The Joy of Being Sick

In his chapter entitled The Joy of Being Sick, Hauerwas observes powerfully:

Before exploring how sickness manifests our sin I need to make clear why for most people the language of being sick seems more intelligible than being a sinner. I think the answer is very simple — we are atheists. Even if we say we believe in God, most of our lives are constituted by practices that assume that God does not exist. The most effective means I have discovered to illustrate this is to ask people how they want to die. We all want to die quickly, painlessly, in our sleep, and without being a burden. We do not want to be a burden because we can no longer trust our children. We want to die quickly, painlessly, and in our sleep because when we die we do not want to know we are dying.

It is quite interesting to contrast this with the past, when the death Christians feared was a sudden death. They feared a sudden death because such a death meant they might die unreconciled with their neighbors, their church, and, of course, God. We no longer fear the judgment of God, but we do fear death. So our lives are lived in an attempt to avoid death (or at least the knowledge that we are to die) as long as we can. As any doctor can tell you, sickness is the intimation of death — even hangnails. Accordingly we order our lives to be free of sickness. But so ordered, sickness becomes overdetermined as a description that indicates any aspect of our lives that threatens death. Growing old turns out, therefore, to be an illness.

 

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