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McCulley, Was A

Mark Eliot McCulley, 44, of 42 Akron Rd, Ephrata finished dying Saturday afternoon. He expected to die, because he began dying when he was born in May 1955 in Winston Salem,North Carolina, and because he interpreted the "soon" coming of Jesus to refer to the generation living when Jesus lived.

Mark spent much of his time thinking, talking and writing about God's grace. He considered himself a parasite: unable to depend on any of his own biography to gain a future life from God, he put all his hope in a one-way "unconditional" relationship in which every day he would again be the parasite who depended on God's will to forget the past.

In many ways, Mark was also a parasite in his relationships with other people. For example, he is survived by his parents, Everett and Susie McCulley, who live in Staunton, Virginia, and Lakeland, Florida. Mark did not choose his parents by his own freewill, but for many years depended on their financial and emotional support. Mark's father was a Baptist clergyman.

Mark is also survived by his wife Linda Titmus McCulley, who he met while both were teaching at Portsmouth Christian School in Virginia. Mark and their children were financially supported by her job at Stevens Technical School. Of course this nontraditional relationship was never as unconditional or parasitic as that with God and his parents: Mark used his God-given rhetorical abilities to initiate and sustain the romantic context of their marriage.

Besides being an unpaid poet, Mark was an English teacher at schools in Montana, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia. Then Mark became a pacifist who refused to vote or kill, but lived comfortably parasite-style in an economy and a society which tolerated the right to complain and write letters to the editor. Mark's excuse was that the earth belonged to the Lord

Mark is also survived by his daughter Marsha, student at Pensacola Arminian College, and by his son Kevin, 13 year old basketball player at Hinkletown Mennonite School. Even though Mark was generous in preparing big portions of food and drink for his children, and often busy in doing in many other homemaking chores like shopping and going to the doctor, these were unpaid activities and therefore of very little worth in a capitalist society in which acceptance is conditioned on either money or other forms of cultural approval.

Mark did not think he would go straight to heaven; he believed instead that dead Christians have to wait for Jesus to come to earth. Therefore he has assigned his children the task of reading at the funeral I Corinthians 15 and Romans 8. I Corinthians talks about the repudiation of one's history, character, and virtues and then about the great discontinuity brought about by resurrection on the day of the second coming. Romans 8 talks about God's foreloving and predestined plan to save people by grace.

By Mark's request, his funeral will not be officiated by a clergyman. Though he had a great respect for many clergymen, Mark attempted a lifelong witness against what he regarded as an unbiblical division of people into "laity". Often quoted as saying that people who use the words "laity" and "minister" should have their mouths washed with soap, Mark rejected "ordination" for himself when he was a pastor for five years in the Church of the Brethren in Midland, Michigan.

Instead of clergy officiation, Mark's children will lead a I Corinthians 14:26 "rule of Paul" time: "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." Even though Mark anticipated reference to his testimony that those who condition salvation on themselves are lost, his great desire was that those at the funeral would use antithesis with the false gospel to focus on the effective death of Christ for all those who were elect at the cross.

Though Mark did not object to hymns about "crossing the river to safety", he preferred hymns that spoke of death as the dark enemy which will be defeated and of the sleep which waited for the resurrection of those who belonged by faith to Christ in this age and in the age to come. Mark rejected a probationary theology (wrongly based on Matthew 25) which said that the future life depended on one's actions and history in this life and which therefore turned the gospel into something conditional on the flesh.

Experiencing fear, anger, resentment and other sinful emotions, Mark also felt in his body the joy of jazz and William Blake and the creation of fervent polemics with those who polemicized against polemics.

As a pacifist, Mark attempted to explore the relationship between suffering martyrdom and witnessing to the gospel. In what he called "grace and peace" letters that he sent out regularly to a few friends, he examined the tendency of society toward bloody and violent scapegoating. He liked to quote the martyr Stephen (Acts 7:52) "Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his murderers."

Mark's confession was that he had already come to "Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better word than the blood of Abel."Though Mark would have liked to have died by being killed in some great cause, or even for Jesus to come so he could "depart" in that happy fashion (Philippians 1), he had learned that these things were not in his control and that he would probably die of eating too much and not exercising enough.

So it would be better to say that Mark had a parasite-complex than to accuse him of wanting to be a martyr or a prophet. As a student of history, Mark learned to criticize the past; he refused to identify with Christendom and most Christian institutions, and he wanted to disassociate himself from the United States and particularly with the southern more racist portion of the nation, where he was born and raised.

So Mark never did find anything to die for; though he was busy writing manuscripts about baptism, church life, and what he called a gospel vs legalist ethics, he never really had a five year plan for the short-term future. He and his wife did not kiss away the time other couples use for budgeting money: they spent the time kissing!.

Mark talked a great deal about death. Some of his favorite books were The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy, The Denial of Death by Becker, and Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky with its last story one about a funeral and pancakes and hope of resurrection. But Mark was not in love with death, nor did he agree that he knew better how to die than how to live: he thought the way to live was to be more honest about death and our "egocentric" concern for a future life.

Mark was often guilty of preferring the intricacies of theological discourse than about people; he found it difficult to keep quiet about the power of the gospel. Though he accepted the need for a morality which would define evil, he did not want to confuse that morality with his faith in the gospel. Nor did he want to confuse faith with the fear of one's own intelligence: faith is the power of God overcoming one's flesh, and one's pride in their intelligence. He regarded as foolishness the idea that Christian foolishness meant being quiet about the "devil's" questions.

A state switch-sides debate champion and high school valedictorian, Mark finally became pretty content with his addiction to questions. He became very suspicious of human "righteousness", particularly that which pretended to be "selfless". Perhaps he overreacted to hypocrisy in his advocacy of a parasitic self-interested relationship to God. Where John 12 talked of a seed that dies and of losing your life in this age, Mark was eager to talk about the much fruit you "will keep" in the next age.

Along the way, Mark experienced the usual conflicts of conscience. As he grew older and lazier, Mark settled more often for immediate gratification than for the constant deferrals and "endurance" required by adult projects and ambitions. He watched a lot of college basketball, especially when he thought Duke could beat North Carolina. He drank a lot of Dr Pepper, and not the sugar free kind! He did not despise the body, or the pleasures of the body, and lived in hope of a new body and a new earth.

Of course he wrote this obituary in advance, not as a sign of sickness, but as a reminder that a death is at the very center of Christianity. We Christians are in love with a martyr who died (really died, not part of him) on a cross. To the extent we can see ourselves as "pure parasites" of God's grace, perhaps we can see through and get past what we want to call our "sacrifices" for each other.

There is a John Newton hymn Mark requested for the funeral (with the cheapest casket and the cheapest funeral director but maybe hopefully in a Christian meetinghouse friendly to parasites!).

    One there is, above all others,
    Well deserves the name of Friend;
    His is love beyond a brother's,
    Costly, free, and knows no end:
    They who once His kindness prove,
    Find it everlasting love!

On the last line, change "But when home our souls are brought," to "but WITH home YOU COME TO US." Our souls are bodies with life, and Jesus shall bring heaven home to earth!

"Who has given a gift to God, to receive a gift in return?" Romans 11:35. Thus our giving is not the prerequisite to anything: God's gifts are pure and holy.

Mark right now is in an extremely unbalanced situation: Mark is dead. It would do no good for the moralists and virtuecrats of family values to tell him that God is nice to the nice: Mark is dead. Nor would it do him any good to try to bring out any books that record his good deeds: Mark is dead, and his only hope is ANOTHER BOOK, a book of life for the sinners for whom Christ died.

Obituary, Revised after I Didn't Die After All
Mark McCulley

One There Is, Above All Others

John Newton (1725-1807)

    One there is, above all others,
    Well deserves the name of Friend;
    His is love beyond a brother's,
    Costly, free, and knows no end:
    They who once His kindness prove,
    Find it everlasting love!
    Which of all our friends to save us,
    Could or would have shed their blood?
    But our Jesus died to have us
    Reconciled, in Him to God:
    This was boundless love indeed!
    Jesus is a Friend in need.
    Men, when raised to lofty stations,
    Often know their friends no more;
    Slight and scorn their poor relations
    Though they valued them before.
    But our Savior always owns
    Those whom He redeemed with groans.
    When he lived on earth abasèd,
    Friend of sinnerswas His name;
    Now, above all glory raisèd,
    He rejoices in the same:
    Still He calls them brethren, friends,
    And to all their wants attends.
    Could we bear from one another,
    What He daily bears from us?
    Yet this glorious Friend and Brother,
    Loves us though we treat Him thus:
    Though for good we render ill,
    He accounts us brethren still.
    O for grace our hearts to soften!
    Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
    We, alas! forget too often,
    What a Friend we have above:
    but WITH home YOU COME TO US, (1.) | return
    But when home our souls are brought,
    We will love Thee as we ought.

  1. replaces: "But when home our souls are brought,"

Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.