Religion is at it again.
This time, a church in England has stopped a grieving family from putting what they want on a relative’s gravestone. It seems Charles Clapham was a Rolling Stones fan (which means he had good taste in music, so he couldn’t have been all bad). But when they wanted to put “It was only rock and roll” on his gravestone the All Saint’s Church in Standon, England, decided that was not suitable for an epitaph.
Did they fear it was music of the devil? Is there a certain standard of subject matter that even the dead are supposed to conform to? Were they afraid visitors to the graveyard would be offended by a reference to Mick and Keith and Ronnie and Charlie? I can’t think of any other reasons they might have against it.
How dare the church forbid a grieving family’s wishes to farewell a relative in what they see as an appropriate manner. Sure, if they wanted to erect a giant statue of Mick Jagger over the man’s grave lit up in neon, or have “Sympathy for the Devil” pumping out night and day over loudspeakers, probably that would be a good call to ban it. But a few words written in what I suppose was to be a tasteful manner, as a dead man’s last tribute to a band that gave him untold joy during his life? I don’t think so.
This is particularly resonant with me because something a bit like it happened with my own father’s funeral back in 2007. Dad liked Louis Armstrong (again, proves his good taste in music) and we wanted to play some Satchmo at his funeral. But the Anglican Minister who was going to officiate at the ceremony refused to allow it because “rock and roll” (that’s what he called Armstrong’s music – I know, I know…) was not suitable for such a ritual. Besides, he said, he didn’t have a “ghetto blaster” (again, his words – shows how in-touch he is) to allow a “record” to be played.
Yes, this is 2007 we are talking about here. Playing records over ghetto blasters. This guy was really in touch with the modern world.
My mother was too upset about Dad’s death in the first place to argue. Besides, she had great emotional ties with this particular church in relation to her own parents. I was there and quietly seethed, not wanting to create a scene in front of my distressed mother. So we didn’t get Satchmo. We did manage to get “For those in peril on the sea” sung, which Dad would have enjoyed and which made a relevant reference to his love of boats. But that’s a hymn, so that’s all right. God’s mentioned in it. That must be the clincher.
How dare the church dictate ritual to this extent. What a family wants at a funeral is their affair. Of course, there are limits to this, but I’m sure the vast majority of people are aware of this and do not ask for outrageous, or racist, or obscene things. But modern music (or not so modern?) That’s a bit rich.
I’m not going to have a funeral. Not at a church. And not just because I’m an atheist. Funerals are more for the living left behind than the dead person. “She would have wanted it this way” doesn’t cut it with most funerals. I’m not going to have a church funeral because I don’t like their attitude, and since it’s been years since I stepped inside a church anyway, I’m not going to start after I’m dead.
– Russell Proctor www.russellproctor.com