Nothing sexual is taboo or forbidden or even a scandal to talk about or experience. Desire reigns supreme and experimentation is encouraged. Not even biology is allowed to challenge or define gender. It is not that modernity talks so much about sex (it does) but sees everything in sexual terms. At least when it comes to power, Foucault would acknowledge this. But he would also insist that it has not necessarily contributed toward freedom or pleasure. Liberation brings with it its own constraints.
On the other hand, death has been removed from the public eye. Children do not go to funerals anymore and their initial personal experience of death can often wait until their adulthood. On the other hand, they live in a world of video games and digital entertainment in which death is rampant but it is not real -- it is a make believe death that disappears as quickly as the game is over. Funerals are not funerals in which death is center place but a celebration of life with fun and funny experiences the focus -- and for most folks it is an improvement to their lives to treat death with happy memories rather than confront death as the end of anything. Obituaries speak more about memory than the reality that the person is dead. A sense of life well lived permeates everything so that death is a welcome relief to the living when their loved ones become frail or fragile in body or memory. Even celebrations of life are not well attended and COVID only hastened the idea of digital check in's to replace personal presence with the bereaved. Even the dying refuse to be a burden to anyone and go quietly to hospice or hospital rather than impose any need upon the living -- perhaps more because death is an embarrassment more than reality! Suicide aided by physicians once committed to do no harm has become the sacrament of this modern life -- fading away without pain and when you decide it is time to go. Where you go seems to be not so important -- whether there is a life or no life after death seems not to trouble the mythology of death. Even when it does, sentiment is more profound than doctrine and preference or desire more powerful than fact or history.
Modernity paints up the dead not just with make up to disguise it but with sentiments and imagination that makes death less an enemy than a transition. At the other end, however, when death cannot be controlled (as with the pandemic), there seems to be no shortage of what will be done to keep death as far away as possible. No economic cost or drastic measure is too much to pay to protect us from a death we have not chosen -- which works mostly because we have already replaced in person relationships with social media friendship and digital sex. Modernity seems content to live through screens the lives we live today and death becomes merely one image on our screens. Even reproduction has become science and abortion is defined not in terms of killing the infant as much as it is about controlling your body and your life. Abortion is now therapeutic -- valuing our own well-being above that of the child in the womb. Those opposed try to frame in the contrasting colors of death but I honestly wonder how long people will even pay attending to death at all.
Christianity is better fitted to the landscape of the past when death was real and the process of dying consumed so much of our time and emotions. Then, hope was not so easily satisfied by controlling death as it was enamored by the idea of life stronger than death. Now some Christians are so wedded to the parameters of the culture and values of the moment that they find this prospect of life stronger than death something less than transformational. They would rather have a Christianity that helps them get what they want out of life and show them how to end it without pain or regret when they feel their time is up. Easter preaching should call out the lies of modernity and remind us that God has through His own Son, delivered to us not a better life but a life no longer domination by death. But before we rejoice to hear such a sermon, that preacher better remind us how dominated by death our lives truly are. Just a few thoughts. . .
In contrast to this, most every age before us could not escape from death. It was too real. It was so real, it cast a long and dark shadow over every aspect of live.