SOUNDING on Death, August 31, 2010

Some death-related links I’ve noticed in the past few weeks.

The Death Reference Desk continues to cover the controversy over the monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Louisana’s coffins.  Yes, their coffins.  Turns out that like most traditional monasteries, these monks have a trade, and that’s building traditional Benedictine caskets.  But the locals object.

One of the lesser-known classic blunders is trying to prevent jovial Benedictine monks, living peacefully in their Louisiana monastery, from selling hand made wooden caskets to the general public. Not unlike starting a land war in Asia or a battle of wits with a Sicilian. Stated simply, the odds aren’t that good.

Joviality aside, the objections are commercial – the monastery is not a “Funeral Establishment” which are the only establishments permitted to sell “Funeral Merchandise.”

Roadside crosses planted in memory of deceased Utah State Troopers by the state have been ruled a violation of the Establishment Cause.  This is an important ruling that, in the wake of the Mojave Cross Supreme Court Decision last year, seems destined to be overturned.

Finally, if you’re an old-school music lover, go ahead and have your cremated remains pressed into a record of your choosing. via BoingBoing


Sounding on Thematic Interests for March 10, 2010

  • Oooh! The US Supreme Court will hear a case that pits the Freedom of Religious Practice against the Freedom of Speech: Can the charming gentle folk of Westboro Baptist Church constitutionally protest funerals with their “God Hates Fags” and other (equally charming) signs?  Exciting stuff.  My sense is that the viral campaigns to directly undermine the WBC protests are much more effective, but as a professional student of religion especially interested in funerals, this is a good one for me to watch.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that in the five years in which I lived in Topeka, Kansas as a young adolescent, I had occasion to meet and discuss these issues with several members and supporters of Phelps’ church, some of whom went to my high school.  They are unabashedly hateful and evil, in my personal experience, but – and here’s the takeaway point – they are not as dumb as they appear.
  • My continued appreciation for the great work over at MindHacks is unabated: this post on the ‘hyper-priming’ effects of cannabis usage has a lot of promise for further investigations of the importance and usage of drugs (including but not limited to pot) in religious practice.
  • My friend Anna M. Gade, new Islam professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be talking on Wisconsin Public Radio today on Qu’ranic chanting. Go listen!
  • Also: awesome classroom notes on Marx from John Rawls’ old lectures!