When it comes to our struggle against the modern, secular world, one consistent pattern emerges. Our society has no regard for the human body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We abuse our bodies with drugs and alcohol. We use our bodies as canvas for artwork, and as pincushions. It should come as no surprise then that when our bodies die, more and more are opting for cremation. The Church is against cremation, but few know why.
Many claim it is because we need our bones to be resurrected by Christ, as if having our bones turned to dust would limit God’s power. They don’t turn to ash, by the way. Many don’t know that either. Cremation has been mischaracterized by the industry, I believe, in order to gain popularity and avoid accusation. Put simply, bones do not burn in the cremation process, so they must be pulverized afterward in what could be characterized in an industrial sized grinder. What families receive in urns isn’t ashes, but powdered bones along with a variety of unknown contaminants.
Why does it matter what is in the urn? It matters because of the treatment of the human body during the process of cremation. It is an absolute violent act upon the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and therein lies the problem, as I see it. IF we believe our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, then even after death the body should be treated with reverence. It is bad enough that we abuse our bodies during our lives. At least we could show some reverence after they are physically dead.
Put simply, the Church is against cremation not because it limits God’s resurrection powers, but because it is the intentional and violent destruction of the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Even if people accept this explanation, many still choose cremation for environmental and financial reasons. How one can claim washing the burned remains of human bodies, along with the many other contaminants, down the drain, is better for the environment than allowing the same body to naturally decay in the ground is not logical to me. For those with financial reasons, my advice is to plan. We plan for everything else in our lives, why not a proper Christian burial?
There is one more benefit to a proper Christian burial. As bones are gathered over the years to make room for more burials, which is quite practical, they are blessed and treated with the same reverence as the body in which they originated. In fact, the Church has developed a special blessing service for this process. But there are saints who, when their bodies were exhumed, were discovered to be incorrupt, meaning their bodies did not decay. Can you imagine if bodies had been cremated? We may never have known just how holy their lives were. There are many incorrupt saints, some from many centuries ago, which continue to work miracles for God’s glory.
So, where do we go from here? It is easy for me to say we should plan for a proper Christian burial. It is quite another thing for us to actually be prepared. The vast majority of us don’t have a proper plan to survive in retirement, let alone a proper burial. I believe this is another example of the Church falling short. We can tell people they shouldn’t cremate, but we do little to assist them to properly bury their loved ones.
The Church in America needs to step up with more cemeteries and burial programs. If the society charges more than $10,000 for a cheap funeral with a pine box, the Church can and should do better. By American burial standards, each acre of land can hold up to 1000 burial plots. That would mean most Churches only need to own a few acres of land. In Church-owned cemeteries, costs can be absorbed by the community for the glory of the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to embalm our loved ones. We don’t need to seal them in high-gauge steel caskets which don’t allow for the natural decay process, and we definitely don’t need concrete vaults to mummify our loved ones. A simple coffin in a simple hole in the dirt is sufficient. You never know. Maybe when our bones are exhumed to make room for more, we will be discovered to be saints. That should be our goal anyway.