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: “@LMPiotrowitz. I knew @StarbucksHeaven existed! Enjoying a #nonfatlatte with Gideon and Paul.” Or how about “@MapleAnglican, 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?