Aug 3, 2011
neil

What happened when Facebook met the fear of death

How would you know that someone was really afraid to die?

At a superficial level we are tempted to think of it in terms of a fear of the moment of death itself. Perhaps the last few weeks of a terminal disease or the moments on board a plane as it plummets to the ground after a major malfunction. It’s this kind of fear of death that made Woody Allen quip  ’I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’

So when we think of the fear of death we tend to reduce it to the fear of dying. But I’m not sure that does it justice. I want to argue that the fear of death is a much bigger idea that pervades more of life. It’s better expressed in another quote this time of Leo Tolstoy who said

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.

To the secularist the vague notion that maybe we actually live on in the afterlife has been rejected. So what hope now? Well we find the fear of death at work in surprising ways. In the vain hope that we can continue to be present, if not in reality, then through a computer programme that interacts on Facebook, etc., on our behalf. That, if you like, pretends that we have not gone forever.

So here we find the fear of death expressed in surprising ways as exemplified in this TED talk  by Adam Ostrow entitled  After your final status update

The fear of death is seen in increasingly desperate attempts to hold onto life. In our unwillingness to  leave this life.

How do we respond as Christians?

It’s easy to want to laugh, maybe it all makes us want to cry but surely it reminds us that our message of the one who has defeated death and promised life to all who are in him is a message every human soul is primed to need to hear.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says in chapter 3:10-11

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart

It is that burden we see expressed in the world and it is that burden that only the gospel answers. Peter in his first letter writes;

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you

Let us then be bold to continue to speak of him who alone has beaten death and conquered the grave.  The one who alone has the answer to the fear of death however it might reveal itself.

1 Comment

  • Reminds me of J K Rowling’s ‘Resurrection Stone’ idea – recalls people who’ve died, but they’re only insubstantial, a bit like a ghost: ‘an imprint of a departed soul’. Continuing producing a thing which looks and sounds like the person on the basis of what data they produced when alive, would be just as insubstantial, more like death cheating us than us cheating death – an imprint of a departed soul.

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