Many countries have adopted the law about the organization of funerals and exploitation of cemeteries and crematoria. What is the position of the Church about cremation?
In the case of adoption of state laws, a disturbing reality is observed. The laws, that pertain to the spiritual side of life, to the faith and beliefs, can be adopted without initial consultation and discussion with the Church and sometimes these laws are passed even without the consent of the Church.
In the case of religious minorities, religious sects, the state displays a cautious approach, taking into account their religious beliefs, lest not to be accused of the manifest of discrimination and persecution against minorities. However, during the adoption of relevant laws, it’s mainly necessary to take into account people’s religious perceptions and habits.
Various studies, done by experts, show that the majority of the population of many countries is the members of the Church and not the members of the sects. Thus, adopting laws concerning to the majority of the population, the state must take into consideration the opinion of the Church, as the state paradoxically treats in sectarians case. For example, regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses, in some countries, the state, considering their religious beliefs, adopted a law on alternative service to replace military service. On the ground of freedom of conscience, certain privileges are granted to religious factions.
For example, in Armenia, this cautious approach was manifested especially when Jehovah’s Witnesses filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Armenia, and the government had to pay to this sect more than one hundred thousand euros, according to the European Court decision. And the state paid this amount from the state treasury which is formed from the permanent taxes of the citizens.
It’s true, that in many countries the mission of the Church for people’s spiritual life, for the development of national culture and preservation of national identity is largely recognized. Also within the framework of the church-state relations, the state is quite supportive of the Church’s activities. But it happens that adopting important laws, the state bypass the opinion of the Church. This is the case of the laws relating to Jehovah’s Witnesses and to the organization of funerals and exploitation of cemeteries and crematories, as well as the case of the gender law.
But the situation is not similar in different countries. In the USA, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a perfectly legal denomination. But in France, it’s considered as a cult. France actively investigates and prosecutes groups considered a threat to the state as cults. That includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and many forms of Pentecostal Protestantism that are also perfectly acceptable in the USA. The French Republic has this approach because these religious cults are manipulating people, who are mentally weak, separating members from their families or demanding too much money from the followers of the cult. Recently the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation suspended the activities of the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their extremist activity.
The position of the Church on cremation is following. The Church does not encourage cremation. It is not widely accepted because it is not consistent with the Christian life, beliefs, traditions, and ritual order.
In cemeteries, all the dead are buried facing east. At the funeral, especially according to the tradition of the Eastern Churches, in the church or in the funeral hall the deceased is put facing to the east. Christ said that His Second coming will be from the east (Matthew 24:27). Therefore, the dead are buried on that side, so that at the time of the Second Coming they raise from a tomb, facing the Savior.
All these cannot be applied in the case of the cremation because in the ashes you cannot decide where the head, face, and feet are. In addition, it seems that the dead has fallen asleep, and during the resurrection of the dead, s/he will wake up physically, will be resurrected. At the funeral, the dead body shows the seeming reality of being asleep. While the idea of being drowsy is deleted during cremation, and the person doesn’t seem asleep, but turned into ashes.