My post about the proselytization at my grandfather’s funeral has caught the attention of some people involved in funeral planning. I meant the post as a place for people to be able to vent with others who knew what they were talking about, but this is an excellent result. Any time someone wants to listen to a minority viewpoint and think about how people are affected in various situations, I’m (obviously) all for it.
At one topical blog, however, a commenter responded thusly:
Having read the full text, it seems to me the conflict of interest might be a combination of a poor communicator in the Lutheran pastor, and an bitter, selfish granddaughter venting her atheistic anger on a religious funeral chosen by her grandfather.
The unchurched do indeed heap vilification on the religious in a way that is rarely returned in equal measure. People constantly libel and slander the Church out of willful ignorance and hateful bigotry. Child abuse is a distinctly Catholic evil that is less likely to occur in families or other religions. The war-time Pope was a Nazi sympathiser. The Crusades and the Inquisition demonstrated quintessentially Catholic cruelty. The Church is anti-science. All tiresome nonsense, of course, to anyone who has bothered to research in order to discover the fact-based truth, and moved beyond the revisionist propaganda.
But moving to the interesting discussion point you raise: ‘Now that we are living in a multifaith society where any funeral audience is likely to span the spectrum of beliefs, do faith groups have a duty to take cognizance and adjust?’
If a priest is requested for a funeral, he is duty-bound to conduct a religious ritual involving God and our spiritual salvation. Sometimes, he will be a good communicator who will still offend anti-believers, sometimes he will be poor even in the eyes of believers, just as civil funeral celebrants vary.
If someone doesn’t want a religious funeral then they can book a celebrant who is not in holy orders. Choice is good. Civil celebrants are free to adapt their performance on demand, whether it’s to talk to the atheist majority in the congregation/audience, or water it down to be palatable to those with faith. A priest cannot do this as his service is not driven by consumer market forces.
Anyone demanding otherwise has an agenda to harm religion out of disrespectful resentment to its grip on billions of decent people, peacefully holding onto their faith without responding to their increasingly intolerant detractors. Why is it that so many atheists seem to have more in common with Islamofascists than anyone else?
“Bitter, selfish granddaughter” here. I’d like to thank you for not heaping any of that vilification on atheists–or I would, if that’s what you’d actually done at any point in your comments.
Did you read my post? If so, I’m confused by your assertions that I wanted the pastor to leave out a vital part of the ceremony, which was not a church ceremony, by the by. I noted that the music was chosen by my grandfather (though this was the only part of the ceremony that was; he wasn’t lucid much of the time near the end). I specifically noted that talk of heaven is service to the mourners. I did not object to prayers, although I didn’t participate in them.
The only thing I objected to was the pastor proselytizing specifically to nonbelievers. Now, perhaps there is some cultural confusion here, but is this considered a necessary part of a funeral where you are? It isn’t here in the U.S., despite our reputation as a fervently religious country.
If this is deemed critical where you are, perhaps you can also explain to me why that is. As I mentioned, my objection is that it serves neither the dead nor the mourners. My grandfather certainly never requested any such thing. The believers listening don’t need an exhortation to believe. Nonbelievers are distracted from their remembrances and–because we are not actually selfish–prohibited from engaging in an exchange of ideas on the topic on any sort of equal basis.
So why would a funeral service be considered not just an appropriate but a necessary place for proselytization?
We’ll see what the response, if any, looks like.