You knew it was coming: funeral selfies. I’ll not use any of the macabre photographs here but you can see more than you want in the link. “Hey, check out me and grandma in our last photo together!” No thanks.
Lest we think that it took smart phones, social media, Instagram, Facebook, and the modern, highly connected era for such things as funeral selfies, take a quick look if you dare, at the practice of death photographs that was popular in the Victorian era of over a century ago. It made a certain sense for families to have a photograph, even after death, with which to remember a loved one who died. Since photographs were not common and were expensive, a death photo might be the only one of the individual. In my extensive collection of 19th Century family photographs I have several death photos. It was a common practice.
Dave Miller recently decried the funeral trend of people being disrespectful to funeral processions. While I think he is right, people are not as accustomed to pulling over for a funeral procession as was once the case in our society, the practice of funeral selfies seems several degrees of magnitude more undignified and inappropriate.
Funeral selfies may be coming to a funeral home near you but I don’t see much that the pastor can do about it. Frankly, there are other funeral practices that leave me a bit nonplussed:
- The practice of family members reading inappropriate poems or other things during the service. A number of times I have been handed something to read during the service. Occasionally, I might request that a family member read it rather than me but only once do I recall having to refuse. It can be a delicate matter to handle such things at a time when emotions are volatile.
- The practice of multiple ministers, friends, and family members having parts in a funeral service. The pastor will meet with family to plan the service and can, gently, lead the family to best practices here but sometimes it is difficult. In the past couple of decades, for me it has been the rare funeral service that has been held in my church, almost all being held in the funeral home chapel or by the graveside. If I am asked to have a part in a funeral where I am not in charge of the service and there are already several ministers and others involved, I have thanked the family for the honor extended in my having a part but declined.
- Completely inappropriate music. ‘Please, I don’t care if the crying-in-your-beer country song was your daddy’s favorite, it is inappropriate for the funeral which is a worship service. How about playing that at home with your family when you gather to remember?’ Weddings are a major minefield for music. Funerals not so much, but I’d be interested to hear your best example.
- Funerals where the deceased never made even a cameo appearance. This one is on the minister. The service is a spiritual, a worship service – about eternity, the Lord Jesus who, alone, is the Way. But the occasion is about the individual a few feet below the pulpit or lectern, the deceased. It sometimes takes some effort to include comments on the deceased but if the service is strictly generic, what’s the family on the front pews sitting there for?
- Funerals where the minister apparently got the deceased mixed up with someone else. Once I attended the funeral of an uncle. After the service, my mother, sister of the deceased, said “I didn’t recognize the person the minister was talking about.” People will recognize this and the pastor loses respect by such a practice.
- Funerals where the deceased is canonized, post-mortem. So, you have to preside over the service of someone whose life was, uh, less than stellar. One hopes that the pastor had an opportunity to delve into spiritual matters with the individual before death, to share the Gospel, the wages of sin, and redemption through Christ. It is always appropriate to leave matters in God’s hands. He is loving and just. After the funeral service of a man whose dissolute life was known to all, a deacon came up to me and said, “I was wondering what you were going to say. Good job.” What was said was almost all about the Lord, little about the individual.
There are more. Add your own.
But perhaps it is foolish to get too exercised about funeral selfies. After all, cremations are on the rise and who would have a problem with a selfie and an urn? Still, I’d rather preside over ten difficult funerals than one ordinary wedding.