Readers of this blog know that I rarely reference my books in these posts–not because it would be wrong but because I don’t like the feeling that I’m trying to sell you something. I perhaps too naively believe that good writing will find readers, and am content to leave it at that. Someone mentioned last week that I should consider posting excerpts from my books, and I may do that on occasion in the future.
With that throat clearing out of the way, Matt Westerholm sent me this link to an insightful piece written by Andrew Sullivan on attending his friend’s evangelical megachurch funeral. It’s interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective, and Matt suggested it had intriguing connections to my most recent book, The Last Enemy, which will soon be out in French and a large print edition (see how subtly I promote my wares?).
I found two items of interest in Sullivan’s piece:
1. He incorrectly thinks that we will get our new bodies in heaven, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked that up at the funeral. Our favorite funeral songs certainly leave that impression–“touching a hand, and finding it God’s!; breathing new air, and finding it celestial!” But think about it, if we already have our new bodies in the intermediate state in heaven, then what’s the resurrection for?
2. Sullivan noted that the funeral intentionally chose to be a celebration, where the widow wore white and the audience joyfully clapped along with Disneyesque praise choruses. I don’t want to judge how anyone grieves, as if there is a wrong way to do it, but if there is a wrong, or at least incomplete way to do it, then this is it. In fact, the joyful exultations would have meant more if the people had also permitted themselves to mourn and lament. The deeper we allow ourselves to feel the agony of death the greater we’ll appreciate the victory of Christ’s resurrection. A Christian funeral should have equal parts lament and hope, and in that order.
To quote from an interesting and helpful book on this subject, “We grieve, but not as those without hope. We hope, but not as those who do not grieve.”
Update: Eric Strattan sent me this link which is the exact right way to grieve. I am so proud of this wife, who obviously was taught well. Fair warning: you won’t finish this piece without crying. She wrote this last month, and her husband died on Monday. God have mercy.