Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Sin (page 2 of 2)

What in the World is Wrong with the West? — Part 2

Part 1 of this “mini-series” is here.

It’s almost laughable, really. In a world where so many ethnicities have come together to prove like never before that no two people or cultures are the same, you’d think that we’d be looking for commonalities.

Isn’t it easier to talk to people about things you have in common? Mutual friends, similar experiences, places you’ve both visited?

But what do I have in common with my Muslim neighbour who moved here from Turkey a year ago and is just learning english? Very little. But some things stretch beyond culture, place of birth and age. And there is one thing more certain than taxes.

And yet it’s the greatest taboo of our society. We just cannot find a way to come to terms with our own mortality. If one person starts to talk about death, people give it a little awkward chuckle and then change the subject or say something like, “c’mon, you’re not going to die.” Even in my own house, when my mom starts to talk about her life insurance policy and what will happen if she dies, I get uncomfortable and think: “Stop talking about that… you’ve got a ton of time left.”

Of course, she doesn’t. Neither do I. Nowhere in the Bible or anywhere else are we promised another year, month, week, day, or breath. But we assume. We assume that we’ll be here till we’re 80. And even then people will cry at our funerals and wonder how this tragedy could’ve happened.

One thing I must make clear is that death is a tragedy and was never a part of the original creation. It is the ultimate consequence for sin and one day we will all be resurrected from death to die no more.

That being said, we’re not there yet. One day I will die. You will die. And between now and then you and I will both probably experience great pain. We will both probably get very sick. We’ll probably even get wrinkles and start to shrink. Pain and sickness are both reminders that this life is not it. We will die — that much is unavoidable.

But in a culture where looking fit, healthy and youthful (the denial of the onset and imminence of death?), people don’t want to think about — much less talk about — death and dying. And pain before death becomes in reality a fate worse than death itself.

Why can’t we talk about death? Why do we act like modern science has somehow failed us everytime an 80+ year old great-grandparent “passes away”? Why are we forced to use euphemisms like “passed away” to say that someone died?

Maybe it’s kind of the same reason why we can’t talk about spiritual things? Maybe it’s because it inevitably brings up the topic of the afterlife and the real point of this life. Personally, I feel like the church has really dropped the ball here and become like the rest of our culture.

We need to be people who are open and honest about dying. A people who talk-straight to others about their own mortality and who are honest with them about what they can expect if they are outside Christ when they do finally die.

It used to be (or so I hear) that Christians were the ones who knew how to die well… it made us stand out. Now, we’re just as into the euphemisms as anyone else. We even cling to vain hopes that “maybe all good people will still go to heaven one day” just like the rest of the world. If Christians can’t talk about death with unwavering hope and faith, why should anyone else?

What in the World is Wrong with the West?

I hear rumours. Rumours that in other places of the world you can broach the topic of spiritual things without half of the audience expressing some kind of visible concern.

Why is it in our culture that it is such a struggle to “get into another person’s kitchen” when it comes to their spiritual life?

When we see people we haven’t seen in some time, we can catch up quickly. “Where are you living now?” “How’s so and so?” “Where are you working now?” We can talk about the future: “What are you plans now?” We can even get personal: “How’s your family?” Or more personal: “How’s your love life? Any prospects?” But how bizarre would we seem if we were to ask, “How’s your heart?”

Sadly, it is tough, even in most church settings to get past the old “How was your week?” routine. Why? It’s an overflow of such an impersonal, distanced, media-driven, keeping-up-appearances culture. Isn’t it bizarre that we can sit beside people listening to the Word of God being applied to our hearts for 45 minutes and then turn around and just say, “What’s for lunch?”

Maybe there’s more though… maybe the culture has become the way it has–with spirituality as one of the ultimate taboos–because we’re afraid that things might get messy. If I ask how someone is doing in their walk with Christ, maybe they’ll ask me back? Maybe I would have to admit that this past week has been a struggle. I haven’t loved my wife like I should’ve. I haven’t spent any time in prayer, and my Bible’s been collecting dust. Jesus seems far from me.

But who wants to admit that? It’s so much easier to just talk about the Jays and the weather.

Plus, what if I ask someone about the condition of their heart and they give me an answer that I disagree with? Am I allowed to say something about it, or do I smile and nod? After all, if I were to disagree, that would be making a truth-claim of some sort (heaven forbid). I would hate to appear as a know-it-all, or be characterized as one who thinks he has a “corner on the truth.”

Speaking of which, anyone catch the score of the game last night?

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