The Uneasy Life of a Middle East Skeleton

Dec 4, 2017 10:07:18 AM Sarah Rymer

Do you have skeletons in your closet? Our Associates in Egypt do, and he even has a name – Max.

 skeleton-1-1428846-1920x1440.jpgJayson and Julie, IDEAS Associates in Egypt, obtained real skull and bones to serve as a teaching tool for their four children, but quickly realized cultural norms would stuff Max back into the closet.

On their blog they tell the full story of Max’s adventures in Cairo, with several cultural insights along the way:

"Max was accessible, but out of the way. Part of the house, but not part of life. I suppose that’s fitting—being dead and all—but it still seems cruel.

In the Middle East it is often observed that some parents hide away children with mental or physical disabilities. This pattern is changing, but a sense of shame has condemned many to at-home isolation.

Have we treated Max similarly?

The cultural pattern for death is somewhat similar. Muslim tradition demands a body be buried almost immediately. Unlike the West where a mortician will preserve for final goodbyes at a later-scheduled funeral, the shock of death is quickly muted. So also is grief, at least for half of society. Women may wail and cry out in pain. Men are expected to resign themselves to the will of God, and move on.

So for those who knew, it must have been very strange that we have dead bones in our closet.

Eventually the Caspers donated Max to a local school, where he remains part of their oldest child’s education. They then conclude:

Despite the lightness of this post, there is a serious point. Christians believe two things about Max: He was made in God’s image, and he will be bodily resurrected.

Different cultures demand different customs concerning the dead. But immediate burial, final viewing, preserving relics, quiet cremation, and funeral pyres are all expressions of the same impulse: Honor.

A principle means of honoring life is right treatment in death. There is something sacred that lingers. It must be remembered.

It may also be employed. God intends us to enjoy our life, but to find this enjoyment in service of others. Death can be an extension: When my mother died, she donated her body to science.

Maybe Max did the same.

In any case, he has a new home. The school may or may not struggle with the same issues we did, but at least Max is now back to his proper place in education.

We don’t know the details, but perhaps Max also knew God’s proper place in life. May we all, before it is too late."

Please click here to read the full story on Jayson and Julie’s blog, as well as to see other articles and stories from his work as a journalist with Christianity Today.





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