Moving from minimalism and utilitarianism toward honoring a life

Tombstone0719Since I’ve been working at a Funeral Home over the past few months, I’ve noticed a profound and disturbing change in our culture.  You need to know a bit of my background first…as a pastor of local churches for over 25 years, I’ve performed and officiated at my share of funerals – over 400 to be exact.  In other words, I’m not a neophyte in this realm and the comments I make below do not come from some detached perspective.  I’ve walked the valley of the shadow of death with many, many people…many who I loved.  One of the things I always tried to tell people as they faced the death of a loved one was that every created individual not only deserves but is entitled to a celebration of their life when they die.  Since I believe so strongly in the incarnation, I have viewed the individual life of each person as a special creative expression of a loving and gracious God into the world.  In other words, there is something that God is saying to the world, to you and to me, through each individual that could not be said in any other way.  So, to celebrate a life is to focus on the uniqueness and giftedness that is a person’s life journey.  In other words, what is the legacy of a life?  How can we, at the time of death, stand back for a reflective moment or two and ask ourselves what God is saying to us about our lives through what He accomplished through the life of the person we knew and loved?  Without focusing on the uniqueness of each life and having some sort of celebration of what occurred during the years of their journey, all we have can succumb to is what is growing ever more popular in culture – the minimalism and utilitarian perspective of the human being.  I’ve been noticing more and more that people are not having funerals any longer…they want to move on past a person’s death quickly…spend as little money as possible…get the person cremated or buried with "ritual" or discomfort.  It is a very deep issue…something that theologians and philosophers can articulate better than I…all I’m saying here is that without some celebration, without some time to mourn and look not only at loss but also at the wonder of life, than life CAN become reduced to something that only is for the benefit of productivity in the world.  As you minimize life and see humanity from a purely utilitarian perspective, you can more easily justify abortion, euthanasia, and the reduction of segments of society and the world specifically because they don’t measure up in one way or another.  I’m seeing less and less emphasis on celebrating a life and more and more emphasis on sweeping the life under the rug as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Could we be running from more than a denial of death?  Yes…I think so.  Should there be more and more emphasis on even the most painful of life’s experiences, death, and how to mourn and celebrate a life?  Most definitely…more to come… 

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