Did Whitney Houston know "The Greatest Love of All?"

Whitney Houston was extravagantly fortunate to be a blessing to others, but somewhere she lost her spiritual foothold.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life…indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                                                           – Romans 8:38

It is hardly a matter of wonder that the country that gave the world instant tea and instant coffee should be the one to give it instant Christianity. And it cannot be denied that it was American Fundamentalism that brought instant Christianity to the gospel churches.

The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us…we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him.

                                                                                           – A. W. Tozer

MIDDLE EAST, February 20, 2012— There is no voice like Whitney Houston’s.  Whenever she comes on the air, one cannot help but to be still and listen. It is the rare individual, like Whitney Houston, that is God’s gifted musical instrument and gives us a glimpse of heaven.

Whitney Houston was extravagantly fortunate to be a blessing to others, but somewhere she lost her spiritual foothold.

She has left behind a legacy of phenomenal worldly achievement many will aspire to – but her success ultimately may have cut short her life.

She could have been a role model for millions of desperate young people for many years to come, but she chose a lifestyle of addiction and compromise that took her far away from the Christian convictions she grew up with.

With a voice like hers, she hardly needed the typical sexy showbiz image, but she seemed unconcerned about the impact that diluting her Christian values had on herself and others.

It seems that perhaps for Whitney the “gospel” left the music.

If Christianity is the real thing, then Christ has to be counterfeit – they can’t both be true.

Much has been made of Whitney’s church upbringing, but often a traditional, churched background is a sure recipe for someone becoming an apostate. Fortunately that did not happen to Whitney, from her media interviews her faith appeared to be authentic. Unfortunately, she may have left the genuine for the fake; and her choices cost her dearly.

This extract from Whitney’s 2009 interview on the Oprah Winfrey show offers sad insights into a life gone awry, even as she struggled to hold on to her convictions.

Oprah: There’s a wonderful quote by the L.A. Times. They said, “The pain, and frankly, disgust that so many pop fans felt during Houston’s decline was caused not so much by her personal distress as by her seemingly careless treatment of the national treasure that happened to reside within her.”… You were not like any of the others. You really were given the voice. You were given that treasure. And people felt, how could you not know that that was to be treasured?

Would you just sit in your room and do drugs? 

Whitney: Yeah. Talk on the phone. Watch TV. Listen to gospel. I would still read my Bible, amazingly enough. I would still read my Bible. I still had it in me. I knew God was there. I knew the light was there and I was just trying to get back to it. I just kept trying to get back to that spirituality.

Oprah: How long were you in rehab? 

Whitney: I did my stint. You do your 30 days. I went to one where I could take my child with me. Everywhere I just had to have her with me. I wanted her to understand. I didn’t lie to her. I couldn’t. 

Oprah: Really. Did you explain to her about the drugs? 

Whitney: Yes. 

Oprah: What did you say? How do you tell your child? 

Whitney: I kind of associated it with our lifestyle. Our lifestyle. And what could happen. 

Oprah: You can see yourself in Bobbi Kristina? 

Whitney: Oh, all over her. She writes creatively all the time. She writes. And she sings. She’s really starting to sing really well now.

Oprah: Is she good? 

Whitney: Yeah, she is. I want her to take her time. I don’t want anybody to touch her. I want to groom her. 

Oprah: So if she chooses to be in this business, that’s okay with you? 

Whitney: Yeah, but I will be there. Like my mom was there with me. When I was just getting in the business, and they came for me when I was 14 and wanted to sign me, my mother said: “No way. Whitney’s got a lot more to learn.”

Oprah: Who do you love? 

Whitney: The Lord. I do. I’m so humbled and so thankful. By his grace, his goodness. And for never giving up on me. I love my mother. My daughter. My relatives. My sisters. My brothers. I love you. Because I knew somewhere in the background you were there praying too. 

Despite her own abysmal personal life, with all the money in the world for her daughter to choose any career she wanted, Whitney intended to guide 18-year old Bobbi Kristina into show business, knowing all the inherent risks.

Do the lyrics of her hit song ‘The Greatest Love of All,’ betray her lack of a sense of purpose?

She got it wrong – self-love is an important psychological trait, but –“Learning to love yourself,” is not “the greatest love of all.” Love is other-centered and acts, like the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was Joy. I woke and saw that life was Duty. I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy.”

David F. Wells in his book Above All Earthly Powers, points out: “One hears the belief expressed in different ways that each must create one’s own meaning or that it is morally permissible for everyone to do one’s “own thing,” provided no one gets hurt – a strange proviso which has no moral legs upon which to stand on in an empty universe!”

It appears Houston could not clarify for herself who is sovereign, God or her audience? What was her authority in real life, scripture or culture?

And what is important, faithfulness or success? Again when singing, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” she seems to have forgotten Psalm 46: 1, God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble, and Jesus’ startling statement in John 15:5:  “… for without Me, you can do nothing.”

In reviewing the research on church life between 1996 and 2002, researcher George Barna stumbled upon a most disconcerting fact. Why is it, he wondered, that baby boomers were initially so opposed to religion but now make up fully half of the born again movement?

The answer, he concluded, is that they are practiced consumers who were offered a deal that they simply could not turn down.

For “a one-time admission of imperfection and weakness” they received in return “permanent peace with God.” The result was that “millions of Boomers, who said the prayer, asked for forgiveness and went on with their life, with virtually nothing changed.”

And Barna adds, that they “saw it as a deal in which they could exploit God and get what they wanted without giving up anything of consequence.”

Until the facts are known we can only speculate about how Houston died, whether the prescription drugs found in her hotel room or the alcohol CNN reported she was seen having a few hours before she died had anything to do with it. 

But there had to be a reason she was called away at 48 – for her grieving fan base it will remain a mystery, but in God’s mercy for his wayward offspring there are meaningful spiritual connotations for a premature exit, when three score years and ten is the median.

For Whitney, we can speculate it had more to do with God’s favour rather than his wrath.

Frank Raj is based in India and the Middle East where he has lived for over three decades. He is the founding editor & publisher of ‘The International Indian’ (www.theinternationalindian.com) the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992. Frank is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures,’ and author of ‘Desh Aur Diaspora.’ He blogs at: www.no2christianity.wordpress.com

Read more of Frank’s work in No 2 Religion, Yes 2 Faith in the Communities at the Washington Times.

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Frank Raj

Middle East and India based Frank Raj is the founding editor and publisher of ‘The International Indian’, the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992. He is listed in Arabian Business magazine’s 100 most influential Indians in the Gulf and is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures.’ He blogs at www.no2christianity.com.


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