Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cremation vs. burial (vs. glad bag)

I'm wondering if any of you can help me understand something.

Recently a beloved close relative of mine, one who works in the Liberty University/High School education system which was founded by Reverend Jerry Falwell, reacted somewhat strongly when she learned that my mother is going to be cremated after her death. She refused to talk about it with my dad, who wanted to understand where she was coming from.

I've never heard of this before. But I did find this page on the Liberty University website, which seems to outline Falwell's views on the subject. It says, among other things

Dr. Falwell definitely believes since the Christian's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, he should plan a burial which will not involve cremation.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

According to I Corinthians 6:19-20, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit for each child of God. With this in mind, one can readily understand that, while living, the body should not be defiled with tobacco, alcohol, immoral activities and improper eating habits. This passage of Scripture would also lead us to want our body, even in death, handled with loving care, respect, and dignity.

All of us understand that in large cities where the population is dense and plots for regular burial are at a premium, it would be easy for the practice of cremation to develop. However, in crowded cities, buildings are being erected where funeral services are held and the body is deposited for keeping in that same building. These buildings accommodate a large number of bodies. Thus, it seems an alternative to cremation is possible, even in crowded cities.

This strikes me as exceedingly bizarre. But ... I'm willing to be educated. Is this a widespread belief among Christians in general? It seems shockingly ... superstitious. But probably lots of things that I think seem shockingly superstitious to people coming from a very different way of thinking than mine. What do you think about it?


edited to add:

Or, just Send Me To Glory in a Glad Bag (or alternatively, for eco-friendliness, try these,


Rachel said...

Benjamin, I agree that this is strange and bizarre. So because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is not OK to burn them, but it is OK to stick them in the ground so they can deteriorate and become foul-smelling and full of bugs??

Dr. Falwell's position is interesting to me because in my extended family of mostly conservative Christians, cremation is the favored practice. The attitude has always been that cremation is somehow MORE spiritually enlightened because it shows that you really do believe that person's soul lives on and therefore the body is now just an empty shell. And there has always been the implication that is indulgent and wasteful to spend the far greater sum needed for a casket burial and that to do so would evidence a sort-of superstitious and paganish attachment to the body.

Personally I respect whatever decision people make. I simply don't think it's a moral issue. But having been raised with the attitudes I have, I do prefer cremation. My dad and my Gramps were both cremated. Gramps expressed this preference before his death. But in my dad's case, since his death was sudden and unexpected, we had to decide. We chose cremation and then burial in a small cremation plot with a brass marker from the VA (the markers are provided for free to every military veteran).

I actually picked up the box of ashes from the funeral home and had them at my house for several days prior to the burial. It was very weird. You would not believe how incredibly small the box was and yet how incredibly heavy. Anna held it on her lap for a while (she was 7 at the time) and said, "Now GRANDPA is sitting on MY lap!"

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this in a protestant church. Most people i have known at the church I am at that have died have been cremated, probably cause it's cheaper. But I used to be Eastern Orthodox and they have very strict guidelines about cremation that are basically the same as Falwell's. Personally I found the whole subject just too creepy to talk about. Especially since the Orthodox kiss the corpse at the funeral.

byron smith said...

Try wikipedia.
Or here.

Benjamin Ady said...


The story about Anna and Grandpa sitting on her lap is lovely. Thank you for sharing your experience.


Thank you for the links!

brooke said...

please forgive me for stalking your comments - i'm doing what i always do - read older posts of blogs i've just discovered.

anyhow - i heard the same thing from the mormons about cremation as you heard from your beloved relative with ties to jerry. when i told my lds friends i was going to be cremated they were horrified. how would i ever be resurrected? now that i'm leaving the mormons and am going to a much more liberal church i think i'll ask my pastor about this (consider it part of my mormon de-programming).

but, personally - if depression exists after resurrection i don't want to ever be resurrected.