American Funerals

Several years ago I took some part time work with a funeral home to help supplement my pastor’s income. The people who owned the Funeral home were gracious and they made sure that I never had a conflict of schedules. They understood where my priorities were and worked with me accordingly. The work was different. At times I would drive the hearse transporting the deceased from one funeral home to another. At other times I would pick up the deceased from the place where they had died and bring them to the funeral home. There would be times I would help with the parking and times I would deliver the flowers after the funeral service. It was all the stuff you would expect to find in working with a funeral home.

However I didn’t last more than a year doing this part time work. It wasn’t that they were dissatisfied with me. Nor was it that I was dissatisfied with them. It wasn’t the nature of the work that had me walk away from a little extra income. It was the depression I was struggling with that had me quit. Now, one might think it was a depression brought on by my being around death that had me quit, but it wasn’t that. The depression that drove me to quit the funeral home was the constant barrage of funeral sermons I was hearing. I got to the point I just couldn’t handle seeing people leave funeral after funeral with no idea what the Gospel was. More than that I had got to the point that I couldn’t handle the silliness that was going on in the name of Christ.

At one funeral the Pastor quoted the famous passage,

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

He then proceeded to eulogize the deceased by saying,

“Paul had many interests in his life and in heaven Jesus has a room for him for all the interests that he had. There will be a voluntary fireman room for him. There will be a ‘Dad’ room for him. There will be a sportsman room for him. etc. etc. Jesus has been very thoughtful this way.

At another funeral where the deceased had been involved in a tragic auto accident the Pastor climbed into the pulpit and the first words out of his mouth were,

“I want everyone who is sitting here and who can hear my voice to know that God didn’t have anything to do with this accident. God didn’t want this to happen and this isn’t God’s fault.”

At yet another funeral a female minister led the congregation in hand holding with the person next to them while she sang Bette Midler’s “The Rose.”

Eventually, I couldn’t take any more and I told my Funeral employer that my emotional well being was being adversely affected by all the funeral messages I was subject to and I had to quit.

I thought I had seen it all until today. Now, keep in mind my observations having nothing to do with the deceased and everything to do with the Clergy officiant. The deceased and his family were and are fine people.

Today I was at a Funeral and the minister got towards the end of the service and he said,

“Now I want everybody to uncross their arms and legs.” (Insert shuffling noises while most people are uncrossing arms and legs while others go out of their way to cross arms and legs.) “In ancient Judaism they never prayed with arms and legs crossed because it was thought that such a posture would block the effectiveness of the prayers. I want everybody here to get the full measure of the prayer so go ahead and uncross your arms and legs. Now, before we pray I want you to take your right hand and pretend you are reaching up into heaven and are pulling a gold coin out of a treasure chest.” (Insert spectacle of 200 people in a funeral home reaching with their right hand upward into ‘heaven’s treasure chest’ in order to pull out a gold coin. Now insert my fear that his next statement was going to be something like … “You do the Hokey Pokey and you shake it all about — that’s what its all about.”) He continued instead, “now, take that coin and pretend it is a memory and put in the pocket over your heart. That is your special memory of ______ that you will always have in your heart with you.”

Look, I try to be a reasonable man. I really try to listen to things with as much charity as possible. But a man can only take so much. Here we had a room full of people face to face with eternity and he is busy having people grab imaginary gold coins out of an imaginary heavenly treasure chest all the while making sure our body posture doesn’t get in the way of God’s ability to answer prayer. There was no mention of Christ. There was not mention of the Cross. There was no mention of resurrection. There was no mention of sin. There was no mention of grace and forgiveness. There was no mention of anything except the Chakra points of prayer.

If I were a pagan at a funeral like this, I guarantee you I would never ever darken the door of a church. If I were a pagan at a funeral like this I would never ever have anything to do with Christianity.

And now, I’m working on not being depressed again.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

5 thoughts on “American Funerals”

  1. I’ve seen this kind of thing numerous times. So I can understand your depression in attending these so-called “Christian” funerals.

    On one occasion, the minister talked almost exclusively about himself, about the deceased, how difficult it was for him to be doing the service, fake catches in the voice, looking to the ceiling as if speaking to the deceased, and ended with telling the deceased, “see, {name of deceased}, I made it”. No gospel, even though the minister knew there were unbelievers present.

    As I worked to suppress my anger, I actually experienced a rising chest pain, broke into a body sweat, nearly passed out, and had to be helped out of the funeral service. I recall thinking at the time: how ironic that I’m going to die at a funeral service.

    To this day, whenever I think of that minister, imprecatory Psalms come to mind.

  2. There was a really good issue last spring (I believe) of TableTalk, devoted to the topic of death and funerals.

    Please tell me you didn’t reach up to grab your imaginary coin, Bret. I wonder, though, what we ought to do to be light during such silliness. When is it appropriate to pull a Jenny Geddes?

  3. Carmon,

    I suspected what was afoot when he asked everybody to uncross their arms and legs. Immediately, I crossed my arms and legs. I was so decisive in doing so (quite without intending to be) that my family tells me they were afraid that Pastor was going to speak directly to me to “uncross.”

    And “No” I did not reach for any stupid imaginary coin. I was to busy looking around me and being amazed that people would actually do such a thing just because the guy in front is giving directions to that end. I found myself wondering … “Just how far will people go in listening to some guy just because he is in front?”

    Believe me, I thought about doing a Jenny Geddes after the funeral by speaking to that Nimrod minister, but sometimes you can see that stupid is indefeasible. His stupidity would have been unscratched by a stool over the head.

  4. Mark,

    You sir are a man who understands my sentiments…. except that I was thinking,

    “How ironic that this minister is going to die at my hands at a funeral service.”

  5. Please tell me you didn’t reach up to grab your imaginary coin, Bret.

    Fortunately Bret wasn’t in the front row where the throat of the ostensible minister was within easy reach.

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