First Person: Do unto others

Dear Mr. Preacher,

I recently attended the funeral of a dear friend and you took charge. You made it clear from the outset that no one else was going to get a word in. You were in control. You spoke for about 30 minutes. You said very little about my friend. Mostly you read passages from the Scriptures. Some were from the Old Testament, some from the New Testament. None made much sense to me. As preachers usually but not always do, you treated us all as believing Christians.

You made several points about death, among them that we die because we sin. Specifically, you made reference to Adam in the Garden of Eden, who you said sinned, and for that reason we all die. You also said that when my friend died, he lost his memory. I’m not sure that’s what you meant to say, but that’s what you said. Now, I have problems with your approach on several fronts.

Even if I were to take the story in Genesis literally, it is not Adam who sinned but Eve who ate the forbidden apple. At least give her credit for thirsting for knowledge. My friend thirsted for knowledge. He was a poet and a history buff. He loved to read and he loved to write.

I also have problems with the idea that my friend died because he sinned. Babies who never have the chance to sin can also die. People are murdered every day. Is this because they have sinned? Or is it rather the murderers who have sinned?

As for memory, my friend will live on in OUR memories. Of course when we die, our memories cease. You didn’t have to tell us this.

Please Mr. Preacher, as you told us to do, think of the poor family who invited you to speak, and have some respect for the person in the coffin beside you. And try to understand that the man whom you neglected to describe to us in any way and whose name you forgot as you were talking, would not have appreciated your assumption that everyone at the funeral was the kind of Christian you are, or a Christian at all.

You quoted Jesus Christ but your quote had nothing to do with my friend. A more apt approach would have been what Jesus taught (not “us” as you indicated because not all of us are Christians) his people to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This, by the way, comes from Jewish Scripture. And my friend definitely practiced this. He loved people of all faiths and enjoyed spending time with them. And more importantly, know that my friend was far more inclusive, far more accepting, far wiser than you in your narrow explanation of why we die.

You thanked us all for coming to my friend’s funeral. You told us this was important. You repeated this four times, how important it was that we left our jobs, our lives, to support the family, and urged us to appreciate how we live. You neglected to say that at least some of us were there to say goodbye to a man we loved and who loved us. Unfortunately, your speech was not about my friend and how he lived his life. He deserved a better eulogy.

Please Mr. Preacher, next time you get up to speak at a funeral; think about whom you are addressing and what effect your words will have on those who are grieving for someone they loved. That is the reason we come to a funeral. Not to think about why we die or to hear disjointed lines of scripture. We come to honour the one we have lost and to remember him with joy in our hearts for the life he lived.

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