Hope for the Dead: Protestant Death Rituals and the Psychology of the Continuing Bond

By Simon S. M. Kwan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The subject of this paper is death rituals. It investigates Protestant death rituals to determine whether the reordering of the social relationship occasioned by Protestant death rites facilitates the psychic process of grieving. Given the recent studies on the psychology of the continuing bond, this paper critically argues that the answer to this question is negative. More concretely, the main emphasis of this paper rests on several critical questions. First, if death ends one’s physical life, then does it necessarily also end the relationship between the living and the dead, and how is this question answered, both implicitly and explicitly, by Protestant funeral rites? Second, how does recent research into the psychology of the continuing bond lead to a critical re-negotiation of Protestant funeral rites? Third, do Christian funeral traditions allow the continuation of the bond between the living and the dead? This paper attempts to answer these questions first with a comparative analysis of funeral rites found in Chinese culture and the Protestant tradition, and then with an analysis of the Christian traditions of death rituals.

Keywords: Christian Theology of Disposal, Protestant Funeral Practices, Chinese Funeral Rites, Psychology of the Continuing Bond

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 9, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 669.458KB).

Prof. Simon S. M. Kwan

Associate Professor and Associate Director, Cultural and Religious Studies Department, Divinity School of Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong

Simon Shui-man KWAN is Associate Director and Associate Professor of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Cultural and Religious Studies Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was also Programme Coordinator/Director (2000-2005) of an Asian Theological Movement called The Programme for Theology and Culture in Asian and editor (2000-2005) of The Journal of Theologies and Cultures in Asia. His main research area is practical theology, which focuses on the interaction, actual and possible, between theology and different aspects of practical social life. Methodologically, it relies on a mutually critical correlation between theologies and the social sciences.

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