Dancing on Graves?
Why celebrations of death give "the last enemy" too much power.

Written before the Boston bombings, here is a sobering meditation on our death-celebrating culture. The sympathetic response to the Boston attacks from traditional U.S. adversaries including Cuba, Russia, and even the Taliban, offers an interesting recent angle on Kyle's point.

-Paul

When I first learned about the tragic suicide of Rick Warren's son, the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Memories of a friend who had taken his own life were yanked back to the front of my mind. I remembered the anger, the sorrow, the unanswered questions, even guilt that I felt. Even though the Warrens were strangers, I grieved with them. I felt connected to them through the common experience of suffering and a common hope in the Lord. I was encouraged by the outpouring of empathy for them I saw on Twitter and Facebook, forming a network of love around the Warren family.

But I soon learned that my feelings weren't shared by everyone. Shortly after the tragedy, Rick Warren posted this on Facebook: "Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest." I was shocked. Who could these hate-mongers be? What kind of fringe lunatics would target a man as he mourned his son? A quick web search yielded a sickening reality. Angry bloggers and commenters were using the tragedy to attack Warren's pastoral leadership, his view of marriage, his belief in a loving God, and more. What disturbed me even more was how mainstream some of these voices were.

I was equally shocked by the commentary surrounding the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Her time in office may have been divisive, but while some news stories focused on her legacy, a large portion of the coverage zeroed in on activists rejoicing her death. These people waved signs reading "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," like triumphant victors in a parade. I've attended a few wakes, where friends and family gather over good food and drink to share stories and memories of the deceased, all in celebration of their life. But these images of wild dancing, flowing champagne, and crazed smiles reflected something different: a celebration of death that stemmed from hatred.

Celebrating death

I find it hard to understand the psychology behind this. Reveling in the death of a human being is revolting. Surely those who take advantage of a grieving father or those who dance in the streets at the passing of a public figure aren't representative of the average person. But I remember a recent death that was publicly celebrated by many average people in the United States.

April 18, 2013

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Pablo

April 21, 2013  7:23am

I hadn't thought of it like this. But I was encouraged when so many people said they were glad the Second Boston Bomber was taken alive. One more death, even of one who had caused death, is no cause for celebration.

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Karen

April 20, 2013  9:59pm

Yes, indeed, death is an enemy. Only the death of death accomplished by Christ is truly to be celebrated! Thank you for saying this, Kyle. With regard to those humans we may regard as enemies: "Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. "One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends." (from the prayer "Lord, Bless My Enemies" by Nicholai Velimirovich, Serbian Bishop who suffered at Dachau during WWII for being outspoken against Nazism, who died in Pennsylvania in 1956.)

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sheerahkahn

April 20, 2013  10:21am

"In what other ways do we give death more power than it deserves? How can we avoid celebrating death without idolizing the deceased? Is it possible to grieve for our enemies?" So...I think a more important question to ask is this: Why do we treat death like Survivor's "Voted off the Island!" at tribal council?

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bw

April 18, 2013  3:14pm

well said.

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