The Opiate of Our Masses

Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.

To the contrary, our opiate is ignoring questions of ultimate meaning. We pursue our careers, work our jobs, give ourselves to our relationships and families, dedicate ourselves to hobbies, pacify ourselves with substance and entertainment, while seemingly ever-avoiding the question, “What does it matter? What’s the point?” We are all going to die someday. So, what of all this will possibly escape death’s menacing judgment of “pointless!” “meaningless!” “trivial!”?

This is the elephant that looms large in the room. And we are content (dare I say, determined) to ignore and avoid it at all costs.

So great is our determination here that we have an unwritten (verbalized) rule for it. We want to privatize religion and its disruptive sort questions along these lines. They’re uncomfortable. “Don’t talk religion and politics,” we say, “(but especially religion)” we mean — that is, if you take religion as something more than sentimental tradition; that is, if you actually believe it to be making exclusive sort of truth-claims.

Some of us are dead set to avoid conflict. “Niceness” (at seemingly all costs) is our culture’s highest virtue. Others of us are far too uncontemplative, or maybe intoxicated with the triviality — “This stuff is all too serious. Take it easy, man.”

So, we keep ignoring that foreboding elephant. We’re like a child who has been given a certain chore to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that by postponing or neglecting it long enough it will just go away or be forgotten.

These questions may be controversial, taxing, and disruptive — they certainly are. And I’m very much aware that it’s quite easier and more soothing to just ignore them. But they are far too important for that.

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“‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the Preacher. ‘All is vanity!'” – Ecclesiastes

Death as Absolute ‘Vanitizer,’ Except as Answered by Christ’s Resurrection

My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?

—Leo Tolstoy (A Confession), channeling his inner Qohelet, Ecclesiastes.

The answer: no, nothing, futility, or, as the book of Ecclesiastes itself puts it, a mere “striving after wind.”

Death is the ultimate “vanitizer.” Nothing escapes its finalizing, universal stamp of “pointless.”

That is apart from resurrection.

Enter Jesus. Welcome, Easter.

Grandma’s Memorial Service Reflection

Memorial Service for Helen Morris
First United Methodist Church
November 23, 2016

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Introduction

I feel incredibly honored (and yet undeserving) that grandpa has asked me to speak here for grandma’s memorial service. “Grammie” to me, of course; to others of you: mom, sister, wife, friend – but to all of us, a dearly loved and beautiful person. It has not escaped me the incredible privilege it is to be able to provide the reflection for the memorial service from grandma – what is the remembrance of her life; and that of such an incredible individual.

Grandpa has asked me to speak on what he and others often refer to in our Christians scriptures as “the love chapter,” that being the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.

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