- - Wednesday, February 7, 2024

After the news of country singer Toby Keith‘s untimely death on Tuesday, millions of accolades and thoughtful remembrances came pouring in.

But among the influx of favorable honors were a slew of truly deplorable reactions, with some critics turning to mockery or even relishing Mr. Keith‘s demise.

I should no longer be surprised or perturbed by the detached and heartless ways that some react to the troubles of others in our morally confused culture. After all, the rejoicing in ideological opponents’ deaths has become one of the most preposterous and flat-out evil fixtures in our self-obsessed society.

Akin to a final “got ya,” these despicable efforts to demean someone when he or she is no longer present to offer a defense are truly wicked, exposing just how low people are willing to descend to score a few likes and shares on social media.

It’s especially regrettable considering Mr. Keith spent the past two years living with stomach cancer, a harrowing and painful disease most wouldn’t wish upon their worst adversaries. Yet some of Mr. Keith‘s rivals seemed content to gloat about his death, or at least focus on decades-old issues from his past.

BlazeMedia’s Dave Urbanski reported about some of these comments, highlighting social media messages that seemed outright “gleeful about his passing.” What motivated the hate, you ask?

Some of this diabolical nonsense was reportedly sparked by a spat two decades ago between Mr. Keith and the Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks), who traded barbs over political differences surrounding the Iraq War and then-President George W. Bush.

Years later, some apparent die-hard Chicks fans are still burning with rage at Mr. Keith — so much so that they’ve checked their humanity at the door, calling him names and hoping the day of his demise was the “best day ever” for the Chicks.

One person even tweeted that the Chicks were somehow “validated” after Mr. Keith‘s death. Even a cursory look at some of the social media messages is enough to cause nausea and lament, which is why I’m declining to share the full text of these atrocious comments.

Two painful ironies are embedded in the abyss of these vengeful critics’ hatred and vitriol. First, their reactions say far more about them than they do about Mr. Keith. Beyond that, it was Mr. Keith who halted his feud with the Chicks back in 2003, stating at the time that there are more important things in life than to publicly stew over absurdities.

For Mr. Keith, a small child’s cancer battle snapped him out of his anger with the Chicks and into a mission aimed at helping those in need. What those dunking on Mr. Keith over a decades-old rift don’t realize is that the country music star was a champion for children with cancer years before he found himself battling the very same disease.

“You know, a best friend of mine, the guy that started the first band I was ever in, he lost a 2-year-old daughter to cancer — this was just a couple of weeks ago,” Mr. Keith said in 2003. “A few days after I found she didn’t have long to live, I saw a picture on the cover of Country Weekly with a picture of me and [the Chicks’] Natalie [Maines] and it said, ‘Fight to the Death’ or something. It seemed so insignificant. I said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Mr. Keith expanded on this story in a 2019 interview with Golf Digest, explaining that he was giving his money to St. Jude‘s Children’s Research Hospital to help fight pediatric cancer in the early 2000s. When his friend’s toddler was diagnosed with the disease, Mr. Keith “called in a favor,” and the hospital helped the family. The singer said his friend’s wife later recounted how kind St. Jude‘s was when they arrived.

“[She] said later she didn’t have anything with her when they arrived,” Mr. Keith said. “St. Jude‘s told her, ‘Here’s your room, here’s some Walmart cards, here’s some food 24/7.’ They didn’t charge her a penny.”

That kindness stuck with Mr. Keith and led him on a mission to create something in Oklahoma City that could help families facing cancer. He launched the Toby Keith Foundation to assist children who have cancer. Then, in 2014, he created the OK Kids Korral to offer a place to stay for families facing pediatric cancer treatment at a nearby Oklahoma children’s hospital.

It was his friend’s tragic experience losing his daughter — and the kindness of St. Jude‘s toward that family — that sparked the idea for these efforts. And it became a fixture of the singer’s life and work.

“Kids with cancer and their families come here for free,” he said of OK Kids Korral. “We feed them, shuttle them, whatever it takes.”

And yet the keyboard warriors spewing vile nonsense on social media about Mr. Keith somehow missed the memo. These critics’ hearts have become so frigid toward a fellow human being that they’re unmoved and untouched by Mr. Keith‘s pain and suffering and clearly unaware of the lengths he went to to help others.

We must stop exhibiting the worst of humanity by relishing in and near-celebrating opponents’ deaths. Delighting in such misfortune is one of the surefire signs we’ve descended into what Jesus so prophetically warned about. While speaking about signs of the end of days, Christ said: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

We must do better.

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” He is the author of four books.

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