Thursday, January 14, 2010

Evangelicals: Putting the "Fun" back in "Funeral"

Contemporary evangelicals don't do death well. After all, it's negative. And that seems to be the one great sin for contemporary Christians. And so evangelicalism has a host of euphamisms for such negative words as "sin," "wrath," and, the worst of all, "death."

Craig Parton has a great article in the latest issue of Modern Reformation:

If we are anything, we are a culture of entertainment and denial that has sanitized dying and death and put it in a world hopefully far, far away. Sadness, if prolonged or of a disturbing depth, is to be diagnosed and medicated. Even sadness that might, God forbid, lead to repentance.

And entertainment is the mother's milk from which today's evangelical celebrations gladly feed. We want our funerals to mirror our church services and our church services to mirror our virtual lives--fun, interesting, enlightening, moving, and upbeat. Whether it is faithful to Christ and his Word is, well, nice if you can actually pull that off and stay cool, but it is not obligatory. If your religious life is fun, interesting, enlightening, moving, and upbeat, then it is clearly faithful to Christ and his Word.

The church used to pay less heed to the impacts of secular culture on its people--in fact, the church was culture. The church's fights were more with the sinful flesh and with the devil. The world, or culture, and Christianity were nearly synonymous, and in many ways secular Greek culture provided support and a springboard for the advancement of Christian intellectual and artistic life. The church also had good reason for absolute confidence in its liturgical forms grounded in the highly regulated Old Testament worship centering in the Temple. The church had particular confidence in the forms that surrounded the death of the Christian. The church knew what dying sinners must hear from her, and one was on the cusp of entering the Church Triumphant. The dying sinner needed to confess his sins and hear the words of absolution spoken by the called minister of Word and Sacrament, and the dying needed to receive the body and blood of Jesus unto the forgiveness of sins from that called servant. This was serious business not given over to talk-show hosts who might well deliver themselves rather than Jesus and him crucified to those in the throes of death.

The church also recognized the important humanity connected to the grieving and sadness that surrounds dying and death. The Scriptures are replete with examples of courageous men weeping over death (the grief of Job over his personal Armageddon, the grief of David over the death of his child, the grief of Jesus over Lazarus). Indeed, Psalm 6 tells us David wept all night over his sins. This affirmation of the masculinity of grieving and the proper place for sadness (both in the death of a loved one or in repentant sorrow for sin) has now been replaced by the "celebration of life" that eliminates the dead body, the casket, the burial, and the sadness and grieving that once accompanied death. The church's romanticizing of death is a consequence of its substitution of the Man of Sorrows with a Teenager of Fun. This is another reason why men don't waste their time coming to our churches. When you sentimentalize death and make it "fun," skeptics will find something else to do on Sunday. If this Jesus can't deliver at death's portal, he surely is not worth consulting on the issues of this life. '

Read the entire article HERE.

1 comment:

Eldora said...

My mother died this past November 15. While I have felt sad for others going through similar circumstances, this grief looks different to me from the inside out. It is not neat and tidy and refuses to stay in it's little box until I am willing to deal with it. It is very real, very present, goes deeper, and hurts worse than I ever imagined. This experience with the death of a close loved one underscores for me the depth of brokenness in the world. At the very core of my being, in a way more real than before, I feel the "wrong-ness" of all of it. I am not even equipped to deal with this kind of grief. It is the natural, inevitable result of sin. I could do nothing to stop it. It is not as it should be and begs to be set right!

Praise God, Christ did it! He defeated sin and death. Therefore I am not left with my own inadequate efforts to comfort myself. He is my comfort. He has set it right. Death is still with us, but He took away the sting! Death did not claim my mother - her Savior called her home! The very ugly, gut-wrenching sadness of this separation only shows His astounding amazing grace more clearly! We must sometimes see the hideous in order to more fully appreciate the glorious!

Blessed be the Lord God Almighty who has delivered this helpless, hopeless, sinful wretch and has given her hope - Himself!