From the New York Post comes a story that says a lot about where we are as a culture. It’s about the funeral of crime writer Philip Carlo, where something bizarre happened:

It could have been a funeral-home scene out of a “Sopranos” episode. At the wake for crime author Philip Carlo, Tony Danza angrily interrupted the priest, claiming he was talking too much about God and not enough about the best-selling biographer of mass murderers, including Richard Kuklinski and Richard Ramirez, during his eulogy.

A source at Thursday’s wake at Peter C. La Bella Funeral Home in Bensonhurst said the priest–“who said he was a substitute priest from a federal prison, which made some people smirk–started to ramble on and on about religion, quoting the Bible and making mourners uncomfortable.

“Tony, who was one of Carlo’s closest friends, walked right up to the priest and said angrily, ‘Excuse me, but this is not about you. It’s supposed to be about my friend, and if you can’t do that, maybe you should let someone else speak!’

“People were stunned, while the priest was visibly shaken. He tried talking about Carlo before quickly wrapping things up. Danza took over and eulogized Carlo with memories from their younger days.

“When someone then heckled Tony, he said, ‘Will you give me a break? Will you stop and let me talk?'”

Danza’s behavior was boorish, self-centered, and juvenile–you know, about what you’d expect from an inconsequential actor. But his action, as appalling as it was, gives me the opportunity to say this: the church should not seek to play chaplain to the culture.

Clearly, the assembled multitudes, or at least a significant portion of them, at Carlo’s funeral were there, not to hear the gospel of Christ’s triumph over death and our part in that triumph by faith. Rather, they were there to celebrate the life of a friend. That’s fine, and that’s what should have been done. Tony Danza should have presided and rambled on to his heart’s content about the good ol’ days when he and Carlo were the cat’s pajamas, or whatever. There was no need for a priest, or any other kind of clergy, because the gathering wasn’t about God, it was about Carlo.

If that is the kind of memorial people want to have, they should be willing to say so, rather than subject ministers who are only trying to do the job the way they were trained to and believe it should be done, to this kind of harassment. I can respect folks who don’t want God to intrude on their ceremonies–just don’t ask God’s representatives to be there. And by the way, in case you’re thinking that this was just one overgrown adolescent being a jerk, the widow made clear that she thought what he did was terrific:

His wife, Laura, told us, “The funeral went very well, and we know Phil would have been very happy. We all agreed that the priest had to go and leave it to Phil’s friends to come to the rescue.”

When Philip Carlo stands before the Lord God Almighty, do you suppose his friends will be able to “come to the rescue” then? Just wondering.

(Via Religion News Service blog.)