Fair warning, this post is filed in the ‘life & philosophy’ file, and it’s going to seem a bit tangental, but stick with me. I have a feeling many a programmer and otherwise intelligent readers will be able to relate.
I hate funerals.
It’s probably safe to say most people are not fans of funerals, so let me be more specific:
I hate funerals in the south.
Your average funeral has a few friends, coworkers, and perhaps family members say a word or two about positive aspects of the deceased. Then, if the deceased was religious, or more specifically, if the person running the funeral proceedings is, a preacher will say some words and hopefully leave everyone with a little bit less pain and sorrow.
The thing about funerals in the south is, there’s a lot of good-old religion. In the predominantly conservative south, people who fall upon bad luck deserve it, for the south fears not a god of love and peace, but rather a god who seems rather preoccupied with vengeance and head count above all else. In the south, a funeral is a sales opportunity, and your salesman is the preacher.
We’re trained to fear, prepare for, and minimize contact with a car salesman, at all costs. Not all car salesmen will treat you badly, but it seems more than a few would handcuff you to a chair in their office until you signed the papers, if they could.
At a funeral, the preacher could be the ultimate crooked salesman, as you are effectively handcuffed in place, out of respect for the dead, the family, and others in mourning. You are what they call a “captive audience”, and preachers in the south seem to know and use this.
At your average funeral, the preacher may quote the bible, mention heaven, and perhaps even end in mandatory prayer. In the south, if this is your experience, you’re lucky.
Your average southern preacher, in my experience, takes the stage, starts with a few nice words about the deceased, and steadily plunges into cringe-worthy territory of specifically mentioning that the person is (or even, is not!!) in heaven.
Cringes turn to squirms as the preacher predictably moves next to clarifying that his jesus is the only way to heaven, for a number of minutes.
Squirms turn to anger as the preacher punctuates his sales pitch with the deal making one-liner about repenting and accepting christ as your saviour.
Anger escelates as the preacher clarifies that those in the room and on earth without his christ will be burning in hell and have no solace in the death of another.
And anger leads to realizations about how truly fucked up the world is when the preacher, a supposed moral leader in your community, asks everyone to bow their heads and asks people to raise their hands if they’d like to accept his offer of christ. (Yes, this is “you can’t make this kind of shit up” territory..)
Nobody’s above a quick dollar, as they say.
Funerals don’t have to be this way, and in fact many aren’t. But once you’ve seen this cancer on society a few times, it sticks in your brain and you want to do something about it.
There’s something culturally twisted about dogmatic religion being the so-called leaders and do-gooders in our society while pitching you a christ sandwich at every rotten turn in your life, and at a funeral, it’s the lowest of the low.
To me, a funeral is not the time or place to sell anything, including a the billions-sold McChrist Burger. I think the ideal funeral is a) no funeral happening b/c someone didn’t die, or b) a moment to remember a loved one, cherish their memory, and remind one’s self that life is fragile and there’s more to life than the 9 to 5, and c) full of hugs.
A funeral is a moment in time to celebrate the life of someone who has passed, not to sell jesus.
There’s nothing wrong with anyone having any particular faith, and I’m all for funerals going the way the deceased would prefer. Did the deceased believe in a god? reincarnation? gravity? Great, let’s celebrate who they were and their faith is a component of their story to celebrate as well. We don’t need to hide someone’s religion because a diverse crowd may attend their funeral. It probably wouldn’t hurt to think a tiny bit about the crowd of loved ones and what they’re experiencing though.
It’s a damn shame when the deceased, or worse, the appointed steward of their affairs, would prefer their memory be one-upped by the worst amateur hour 4 am infomercial sales pitch you’ve ever seen.
McChrist Burgers anyone?