Death Denial

Do we act like it’s no longer real? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Several years ago, a man named John Boswell wrote a book on Christianity, tolerance, and homosexuality. His thesis was that in Christian history, homosexuality really wasn’t viewed as that big of a deal and that Scripture could not be used to make a case against it. Boswell was himself a homosexual and claimed Roman Catholic (I say claimed since many Roman Catholics would not really accept someone approving of and practicing same-sex sexual relationships). There was certainly a lot of information put in the book and I thought I remembered him being on Unbelievable? one time to debate it.

So I looked it up and found out that since Boswell died in 1994, that I was probably wrong. However, I have to say I was not surprised that he died of AIDS. It’s my understanding that we have better treatments for AIDS now, but when it came out, it was a killer in the community of the same-sex attracted. It was originally even known as GRID for Gay-Related Immuno Deficiency.

That got me thinking about how this man spent so much of his life defending a practice that led to his death and not only his death, but the deaths of many others. For a look at how this can happen, look at And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. Shilts was himself someone with same-sex attraction who died of AIDS.

It’s part of our culture that we always think that this won’t happen to us. Many of us remember growing up and thinking somehow we would escape death. Some potion of immortality or something would be found in our lifetime. I somewhere suspect that many Christians think that we are “The generation” because surely their time won’t come. Surely God won’t allow us to suffer.

We all do this. We know it because we do many things that are unhealthy every day. This is especially prevalent in our sex culture. People sleep around as if the action won’t have any consequences, and when they come, such as pregnancy, STDS, failed relationships, guilt, etc., they’re shocked. Our age is an age that thinks somehow we can shun personal responsibility and not suffer consequences. Watch a sitcom or a movie. No one gets an STD. I used to tell men about to marry that when they were preparing for sex for the first time, to think about everything they had seen in movies and TV and then throw it out because it’s completely unrealistic.

Death comes in like something of a shock to us even though it has been a companion with us for the longest time. One can play a game where the character gets several extra lives, and indeed, we need to have that suspended disbelief because frankly, none of us would play many games where if you died, that was it and you had to start all the way from the beginning.

My ex-wife and I used to know someone named Steve. Steve was a big and tough biker type dude, but someone as gentle as can be. You could see a picture of him cuddling a kitten. He got esophageal cancer and he was shriveled up in the end. How much so? I would look tougher than he did at that point. I hate saying it, but such was the case.

When he died, I remember being at the funeral home. I remember walking around at one point while others were socializing and I went to the room where the casket was and I was thinking this had to be a mistake. Death came for the wrong man. In a gaming mindset, part of me wished I could have had an RPG battle with death then and get my friend back. Completely unrealistic to think about? Yep. I think we can all relate somehow though.

We often react to not just death, but any suffering, as if there is something unusual in the world. Shouldn’t our lives be happy and joyous always? If anything, the level of freedom that we can have in this country (Living in America) would be astounding to our ancestors of the past. As I write this, I think that I do have scoliosis. Today, I walk straight because I was treated with the unbelievable treatment of a steel rod on my spine. Who would have thought of such a thing in the past, and yet here it is a reality. Me 100 years ago would be walking like Quasimodo instead.

Our challenge is not to defeat death. We can’t. Not only that, we don’t need to. It’s already been done. Christ conquered it on the cross. We can realize it as an intruder still, but we also need to learn to accept it as real. Denying death won’t make it go away. We can try to fight against reality all we want, but in the end, reality will always win.

However, once again, as Christians, that’s a good thing. Reality is Jesus Christ conquered death and rose again. I remember years ago working with a friend who is a devout Christian now, but was severely doubting and sometimes it was exhausting. One day I went to my emails and saw one from him with the subject line “Jesus of Nazareth.” I braced myself for an onslaught of questions.

Instead, I saw this.

“He really did walk out of that grave, didn’t He?”

I still smile even as I think about that and write it out.

Yes, He did.

In a temporal sense, sometimes we hate reality.

But in the end, the real God revealed in the real Jesus who walked out of that real grave will give us a reality we can all enjoy and love.

I look forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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