[Please note: the following is a work of fiction. Only the names have been changed to confirm what I said the first time: this is a work of fiction. May contain traces of nuts and satire.]
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview Dr David Petrie, whose PhD dissertation proves unequivocally that the deceased continue their existence in their descendants.
Is that right? I asked him.
“Yes,” Dr Petrie replied, “I can confirm exegetically and scientifically that we live on after we die in the hearts of our children.
That sounds very different to the Christian hope of resurrection.
“Oh, certainly,” he answered, “but if you think about it, who wants to be raised? Look at the Hebrew scriptures, what you might call the Old Testament. The ancient Israelites were happy to experience God’s blessing in their lifetime. In return for obedience and faithfulness to his covenant, they received long lives, bumper harvests and many children. It was only in the days after their exile, when their country was ruled by unjust and unbelieving empires that the faithful few started asking, what’s the point of believing if I die for my faith without having any children, while evildoers thrive? Why suffer for my faith if I don’t experience its blessings? The prophets of that time, especially Daniel answered, “God is a God of justice. He will right every wrong. He will raise the dead, and the wicked will punished, and he will welcome his faithful ones into his kingdom alive and well.”
I still don’t see the problem.
“Well, who wants to be raised to find that they never had a faith worth suffering for? Who wants every wrong to be put right, if they are in the wrong? We don’t want justice. We just want to live forever.”
So we live on in our children’s hearts instead?
“And in our grandchildren’s hearts. Some people outlive their children, and it would be cruel if they missed out on the chance of immortality for something that was beyond their control.”
So, kind of like Mufasa lives on in Simba in the Lion King?
“I’ve never heard of that Disney animation.”
So, like Harry’s parents in the Harry Potter books?
“I can only reiterate that I’ve never heard of J. K. Rowling or her seven popular children’s books, and I have a team of lawyers that can prove that my academic work is completely independent of these works of fiction.”
It sounds very pagan, if you don’t mind me saying.
“Not at all. In fact, if you consider the funeral customs of most cultures, even our own, they are designed so that the dead will be happy in their afterlife and leave the living alone. We speak well of the dead, we put flowers on their grave, we even build them their own houses in family vaults so they stay exactly where they are. The Australian Aborigines, for example, never ever mention the name of a deceased relative. Why? So they will not be summoned and instead leave the living alone.”
So, if it’s not pagan, what is it?
“I prefer to call myself a neo-Sadducee. Maybe you’ve read what the Sadducees said to Jesus in Matthew 22. “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.” See? “Raise up offspring.” That’s the resurrection, the raising up, we are looking forward to: children. We live on in our children.”
What about people without children?
“Well, it’s not just genetics, it’s about people with whom we create a powerful psychic bond. So a teacher or mentor or war buddy who dies without children lives on in the people on whom they’ve had a powerful impact.”
That’s amazing. What about doctors and surgeons who’ve saved someone’s life? Do they live on in their patients?
“I have to admit that I’ve always been jealous of real doctors,” said Dr Petrie. “So, they’re on their own.”
Are you sure it isn’t a coincidence that your research confirms what most secular Westerners hope is true?
“It’s a complete coincidence.”
So, if my parents and grandparents live on in my heart, there’s only one more question that needs to be answered.
“Sure, go ahead. My findings are invulnerable to even the closest scrutiny.”
Where do my great-grandparents live?
“That’s easy. They live over there,” Dr Petrie said, pointing behind me.
I turned around to look at the park across the street. I wondered if he was referring to the old oak tree that was growing in the middle. I thought wistfully of how Big Nana Nelly would like that, but how Poppy Jack would hate the squirrels. But when I turned back, Dr Petrie was suddenly unavailable for comment, and I think I glimpsed his car speeding away behind the spray of gravel 200 feet away from me. I can only hope that he answers my question in his up-coming book, “How I Can Prove That What you Hope is True Actually Is”.