I hate the speculations about whether Hefner is in hell. Such speculations are, I believe, always wicked. More than that, they are telling. When a famous person dies and American Christians feel a compulsion to wonder if they are damned, such speculations always seem to be directed toward the destinies of fleshly sinners, but never to sinners notable for sins against the poor, or sins popular with consumers of Right Wing Noise Machine agitprop. Rock stars, pop tarts, models, and actors with checkered sexual pasts get this treatment, but never ice cold corporate magnates.
Jesus’ most terrifying words are typically directed (as in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats) against those who oppress the poor, not those who could not keep it in their pants. Fornication and “evil thoughts” are, to be sure, also condemned by him, but (like Dante and the rest of the Catholic tradition) sins of the flesh, while evil, are not treated by Jesus as nearly as evil as sins of the spirit. Lust is bad, but pride and envy and greed are much worse. He seems to have gotten on rather well with prostitutes. He is much harder on Pharisees.
Yet these days, you don’t get people speculating on whether some cheapskate is in hell, because obscene sexuality, not obscene wealth, are far more serious in a culture of American Puritans, whether Catholic and Protestant.
That said, I hate just as much the encomiums to Hefner’s “impact on our society’s changing mores” as though this fleshmongering auctioneer of human exploitation was some kind of visionary liberator whom a Great Nation Mourns. He was, let us be plain, a man who made a fortune selling women as commodities like an auctioneer in 1860 Charleston to men he labored to turn into addicts so that he might pick their pockets. That is the Glorious Revolution he wrought. Let us pray for him as a sinner for whom Christ died most certainly. Let us refrain from speculating about his eternal destiny. But don’t kid me that this rich trader in human misery is some kind great American.