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FIRST-PERSON: O, Elvis, where art thou?

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–When Elvis left the building 25 years ago, the world couldn’t believe peanut butter and “nanner” sandwiches, bacon cheeseburgers and drugs had claimed the king.

Since then conspiracy theorists — who refuse to consider the credible explanation that men cannot live such indulgent lives to a ripe old age — have mused that what Elvis really needed was a break or perhaps protection from mobsters stung by him and the federal government.

Has he been hiding on a private Caribbean island? Perhaps on a secluded Kansas farm? Will he return to the stage on the 25th anniversary of his death? O, Elvis, where art thou?

I have always, unlike most people my age, been a fan of the lean, young Elvis and his music. Something about the pork-chop sideburns, one-ton belt buckles and rhinestone-studded jumpsuits he later wore turned me off. In one of his final concerts, the overweight king even split the seat of a jumpsuit during a poorly performed karate thrust.

I still, however, love to watch Elvis movies and listen to young Elvis’ songs. He, after all, produced an incredibly large body of quality work — 725 recordings.

My wife knows just how much I love to watch the movies and listen to the Sun sessions, his earliest recordings in the mid-1950s. I also love the gospel tunes. My love for the music has, in fact, caused more than one snicker at family gatherings.

As the anniversary of Elvis’ death approaches — not his induction into the federal witness protection program or his abduction by aliens — I’ve found myself contemplating the impact he might have had on the world had he used his fame and fortune unashamedly to further God’s kingdom.

His impact could have been enormous. Fame, however, obscures the need for God. Celebrities often fill the void in their lives with mansions, audacious clothing and even pink Cadillacs.

Elvis — we know from his life — was never really at peace about his relationship with God. He was a giving man and found comfort in time-honored gospel tunes, but he never declared overtly his faith exclusively in Jesus Christ. He was reared in Assemblies of God churches and knew the Bible well, but in his later life incorporated New Age spirituality into his beliefs. In fact, he was drawn to numerology and some Buddhist teachings entirely incompatible with Christianity.

Erika Doss, author of the 1999 book “Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith & Image,” said that although Elvis delved into mysticism in the late 1960s he probably never departed from his roots in Christianity. One can only guess as to the veracity of her claim. In any case, he was hardly a model of biblical morality.

Since Presley’s death he has assumed elevated status among some of his more devoted fans. Like the Greek gods of old — heroes writ large — he has been described as a messenger from God and even as deity himself. Scan the Internet and you will find the First Church of Jesus Christ, Elvis, the First Congregational Church of Elvis (Graceland) and the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (in both the United States and Australia).

Whether such churches are founded out of shear tomfoolery or severe psychosis, their mere existence demonstrates how desperately people need a hero that is untouchable by the ordinary, everyday problems normal human beings face. Those churches long for the return of their king.

Such frivolity distracts suffering humanity from the real problems of sin, death and eternal punishment. Elvis was all too human, and his life was fraught with drug and alcohol abuse, sexual immorality and wantonness. He died, and if he did not know Christ, really is — dare I say — a hunka hunka burnin’ love.

Elvis cannot save, nor can any other world ruler or celebrity. The power and privilege of salvation belong but to one man.

Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And just as it is appointed for men to die once — and after this, judgment — so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” The king is coming, but it’s not Elvis.

In Christ there is fulfillment, contentment and refuge from the struggles of life. In Christ there is healing from sin and hope for the future. In Christ there is peace and freedom. When did Elvis offer any of these things to a lost and dying world?

I hope Elvis accepted the offer of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It would be a shame if heaven’s choir were absent his voice.
P.S. In the event that Elvis does return to the stage on the anniversary of his death, thereby proving that he was capable of the greatest sham in history, the portions of this article referencing his death are hereby null and void. The spiritual content, however, still applies.

    About the Author

  • Gregory Tomlin