Sunday, April 11, 2010
The Faith(?) Of Elvis Presley
"The world is more alive at night…it's like God ain't looking." - Elvis
John 3:19-20 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. - God
After writing the blog post yesterday on the Beatles alleged quote “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus” I started thinking more about Elvis. I had said that I had always heard you either loved Elvis or the Beatles, not both. I think that saying actually dissuaded me from liking the Beatles through life, mostly because my mom, grandmother, dad and brother were all Elvis fans, which naturally made me an Elvis fan. (On a side not that is how many people profess to be Christians as well)
So, I have often wondered about Elvis’ true spiritual condition. Was he a Christian? No doubt he was a great entertainer who loved music since childhood. Elvis was quoted as saying, “Since I was two years old, all I knew was gospel music. That music became such a part of my life it was as natural as dancing, a way to escape from the problems. And my way of release." This goes back to his upbringing in the Assemblies of God church in Tupelo as a child. His mother, no doubt, was a model for his musical and spiritual choices then and throughout his life.
Elvis was known to sing gospel songs during his concerts, during rehearsals and notably surrounded himself with famous Southern Gospel groups. These included The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations and JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. Elvis’ penchant for gospel music has been the influence for many gospel singers ever since, because of that you will likely hear his arrangement of “How Great Thou Art” in 99% of church services. Elvis’ live recording of this song always gives me goose bumps. But little bumps through my follicle system are not enough proof that Elvis actually meant the words he was singing. Elvis was also a huge giver. He was known to give cars away on the whim. But that also does not mean since he gave Sonny and Red each a Cadillac that he did so in the spirit of Christ but instead that he was just a giver by nature. This may be mostly in part that he did not have much when he was growing up and wanted to spread the wealth, not a bad thing but also not something that says “Yes, Elvis was a Christian”.
I have become very skeptical of Elvis actually being a born again believer. Many reasons are behind this, but most notably his lifestyle and that I never actually heard him profess to know Christ in interviews or print. After researching on the web, I still can’t find anything pointing to Elvis’ Christianity other than his singing of Gospel songs and his upbringing in a Pentecostal home. There are many people that would say I am being judgmental and that I can’t say for sure if Elvis was a Christian and I agree, I do not know for 100% certainty that Elvis was or was not a true believer.
I know that Elvis sang gospel songs, surrounded himself with gospel singers, talked of his upbringing in a Pentecostal home, had a bible and was very giving. But, I ask you, how many other people live this same lifestyle today? I know many people that profess to be Christians and back it up by things along the road of their life, even a prayer the recited as a child is pointed to. The question is, do these things make someone a Christian? Are these things fruits of a Christian? Or are these things simply a lifestyle instilled from childhood into a man that really loved and admired his mother?
One path Elvis lead through the later part of his life was spiritual in nature. But the spirit he was seeking was definitely not the God of the Bible. He was known to have been heavily researching Hinduism, Judaism, numerology, Theosophy, positive thinking, the new-age and meditation. None of these things beneficial or relevant to a true Christian. In fact, many in his inner circle were growing increasingly worried over his path into the spiritual realm away from the Bible. Presley was seeking something and that is proof that he did not have the True God present in his life.
Many people will by now be saying, “Jeff, you’re a little harsh here. Elvis was just wrapped up in his lifestyle and stumbled from time to time. Sure he made mistakes, sure he did things that were not good in God’s eyes, but hey, he was raised a Christian and sang Christ centered songs.” This is no more than what millions have done and continue to do daily, justify themselves. The bible says you WILL be a new creation in Christ, that God will not allow you to be taken from His hand. So if those are true, how does someone, with the rebirth in Christ, and remaining in God’s hand stumble into a constant and habitual sinful existence?
Elvis’ sinfulness is well documented. His bevy of women, penchant for drugs and cursing are all common knowledge. But, Christianity is not a balancing act between good works of philanthropy and songs being sang outweighing the lifestyle chosen to pursue. I would very greatly like to say that Elvis was a Christian. But I think I can say confidently, unless he truly repented of his sins before his death in 1977, he is burning in a relentless flame in the depths of hell. It is very possible that that night in ’77 Elvis did see himself as the sinner he was and his need for the imputed righteousness of Christ. I pray he did, as I pray that others I have known and have passed did.
The fact remains that many are still in the same situation as Presley. They are trying to work their way to heaven. They line the pews every Sunday, they donate regularly to their church and charities, they sing Christian songs and have Christian friends, but they have not trusted God’s Word and in the sinless Lamb who bore their sins. They know a lot about Him, but yet do not know Him personally, just as many know a lot about Elvis; they never knew him in a personal manner. If you are one that justifies yourself instead of trusting in Christ for that, then you need to repent now. Your sins are on your own head and you will be accountable before a Holy God on judgment day. You will stand before the Father with the Son beside you and instead of Him showing the scars of your sins as proof that He knew you, He will say “Depart from me, I never knew you.”