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.
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.