Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 102: Death - All Creatures Guide to Kingdom Living
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 102: Death - All Creatures Guide to Kingdom Living

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Why is our culture obsessed with death? As discussed in Essay 25, we share with animals innate fears related to vulnerability and death. Consequently, all human cultures have needed to address the problem of anxiety related to death. However, our culture is particularly obsessed with death, likely for several reasons. First, we know that dying tends to be slow and painful, and its inevitability is frightening. Second, many people doubt that there is an “afterlife,” and the prospects of the extinction of the self conflicts with our innate desire to live. Third, science seems to have answered nearly every mystery except that of death, and we dislike not having confident answers to important questions about our existence.

To the degree that death is mysterious, life is also mysterious. The question, “Where did I come from?” is just as mysterious as the question “Where am I headed?” Without a clear understanding of our origins or our destinies, the purpose of our lives becomes a central existential problem. Indeed, a major function of all religions is to try to answer difficult questions about life and death.

Christianity is similar to many other religions in that its hero died and was resurrected, demonstrating the hero’s status as a divine entity and suggesting that an afterlife awaits those who adhere to the religion’s myths, rituals, and taboos. Christianity is distinctive in that its hero returned not to mete out vengeance against evildoers, but rather to forgive those who betrayed him. The forgiving victim participates in love and reconciliation, while the avenging victim sets the stage for future vengeance.

The stories relating to Jesus’ resurrection and return demonstrate that Jesus was very concerned about earthly existence and the well-being of earth’s inhabitants. Indeed, throughout his ministry, Jesus tended to those who were weak, vulnerable, and rejected by the culture’s mainstream, and he showed compassion for everyone. In his “Lord’s Prayer,” he prayed, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Recalling the previous essay’s discussion about “eternal,” I think it is reasonable to suggest that Jesus’ ministry was not about life and death, but rather eternal life. Jesus showed a way by which one may transcend concerns about the fate of the “I” and attain a state of existence that has no beginning, end, or boundaries. In such a state, we are attuned to God’s infinite love, which transcends time and space, allowing us to feel at one with the timeless, boundless universe.

Those who experience such a oneness with God describe complete contentment, though many people never fully experience this. However, there are degrees of this experience, and I think that we move towards this state of existence when we serve others and love everything. This perspective accords with the views of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Father Zossima who, in The Brothers Karamazov, teaches, “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery of things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble them, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness, don’t work against God’s intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to the animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you – alas, it is true of almost every one of us!”

Go on to: Part 103: Abundance Versus Scarcity
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