Theme at a funeral

A very dear neighbor Shirley Baker died on the 7th of March 2010. She had stage four stomach cancer and a bad heart. Her family and friends decided to wait two weeks however before holding her memorial service.  Which was fine.  After all, they had to get over the shock and grief of her sudden demise.

But, it was the pastor at her funeral that presented an off-message by including politics in what should have been a celebration of her life…  Sin and sinners that cause a change in the seasons?  Only biblical pagans are acquisitive?  Use an old lady’s death to engage in put downs of faceless ciphers whom I am sure the fellow never met and knows nothing about.  There was nothing “good” about his political sermonizing, this pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist, far better were the family and friends reminiscing about Ms. Baker.  At least that was far more real.

Reading the book “Sore Winners,” by John Powers, I am well into the chapter of “The small pleasures of big box culture.”  The U.S., so “Christians” tell us, is a “Christian nation.”  Yet this “Christian nation” is as full of acquisitiveness as the pastor at the memorial service claimed that pagans were.  Mr. Powers goes to great lengths explaining all about that acquisitiveness during the Bush era (43).  Especially post 9/11/2001.  —As the sole and actual pagan in that entire church, I rolled my eyes at the man condemning seeking to “get things” as bad pagan behavior in a nation where “getting things” is exactly what today’s marketplace is geared to, or businesses go belly up.  I highly doubt that the pastor understood the irony of his own position.  Which was exactly why his message was so off putting.

Oh, I can understand living simply.  If people did not try to keep up with the Joneses, if they weren’t on the look out for a designer trash can, if just a functional used cat litter bag, dog food bag can be recycled for throwing household wastes into, why not?  You don’t have to clean and keep nice a “designer” anything if after it is full, you can toss the whole thing into the trash can you can roll out to the curb.

At the same time however, if you don’t buy that hundreds of dollars worth of “designer” trash can, you are rebelling against the marketplace that can only survive by your being acquisitive.  Or encouraging you through various forms of advertising media to become acquisitive.

I couldn’t help noticing the acquisitiveness of Ms. Baker’s memorial display which included a bag of potting soil.  The pastor who stood in front of a display of acquisitiveness and putting it down as a “pagan vice” (we “Christians” are so much better) probably didn’t recognize the irony in that either.  Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Baker’s flower garden was beautiful and had people from miles around coming to admire her true joy in life.  But one must “acquire” to “get things” in order to produce something of beauty.  That is exactly why I ended up shaking my head at the pastor.  The degree of hypocrisy in his sermonizing.

After all, you “get things” for your comfort.  You “get things” because it is something you delight in.  You “get things” because it nourishes your body.  You “get things” for your sleep and you “get things” for your health.  You “get things” for whatever you hygienically need.  On the other hand, what Mr. Powers argued that this “Christian nation” now engages in, is acquisitiveness that is an appeal to vanity.  That is why people today are encouraged to go buy that “designer” trash can at KMart.

Even if I had the money for a “designer” trash can, I would not buy such a critter.  Quite frankly, a simple square-sided plastic trash can or round bucket-shaped trash can would serve far better than something that I would fritter away the time wondering if this “trash can” would look better placed among artwork in the house or among flowers on the deck.  I wouldn’t be using it for trash.  Literally, if I am buying it for “looks,” I am not buying it for functionality.

“Pagans” are not in control of the U.S.  Real pagans represent a minority at best in a religious pantheon that is in its vast majority Christian.  So, in the case of this pastor, why would he single out the “acquisitive pagans” in a sermon that was supposed to be a celebration of a good Christian woman’s life?  It beats me that the guy could inject politics of all he presumably rejects into a memorial service for a person who was certainly a member of his church.  He would have been much closer to home if he had instead complained about the acquisitiveness of the “Christian faithful,” the shop till you drop syndrome that broke the bank and reduced the economy to a shambles, with his back to the very symbols of acquisitiveness that demonstrated Ms. Baker’s work with her flower garden.  But, flowers are cheaper, aren’t they?  They are always “designer ready” and all it takes is time, effort and an attention to detail to bring an admiring public to the street side garden of a person who built this garden for people to simply enjoy.  Hers was not an act of vanity, she loved people loving the work of her hands.

On the other hand, Powers could have put it more simply.  That “designer” this or that, “cool” this or that, “hip” this or that in order to encourage shopping until you destroy the economy as no more than an act of vanity.  But “designer,” “hip,” “cool” doesn’t keep you in your mortgaged to the hilt home and just how many people can still afford “designer” in an economy still in the throes of a jobless recovery.

For what it is worth, this pastor could have made a mighty good sermon, for a later time, discussing years later the very same issues that Mr. Powers addressed in his book.  But, he would have to hold his fellow Christians accountable for their acquisitiveness that Powers asserted correctly, had certainly been around since the nineteenth century.  Sorry, but this pagan doesn’t believe in “designer” and goes with functional every time.  But, not at a funeral, please.  That was out of place and out of line.


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