Monday, December 7, 2009

More Religion in Funerals, Please.

A curious column from Brit Martin Beckford at the Telegraph today. Eventually he gets around to funerals for soldiers who died in Afghanistan. Here's a clip:

If a society's attitude towards death reflects its view on religion, as I believe, then the Church of England could have big problems.

Just consider how much has changed in the past 12 months alone.

A year ago Debbie Purdy, the MS sufferer who wanted the Crown Prosecution Service to declare in advance whether her husband would face arrest if he helped her end her life at Dignitas, the Swiss suicide clinic, lost her case at the High Court.

But over the summer the Law Lords ruled that she was entitled to know the circumstances in which such prosecutions would be launched, and the Director of Public Prosecutions has gone as far as he can to decriminalise assisted dying in this country as well as for Britons travelling abroad.

Peers led by a former Lord Chancellor almost succeeded in achieving a similar result. Although the Church and other denominations have made their voices heard in this debate, they are up against a very slick PR operation run by supporters of assisted suicide.

This is being aided by articulate and successful families - the sort newspapers like to feature - who are prepared to publicise their relatives' deaths. One couple effectively sent their suicide note, expressing their anger at current laws on assisted dying, to the BBC.

They are undoubtedly winning both the propaganda war as well as the legal one, suggesting that most people would now rather have the option to end their lives of those of their loved ones at the time of their choosing, rather than accept suffering and the traditional Christian view that life is given by God and is not ours to take away.

Religious leaders also appear to be the main voices speaking out against the Liverpool Care Pathway, the method of removing treatment from patients thought to be nearing death, which has also come to prominence in 2009 and is now in place in more than 1,000 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

The most high-profile death of the year was that of Michael Jackson, and the reaction to it suggests society at large now treats dying as just another stage in a public figure's career rather than the end of it, or a cause for prayer and reflection. I saw jokes about his passing flash up on Twitter before it had even been confirmed by the emergency services.

The popularity of "green" burials - in biodegradable coffins with saplings planted instead of tombstones - reinforces the truth of another of this year's important legal rulings, that environmentalism is now a type of religion.

And when people have funerals they want their favourite pop songs played either to give those they have left behind a wry smile, or because they think them more meaningful than hymns.

Father Ed Tomlinson complained recently that he was left feeling "like a lemon" when he conducted services to the decidedly non-Christian strains of My Way or Over the Rainbow.

But many commentators disagreed with his sentiment, again taking the view that individual choice must trump sacred tradition.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home