Monday, 29 August 2011

Designer Funerals

After this weekend's State Funeral for Jack Layton I fear we will see an increase in "pep rally" funerals, specifically designed following very little traditional format, if any.  We already see this in weddings, so why not funerals?  Jack Layton's funeral was a political rally, a tribute to an outgoing leader as though it was a retirement party, and a melded cultural presentation, presented like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, or a Canada Day performance.  Was there anyone, any favourite cause NOT represented?

I met Jack, and I liked him.  I grieved, like all of Canada, when he died.  I have watched his political career since he was a city councilor in the early eighties in Toronto.  I liked his preferential option for the poor, and told him so.  I profoundly disagreed with some of his other positions.  May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.  My prayers are with his family and friends, and especially those in the NDP caucus.  Literally, and every day after we learned of his death.

I watched his funeral, as much as I could.  God was at best a dignitary who, because of His position, had to be invited.  Like the other VIPs present but not members of Jack's party, God was barely acknowledged.   A couple of unattributed Bible readings and a prayer recited as mystical poetry by a flamboyant activist turned minister was about as close as He came to getting His foot in that door.  Note - simply putting the word "hallelujah" in a song, even if you're Leonard Cohen and even less so if you're a former Barenaked Lady, does not make a hymn of praise.

Funeral rites and ritual exist to assist and comfort in times of sadness.  The elders of our religious traditions chose the prayers and the form carefully for solid theological reason.  For those who claim a religious association we serve our beloved deceased and their families with respect and kindness when we leave the secular pop rock where it belongs, and surrender to God's love in its entirety, with grace and humble courage.