Monday, August 13, 2007

Hallowed Secularism at a Funeral

8/13/2007--"One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Psalm 27.

One question that Hallowed Secularism has to answer is the role of ritual. People need to have ritual both in our everyday lives and on the important occasions of life. But there are no liturgies for secularists. We should not hesitate to borrow from the existing religious traditions, but that means deciding what is appropriate and what is not. That requires careful reading.

I attended a funeral the other day at which three selections from Scripture were read. As I remember, the reading from the letters of St. Paul was about heaven. That sort of “flight from the finite”—[flucht aus dem endlichen] a term from Hegel describing both Judaism and Christianity--is just what Hallowed Secularism rebels against. There also was a reading from the Gospels in which Jesus pointed to resurrection on the last day. That is not much more meaningful. What is needed is a way of life that is its own reward here and now.

The third reading was Psalm 27, a selection of which I quote above. Here we have the presence of the Lord as its own, self-validating event. The Psalmist loves God’s presence and wishes to live out of it all his life. There is nothing here about an after-life.

And what is God’s presence? Perhaps you have had this exalted experience, but lacked words for it, since you are not religious. Presence evidently has to do with beauty and knowledge.

Here we have the beginning, at least, of a secularist’s funeral.

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