Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Life, death, and the life everlasting

Society is pretty callous about death. To some extent this is obviously exacerbated by the loss of Christian values. Abortion, euthanasia.

But at a more subtle and general level, society distinguishes between death by natural causes and death by unnatural causes. If you lose a loved one by unnatural causes, like an accident or murder, then society is very sympathetic. Even if you loved one dies in a natural disaster, society classifies that causality as an unnatural death. It makes allowance for the fact that survivors may be shattered for life by this experience. The sudden, premature separation.

If, however, you lose a loved one by natural causes, you’re allowed a decent time to grieve, but after that you’re expected to bounce back and get on with life. Put away the Kleenex.

And that’s because death by natural causes is considered to be normal. Ordinary. Everyone loses someone they love by natural causes. This is a universal experience. And because it’s so ordinary and commonplace, society takes it for granted. Like wisdom teeth.

Yet whether you lose a loved one by natural or unnatural causes, the loss is identical. Just as real. And since the loss is identical, the sense of loss is identical. It feels exactly the same whether you lose a loved one by natural causes or the downing of the Titanic.

In this respect, we’re all survivors. We’re in the same emotional and psychological state as those who lost their loved ones from a tornado or drug overdose or drive-by shooting or traffic accident or industrial explosion.

We’ve simply learned to suppress our grief. Cover up our feelings. Act as if it never happened. It’s like an open wound that we keep bandaged and discreetly concealed. As if it were shameful.

Society is impatient with the inconsolable, so we play our role. Act Stoical. We may even imagine that this is our duty. It happens to everyone, right? I’ve read that in Sweden, graves are paved over after 10 years.

That’s secularism for you. A human being is just a temporary and peculiar organization of matter, like a chair or TV set. When a TV is busted, you toss it in the dumpster.

In secularism, human beings are replaceable and disposable. No one grieves over the loss of a broken appliance. You throw it away and buy a new one.

But mourning is a lifelong process. I often go to the local cemetery to pray. There I see a handful of widows, widowers, and grown children who visit the gravesite of their departed loved ones every week. They change the flowers. Water the grounds. Do a bit of weeding. Say a prayer. Have a conversation their departed father or mother, husband or wife.

Of course, their loved ones aren’t really there, but the gravesite is their only earthly point of contact with the departed. A memorial. A little beachhead against the torrent of time.

But, in Scripture, there is no distinction between death by natural causes and death by unnatural causes. In Scripture, every death of every man, woman, and child is due to unnatural causes. Due, directly or indirectly, to sin. To Adam’s sin.

The first man to die didn’t die of old age, or even disease. He died in his prime. The victim of homicide. Worse than homicide—fratricide.

So Adam and Eve had to morn the loss of two sons—one by murder, the other by banishment. And they, too, lived in exile. Denied the tree of life.

And that was a mercy. Immortality in a fallen world would be hell on earth.

Every birth ends in death. Today we celebrate the birth of another mortal. Another fatality. Another actuarial statistic. Indeed, he was born to die.

Ironically, this is the only person who ever lived and died, but never deserved to die. Who came to redeem the undeserving.

There is no healing in time, but only in hope.

6 comments:

  1. bill horseman12/25/2007 6:23 PM

    "Society is pretty callous about death. To some extent this is obviously exacerbated by the loss of Christian values."

    It's a society that I'm quite out of touch with, so I'm told:

    http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2007/12/study-proves-that-for-most-part.html

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  2. Loss of Christian values doesn't necessarily mean atheism.

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  3. According to Scripture, yes, it does. God lumps all perspectives other than the one that truly worships His under the same category. In the words of Charles Hodge:

    It was not only, however, in the worship of the images of men that the degradation of the heathen was shown, for they paid religious homage to birds, beasts, and reptiles. In such idolatry the idol or animal was, for most people, the ultimate object of worship. Some professed to view the visible image as a mere symbol of the real object of their adoration, while others believed that they gods in some way filled these idols and operated through them, and yet others thought that the universal principle of being was worshiped under these outward appearances. The Scriptures take no account of these distinctions. All who bowed down to sticks and stones are denounced as worhsiping gods which had been made with their own hands.

    In short, any religion that is not truly Christian is idolatry. Atheism is also idolatry. So, loss of Christian values is idolatry, and idolatry is convertible with atheism.

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  4. Thank you for your statement of faith, Gene.

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  5. Emanuel Goldstein12/28/2007 2:52 AM

    Mercy?

    Because immortality in a fallen world would be hell on earth?

    Don't dress it up.

    Death is punishment.



    And speaking of idolatry, surely equating Christianity with certain political values and leades in idolatry as well.

    And stupid, especially believing a Pres who lies and is a complete tool of the Corporate complex, and comes from a family that has been for 100 years.

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  6. EMANUEL GOLDSTEIN SAID:

    “Mercy? Because immortality in a fallen world would be hell on earth? Don't dress it up. Death is punishment.”

    Death can also be a mercy. Cf. Isa 57:1-2; Phil 1:21-23; Rev 14:13.

    “And speaking of idolatry, surely equating Christianity with certain political values and leades in idolatry as well.”

    “Surely” is not an argument. Where’s the argument?

    Moral issues are ultimately religious issues. The fact that a moral issue may be politicized doesn’t remove it from the sphere of religious valuation.

    Politics is not a value—politics is a process. The values are supplied by other sources, which then feed into the political process. You’re confusing means and ends.

    “And stupid, especially believing a Pres who lies”

    “Lies” about what?

    “And is a complete tool of the Corporate complex.”

    Where’s your evidence to back up your claim?

    If you disapprove of corporations, why are you using a computer? Why are you accessing the Internet? Doesn’t that make you a complete tool of the Corporate complex, viz. Google, Microsoft, &c.?

    “And comes from a family that has been for 100 years.”

    So you believe in collective guilt?

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