“I’m never going to grow up.
Staying young is what it is all about for me.” Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner died a week ago on September 27th at the age of 91. Much has been said and written about him during his lifetime, and even more so with his death. The media and Hollywood have acted as if he was some sort of hero who finally passed away. One article in People actually labeled him “an American hero.” Evangelicals and feminists have reviled him as a moral monster, the poster child of debauchery, male chauvinism and hedonism. As I’ve been mulling over his death, I believe that there are lessons to be learned from what God’s Word would label a tragic life.
Hugh Hefner’s worldview is a rebuke to many Christians. That probably surprises you. The reason I say that is while I diametrically disagree with Hefner’s worldview, at least he had a carefully thought out worldview. Hefner took the time and mental work to carefully think out what he believed and even published it as “The Playboy Philosophy.” It wasn’t just theory for him, he lived his life according to what he believed was the correct philosophy of life.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In other words, T-H-I-N-K – know what you really believe. Many professing Christians sit in church week after week, yet don’t have a clue what they believe. They may even say the right words, but are just going through the motions. Christianity demands thinking. God designed us with an intellect. Our faith is not for those who want to park their brains at the door. We’ve been given a Book of written revelation from the mind of an infinite God. The Bible is not to be some archaic icon that’s never read or carefully thought about. God commands us to study His Word and be wise. Christians are to be committed thinkers.
Worse, there are many in the Church who give lip service on Sunday, yet what they say they believe does little to change their lifestyle. As repulsive as his life was, no one ever accused Hefner of being a hypocrite.
Hugh Hefner’s lifestyle was debauched. In our generation, no one person has probably done as much harm to morality, marriage, one’s self-concept, women, men and families. Hugh Hefner was one of the first false prophets of “free love.” He confused lust with love. Love is never free. Love demands commitment, selflessness and can be very costly. Lust, on the other hand, is egocentric, self-satisfying and narcissistic.
How many young people have looked in a mirror and despised the image that they see because they lack what they perceive as “sex appeal.” Women, rather than being respected and valued as an image bearer of God, were seen as little more than “pieces of meat.” Men were taught that the highest good was pleasure, not commitment. Implicitly, they were taught by Hefner that women were to be treated as the enemy, products to consume. It’s a grim, banal, consumerist way of life that, in practice, denies men the pleasures of being committed partners to women, sexually or otherwise. The “bunny” logo was apropos because Hefner saw both men and women as animals…rabbits. His perversity contaminated our culture with a “bi-polar morality.” On one hand it admires someone that’s a sexual “Olympian,” yet detests someone who’s unfaithful or makes perverse, demeaning comments about women. Our culture wants to be both perverse and pure…at the same time. The outcome is moral insanity.
Hugh Hefner’s life is a warning. Paint him however you want, the bottom line is that Hefner was a dirty old man. He was perverse and lecherous. If he’d had lived in your neighborhood, you’d have called the police on this old pervert walking around in a robe. You’d have warned your children to stay away from him. What kind of degenerate mind would want their daughter to be a centerfold? It’s noteworthy that Hefner never used his own daughter, Christie, to pose for Playboy.
Solomon warned of the high cost of unrestrained immorality, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). As I’m nearing my 58th birthday, I’ve seen far too many colleagues in ministry that I loved and respected make a shipwreck of their lives and ministry because of unrestrained immorality. Many marriages have been devastated with innocent children having their souls shredded because either Mom or Dad didn’t realize the high cost of a momentary pleasure.
I continually pray for my now adult children’s moral purity. My prayer for myself is that God would protect me from my own deceitful heart and that rather than my making a terrible choice and bringing shame to Him, my family and my ministry – that He’d just take me Home prematurely. What a tragedy to end life as a dirty old man or a dirty old woman.
Hugh Hefner’s end should weigh on our hearts. In an account from one of his many partners, Holly Madison, Hefner was described as controlling and manipulative, and held in utter contempt by the women of the mansion. They despised spending time with him. Though a very rich man, though seemingly according to Hollywood he had what every man wants, it’s all very sad. Throughout his long life he was unable to connect with a woman as a fellow human being. To me that’s very depressing.
Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that after this life comes the Judgement. There is absolutely no indication that Hefner knew Christ as His Savior. All his hedonistic pleasure means nothing to him now. As Jesus warned, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). A Christ-less world may celebrate the licentious life and legacy of Hugh Hefner, yet it’s nothing to celebrate. His life was a catastrophe and a warning to us all that the “pleasures of sin last only for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). Let’s choose to be wiser because of him.
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