You Should Be Offended…Or Maybe Not?
Friday this last week my day started with a couple of emails and a phone call expressing outrage over a post on Connecting Directors. This one:
Basically, these contacts questioned my affiliation with a publication that would have the poor judgment to publish such a distasteful thing. I am both a guest author and a resident expert for Connecting Directors.
After responding to my inquirers and talking with the publisher, Ryan Thogmartin, I concluded it was best not "rub spots on the wall" and let it die its own death.
Then something else came across my desk and presented such a great opportunity for one of those rare life lessons that I simply can't resist.
I see something happening in American society that concerns me and the reaction to the CD Article is a good example that has a secondary implication for DeathCare.
We have all become too quick to judge and then hide behind labels. In our society "The Race Card" of the 20th century is being replaced with the "hate card". Label someone as, say, conservative and immediately you are permitted to accuse them of being a hater. This relieves you of any obligation to get to know them as a person and enables you to construct any evil imagining you desire so that you don't ever have to imagine they might have anything in common with you. It might be of interest for you to know that is exactly the technique the Nazis used to reposition public attitude toward Jews in the 1930's. But I digress. Our political parties are using this reverse bigotry to great advantage to keep the people (us) from actually talking through their differences.
Funeral Directors suffer from a form of this same "bigotry of ignorance". The public makes an assumption about what we are like without ever giving us the chance by actually getting to know us.
The reason I like Ryan Thogmartin, the editor and publisher of Connecting Directors and Caleb Wilde the author of Confessions of a Funeral Director is that they are helping in their own way to break down this barrier. Yes, the article and the photo is distasteful and, as one commenter pointed out, wrong on so many levels. But should we really bury our head in the sand and shield ourselves from the outside? That behavior hasn't helped in the last 3 decades. I am not sure it will help us in the next.
So, when many people saw the article in Friday's CD their "knee-jerk" reaction was offense. Me too. Their immediate response was to leap to the conclusion that it was in such poor taste that it was a reflection on the publisher and the original writer. NOT ME.
First, one of the benefits of growing older is seeing others make bigger mistakes than I did. If you are older than 40 think about some of yours. If you are younger, well you have some interesting times ahead of you. Second, as a practicing Christian I like to think I look at the heart and not at the outward appearance. If you saw Ryan Thogmartin and me in the same room that would have a special meaning for you. But I often fall short and am quick to judge.
If you are not a subscriber to Caleb Wilde's Confession's of a Funeral Director I can only ask why not? Caleb is a young 6th generation funeral director who set out to become a missionary and found his mission in his family business. His commitment to his faith and to our profession is so profound that it startles me sometimes. As a theologian, he challenges my orthodox dogma in ways that occasionally trouble me. But I love the way he makes me think through what I believe. I end up with a stronger tested faith and deeper understanding of what and why I believe. I would absolutely love him as a pastor. I don't doubt his faith. His transparency as a funeral director is so blatantly authentic that you would have to be a pretty cold fish as a consumer to not open your heart to the mystery and nobility of this profession.
Ryan and Caleb are our future generation. Stick my picture next to Ryan's and it will shock you. I love them both for their passion and have hitched my wagon to theirs because their hearts are more committed to making a positive difference for all of us than almost anyone I know. But I am also amused. History repeats itself. I think about us 50 and 60 somethings and I raise one eyebrow as I recall our own zeal and boldness. I know because I was there in the 60's and I have pictures!!!
Is their approach edgy? Holy cow! Yes!!
But maybe it's time we got over ourselves and started to lighten up.
As promised here is a different perspective on the young man who originated this offense.
If you want to think of yourself as open-minded read it.
If you want to be proud of being a funeral director, read it:
P.S. I am going to stop here with one final point. I have been screaming at the top of my lungs for better than 6 months now that there is a global movement afoot to bring death out of the closet. That movement is using humor and art as its medium. In the next month or two The American Funeral Director will publish an article I wrote for them on this topic. It may offend your finer sensibilities. But you need to be prepared to get on board the laugh train because the public is already on it.
P.P.S. I met this guy at a McDonalds in Tennessee on I-40. He is a traveling evangelist who uses this casket trailer to open questions about life after death as a witness opportunity.
I believe in giving back and so was recently honored to serve as Chairman of the Funeral Service Foundation.
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