Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Having Their Cake and Blessing It

Before I start, apologies for the lengthy absence. It has been a period of time characterised by spending time away from home for all sorts of reasons, though chief of which was our week away in Wales. Lovely, ennet!

I have returned to the Blog in fine fettle, rested and ready for the steady acceleration to the festival of moment of the birth of Jesus; you know, Christmas and all that! For me, that will bring with it my beloved mince pies, my less beloved Away in a Minger but the overall sense of fluffy red and gold that insinuates itself into every fleeting thought. Nice. 

I have also returned to this Blog with a bee in my bonnet (and having been to Wales, have mastered the art of saying "bumblebee" in the Welsh accent. Stonking). I digress. I witnessed something today that annoys me, believe it or not. 

I am a priest, a vicar, a God botherer - a worker for the Lord. When I am asked to officiate over a funeral, I think it is reasonable for the mourners to expect that I will lob in the odd prayer, a little Bible if you will, and allude to the resurrection somewhere. Some may, in line with a trend I am fast disliking, expect me to use the death of their nearest and dearest to sell my church as a value-added to death. Either way, the funerials will be Christian, overtly, proudly and honestly. 

Then you get the Humanists, disciples of none less that Archbishop Dawkins (whose existence I refuse to accept). Their book, Funerals Without God, sets a clear scene for the punters. You will get a funeral without God (though interestingly, they refer to "God" as distinct to "a god" or funerals "without a make-believe deity" which is different - and means that they must have a view of the God I have a view on). If I went to a Humanist funeral (as distinct from the more honest and upfront civil ceremonies), I might expect some secular poetry, Elvis and happy reminiscence. 

Imagine if Reverend Father David Cloake pitched up without a collar (no, scrap that - some don't), without a Bible, placed a goat atop the box and catafalque, slit its throat and let it die as a blood offering to Grunthos the Flatulent. Imagine if I presided over a funeral service without speaking of the Lord at all. You'd have every right to kick my reverential butt!

Today, I witnessed a sharply dressed Humanist high-priestess (ordained into the church of Dawkins) offer Jewish blessings - truly. I have heard of Humanists employing the Lord's Prayer in their "ceremonies" (you know the one, Our Father, the one in Heaven, yada yada be His name). I saw her directive to the staff of the very nice crematorium asking them, at a future service, to pause to give people time for their prayers. She played Ave Maria (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee). If this were retail or business it would surely breach trading standards. 

The thing is, I find the lack of integrity offensive. If people asked me for a funeral sans-God, I would have to decline. It is the right thing for me to do. If I were to stand up as a Humanist but invite invocations of a God I protest as delusion, I would be acting immorally. Simply put, it seems that they want their cake and to bless it. I would have far more respect for a group of people who told me I was delusional and therefore mentally unwell (for it is, I am sure, what they think) if they didn't then profit from our sentiment, literature and sacred texts.  At least true atheists have the honour to talk of God as I might be inclined to talk about pink elephants - which is to say that in either case, they just wouldn't arise in a conversation. 


  1. I have never been to Humanist funeral thankfully. I cannot believe (this is not to say I am calling you a liar here you understand) they have the gall to stand for what they stand for and then to say prayers etc. Farcical doesn't quite cover it, do the families of the departed not feel they have been sold a dud?
    Lack of integrity and much better training needed for their people. However flattering that Gods/our words are so good that they are drawn to using them. Maybe there is hope for them yet :-)

  2. I've been to 2 Humanist/secular funerals in recent years, and found them both profoundly depressing. The first was lead by a humanist woman, who had obviously made the effort to find out from the relatives as much as she could about the deceased (a man in his 90s when he died), and she made the eulogy quite amusing, but as there was nothing at all about the Christian hope of life after death, the overall effect of the event was dismal. The other was the funeral of a man in his mid-40s who had succumbed to oesophageal cancer, very sadly, and was conducted by an Anglican chaplain from the hospice where he had died. Obviously it was a sad occasion, as this man was young and highly intelligent, and his widow was devastated at his loss, but as neither she nor he were believers thay had requested a totally non-religious ceremony, and again it was so sad that there was no hope, just despair. I found it very strange that the priest hed agreed to conduct the ceremony on those terms, although I gathered that he'd become close to both of them during the time in the hospice, but I don't think that he was right to go against his own calling as a priest and a Christian, effectively denying the truth he preached on a regular basis. Maybe I'm wrong, but it left me very sad and feeling that the Lord had been denied again.

  3. Humanist or Civil Celebrant? The latter I have only recently bumped into, they will incorporate prayers etc into services as the family wish - with no particular faith group focus...if that is what is wanted.

    Our local Civil Celebrant is a committed Christian, and a very nice chap. But if asked he will not mention God at all during a funeral - he has the freedom to do that in a way I don't (and wouldn't want to have, obviously)!

  4. Def humanist, hence my annoyance. Civil celebrants tend, in my limited experience, to be very good as distinct from the former which are there in the negative light of a standpoint of denial!



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