Yesterday, I went to a funeral for my elderly neighbour. It is a lovely service at the local crematorium. It was the standard service that was nominally religious, led by a lay minister who personally knew my neighbour and his family.
Within the order of service was the Lord’s Prayer, which was a communal affair that the congregation was to read out together. As is always the case at these moments, I am never quite sure how to react. I have taken to being silent whilst these sorts of ritualistic, Christian prayers are communally recited. However, my body and mind, having said that particular prayer a thousand times before, is urging me to recite it with everyone else. There is a bit of an internal struggle in the fact that I have a feeling (perhaps incorrect) of collective expectation for me to recite the prayer as well as the feeling that not reciting it could be construed as rude.
What am I achieving by not reciting it out loud? I suppose I am not wasting my breath on something I deem insignificant. But that’s no great shakes. Do people around me recognise that I’m not reading or reciting it? Am I making a statement? Having said that, is it the right time and place to make that statement?
In reality, most probably, no one around me would have heard me not recite the prayer and so this raises the question as to why I bother not reciting it. I suppose it comes down to individual principles and dignity in oneself and one’s own actions. I am staying true to my principles. Short answer is: don’t recite, but don’t make a big deal of it.
I can guarantee that in a decade or so’s time in the UK, hardly any of the adults will know the Lord’s Prayer any more. I think it is already becoming a thing of the past for the young of today. Where the young simply don’t go to church as a matter of recourse, these cultural and iconic tropes are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
The most obvious test here would be having this experience in a similar but Islamic context. For example, if a Muslim friend of mine was to die and I was invited to their funeral service at an Islamic place of worship, would I recite things from an order of service that I clearly didn’t believe in. I only feel a sense of conflict internally because of my cultural baggage and Christian contextual background.
What are your thoughts?
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