Whitney Houston: A Eulogy

In the gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says, “you are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).[1]

This saying places emphasis on identity and uniqueness. A disciple is unique because of who he is. The identity of a disciple makes him unique. In this case, Jesus identifies a disciple as a light-bearer. What makes a light-bearer unique is what he is contrasted against, darkness. By saying “you are the light,” Jesus should be understood to be implying that there is darkness all around and that the disciple is not like that darkness. Without darkness, it wouldn’t matter if the lamp is placed “under a bowl.”

The light-bearer, who now knows who he is, is told to “let your light shine before men” (5:16). Knowledge of identity precedes that of mission (in this case). Having to be who he is in an environment that is not conducive to who he is, is what the light-bearer is told to do. If he is indeed who he claims to be, then he will be who he is, for he can’t be anything else.

A light-bearer does “good deeds” that are not intended towards glorifying himself, but his “Father in heaven.” This final part of the saying is truly the ultimate purpose of a light-bearer’s existence: glorifying God. Indeed, humanity finds true self-fulfillment in a life that brings praise to the “Father in heaven.” Thus, a light-bearer, when his entire life is viewed as a whole, will ultimately reflect the God whose light he bears.

Whitney Houston was a star, a light that stood out against others that surrounded her, a city on a hill. And she still is all that. Although she now sleeps the sleep of the dead her contribution to this world, especially in music, is colossal. No one can ignore the elephant in the room. The world is full of singers, but none of them sounds like Whitney.

Whitney is missed by her family and close friends. They are the ones who are primarily affected by her death. They are the ones who have watched her grow up to be the star that she is today. Before the lights were fixated on her, they were the ones that first saw someone of worth. At this time, they are in pain. They are not now concerned with what legacy she leaves behind (although they will do their best to make sure that she is remembered as positively as possible). They are grieving over the loss of Whitney, the person.

They are not the only ones that are grieving. Fans of Whitney are grieving also. Fans are grieving over the loss of someone they admire; sing songs recorded by; and watched performances by. They are in disbelief. They weren’t ready for this type of news. For them, it came like a “bat out of hell.” They are forced to say goodbye to a shining light they believe is gone too soon. They are left only with CDs, pictures, and videos of the starlet in all her glory, not enough for hearts that are broken.

Undoubtedly, in Whitney’s official eulogy there will be great praise for what she has accomplished in over 40 years of life. It is a feat that many of will never attain to, let alone aspire to do so. She will be lifted up in grand sermonic discourses describing her towering and iconic status. So great will the praises be that, if it was possible, they would usher Whitney into the gates of heaven—a place she certainly be said to be in. Truly, her family will be proud. But what kind of light was Whitney? Did she leave behind a legacy that praises the “Father in heaven”?

To claim to have an answer to that question would be pompous on my part. Some may be offended that one would even ask such a thing. Only God truly knows whether or not she brought glory to His name. All that can be done now by we who are still living is evaluation of our own lives in an attempt to sort out whether we are living a life that praises God. It is much better to make assessments of ourselves than others. Although we would never admit to this, we tend to make great mistakes when it comes to the latter.

The death of such a young star reminds us that we cannot continue to exist forever. At some point, this life will come to an end, one way or another. Before it does, however, we can take a deeper look at (1) who we are, (2) what we have done and are doing, and (3) who that did and is glorifying: God or the other. The death of Whitney forces us to reflect collectively, as those who are “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

As we look over Whitney’s life, let us look at ours and sort out what type of lights are we. The heights that can be obtain means nothing if our “Father in heaven” is not praised. That is truly what we were born to do. Although Whitney is resting in peace, we will not be able to have any peace now unless we are living to what we are destined to be.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures in this article are taken from the New International Version.

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Ecclesiastical Elitist

From without, the church is often viewed as a fortress inhabited by arrogant and socially awkward laymen guarding the gate from attacks and candidates deemed unfavorable. From within, some of those supposing they are spiritually strong embark on everlasting campaigns in which they continuously bombard others with fire and brim-stone diatribes. Newcomers are perplex in their attempts to navigate through an ocean of unknown faces and sea monsters. Perhaps they are looking for a welcoming smile, but they are often greeted with a stern look and handled like surgical waste. Among the many that have been within for awhile, those who are not class amidst the ranks of biblical elites are treated as pseudo-humans, slaves to be commanded concerning when to turn to the right or to the left.

Unsuspected by some who are called to lead, certain fractions within organized ecclesiastical institutions seems to long for them to don the totalitarian regalia of the medieval church. Control is the top priority in the agenda and character modification is the policy being advocated as the means to that end. Heart transformation is of little importance, though it is the victim of much lip service. Waiting for the Spirit to mold and develop at His pace and concerning what He deems  of primal importance is considered too exhausting. Instead, mortal minds are ever developing and modifying techniques to hasten themselves and others to their perception of godliness. Thus, it can be said by the elitist  to the lowly, “you are godly, if you do what you’re told.” This creates a mechanical religion that paralyzes the soul.

Wrongs are not always intentional, but wrongs that are derivatives of malice–the desire to do harm–are. Is it that we, the church, have adjudicated our purpose as being the formation of ecclesiastical zombies by any means? Continuing down this trajectory, whether we intended to commence it or not, will result in a major scandal that will paint us as hypocrites. These are not the kind of brushstrokes we long for. Now is the time to acknowledge the wrong and seek correction. When a Christian realizes he/she is wrong and desire a change, that’s the first step. When wrongs are recognized, it is up to the so-called “repentant” one, the one responsible for the harm, to alleviate the suffering or suspend from acts that causes it. That’s the second step.

The mistreatment of those who are of lesser biblical knowledge by some in the church is wrong. However, it is not a recent anomaly. The indoctrinating process–which, despite the vicious ring to it, is enlightening and necessary–is not done in a shepherd-like manner. Instead cattle herders push their intended victims through a proof-texting labyrinth. Seems harsh? Well, it is.

Criticizing a system is not wrong. Yet, it is only one half of the solution. The critic indicates that you’ve located an area, or several,  for which improvement is necessary. Well, how should we go about correcting this area?

Essay on the Reliability of Moll Flanders

Image taken from http://www.fdungan.com/flanders.jpg

I have just posted my first essay. It is located here: https://rethor.wordpress.com/schedule/reflections-on-the-reliability-of-moll-flanders/

Here is the introductory paragraph:

“Daniel Defoe’s 1722 classic is a roller coaster ride through the life of Moll Flanders, narrated by Moll herself. Though Moll’s attempts to conceal her identity and that of others suggest that the tale that is to be told contains a great deal of truth, her reliability is the subject of much debate. There are three points that when viewed together form a cohesive unit arguing for the unreliability of Moll’s story. These are the role that the concealment of her identity, and that of others may have in her narrative of the tale; blaming the devil for luring her into stealing; and the ease of which she as a mother speaks of walking away from some of her children.”