Every day, more than 150,000 people step out of this world and into eternity. Most of those individuals are people that are not well known and do not have a large impact on the world as a whole. Since death comes to each of us, however, there are times when people of great influence pass away, leaving the world to ponder – briefly, as is often the case – the bearing that life had on our culture. On September 27, 2017, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, breathed his last breath here and woke up in a very different place than the mansion in which he prided himself.
One can hardly overstate the influence that Hefner had on not only American culture, but world culture as well. When the first issue of his magazine was published in 1953, it was a cultural changing earthquake. It certainly was not the first pornographic magazine to be issued, but it was the first such publication to attempt to ingratiate itself into the mainstream – nay, the elite – of society. The majority of its pages were filled with the short stories of famous authors, interviews with famous culture shapers and changers, and various investigative pieces of journalism. It was not unusual to hear the common excuse uttered whenever a copy of that magazine was found in someone’s home, “But I read it for the articles!”
Yet those articles, while providing Hefner with his entrée into both the mainstream and elite segments of society, were not the main thing. Pornography was. Hefner never hid his goals, which were nothing less than a complete repudiation of the societal norms regarding sex. Hefner viewed these as being repressive and restrictive, holding humanity back from achieving liberation in every area of life. Hefner promoted himself as a great feminist (and make no mistake, he never missed a chance to promote himself in some manner), but with his passing we will witness an evaluation of his legacy in several media outlets. After all, there is no denying that he changed the culture, though not for the better.
All the pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other such lofty publications will not matter for Hefner now, though. In this life, he worried and fretted over what his lasting legacy would be; that is evident from his public persona and the media empire he established. I am sure he wondered how his obituary would read and what his friends would say about him at his funeral. None of that matters now, because now Hefner must face the judgment of the holy, righteous, and sovereign God of the universe (Heb. 9:27). When someone like Hugh Hefner dies, it is natural for us to wonder as to where he will spend eternity. The greater acceptance of pornography, prostitution, all manners of sexual deviation, the objectification of women, and even human trafficking, among many other terrible things, are his legacy. Still, you and I have no authority to make that determination; that is explicitly the type of judgment we are prohibited from making (Matt. 7:1). The fruits of his life, as well as his own words, are indicative of his eternal state, however.
For those of us who love the Lord, the passing of a person like Hefner can tempt us to rejoice in the fact of his death. We might justify that reaction by noting how his influence will no longer have the same effect on our culture. I cannot rejoice in his death, however, because what I see is the death of a person who did not know Christ as His Redeemer (to the best of my understanding). I see the death of a person who explicitly and repeatedly rejected Christ. I understand what death apart from Christ means, so while on the one hand I am thankful that he can no longer exert his God-mocking influence in an active manner, I am deeply saddened that another image bearer of God must now stand before the judgment seat of God with no Savior. And he’s not the only one – how many more of those around me face the same fate and need to hear the Gospel from me…and from you? Just something to think about…