Avril Lavigne put out a song not long ago entitled “What the Hell?” Its title quickly steals your attention. Here’s the chorus:
All my life I’ve been good, but now,
Oh, I’m thinkin’ what the hell?
All I want is to mess around
I don’t really care about
If you love me, if you hate me,
You can take me baby baby
All my life I’ve been good, but now,
Oh, I’m thinkin’ what the hell?
The video on YouTube has been viewed almost 90 million times (at the time of this post)! My experience tells me this is becoming the American moral mantra—the sheer volume of hits on YouTube say something. “Being good” is not delivering, so who cares?
Many Christians would probably say that even listening to music like this is sinful (or watching their music videos). That’s not the point I’m hoping to address in this blog. Avril’s thoughts may not even be addressed to Christians, I don’t know. But, nonetheless, her music has struck a chord with many.
Her song seems to reflect the growing feeling in our country that the greatest evil in the world is to deny yourself whatever it is that you desire. Desire is king, and when it calls anything that gets in the way is evil; even if that thing is “being good.” When good is defined as having what you want, evil takes on the convenient definition of whatever gets in the way of that good.
The fact that people desire what is evil has been noted for millennia. The apostle Paul groaned about his own struggle with this reality in Romans 7. And the Bible tells us that everyone knows the truth but chooses to smother it with their own blanket of choice (Rom. 1:18-23). Even in daily experience, most people would acknowledge that not everything they want accords with what is good.
YOUR GOOD OR MY GOOD?
Much more disturbing today, however, is that “good” has become subjective and totally personal. What is good to Ms. Lavigne most likely differs greatly from what her parents would define as good, or even Lady Gaga. And because it is totally person-relative the various “goods” out there contradict and conflict enormously. What happens when two people have a good that overlaps and conflicts? If Billy thinks that it would be “good” for him to have Mike’s wife, do you think Mike would agree? I doubt Mike would see that as “good.”
But here we have run into conflicting ideas about what is good and bad. Who’s right? How do we determine what’s right? Well, in today’s world you can’t. Desire is king, so somehow, both are right. Some deal with the conflict of interests by eliminating the rules. This is most likely why “open marriages” have become popular in some places. The logic goes something like this: “Well, if Billy wants to have sex with my wife, and my wife wants the same, who am I to deny them that right? If it will make my wife happier and meet Billy’s needs, then I’m okay with it and won’t hold it against them.”
In this view marriage is mostly a legal matter. In practice, all that separates Mike’s relationship to his wife, from that of Billy’s is a bunch of paperwork. The spiritual undertones that give marriage its true meaning have been discarded like yesterday’s dinner scraps.
GRACE, GRACE, GRACE
But this is what happens when the definition of what is good and bad become subjective. All you are left with are your own reasons. If your bodily passions command greater power than your reasoning, in the end the two will merge and your mind will only function to serve emotion. In other words, your emotions and passions will dominate your thoughts and bend them. In the end all your mind will do is justify your completely selfish actions. You will have become (at least existentially) autonomous, having no rule or authority but yourself.
In the Biblical view, humans were not meant to live without authority. Pure autonomy leads to anarchy. This is why we have laws. When external laws are trumped by those autonomously chosen by individuals, anarchy is inevitably the result. Unfortunately, this is a point that many of our churches miss today. Grace in many churches has translated into lawlessness (antinomianism) and the belief that a loving God would not punish sins or require us to do anything a certain way. We can ordain whoever we want, preach whatever we want, make ministry about whatever we want, have sex with whomever we want, marry anybody we want, divorce whenever we want, and discard any children we don’t want. But it’s okay because Jesus loves you. Grace, grace, grace.
MATERIALISM AND NATURALISM
“Europe,” writes one member of the European Parliament “doesn’t do God.” I have heard some say that Europe is a couple of decades ahead of America in cultural values and ideology. One can already clearly see the foggy, Godless, air drifting over from the spiritual wasteland that is Europe.
For many in the West, naturalism has replaced God. Naturalism could be summed up in the famous quote of Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” This materialistic, naturalistic mindset that is rampant in the Western world today inevitably leads to anarchy and nihilism. No doubt the over-emphasis on grace that we see in many places is the result of the profound influence of a materialistic worldview. When one argues that human beings are the result of random mutations that occurred in some primordial sludge millions or billions of years ago, what morality can come out of it? This is one major flaw of the naturalistic worldview: it relies on scientific observation which is purely descriptive, not prescriptive; in other words, it may only tell us what “is” not what “ought” to be.
Of course, given that religion is a major force in the world, naturalists feel the need to explain it. Many that hold this view of things will argue that even religion is a byproduct of natural causes; indeed, all things that make up the human experience may be explained by genes, chemicals, natural selection, and the environment. Dean Hamer persuades many with such arguments in his book The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes.
One thing that is often overlooked by these folks is that if all things are purely physical, including our thoughts and beliefs, then their views must also be a result of natural causes. And, if they are purely the result of natural causes, then they can’t be said to be the result of rational inquiry. In other words, their views are no more rational than anyone else’s. If they are to be consistent the knife must be applied to their selves as well. It is arbitrary to say that only religious beliefs are accounted for by pure physical events, while all other beliefs are somehow arrived at by way of logic and rational analysis (which in their view must also be the result of natural causes).
THEREFORE, WHO CARES?
The upshot of all of this talk is that songs like the one by Ms. Lavigne in this blog are so popular because they express what so many feel today in America. America in many places still has an atmosphere where moral values are somewhat objective, especially here in the Bible-belt. Increasingly, however, most everywhere in the country, the reasons for those values are eroding. Hence, “What the hell?” why not sleep around or do whatever I want, says Avril. Apparently, she couldn’t find a solid answer, and most likely, nobody has offered her one.
God is quickly evaporating here in America, and with him so are our reasons to value anything other than self.
 I will say that it is hard to see much good in watching some of these videos. The sexual content is overwhelming and pervasive. One must use discernment in approaching these matters and be mindful of their own level of tolerance, weakness, etc.
 Sighting from a headline in the periodical Evangelicals Now: Around the world in 32 pages. The article title is “Europe Doesn’t Do God?” Vol 24. , No. 11 (Nov 2011).
 R. Albert Mohler Jr., Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2008), 74.