Monday, March 05, 2007

Bury Me Like A Muslim

Actually, I want to be cremated. But I absolutely do not want to be embalmed. Nor do Muslims or Jews. But it's a problem in this country where embalming is routinely practiced by morticians and where burial practices regulating care of the body are matters of law and public health. In the Washington Post today there is an article about the difficulties Muslims are experiencing in this country not only being allowed to practice their own burial rituals (which call for ritual washing, no embalming, and burial within 24 hours) but also how difficult it is for them to break into the mortician business. Slowly, laws are being changed around the country to make room for their practices.

This is one case where the Christian west that has perfected the science of preserving bodies forever has not improved over ancient rituals that simply allow bodies to return to the earth as ashes and dust. While embalming is as old as Egyptian mummies, western embalming practices began in the Civil War as a way to preserve soldiers' bodies to bring them home to grieving families. I have no quarrel with this. But I see absolutely no need for expensive embalming practices that can preserve bodies forever in expensive caskets and vaults. What a racket.

And for some Christians it is wrapped up in superstitious beliefs about bodily resurrection. In fact I once had a funeral director challenge my expression of my personal beliefs that I wanted to be cremated not embalmed. He said, "So you are not a Christian then?" I said what? He responded that it was his job to preserve bodies for the day of resurrection. As I have said previously on this blog I don't believe in any kind of bodily resurrection; but even if you do, don't you believe that a God who is powerful enough to raise people from death would also be powerful enough to reconstitute the body if that is what it takes?

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

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