Robert Spaemann—The death of death

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Our atheist modern age understands the contrast between life and death as absolute. We search for some palliatives, but they are ineffective. "My life continues in the lives of my children," we say, but for an individual this is an empty phrase.

We doggedly fight to prolong life, only to find that we cannot win this battle - and are left unable to produce authentic rituals to accompany the end of our existence.

Because our societies have no sense of limits, they strive to eliminate death from our consciousness. More and more often, death takes place in a hidden hospital room. Death is suppressed socially, but the effect is that individuals' fear of death grows ever greater. Most people nowadays face death never having witnessed the death of someone else!

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals

5 Comments
Posted August 30, 2011 at 11:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ian+ wrote:

Thanks, Kendall. I got some good material here for a sermon on 1 Cor 15.1-10 (Trinity 11, Canadian BCP).

August 30, 3:12 pm | [comment link]
2. driver8 wrote:

In my part of the US, I’ve been astonished to learn how few people are buried. I came from a ministry in which the village parish was surrounded by the community’s churchyard, at the very center of the village. For me it was always a powerful manifestation of the church’s hope for resurrection, the presence of that great cloud of witnesses and the reality of my own mortality. When you have several predecessors buried just beyond the Vicarage wall it gives you a slightly different sense of your own permanence. Here - something like 80% of funerals I lead have no corpse. It feels, I imagine, like weddings would feel if 80% of couples got married by proxy. Christians have chosen to be buried (where possible - and of course it isn’t always) since the time of the first martyrs. To give that up, over a single century, is a momentous change in symbolism.

Of course God can and will create out of nothing at the end, as ever He does. It’s not about what He can do, but about our witness to what He will do.

Perhaps as I minister here longer I will get habituated to funerals without corpses. But, for now, that’s how it seems.

August 30, 7:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Clueless wrote:

Part of the problem has to do with mobility.  A body in the graveyard is attached to a place.  One hesitates about moving away.  It feels like abandonment.  A gravestone encourages people to visit it.  An unattended gravestone is a sorry thing.  If one loved someone who died, one would wish to be buried side by side.  That would be difficult or impossible if you had to move, and most people do have to move these days.  Ashes, unlike corpses, can be either scattered or placed in a container that is transportable, if the only job you can get is 500 miles away.  People wish to remain with the people they love, or at least to not abandon them.  This is easier done with cremation, then with burial

August 31, 9:23 am | [comment link]
4. driver8 wrote:

There were tombstones in my former churchyard from the late seventeenth century. You know in the end, and I think this is what we are discussing, everyone moves away. Acknowledging that reality, christiians once thought it desirable to witness even through their dead bodies to the only One in whom they, and their loved ones, could hope.

August 31, 10:43 am | [comment link]
5. Hakkatan wrote:

I attended a family funeral yesterday - very sad, for it was for a child. The service was held in a Unitarian edifice. The prelude was “Loch Lomond,” the postlude was “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and the child’s school sang “Here Comes the Sun” during the service. Various people gave eulogies.  The overall message of the comments, etc, was that “life is fragile, and all we have is one another -so let’s remember little “X” and keep him alive in our hearts, and let’s be nice to one another.”  That is not too much to hang onto, but without Christ, victorious over death and sin, that is all that there is. So sad…

August 31, 2:19 pm | [comment link]
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