Denison Journal of Religion


Swensson lays out the many obstacles that have resulted in twenty-first century Americans being unable to accept death. By examining the history of major social changes in the West, such as the Protestant reformation, as well as the current ways of dealing with death and dying, Swensson posits that improving how society deals with death and the dying must be aided by theology. Currently, social, political, and religious changes in the West have led to a general sense of loneliness, meaninglessness, and helplessness that are only intensified when a person faces death. Unfortunately, the current environment in which most people greet death makes it difficult for them to care for the emotional and spiritual needs of the dying or their families. This can generally be attributed to the fact that hospitals attempt to forestall death at any costs, and in so doing frequently strip people of their dignity. While hospices attempt to counteract this objectification, the frequent close quarters and intimate witnessing of physical deterioration in them make it difficult for that goal to be fulfilled. Swensson argues that thanatology (the sociological study of death and dying,) is valuable and that efforts should be made to make a more respectful dying process. She concludes that this will only be able to come to fruition when theology is welcomed in to play a real part in the way society approaches death and dying.


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