For Whom The Bell Tolls

June 25, 2009.
Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.
Two American-culture icons.
Dead on the same day.
The cynic says,
Why all the news coverage for Jacko and Farrah? There’s more important news than the death of celebrities.
That’s one way of looking at it.

But there’s another way of looking at it.
What’s really making news is Death.
And there’s nothing more news worthy than Death.
Except One Thing.
And that One Thing cannot be understood as the Good News until we understand the Bad News.
The Bad News of how massively foreign, alien and inappropriate Death is.
There’s just no excusing Death.

But there is the psychological coping mechanism of avoidance.
And avoidance is primarily how contemporary Western culture “deals” with death.
We keep death out of sight and out of mind.
Most of the time.

But death will not be denied.
And when death comes, it makes news…for someone.
So if we as a society mourn, or at least take note of, the death of a celebrity because we all “knew” them in their fame, I believe we have responded appropriately.
Ultimately, it’s not Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett making news — it’s Death making news.

Tomorrow morning I will conduct a funeral for an 88 year old woman — Geraldine Bechtold.
CNN has not reported on her death.
But, believe me, it’s big news.
A person has died. DIED!
We are not meant for death.
It is entirely inappropriate.

Earlier this month we buried my father.

The Honorable L. Glen Zahnd

Even though I saw my father’s death slowly approaching, when it finally occurred, it seemed…
Impossible and All Wrong.
How can my dad be dead?
This is just not meant to be.

Death is the big news maker.
And in those moments when a culture is united in acknowledging the death of a fellow human being…
Something appropriate has happened.
The death of every person cannot be headline news…but it should be.
And unless Death is made news worthy, it’s hard to make the Gospel news worthy.
Because the only news maker bigger than Death is the One who made news by conquering Death.
Finally a headline bigger than Death.

R E S U R R E C T I O N ! !

But until we face the universality and utter inappropriateness of Death…
The Gospel fails to be what it really is: The Good News!

So if we in some way consider the death of Michael Jackson…
Or Farrah Fawcett…
Or Glen Zahnd…
Or Geraldine Bechtold…
As news worthy…
We have responded appropriately.

Four hundred years ago the English poet and preacher, John Donne, tried to explain it to us.

John Donne, 1572-1631

For Whom The Bell Tolls
John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

So today the media tolls the bell for Michael Jackson.
Or is it our own death that is being reported?
Think about it.