They gathered again to to remember the "king." Not the King of Kings, mind you, but the King of Rock and Roll. This was the 30th annual vigil for the song legend Elvis Presley who passed away on August 16, 1977. His followers, however, have not dimmed in their support over these many years. In fact, their idol worship is just as strong.
Reflecting back one fan commented: "When I would hear him sing, I'd go into like a trance and nothing else around me mattered." Recalling an experience in '57, one woman admitted: "We rubbed our hands on the stage and I didn't wash my hands for a week." Eew!
Apparently they had record numbers at Graceland this year for the candle light vigil at the king's grave sight. At least 40,000 attended. However, the Convention and Visitor's Bureau of Memphis predicts that up to 75,000 will be in the city for the anniversary this year. Add to this the fact that up to 600,000 tourists visit Graceland each year.
Maybe I'm still too young to appreciate this undying attraction to Elvis. I was born in '60 and he died when I was a junior in High School. Unfortunately I was influenced during those critical teen age years on the disco phenomena. The "king" had already hit his peak by then.
Yet it is not just a sense of loyalty to a musical artist when it comes to Elvis. Many people quietly remember the singers and actors they appreciated over the years. And in the process we often overlook a lot of their faults, honoring their achievements despite their failings. But what is it with Elvis? Even a casual search on the web will reveal that attachment to Elvis has taken on religious dimensions.
There is an interesting paper by Niquel Patterson entitled "Elvis: Sights and Faith: Making Sense of the Seemingly Absurd" on the web Patterson is undoubtedly a fan, and probably more than that. Overlooking the biases of the author, the paper still gives a rather detailed insight into the real religious fervor over Elvis. Aside from actual churches devoted to his name and memory, people do attribute to him divine-like characteristics, claiming to have had their lives changed by his presence and help long after he died.
If this was just a pocket of excessively misdirected fans, one could ignore it. But what is disturbing is just how widespread the worship of Elvis has become in the last three decades. Considering our supposedly enlightened times of demanding scientific verification, a worship of Elvis is a throwback to ancient pagan roots.
From a Christian perspective it is on the one hand a clear violation of the First Commandment. Yet as the title to this article also noted, it is pure silliness as well. Yes, some say he was a cultural change-agent. Yes, others will claim he was an amazing musical talent. But let's get real! He was a man who died in his excesses - dropped over from a drug overdose. And as far as I know he didn't spend his millions trying to support the overall mission of telling the world about Christ. He was confused on the direction and balance of his own life. And now others want to look to him to help theirs? What blindness the evil one still causes.