Challenger: 20 years

[a bit late since I'm in the process of moving and couldn't find my original article I wrote 20 years ago at my college newspaper -- back before the internet -- until today. With very little edit, I've retyped my old writing:]

People die every day, every minute all over the world. We hardly think of them, let alone death itself. Yet when some "important" person dies, we make a big deal about it; but when we do, we talk of past achievements, present grief, future outlook -- anything but death itself.

Why suppress talk about death? Is it because we are a "Christian" nation, and believe that death is another transition (like birth)? Or because death is it -- nothing more to talk about? Or, as Walker Percy suggests in Lost in the Cosmos, because death is the pornography of today?

From what I can see, I have to agree with Percy. Sex and violence are on display everywhere, but death is hardly ever touched. (Try to recall the number of sermons or worship talks -- even at a funeral -- you have heard on death. Now compare that with the number of talks on sex or violence!) Case in point: the 28 January explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The explosion and its "impact" occupied the attention of TV news teams throughout the day. The following is my impression of the day's coverage:
Dear brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today (in front of our TVs) to honor the seven astronauts martyred for our God, Technology, the God of our Church, the USA. These brave souls were willing to risk their lives for God. They died for His cause to spread His truth to increase our knowledge of Him. Now, our mission can go forward at even a greater pace thanks to them, for like all martyrs, their blood will be seed that yields an abundant crop. Although it is a sad event, we must rise above our misery and continue forward, for our God does not tolerate idleness. We must help Him increase and must preach the salvation He offers (i.e., "better" living standards) to all nations, especially the Third World countries. May we all keep this to heart as we go through life...
Plenty of eulogy, but nothing on death, or even life after death.

Fortunately, the Bible doesn't beat around the bush, but deals with death very candidly and realistically (e.g., Ecclesiastes 9:10) with triumph rather than gloom:
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)
February 7, 1986