Many have wondered about the driving force behind the increasing prevalence of cremation in the African context, and especially in Kenya. Is it African tradition? Absolutely not! Cremation is an extremely unpopular practice throughout the African culture. At the centre of many African cultures is the belief that death is not the end of life. Instead, death ushers one into the afterlife where they continue to participate in the affairs of the living. Spirits of significant persons such as heads of families or leaders of communities are especially revered because they can haunt the living should anything untoward happen. The spirits of the ancestors are therefore consistently invoked or appeased whenever calamities befall an individual, family, or community. Thus, in the African context, the dead are treated with utmost respect and reverence. To burn their dead would be the last thing in any traditional African mind.
Could Islam be the peddler of cremation? Far from it. Cremation is strictly forbidden in Islam. Muslims believe that the deceased must be treated with the same respect as the living. Accordingly, Islamic teachings require that the deceased be cleaned, shrouded, prayed for, buried in the earth and treated with reverence. Any other treatment, including cremation, is considered an act of disrespect and “haram.” Muslims consider burning of the human body as a punishment that is the preserve of the Creator. Therefore, in Islam, a Muslim must not participate in, approve of, or witness any act of cremation.
Could cremation then be Christian? Not at all. Traditional Christian faith considers cremation inconsistent with orthodox doctrine. Christians revere the human body as the epitome of God’s creation in line with such Scriptures as Genesis 1:26 and Psalm 139:14. Furthermore, the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and must be thus respected. For Christians, therefore, any act that deliberately defiles the body – like cremation – is considered utterly abhorrent. Indeed, there are no biblical records of the burning of the deceased, other than under the judgement of God. Furthermore, because Jesus was buried, most churches require burial as part of following Christ’s example.
The question that begs then is, if the three main socio-cultural groupings in Africa do not approve of cremation, who then is driving this cremation agenda and for what reason? Whereas cremation can be traced back to ancient Eastern cultural groupings, in modern times it is largely associated with the New Age movement. The roots of the New Age movement may be traced back to ancient religions, cults, and philosophies that ushered in a human revolt against God. Thus, at the centre is man, in full self-proclaimed glory.
The New Agers believe that the human being is possessed of untapped powers and wisdom that offers all answers and hope for mankind. Thus, science, philosophy, education, and modern-day cults have substituted the worship of God. This has given rise to such systems as Gnosticism, alchemy, mesmerism, freemasonry, mysticism, theosophy and spiritualism. The idea is of a movement that on the one hand embraces all religions yet on the other is free from God. Though multideity religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are key beneficiaries of this syncretic movement, Freemasonry has in particular enjoyed the windfall and, in all probability, become its driver.
Many scholars call Freemasonry the “unifier” of all religions. Albert Pike, in his Morals and Dogma, termed it as “the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted it in the heart of universal humanity.” Manly Hall, in The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, argued that “The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realises with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha, or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognises only the light and not the bearer.” Yet, the reality is that the movement is on overdrive to dethrone God and deconstruct all conformity to godly practices. Hence, the mantra is: “Do whatever feels good as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.” This legitimises all forms of expressions as acceptable, and dignifies practices that would otherwise be abominable – such as cremation. Granted, there are many ignorant followers – mostly fancied by the fad. But, if you check out the key proponents of the practice, you will most likely find a common thread. Thus, before you support or opt for cremation, think twice.
- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]