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Beyond Eternal Presence

 The culture around us seems to be fascinated with life beyond the grave.  Like never before we are surrounded by the undead.  Television is filled with depictions of life beyond the grave through shows like True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and Walking Dead.  The fascination with vampires, which may have been popularized through the Twilight franchise, has now shifted in focus as the culture appears fascinated with anything zombie-like.  (Do you have your zombie apocalypse survival plan?)  Sure, there have always been television show about monsters and things that go bump in the night, yet this fascination appears to be more prominent and mainstream than ever before.

Yet the quest for presence beyond the grave isn’t limited to books, television and movies.  This fascination with eternal presence has so seeped into the world of celebrity that the very concept of fame has begun to take an otherworldly quality to it.  Each year, Forbes magazine runs a list of the most successful dead celebrities.   That’s right.  Not only do celebrities make money post death, but they actually have agents!  In 2012 the winner was Elizabeth Taylor who grossed an estimated $210,000,000 from beyond the grave.  Celebrities no longer vie for 15 minutes of fame.  The fame that is longed for is other-worldly, it is a fame that stretches into eternity.   This creates an incredibly high standard to try to live up to, especially for those one-hit-wonders who taste fame for only a season.

While we may never make millions of dollars after our deaths, all is not lost for us.  The British ad Agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine has recently launched “LivesOn” which enables people to send twitter updates from the grave.

You heard me.

Apparently, LivesOn will set up a second Twitter account, adding “_liveson” to your current handle. They will then begin studying the style, content, and references of your tweets.  Then, when the appropriate day comes, the company will begin tweeting updates from your ‘_liveson’ account thus giving you a sense of continuous existence (at least on Twitter).  Imagine being able to have a friend open their twitter account with a message from you saying: [email protected] I knew @StarbucksHeaven existed!  Enjoying a #nonfatlatte with Gideon and Paul.”  Or how about [email protected], Huh. I would have thought it would be hotter.  Anyway, see you soon!”

But here’s the question: is beyond-death presence the same as eternal life?  I find it interesting that the culture, which sometimes criticizes faith as a pie-in the-sky escapist mentality, is now grasping to recognize an existence beyond this life. Underneath these avenues which aim to perpetuate our presence beyond the grave, there is a subtle spiritual longing for that ‘which this world cannot give.’  Of course, the way the culture does this is damaging and backward.  While the culture is searching for eternal life, the only thing that it can come up with is a fabricated and commodified presence. What is more, the end result of these gimmicks is condemnation and judgment.  After all, if all my fame, popularity and fortune are outdone by someone long deceased, doesn’t this actually give testimony to the ultimate emptiness that fame affords?

Yet, despite the culture’s wrong-turn in this, this searching for eternal life creates a fabulous opportunity for people of faith.   Here, the Gospel can speak a profound word to people who are searching for that inner vitality.  Jesus speaks to this very thing in John 10:10: “The thief comes in only to steal, kill and destroy.  I have come that you might have life and have it in abundance.”  The cultures quest for eternal presence is dwarfed and rendered insignificant when placed aside God’s gift of eternal life.  God grants us not mere robotic remembrance, but actual life.   What is more, the wonderful thing about eternal life is that it does not start at the point of death.  The eternal life that Jesus call us to, the life in abundance for which he came, died, and is present now, begins at the moment of our faith.  This moment is part of the eternal life that God grants to us.

The question for us then is: How do we live in the presence of the future?  How do we acknowledge, recognize, and live out the fullness of what Jesus has granted to us? More so, if it is true that many people in this world are searching for a meaning and existence beyond this life, how do we point them to the true realization found in Jesus?

If only there was a service coming up where we could talk about these things. . .

How will you share the good news of eternal life this Easter?

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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5 Responses to Beyond Eternal Presence

  1. It seems to me that the church has to really start living the gospel not just talking .The world looks at the church and sees an organization that is no different then the rest of the world , sometimes worse. If people don’t see our lives changed and going counter cultural then they will not be open to our message.Are we willing to die for the message and the people we are giving it to?

  2. Kyle Norman

    Tony I completely agree.  And yet a strong part of reaching out with teh message of the Gospel is understanding the ‘marketplace’ around us.  As Paul saw an altar to an unknown God, so too there are many ways that this culture is reaching and searching for an understanding of God, love, forgiveneness, peace, and eternal life.  I think we can use these things as a means to communicate the Good news of Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment for that which they are deeply searching.

  3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published quite a long while after Captain Sir Richard Burton’s King Vikram And The Vampire, the author of the 1001 Tales Of Arabian Nights, kind of a big deal and quite the orientalist, and that book was a translation of Hindu folk tales. It’s asinine to speculate on anything about vampire mythology without understanding what a vampire is supposed to be.. less Transylvanian castles, more like necromancers covering themselves in the ashes of cremation grounds communing with the dead. The very same ritual practices that Buddha is said to have done when he derived enlightenment , which is a similar phenomenon that will often happen after a large natural disaster such as the tsunami that decimated Japan. This is the way Buddha nature is understood in Japan, deriving from the worship of Kami, who are Buddha natured. A penetrating series of ethnography on yoga was done by David Gordon White, he is the author of Sinister Yogis, said to have the ability to as the sun does evaporate water with death rays shooting from their eye sockets, removing it from the ground and drawing it to the sky, then as the moon they can condense the waters of the heavens and rain their magic down. A yogic initiation happens when a guru uses their superior energetic state to rip the soul from someone’s body and reciprocate back into them. This is what passes for alternative medicine today. There is a perfectly logical argument to be made that the Silk Road brought these practices throughout Biblical times, from all over the place, it’s as old as time and human civilization itself. Pretty much every single culture has this idea of empowerment and sacrifice in their religion. so anyway.. as I was saying there is a totally reasonable argument to be made that Jesus felt sensations like this to do with his spirit entering and leaving his body . The television show True Blood, has parodied yoga, as much as it has parodied charismatic Christianity and baptism, as much as it has parodied sex magick in the Kenneth Anger montage of its opening credits. There’s a very educated, rational , explanation as far as where these influences and ideas are coming from. It’s a matter of knowing what those influences are . Korean christianity is also very much a shamanized religion. This discussion could veer into a debate about -who- is initiating people in a church, and where lineage is -coming from- .

  4. Another recommended book would be A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay . It’s a criticism of theosophy and the spiritualist movement. It’s very revealing about the nature of what they’ve always been doing. ReSource movement in Christianity today, that shows like True Blood are picking fun at, are very much “ReSourcing” from.. uh.. yoga.. and mysticism, occultism.. which had often been.. well.. yoga . I assume it could also have been Sufi , and other such stuff.

    uh , I’m very much a proponent of Deicide. Which is the idea I guess that people have to do this, that communion in church comes out of this kind of succession. At the base of this tends to be ancestor worship.

    Deicide is the concept that “God”, sent his Son, who “died” on the cross, and then his followers carry on this concept of lineage, which is the very elegant concept that this chain of being continues. In church, we don’t commune with God. God is this abstract concept for me. Church is about people coming together for worship. Charisms is this idea of hands on transmission.

    Korea is a culture which is interesting for not saying that these transmissions fall within the purview of healthcare, is actually the opposite.. they understand this associated with death, and therefor pollution, often mental illness. This is the world you see in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and David Lindsay’s novel. Reiki is this weird thing because it is lineage transmission something you’d normally find in priesthood, done by a buddhist monk who had a conversion to christianity after he encountered freemasonry in japanese railway building.

  5. The kind of yoga that David Gordon White’s scholarship is about, or Korean shamanism, or Japanese Buddhism, it’s an inverted cosmology. This inverted anti-transcendental understanding of the spiritual cosmos, originating in death, tragedy, causing madness , is the more correct one. The other more dominant understanding of religion as this kind of top-down transmission, makes people feel better, and is also more sinister in the sense that it disempowers from the people who are worshipping in religious communities. What White talks about, and in Korean shamanism, they have this idea of the Self-Loss, that in a large and significant sense, the religious specialist derives their power from their worshippers. And beyond this, their initiation could even be thought to be spectral, from the Nether-World, as the experience described in the Bible Jacob’s Ladder.

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