Although he gained initial recognition as a member of the boy-band duo Wham!, early in his career he established a reputation both of concern with larger social issues as well as a desire to be taken seriously. In his duets with Elton John and Queen, and in the title of his sophomore solo album “Listen Without Prejudice,” he hinted at concerns of being misrepresented and misjudged as deviant while actually seeking to express his own sexuality in a guarded and cautious way, at least until his cover was blown by the scandal that ended his popularity in the United States in the late 1990’s. Later album titles like “Older” and “Patience” sought to present him as an elder statesmen of music, responsible and mature. Yet George Michael also loved to provoke audience with his music, especially when it came to matters of sexuality. Songs like “Outside,” “Freeeek” and “Fastlove” express different sides of a desire for sexual intimacy without commitment or restraint, while his early single “I Want Your Sex” showed him painting “Explore Monogamy” over the body of his then-girlfriend, and “Father Figure”  showed a feeling of tender devotion to an underage lover where George Michael is concerned that his intense and passionate longings would be considered criminal in nature. As common as both the desire to be taken seriously and treated with honor and respect and also the desire to express longings that are forbidden by law and religion and also the desire to poke and provoke the sensitivities of others, these tendencies tend to contradict. To the extent that we desire to be treated with honor and respect, we incur the obligation to honor and respect others. To the extent that we poke and provoke others, we can expect them to respond in kind. To the extent that we reveal the darker aspects of our own heart and character, we can expect, however sadly, that others will respond with hostility and prejudice. This is not to say that we are happy to experience it, but that we ought not to be surprised by it.
Many artists dwell with this sense of contradiction within them. To a certain extent, contemporary art celebrates decadence and offending the sensibilities of those who are moral and restrained in nature. Yet, at the same time, and paradoxically, contemporary artists find it entirely illegitimate that people whose worldview is being deliberately attacked would respond with a sense of moral outrage at that which offends them. Artists and critics feel entirely comfortable heaping people with hostility and scorn merely for possessing some moral sense, but those who possess moral sense are seen as having no right of self-defense, no right to criticize those who continually assault them. This is unjust. Many people write and critique and create out of self-defense, out of a compulsive need to be understood. George Michael’s music reflects a compulsive need to be understood, in all of his complexity as a person, both taking advantage of the wealth and influence gained by fame, and the enjoyment of sexuality that comes from his image, but also showing a hostility to the restraint and to the effort that is required to keep up one’s image, and to feed the fame machine that both creates stars and destroys people. In being fierce enough and defiant enough to frequently provoke others and in being sensitive enough to desire to be liked by everyone, George Michael and his loyal fans are like many people, but the two desires are contradictory, because people do not like to be attacked and provoked, and will seldom respond kindly to being mocked and insulted.
Yet even if the intolerant mullahs of the left justify their hatred of people who do not share their view of our contemporary societal decadence because of a hatred of what they view as intolerance and bigotry, we who are so attacked and misrepresented must respond differently, at the very least to break the cycle of abuse. However misguided our longings, the fact that we love and desire to be loved speaks to our creation in love by a God of love. However decadent and degraded we may be as a result of our own sins and the sins of others against us, we are still beings created in the image and likeness of God above and deserve honor and respect on those grounds alone, even if it is easy to honor and respect those who are honorable and respectable. The fact that some people will abuse the free will they are given, whether that abuse is in the way that people destroy themselves through sin, or show hatred to those whom God loves, does not in any way negate the fact that ultimately we were created to be both free and responsible. And the fact that we are free to live as we will, knowing that we will be held responsible by our Righteous Heavenly Judge for how we behave, also means that no matter how we wish to be understood, there are people who are going to misunderstand us willfully and provocatively, despite our every attempt to make ourselves, our positions, our feelings, and our behavior clear. That is just as true for me as it is for George Michael, and for many people who are neither fans of him nor me. Part of the price of being born free is respecting the freedom of others, even if they are terribly wrong. After all, we cannot demand a right for ourselves that we are not willing to grant to our enemies, for we are not ultimately the judges of our lives, but defendants standing at the bar, hoping our judge is a merciful and understanding one.