Paul L. Caron

Sunday, October 24, 2021

NY Times Op-Ed: What I Believe About Life After Death

New York Times Op-Ed:  What I Believe About Life After Death, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year)):

My friend Thomas died in August. His death was sudden and tragic. He and his 22-year-old child were killed in a car accident. ...

It feels to me like something went wrong. He can’t die, I think. He’d made plans. He had so much left to do. A journey interrupted. ...

There is something deep within us that rejects the idea that the road just stops. We feel there must be more. We must be made for more: more conversations, more laughter, more breaths to take, more miles to walk along the trail.

Reading the Bible, I notice how Jesus’ death, too, feels like a journey interrupted. There was so much more he could have explained, so many more people to heal, so much more to be done. After his death, most of his closest friends hid out, lost in grief and fear. And I wonder if this was in part because they thought that this wasn’t how things were supposed to end. They had plans. They were part of a revolutionary brotherhood. And then it suddenly was over.

I saw my friend Pete at Thomas’s funeral. Pete and Thomas were close friends and he told me about how he would miss their weekly breakfasts together at the Waffle House. He also told me that since Thomas had died he kept thinking about the story of Jesus’ resurrection and what it must have been like for the disciples to experience it. What struck him anew was how it would feel to be in deepest grief and then suddenly see your friend again. There is a deeply intimate and human reunion story amid the larger cosmic meaning of the resurrection account. A community of friends was broken and then, somehow, against all hope, remade.

The truth is, no one — not priests, not scientists, not the most ardent atheist, not the most steadfast believer — can be 100 percent certain about what happens to us after we die. Each week at church, when we say the Nicene Creed, I affirm that I believe in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

I believe that after I die, somehow mysteriously but also materially, Jesus will raise me up to live on this good earth, made new. I believe this because I believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. Specifically, I believe the witness of the disciples and others who lived and died for their claim that they (and somewhere around 500 others) had seen Jesus alive again and spoken to and touched him. That’s ultimately why I believe there’s a God at all and why I believe God has defeated death. ..

I believe this is true, and I believe there are good reasons to believe it’s true, but I also want it to be true.

I hate death. I have never made my peace with it and I never will. I don’t want to live in a world where everything good suddenly ends. ...

I hope that my longing for eternity — for joy and pleasure and friendship and beauty to last — is there because it whispers of something that is true. I hope that death feels wrong to me because it really is wrong, it really is not how things are meant to be. And I hope that this hope for more is not silly or delusional. I hope to see my friends again and that death is an interruption, but not an ending.

Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren:

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