Death With Interruptions

Death With Interruptions - Jose Saramago

Death With Interruptions is a book by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago about a country where death takes a holiday. Starting with the new year, no one dies. (Sick people don’t get better, though, they just don’t expire.)

Saramago takes a satirical yet serious look at the practical problems this hiatus creates. The funeral business goes belly up; pension funds are threatened with bankruptcy; capital punishment is no longer an option. Of particular interest to me is the impact this “crisis” has on the church. A Roman Catholic cardinal observes that,

“(I)f there was no death, there could be no resurrection, and if there was no resurrection, then there would be no point in having a church. Now, since this (death) was clearly the only agricultural implement God possessed with which to plough the roads that would lead to his kingdom, the obvious, irrefutable conclusion is that the entire holy story ends, inevitably, in a cul-de-sac…

“Whether we like it or not, the one justification for the existence of all religion is death; they need death as much as we need bread to eat.”

Do you agree with Saramago’s cardinal? Would the church lose its purpose and power if this life is all there is? No dying would certainly deflate the brand of Christianity that reduces this life to a preamble to the all important next one. However, it wouldn’t make much difference to biblical faith.

The Old Testament says almost nothing about heaven or hell; its blessings and curses are for the here and now. The righteous live on in their prosperous descendants and the wicked are cut off from the people.

In the Gospels, Jesus is more concerned about the kingdom of God being manifested on earth than about a future state. And when the afterlife is mentioned, it’s in relation to rewards or judgment for temporal behavior. It’s not until the epistles that the implications of the resurrection are fleshed out.

Throughout Scripture the focus is on how we are to act in the present. If death did take a holiday, it shouldn’t change our day to day existence.

Is there anything you would do differently today if death were out of the picture?


5 thoughts on “Death With Interruptions

  1. I kept thinking of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (KJV – of all men most miserable.)

    If there was no death, then the misery of this life, as stated above, would only extend into a hopeless existence. Those who would use death as the final relief (death penalty for the guilty; death for those who do ethnic cleansing; death for those suffering from unrelenting pain; the threat of eternal death and the list goes on). What would the church preach if there was no hope? Jesus Himself told us, “in this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He also stated that He told us these things so that IN ME you may have peace. Therefore, with no hope in a future beyond this life we would also have no peace.

    I personally have a fear of death – not my destination – but the death process. I have now witnessed four deaths in my life. Actually watching the passing of a human from this life to into the next life. The four folks I watched struggle to leave their earthly bodies and it was not a pretty picture. So, in some ways I would be happy to not have to face death. I remember the last week of my mom’s life she was tired and sad. She was watching a world transform into a hopeless reality, post 9/11, pain and suffering around her, her granddaughter making terrible choices, etc. She didn’t want to live any more. Perhaps it was selfish but she just wanted to go HOME to her Savior and indeed 5 days later she did.

    You and I aren’t 80 yet. I have seen the aged’s willingness to relieve themselves of the carcass they are encased in. If we didn’t age, perhaps it would be easier. But even they have to hope for the resurrected body.

    I would like to share a picture that has given me hope. My husband’s mother, Pat, recently died on August 11th. Fourteen months before she had had a stroke leaving her paralyzed on one side of her body and unable to speak. In her last hours she laid in the living room with her entire family around her. Her eyes had been closed and she had remained silent for literally hours and hours. Suddenly she opened her eyes and with the left arm and hand that she had been able to use partially she lifted it up for 10 to 15 minutes as though reaching up to some invisible beyond. What a picture it gave to her family. Whether she was reaching for her husband who had left her eight months before or whether she was reaching for her Savior’s hand we don’t know. That glorious miracle of her holding that weakened arm and hand for that length of time gave us all HOPE. We need a blessed beyond and not a miserable here and now. God made us from dust and to dust we shall return so I guess I am glad there is death and that God has redeemed us and resurrected His Son. Dust cannot be made into anything more than dust – and sin cannot be rehabilitated.

    These are my thoughts of a rambling mind.

    Linda Z.

    P.S. I would have loved to see you and Susan while in Portland. We were there working on our house to sell. Hope you had a great time seeing all your friends. Take care, brother.

  2. Good observation. With my limited understanding of an infinite all-powerful God, I assert the following opinion: I think evil and corruption are too ingrained in our bodies for them to ever be revived to their original glory. We are dead men walking. God’s plan of salvation was for our souls, and for these souls to be held in corruptible bodies that God’s power to change a life might shine through the corruption.

    Although, God can do whatever he wants, he apparently doesn’t consider redeeming our flesh a worthy pursuit. So… no. I don’t think evil can be eliminated without death. But, I still have to say, “I just don’t know.”

  3. If we were to live forever in this world and stuck in this body, that would make the impact of evil and suffering infinitely worse. Simply eliminating death would create a kind of hell on earth.

    If death was out of the picture today, I would mourn for loss of a real life in which I would leave corruption behind and put on incorruption, and my loss of life in the presence of God.

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