I cannot talk meaningfully about the death of Whitney Houston. I don’t have anything productive to add to the dialogue. But I can respond to some of the other responses to Whitney’s death. When Whitney Houston ruled the world I was in high school and her music was not my style. But there was never a time when I did not have the highest and deepest respect for her craft. She was, and is, the greatest vocal talent in the history of recorded music. It will be a very, very long time before someone of her caliber comes along again.
I grieve for her loss. I’ll admit it — I have shed more than a few tears over the last few days, and said more than a few prayers for Whitney and her family and for grieving people around the world. What I do not understand is the heartlessness I have heard from so many.
“She was a druggie – she had it coming.”
“It’s her own fault – probably just drugs.”
“Stupid – she shouldn’t have gotten hooked up with Bobby Brown.”
Or these stunningly ignorant words from Bill O’Reilly:
Whitney Houston killed herself. Do we all understand that? You don’t use hard drugs for decades…you don’t spend $100 million on them, not wanting to kill yourself.
And there is nothing in me that can understand ignorant and insensitive responses like this. A star has burned out in the musical universe and regardless of what caused it, we will never see its light again. Most of all, in Whitney’s case, she missed her chance for lasting redemption. That is what I always wished for her, that she would permanently pick up the broken pieces of her life and move on to a productive and successful future — yes, making great music. But more than that, living completely without substances, and loving her daughter in brand new ways, and being whole again.
That that day will never come is an unqualified tragedy, for Whitney and for all of those who loved (and love) her. That Whitney chose to take drugs is itself part of the tragedy, and not a reason for mockery, or dismissal of the event altogether. Anyone who makes comments like this are simply ignorant of the nature of addiction. Enough research has been done that we now know beyond any doubt that addiction is a disease process. It has times when it is in remission. It has “prodromal” times leading up to full-blown binges. And it is a relentless killer. People, in their own circumstances and for various reasons, do choose to use drugs — but the tragedy is that most people are not able to choose to stop using them.
And so finally I address the church, since that is my calling and where my heart is. The church and all who go by the name Christian have no business making heartless remarks. A fantastic tragedy has happened here and the only appropriate response to it is compassion. I am ashamed and embarrassed by all who have made heartless and ignorant remarks while claiming to serve the Lord of love and light. The fact is that everywhere we look we can now find hurting people and anytime someone is hurting there is an opportunity to love and bring healing, which of course is our calling. But we cannot fulfill our calling while dismissing the reason for a person’s grief. We are called to so much better than that. Let us respond not with excuses but with repentance for our ignorance and lack of compassion.
Whitney, I never knew you at all and you had no idea I ever lived. But I always loved you and rooted for you and wanted good things for you. I always sensed that you knew what was right, and that makes this all the more tragic. I hope and trust you have finally found deliverance, and that you are safe in the care of God who has always loved you. At last you have found a place big and beautiful enough for that voice. But we sure will miss it here.