My Local Megachurch Hosted a Gigantic Funeral for a Cop
Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
Flatirons Community Church is the largest church in Colorado with close to 20,000 members, most of whom attend one of the weekly services at the church’s main campus in the town of Lafayette.
The other day Flatirons hosted the funeral for a sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed while responding to a call in the Denver area. It was an extraordinary memorial service attended by thousands of law enforcement officers and citizens and preceded by a massive procession of hundreds of police and fire fighting vehicles. Miles of highway and city streets were closed to traffic as saluting spectators lined them with American and “thin blue line” flags.
Almost nobody in attendance worked directly with or ever met the deceased. But clearly what he stood for as a law enforcement officer meant something to these people, something that reverberated to the core of their own identities. The pomp of police worship became an opportunity for frightened [white] people to reassure themselves that the world is bad but they will prevail.
To someone more familiar with the New Testament than white evangelical American Christianity, it might seem somewhat contradictory for a nominally Christian church to put itself at the center of this ritual, especially at a time when the violence, racism, and corruption of American law enforcement has become so well documented that not even the most colorblind and self-absorbed liberal can feign ignorance to the white supremacist implications carried with the praise and defense of its institutions.
But white self-described ‘born-again’ Christians are by far the most adamant minority behind the rise of Trumpism in this country. Even during its regular services, giving reassurance to those blinded by ideology is what Flatirons and churches like it do. It is what they are for. In their auditoriums, “Christianity” is no longer about propertyless cynics proclaiming the radical transformation of society and becomes instead a counseling service for broken people who are desperate for ways to cope with their anxieties, alienation, and dysfunctional relationships without ever having to question the decaying foundations of their society.
I’ve personally attended several services at Flatirons and have listened to recordings of additional sermons by Lead Pastor Jim Burgen on the website. Despite frequently pronouncing what "Jesus says" or what "Jesus wants", very little attention is ever given by Burgen to the actual sayings of Jesus as recorded in any of the gospels. It’s easy to get the idea that neither Burgen nor his audience have much interest in what Jesus meant by his cryptic sayings. But the lessons at Flatirons do from time to time give an apt illustration of one or another of Jesus’s teachings. Most recently: what it looks like for the dead to bury the dead.