Federalist Articles

Ashes, Mannequins, and Corpses: What Will Happen to You After Death?

The Federalist is a web magazine focused on culture, politics, and religion. I've written for them in the past about the funerals, marriage and divorce, as well as so-called "safe sex." Yesterday, they published an article I wrote about after-death care of the body. In particular, I address questions about cremation. Here is the introduction and a link that will send you to the full article. As if there’s not enough decisions to make in life, these days we’re even forced to make choices about what happens to us after we’re dead. If you’d like to go out with a bang, you can be cremated and have your ashes stuffed into fireworks so your family can ooh and aah as you’re blown into colorful smithereens in the night sky. Or your dressed and upright corpse, a stiff drink in hand, can be the life of the party as your friends gather round to drink and dance your demise away. Or, if you’re not really on the wild side, there’s always doctors and scientists eager for another cadaver. Hell, you might even go retro and be laid to rest in a coffin.

Alas, but even then, there are decisions to be made. You might opt for a funeral home with a drive-through window so the mourners—after they’ve grabbed a burger and fries down the street—can roll down their window, leave the A/C running, and take a quick gander at your remains as they dab their eyes with a McDonald’s napkin. Or if you make people actually get out of their cars and go into a church for a service, you need to decide if you want to have a Celebration of Life service or stick with the tried-and-true traditional funeral.

The long and short of this is that if you’re currently undecided as to what you’d like to happen to your corpse, know that every day your options expand. Death is not only a huge business; it’s also become quite the creative enterprise, full of entrepreneurs eager to Americanize death and cash in on your corp$e.

Before you make any decisions about your postmortem particulars, however, you might want to sit back and ponder bigger, more fundamental questions such as these: Should you even care what happens to your corpse? And, if so, why? So what if you’re cremated or left intact, celebrated or mourned, exploded in the heavens or buried under the earth? You’ll be dead, of course, so why should it matter what the living do with you?

Let me, first of all, tell you why I think it should matter to all of us. Secondly, let me spell out the practical implications that positive belief has for what we do with the body after death.

To read the full article, click here to go the Federalist website.

Stop Calling Sex Safe

I wrote this article for The Federalist, to share the approach I've taken with my children when it comes to talking with them about sex. Here is the introduction, with a link below to the full article. There are moments in each child’s life that remain vivid in the memories of their parents, even years later. I remember my daughter leaning against the couch, literally wringing her hands as she mustered the courage to take her first steps. Her first day of kindergarten, though more than a decade ago, is almost as memorable as yesterday. These are, of course, sweet recollections. But mingled with these pleasant remembrances are others that remind us just how challenging parenting can be.

One of those challenges confronted me in the form of an innocent question. When my daughter was about eight years old, out of the blue she asked me, “Daddy, what is sex?” My first thought was, “Hey, wait a minute—I’m supposed to bring up that subject when I’m ready to discuss it, not her!” Rather than dodging the question, however, I did answer it, in a way I thought befit her age. But it was difficult to do, not because the topic embarrassed me, or made me feel uncomfortable, but because I knew how important this discussion was. I wanted to choose my words with the same careful skill with which an artist selects colors for his painting; this was no time for an answer akin to verbal graffiti.

We had that conversation almost a decade ago. My daughter and my son are going through those tumultuous teenager years now. As they’ve grown older, when other opportunities have presented themselves, I’ve spoken with them more about sex. In fact, I’ve discussed the contents of this article with them. It doesn’t get much easier, but it gets even more necessary, especially as they have begun to interact more and more relationally with the opposite sex. My voice may have to compete with the cacophony of media and peer voices talking to them about it, but I know that, amidst all the mixed messages, they’re hearing at least one voice that speaks the truth.

Read the full article here


Giving Away A Divorce on Valentine's Day

Here is an article I wrote for The Federalist about marriage, divorce, and the true meaning of love: I’m usually a muter or channel-changer when the radio stops cranking out music and starts the litany of advertisements. But sometimes I half-listen, half-daydream, as commercials for the juiciest burger or the toughest lawyer spill forth from the speakers. The last couple of weeks, floral shops and candy stores have joined the fray, hawking their romantic wares as the fourteenth of February has drawn nigh. Turn on the radio station and, within a few minutes, you’ll hear it. Buy a beautiful dozen roses at this store. Purchase a delectable assortment of chocolates at that store. Win a Valentine’s Day divorce from this radio station. Wait. What?

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The Tragic Death of the Funeral

(From an article I recently wrote for The Federalist)

Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased.  Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.

Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral...

Read the entire article here