Should Christians mourn the death of the famous singer Whitney Houston?

Probably one of the most alarming things for me about Christians is their tendency towards moral equivalence and moral relativism. Take the death of Whitney Houston for instance. I noticed a lot of Christians posting feverishly about it in a way that they never post about real heroes. Apparently, for these Christians, the amount of fame that a person has should determine their importance to us – and not their moral character.

Here’s why I don’t like Whitney Houston:

The singer’s comments provided a sad coda to Brown and Houston’s tumultuous 15 years of marriage, a union that unfolded like a gonzo soap opera across the pages of so many tabloids and a reality TV show, before crumbling under the weight of its numerous dysfunctions in 2007.

Over their time together, Houston and Brown positioned themselves as a kind of ‘80s R&B edition of Bonnie and Clyde—he, a hard-partying bad-boy pioneer of New Jack Swing, and she, America’s onetime sweetheart, the glowing beauty with a stunning multi-octave range—whose glaring personal disparities combined to create a dangerous codependent relationship. “He was my drug,” Houston told Oprah Winfrey in a widely publicized 2009 interview. “I didn’t do anything without him. I wasn’t getting high by myself. It was me and him together, and we were partners, and that’s what my high was—him. He and I being together, and whatever we did, we did it together. No matter what, we did it together.”

What they did together, according to her testimony, included a nightmarish descent into hard-core drugs, fistfights and bizarro behavior by Brown, such as him spray painting “evil eyes” on the walls and carpets of their home and cutting the heads off all photographs of Houston.

The couple was married in 1992 and the following year they conceived a daughter, Bobbi Kristina. To hear Houston tell it, what doomed their relationship, though, was her movie breakthrough that year in the romantic thriller The Bodyguard, which includes the singer’s epochal contribution to its soundtrack “I Will Always Love You.” “Something happens to a man when a woman has that much fame,” Houston explained on Oprah. “I tried to play it down all the time. I used to say, ‘I’m Mrs. Brown, don’t call me Houston.’”

In 2000, Hawaiian airport authorities found nearly half an ounce of marijuana in the actress-singer’s luggage, but she and Brown boarded a plane and flew off before Houston could be arrested and the charges were later dropped. Although she flat out denied to Diane Sawyer that she and Brown abused drugs—“We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack,” Houston memorably said in the interview—by the mid-2000s, Houston had endured a roundelay of rehab stays. She admitted she made habitual use of marijuana and crack and specified that Brown’s highs of choice were alcohol and marijuana laced with cocaine.

By that point, the couple’s fights had entered a physical realm. In 2003, police responded to a domestic-violence 911 call to their Georgia home and discovered Houston with a bruised cheek and a cut lip. Brown subsequently turned himself in and was charged with misdemeanor battery for striking the superstar and reportedly threatening to “beat her ass.” Inexplicably, the couple left Brown’s court hearing arm in arm and drove away in an SUV with Houston singing along to the Aretha Franklin song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

“They were like Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” says a friend who’s known them for roughly two decades. “It was a real, love-hate relationship.” Still, the person never really bought the popular media-storyline about Bobby being the thing that brought down Whitney. “I hate when people blame Bobby for her drug use. He had his drug use and she had hers. They got divorced many years ago, she had all the opportunities in the world to get herself to together and she didn’t. I actually think part of the reason they broke, up was that he was trying to get clean.”

This is why I oppose talking about Whitney Houston – I have moral concerns. I take morality seriously, because I allow my Christian worldview to determine what I like and don’t like in other areas – like my taste in music and art. I object to her moral standards and her choices in courtship and marriage, so I do not celebrate her success nor mourn her death any more than any other non-famous person. Moreover, I do not respect contributions to art that undermine traditional marriage and courting, which her singing clearly did. It is because of singers like her that women today feel justified in allowing emotions to dominate their choice of man and their interactions with men. They think that a roller-coaster of entertaining drama and spontaneity with a handsome man will result in a happy marriage.

These songs and movies teach them that you can marry a tiger (won’t your friends be so envious!) and then after the wedding, it will be a kitten in your lap. It’s stupid, but that’s the view of marriage that people get after decades of indoctrination in non-Christian art. And when they adopt these Whitney Houston methods of living and it doesn’t work out, that’s when they turn to big government programs and pastors who blame men who refusing to “man up” – it’s not their fault their plan failed – because it worked for Whitney Houston. Except it didn’t. We should not be celebrating anyone in the popular culture who discourages the idea that there are objective constraints on the roles that women and men play in marriage – and that spouses should be selected for their ability to perform those roles.

Here is a comment I wrote about it on Facebook to some of the men and women who were celebrating Whitney Houston. I posted my link to the story of Medal of Honor winner Michael Murphy, and a Christian woman replied asserting a moral equivalence between Whitney Houston and Michael Murphy.

I wrote:

If we are serious about putting forward a vision of life that includes morality, then we should talk about self-sacrificial heroes more than drug addicts. There is a moral law, and because it sends a message to young people about who their role models should be. There is a huge redefinition of moral standards going on right now because young people, especially young women, are having their values redefined by culture. Women, more than men, crave the approval of their peers when it comes to things like choosing men and deciding how to be courted by men, for example. For example, it’s possible for a woman to be swayed away from a man who has a record of protecting, providing, and being a moral and spiritual leader, simply because the culture’s standard of what a good man is is being determined by music stars and celebrity. Whereas characteristics like chastity, sobriety, employment and investments USED to be regarded as desirable, women’s views have changed so that they are allowed to have premarital sex with men who fire their emotions – that’s what happens in Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” movie, isn’t it? So why is she good? Patrick McGoohan refused to kiss on camera and turned down the role of James Bond because of too much sex.


As both a moral and opinionated man, McGoohan held strong views and was forceful about seeing that they were carried out. He had insisted at the very first meeting on the script for the first episode that the bedroom scene be cut out. In fact, he stipulated that romantic involvements would have to be eliminated if he were to play the role, and consequently none appeared in either this series or the ‘Secret Agent’ series that followed.

…It should come as no surprise that when McGoohan was offered the role as the first James Bond, he turned it down – several times – as being incompatible with the type of role he wanted to play. He says it was a decision he has never regretted.

[H]e was offered the roles of James Bond and Simon Templar (The Saint). He turned both down.

He once recalled: “When we started Danger Man the producer wanted me to carry a gun and to have an affair with a different girl each week. I refused. I am not against romance on television, but sex is the antithesis of romance. Television is a gargantuan master that all sorts of people watch at all sorts of time, and it has a moral obligation towards its audience.”

Do you know more about Whitney Houston and her ilk than you know about Patrick McGoohan? Does it matter to you how popular art is going to influence young people away from traditional boundaries and requirements of relationships and marriage?

As Ravi Zacharias says – be careful what you celebrate. I celebrate the bravery of Medal of Honor winners who give their lives protecting their country. I don’t celebrate promiscuous, abusive drug addicts who makes millions of dollars singing about sentimental irrational immoral notions of love divorced from chastity, chivalry, commitment and traditional gender roles. There are many single mothers who derived their views on men and marriage from popular music, and think of the harm that caused. The values of Whitney Houston have been embraced by a younger generation, and now none of them will ever enjoy lasting married love – they don’t know how to do it. They think you can act like a fool and somehow, lifelong marriage will obtain independent of our efforts.

That is why one of my courting questions for women is: “Who do you admire most, and what is your plan for making your children become like him or her?” It’s not a good thing when women cannot distinguish between the Hollywood celebrities and Medal of Honor winners. This view that ballet dancers are the same as William Lane Craig when it comes to effectiveness for the Kingdom is also an alarming view, which many women share.

Is life about having happy feelings, or is there something else that we should be doing? What does God expect from us?

I just want to emphasize that I saw just as many air-headed Christian men as women posting about Whitney Houston.

One more thing that I didn’t say in the comment thread is this. Do Christians have an obligation to think about life? I mean, anyone can see that there is a culture war going on right now, where young people are having their values undermined by new values being pushed in the mainstream media, by Hollywood, in the secular public schools, and so on. I think that Christians should be obligated to stand apart from the culture and be different. Most of the Christians I know are thoroughly compromised by postmodernism, feminism, socialism and a host of other doctrines incompatible with a robust Christian worldview and a Kingdom-centered life plan. They are so steeped in it that they don’t even realize that they are identical to non-Christians in every respect, except for singing in groups on Sunday and reading the Bible for comforting feelings.

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24 thoughts on “Should Christians mourn the death of the famous singer Whitney Houston?”

  1. Ouch!

    I appreciate this post, WK. You made some great points, and I share your frustration. The celebrity worship surrounding Michael Jackson was much worse than that of Houston, but it’s early. He was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and had no association with Christianity whatsoever, and yet Christians–including pastors–made remarks such as, “Boy, did God get the glory at Michael Jackson’s funeral or what?!” Unreal.

    To answer the question of your blog heading, yes, I think Christians should mourn the death of any human being, on the grounds that all human life is created in the image of God (Imago Dei) and is, therefore, sacred. But should we celebrate or exalt one whose life/worldview was characterized by immorality? Absolutely not! That should be a no-brainer.

    By the way, it is Peggy Noonan whom Ravi Zacharias is quoting when he says,”Be careful what you celebrate.” That was my only familiarity with her name before I read her positive Wall Street Journal op-ed about Santorum.

  2. Thanks for the post. I’ve seen several Christian people posting messages on Facebook about Houston. I don’t think any of them read the tabloid journals and such that covered her wild lifestyle. They heard her sing some spiritual music with her beautiful voice and was sad to hear of her passing. Others that were more familiar with her consider her plight of drugs and her flirtatious adultery number mixed with her Gospel music and can only think, how tragic! She was clearly a very troubled woman. And that is very tragic and sad. A double minded soul can only lead to instability.

  3. I have worked with drug addicts. If it were as easy to come off drugs as people think we wouldn’t have so many, believe me I know of people going almost literaly up the wall. yes her own personal life was also completely up the creak, but are we to judge. We shouldn’t worship and glorify her life, but neither should we be judge, jury and executioner. We should, however, mourn such a waste of such talent. As one of the speakers at her funeral said, God is the one who will judge her, not us.

  4. Hi WK,

    You & Jeremy have made some great points. I agree with Jeremy that we can and should morn the loss of Whitney Houston (for the reasons Jeremy gave), but we should not lionize her more than her due. She was given a magnificent gift from God, yet managed to make a train wreck of it. We can mourn the loss of what should have been. Apparently Whitney was making an effort to gain a better footing. How sincere that effort was is now before God to judge, but we can mourn the loss of what might have been.

    We can hope that her sin will be forgiven and finally washed away by the blood of Christ and that she is now rejoicing in His presence. Still we can mourn the loss of what reward she might have attained had she been a better steward of her gifts. Let it be a lesson and sober warning to as all.

    1. Very tenderly spoken, Gary. I agree with you.

      Unlike with Michael Jackson, Whitney’s closest relatives were able to provide some evidence that she had professed faith in Christ and expressed that faith right up through the night she died. Whether or not Whitney knew Jesus in the salvific/born-again sense is known only to God, however. We will find out in eternity. But I encourage my fellow Christians to pray that souls will be led to repentance and salvation as a result of this all-too-common celebrity self-destruct story.

      By the way, to the person who said we should mourn this “waste of talent,” I beg to differ. What we should mourn is not the fact that the world has lost a good singer and entertainer; that’s trivial (and I’m guilty of doing this myself). Rather, what ought to break our hearts is the fact that another precious life was destroyed by sin, that another soul may spend eternity separated from God, and that a young daughter and elderly mother are left to cope with the wreckage. Those are the true tragedies.

  5. I have to admit that I felt the same way about Christopher Hitchens. I just never got what all the commotion was about when he died. I realized he was an engaging and personable chap, but I didn’t understand the angst that was out there. Whitney Houston was an unbelievable talent, and I do believe she has a better chance of resting with God than Christopher Hitchens, who, sadly, probably has none.

  6. WK,

    I agree with your sentiments, but societal decay seems to me to be far more advanced than you realise or acknowledge. I should say that I am from Canada – it’s probably worse here. Still, the dark culture of nihilism and ignorance in which my generation (I grew up in the 90s) was marinated is that of American pop-culture. And I think that the stats on the decline of marriage and literacy, and the rise of single-parent homes and obesity are equally appalling in both countries. Then again, Canada also saw the state-sponsored expunging of history and tradition from the national consciousness, as well as the imposition of Orwellian multiculturalist dogma in public schools.

    As for Whitney, I think we as Christians can certainly mourn her tragic life and death. There are probably better targets against which to wage the culture war.

  7. WK, I normally agree with your positions, but on this one, not as much. While I agree with your assessment that pop culture hero worship is out of place for a Christian, the tone of your post seems rather harsh and unloving.
    When a person so obviously squanders their God-given potential, it is a tragedy. But surely you must recognize that we all do exactly that—albeit not in as public a manner—and except for the grace of God through Jesus Christ we would all meet with the same tragic fate.
    If we are able to live and appreciate a virtuous life, that’s wonderful—but it is not due to any inherent goodness on our part—it is the grace of God working in our lives. Keeping this in the forefront of my thoughts prevents me from being too hard on others whom have not been rescued from their fallen human natures.

  8. While I appreciate and agree with your thoughts, on whole, I don’t fully agree that Christians should avoid discussing her life and death. In fact, I think it is a great opportunity to bring up the issue of death and what comes next – the death of a worldwide celebrity opens the “what’s it all mean” conversation to a whole slew of people that may not, under normal circumstances, even think about God and His great plan for this world. While I publicly admire, appreciate and celebrate the lives of Christian heroes who have died, they cannot elicit the same conversation for all of my “worldly” friends.

    1. i’m not saying we should discuss her life and death, what is annoying me so many are condemning her. all we know is what the Tabloid press write. We don’t know of any problems she had, most don’t know anything about adiction, but that’s OK condemn her and show how much better we are. Sorry, but that’s how many of the condemning posts are coming across.

      1. Yeah, I’m not really trying to condemn her. I am just saying to don’t make a big deal out of her, because fame isn’t the criterion for celebration. Goodness is. We should celebrate and make a fuss over people who are good.

        I did the same thing with the royal wedding. I didn’t think that people should fuss about them because they cohabitated before their marriage. Why would we celebrate that?

      2. @ Pat Joy – I’m sorry… was the above a response to my comment? If so, I do not understand how your comment corresponds with mine. I mention nothing of condemnation. I simply said that Whitney Houston’s death allows us, as Christians, to enter into a conversation on who God is, what His plan is for redemption, renewal, salvation, hope, etc. I do not know Whitney Houston and I cannot possibly know the state of her heart or relationship with her Creator. That is not my place. My place is to enter into loving conversations with my “un-saved” friends on the issue of eternity.

        1. Sorry Lindsey, it wasn’t meant for you in particular. My replies seem to be going all over the place. I was actually responding to the many who condemn and state that she’s probably in hell now and similar things. As I’m said above, I know how the tabloid press can destroy a person’s charachter by only reporting bad things about them, or misquoting or not checking things. I also have worked with adicts and with all addictions (I smoke so am also talking about myself), you start out with once or twice taking the drug or cigerette or whatever thinking you won’t get addicted, but by the time you realise you can’t control it, you are addicted. The affect on your life depends on what your addicted to. I think we’ve even had people on here suggest she could stop any time she wanted to. If only that were true. We know very little about if Witney did any good in her life, it doesn’t sell papers. We don’t know where she’s ended up, judgement is God’s not ours.

          As I said, it wasn’t aimed at you. I was just getting so sick and tired of all the condemnation.

          1. I hear ya! I’ve mentioned that to my husband many times since her death. I mean, how many people struggle with food addictions… but it wouldn’t even cross our mind that that addiction (to food) could keep us out of heaven. If we are saved, we are saved, no matter what addiction we struggle with here.

  9. She had an amazing voice, but was a mess. Her handlers, like so many who handle other stars, gave her everything she wanted, including the false sense that everything was OK.

  10. Even Shakespeare celebrated the “marry a tiger” way of thinking. Demetrius was the ultimate “bad boy” seducing and then abandoning Helena, and yet we’re supposed to believe they will live happily ever after? Same for Angelo and Marianna, Betram and Helena, Proteus and Julia, and on and on. His comedies are full of that sort of thing.

  11. What I find amazing is Christians putting Whitney Houston in heaven just because she was God conscious. Being God conscious and singing spirituals does not make one heaven bound. Many popular celebs are made godly-angels in death regardless of their lifestyle when they were alive. Idol worship…

    1. What amazes me is how many Christians are ready to judge by what is put in the tabloid press.

      I used to know a priest, smashing man, who wanted to leave the church to get married. One of the tabloids quoted a neighbour saying the girl friend was pregnant as she had seen the District Midwife going into the girl friends house. I happened to know the ‘district Midwife’. She was actually a District Nurse who had been to school with the woman and if in the area would pop in for a cup of coffee. Priest’s girl friend pregnant was written on the front page in large letter. I rang the paper and wrote to them. my letter never even appeared in the paper. I do not judge anyone, let alone from what the tabloid press writes, but boy are so called Christians ready to jump on the band waggon, ready to intimate how bad Whitney Houston was and how great they are.

      i think many people who have posted on here will be shocked when and if they get to heaven to find out exactly who is there.

  12. Praise God that his mercy endures forever. That being said,we should pray daily that we do not fall into temptation. Hell is for real and forever. I shutter to think of anyone being in torment forever and ever. Remember to pray for those you see caught in sin and maybe your prayers on their behalf will avail them much. Christ Jesus will reward your humble spirit for praying for someone who may, before they take their last breath, ask Jesus’s forgiveness and make it into the kingdom in the nick of time!😅

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