Actress Miriam Margolyes features in a two-part BBC documentary this month called Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure in which she ‘goes on a mission to confront her fear of ageing and death and tackle our greatest taboo – our own mortality’. In one scene she visits an elderly care home to observe the reality of how, slowly and mercilessly, life grinds down to a halt with the inevitable loss of strength, control, memory and, sometimes, reason.
In another scene in California, she attends the Revolution Against Ageing and Death Fest – the world’s largest gathering of ‘life enthusiasts’. The festival attracts thousands of people, some going to extreme and even dangerous lengths to try to prolong life. This is, apparently, part of a growing movement against the concept of ageing and death.
At the festival there are rousing speeches about how they will not let death defeat them and the ageing audience enthusiastically applaud. Their solutions seem to be a mixture of encouraging a defiant attitude, taking good care of the body with diet and exercise and in some extreme cases a form of live body-freezing therapy. But their main hope seems to be that scientists will discover some way to halt the ageing process using spare parts or altering our DNA.
Old age can be a blessed season in many ways but the fact remains, whatever the California festival-goers may wish, that it is bringing us ever closer to the end of life. But I did find myself in sympathy with some of the speakers who declared that death is not a good thing. Death is a result of sin and its entry into our history is a curse due to our departure from God.
In the documentary Miriam Margolyes also interviews some Christians who express in thoroughly biblical terms the hope of their own resurrection grounded in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Margolyes cannot accept that; for her it is little more than wishful thinking. I suspect that for many people they have more hope in the death-defying power of science than in God.
Our mission is to explain the message of new life and hope in the good news about Jesus Christ so that people (of all ages) will not try to defy death with rousing (but ultimately empty) words and vain hope. Rather, they need to hear that Jesus has defeated death so that if they put their trust and hope in him, they really will live forever.