Archives For Death


Fred CraddockTo Be a Part of Dying

A Feature Review of

Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death

Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by Gary Wake.

Jesus died. He knew he would die and he told his disciples he would die. Peter, in particular, didn’t want to hear it. On the evening before Jesus died his followers refused to believe it and they couldn’t even stay awake to comfort him while he prayed. Like the early disciples, Christ’s disciples today do not seem to want to deal with dying. The church needs help in living and dying as Christ lived and died. Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith wrote Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death to help the church in the work of following Christ even when members of the church, or those they love, are dying.

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e.e. cummings - when god lets my body beA poem from the collection:

100 Selected Poems

e.e. cummings
Paperback: Grove Press, 1994.
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Lazarus Come Forth - John DearBe Converted.

A Review of

Lazarus, Come Forth:

How Jesus Confronts the Culture of Death and Invites us into the New Life of Peace.

John Dear, S.J.

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2011.
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Reviewed by Stephen Taylor.

The Rev. John Dear is no newcomer to the world of peace and justice.  Many times in his life he has been arrested, mistreated, made fun of, and generally had a hard time because he does take a personal stand, based on faith in Jesus Christ, against what in this fine book he calls the culture of death.

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424591: Zombie Church Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ

A Brief Review of

Zombie Church:
Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ

By Tyler Edwards
Paperback: Kregel Publications, 2011.

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[ ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Brian Johnson.

Have you ever been to or been part of a church that seemed alive but yet something of life was missing? Welcome to Zombie church.  The author contends, and rightly so, that many of our churches today are ‘Zombie’ churches, i.e., churches that have the resemblance of life but are actually dead. From a distance they look as though they are alive, but upon closer inspection they have lost their connection to life: Jesus Christ.

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What a Life Can Mean:
Two Poetic Views

A Review of

Two New Poetry Collections:
The Alphabet Conspiracy

by Rita Mae Reese and
A Measure’s Hush: Poems

by Anne Corray

Review by Joel E. Jacobson

Through The Alphabet Conspiracy, award winning poet Rita Mae Reese uses her extensive knowledge of word etymology to create poems that challenge political, religious and relational control. One will find a sestina, a rondeau, a villanelle, a sonnet, and a variety of free verse poems that move with a provocative intensity. For example, the opening poem, “Intercession”, identifies a patron saint with anything and everything, even the “children with no one to / pray to and nothing to do” (50-51). The poem’s playful opening quickly becomes divisive as almost every line begins with either “For” or “Against.” Reese effectively draws a line in the sand between those who pray and those who don’t, the religious right and the religious wrong, men and women, homosexual and heterosexual, those in control and those being controlled, and spends the rest of the collection justifying her rejection control.

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A Review of

Skating with Heather Grace: Poems.
Thomas Lynch.
Hardback: Knopf, 1987.
Paperback Reprint edition: Carnegie Mellon UP, 2011.
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Reviewed by Bob Zender.

He may disagree vehemently, he may take this a professional affront, but Thomas Lynch writes poetry that can be enjoyed by people who typically run screaming from the stuff. His work is grounded in real life, with its troughs of sadness and piques of beauty and joy. To Lynch, death, sex, depression, struggle, sudden loss and slow decline are the prime materials in the work of human-being; worthy of the honor and thanksgiving he gives in Skating with Heather Grace.

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“’Tis all one to lye.”

Review of
Two Recent Books
Death and Burial.

Reviewed by David Anderson.

Keith Eggener.

Hardback: Norton, 2010.
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Urne-Buriall, Or,
A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchrall
Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk
Sir Thomas Browne

New Directions, 2010.
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I have had a surprisingly close, some might say scary, relationship with cemeteries throughout my life. When I was a boy we lived for a year in a house that had a small pet cemetery under an arbor in the spacious backyard. I liked to go back there and look at the little stone markers and wonder who had played with and loved these animals. The Southern Baptist college I attended had an old cemetery on top of the hill the college was built on, directly opposite the men’s dorms. I spent many an hour sitting there studying by a small group of graves marked Anderson, keeping my possible relatives company. For a couple of years in my Chicago years I lived right across the street from the city’s historic Graceland Cemetery, established in 1860. The brick wall of the cemetery went along the other side of the street and I could see over it. It was like living opposite a park. Friends asked if it didn’t spook me out, but I said if any spooks didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t bother them.

The Norton/Library of Congress collection of cemetery photographs taken from the Library’s extensive holdings is a stunning visual feast of images of America’s cemeteries, from churchyard cemeteries in New England to above-ground burials in New Orleans to rusting iron crosses dotting the prairies where towns used to flourish to cemeteries with whale bone fences in Alaska. The book opens with a short essay by Keith Eggener that sets the bar for excellence in this kind of writing: Eggener doesn’t lapse into academese, nor does he go into the details of the photography and photographers. He sticks to laying the groundwork for the reader to understand the many pictures that follow.

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“A Radical Revision of Church Teaching
on Hell and Eternity

A review of
Razing Hell:
Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught
About God’s Wrath and Judgment
By Sharon Baker.

Reviewed by Karen Altergott.

Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught
About God’s Wrath and Judgment
Sharon Baker.

Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.

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Razing Hell - Sharon BakerThroughout most of this book, I was saying, “yes, but…” to the provocative ideas presented.  Written in a style that is at once informal, because it relies on interjected questions from real and altered conversations, and substantial, because it uses academic theological work and frequent Old and New Testament passages, Razing Hell is a highly readable book.  A slowly and carefully developed argument against a wrathful God who just can’t wait to throw unrepentant sinners into the fires of hell, this book arrives at a most persuasive conclusion that no faithful Christian can deny.  God is, indeed, a God of infinite love and power.  And all that power is devoted to reestablishing a relationship with each human being.

This is an important book.  It goes deeper into the quest to understand Christianity for our time, and for all time.  If you appreciated A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, if you enjoy the open-minded yet thoroughly faith-centered books by N.T. Wright, I think you will appreciate this treatment of hell.  Other contemporary works are a bit too disconnected from scripture or offer academic arguments that are a bit challenging to follow.  Razing Hell starts with truly significant wrestling with theological ideas, like how can good but non-professing people like Lisa’s grandmother go to a place of never-ending suffering – hell? What possible reason is there to give non-believers that will lead them to accept Christ and live in the Way offered in Christ if there is no hell (Eric’s question)?  And, how can it be justice for God to send weak and helpless human beings to eternal torture in return for merely temporal sins of omission or commission (Brooke’s question)?  After raising questions that real believers and many non-believers struggle with, Sharon Baker examines scripture, church and cultural history, a deep understanding of the Hebrew text, and a reconciling treatment of Jesus that is in line with her new interpretation of Hell in the Old and New Testaments.

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“Santa Maria degli Angeli”
Gisue Carducci

[ Tribute to St. Francis,
Found in St. Francis (Christian Encounter Series)
By Robert West ]

How spacious, brother Francis, and how high
Is this fair dome of il Vignola spread
Above the spot where thou in agony
Layed’st naked with crossed arms, the earth thy bed!
Tis hot July: and o’er the plain, long wed
To labour, floats the love-song.  Would that I
Caught in the Umbrian song thy accent sped,
Thy face reflected in the Umbrian sky!
And where the mountain-village stands outlined
‘Gainst heav’n, a mild, lone radiance o’er thee poured,
As from thy Paradise that openeth,
Would I could see thee — arms outstretched and mind
Intent on God — singing: “Praised be the Lord
For the death of the body, our dear sister Death.”


“Facing Death Head On

A Review of
Art of Dying:
Living Fully into the Life to Come

By Rob Moll

Reviewed by Jasmine Wilson.

Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come
By Rob Moll
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
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THE ART OF DYING - Rob MollI once had a philosophy professor who started her Aquinas class on the virtues and vices by having her students write their own eulogy. Her purpose in this exercise is both to introduce students to thinking critically about life, but also to analyze where they are in terms of virtue development. What would people say about me if I were to die now? The second part of the exercise is to write the eulogy that you wish was delivered. What sort of person do I want to be when my life is complete that I perhaps am not right now?

Rob Moll’s book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, has a similar mission. Moll argues that it is only by facing death head on that we can authentically live. His book is a well-balanced mix of historical information about how Christians have practiced death, personal story-telling from his experiences with the dying from his job in hospice and the stories others have shared with him, partly a how-to manual, and partly a foundation for contemplative conversation with friends, complete with a useful discussion guide. All these elements mix incredibly well together to encourage the reader, no matter what age, to think about the best way to die in a Christian manner, and to have conversations with others about it.

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