A few weeks ago in this blog book column I wrote a little about Thomas G. Long's excellent new book, Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral.
In it, Long argues that Christians have caved into our death-denying culture and have moved away from traditional funerals, with the body present, toward sterile memorial services that lack theological heft and authenticity.
I think Long is absolutely right. Indeed, I'm finishing funeral preparation forms for me at my church that reflect some of his thinking.
So I'm glad to see his book getting some nice acceptance here and there. In this Mercator.Net piece, for instance, the writer says that funerals now often "leave me feeling uneasy about current trends -- not only the multiplication of eulogies with their often excruciating mixture of tragedy and levity, spirituality and banality, but even more the treatment of the body itself. Too often the funeral ends before the end, with the coffin sinking through the floor of the mortuary chapel or being carried off in the hearse with only the funeral director for company, while the assembly departs for refreshments."
As Long properly notes, the task of a Christian community is to accompany the body of one of their number to the edge of the abyss with singing and prayers and hope. It's not to hide the body and whistle a happy tune.
Christianity makes the startling claim that in Jesus Christ God has defeated death and that we may be saved from eternal death by grace. What Long asks us to do is to act like it at funerals.
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'JEWISH TERRORIST'? NO, WRONG LABEL
Eboo Patel was right when he said in Kansas City this week that extremists and terrorists don't deserve the honor of being labeled as part of a religion. Just as the 9/11 hijackers relinquished the privilege of being called Muslims, so the man in this story from Jerusalem should not be called a "Jewish terrorist." Such people forfeit the right to be considered part of a religion whose tenets they so terribly violate.
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P.S.: Until Monday, my Internet access may be unreliable. Thanks for your patience in getting your comments published. Bill.