Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter
I had a quite disturbing dream. I was called upon to do the eulogy at Donald Trump’s funeral. Of course, I should have just demurred, but somehow I could not get out of it. That’s the nature of dreams, or nightmares, or the ministry.
I remembered the preacher who was asked to do the funeral of the nastiest man in town. He refused, but the family offered him a million dollars for his church’s building fund. So he agreed, as long as he did not have to say anything untrue. He struggled and struggled with how to eulogize, and finally came up with, “Well, at least he wasn’t as bad as his brother.”
Donald Trump has a brother, two in fact, but they are not known to be worse than their brother. So I was stuck, without even an offer for the non-existent building fund of my non-existent church.
In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks makes the distinction between “resume values” and “eulogy values.” Looking for a job, you want all your success virtues listed on your resume. Those, however, may not be at all the ones you pointed out at your funeral. Resume values are for personal success. Eulogy values are for personal character.
[That “resume” is rays-oo-may, not resume as in starting up again, but I don’t know how to get those accent marks on the “r” and “e,” Yes, I’m old and have not gone beyond the Smith-Corona era; sue me.]
As I prepared to eulogize him, I looked at Trump’s resume. Impressive. But not much there that his family would want mentioned in a eulogy. Resume virtues are usually not eulogy virtues.
Some eulogies are easy. They write themselves. This last summer I did eulogies for Bill White, my best friend from campus ministry days, and Mike Dickey, my best friend from grade school days. They both had impressive resumes, but their eulogy values were far more impressive. Their eulogies wrote themselves. They were personally kind, they were socially kind, they were intellectually kind. Howard Daughenbaugh said that my eulogy to our mutual friend, Bill, was “eulogy as art.” It is simple to paint a good picture if the subject is full of light.
Other eulogies are difficult. The one eulogized had a sorrow-full life, or died too young. Some churches and ministers avoid the hard ones by not eulogizing. They use a funeral service that speaks only of God and how God deals with us, not about the deceased. Talk about the deceased is confined to before the funeral, perhaps at a wake or visitation, or at an after-graveyard gathering.
I have not avoided eulogies at hard funerals—suicides, murders, children, sudden deaths of good people, unnecessary accidents. I figure those are the times I can do the most good. My eulogies in those difficult funerals are usually well accepted, because I do not avoid the hard truths. I tell the truth, but as it is within the scope of God’s resume, not just our resumes.
But Trump? I remembered the story of the preacher who was asked to do the funeral of a cat. In high dudgeon, he refused to sully his ordination with such drivel. But the cat owner offered him a thousand dollars. “You did say this cat is a Baptist, didn’t you?”
Then I woke up.
I tweet as yooper 1721.
I became disturbed by the huge number of military suicides, both veterans and active duty, so I wrote VETS, about four handicapped and homeless Iraqistan veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor. It’s a darn good tootin’ adventure mystery story. My royalties go to helping prevent veteran suicides. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.