The cellular giant T-Mobile is reportedly seeking to build a 100-foot-tall cell phone tower in a graveyard. The cemetery’s owner, the Archdiocese of Boston, has approved the plan and agreed to lease the spot to T-Mobile. The proposal to build the tower has raised the ire of neighbors and guardians of people buried there, who say such a tower would violate the memories of people buried there.
What do you think?
Profiting from the construction of a cell phone tower in a graveyard dishonors those buried there and thus it is an insult to their surviving family members.
Our primary obligation to our deceased loved ones is to treat them with respect.
When king Hezekiah died, the people of Israel “buried him in the upper section of the tombs of the sons of David; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem honored him at his death.” (2 Chronicles 32:33, New American Standard Bible).
David blessed the men of Jabesh-gilead because they honored Saul their fallen king by retrieving his body and burying him after his final battle (Samuel 2:5). Israel honored Joseph by bringing his mummified body with them for burial in the Promised Land 400 years after his death.
There are plenty of other ways to raise funds for ministry. The Archdiocese of Boston should value the love of others above the opportunity to make a few bucks.
PASTOR JON BARTA
Valley Baptist Church
From what I understand, this old graveyard is a bit dilapidated and not well-maintained. Perhaps some of the thousands of dollars generated by renting out the near imperceptible space in the woods at one end of its perimeter could be used to pay for some much-needed care.
I think a lot of the disgruntlement is over some superstitious belief that the dead will be disturbed by it all. People often spend a mint putting their dearly departed into fine wood caskets, erecting artistically chiseled headstones, and buying beautiful plots with a view, but in the final analysis it has nothing at all to do with the deceased.
The Bible says “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5 New International Version), and that doesn’t refer to the spiritual afterlife. It means that nobody is rolling over in their grave, apoplectic because someone hoisted an antenna nearby, or because wilted flowers are sitting above their mound of earth. They are dead, and they couldn’t care less.
The Apostle Paul says that we should “rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 New Living Translation). In other words, if we aren’t animating our flesh in this fallen world, then we are attending directly to God in glorious heaven, and no, we aren’t ghosting around cemeteries or haunting museums.
So, in my view, unless this is to be some terrible hideous eyesore (which does not appear to be the case at all) then there is nothing unholy, or profane, or violating to the current residents.
May they rest in peace, and they will, regardless of civilization’s advance.
THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM
Montrose Community Church
This issue is a tough one for me because I could argue both ways.
My faith tells me that this life is not the end, and so what happens in a cemetery shouldn’t bother me. However, then I got to thinking about where both of my parents are buried, and I wondered if I’d mind if a cell phone tower were built on the ground over their graves. Personally, I don’t think my parents would mind, because in a real sense they are not really there. But just because I wouldn’t mind doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t mind. So I think I’m going to have to side with those who think that the cemetery is hallowed ground; the church hierarchy should find another place for the tower.
I can appreciate the diocese is looking for ways to make money; just about all churches need money to make the institutions run. Still, the feelings of people are more important in this case than making money, so the tower should not be built in that cemetery.
Can you hear me now?
THE REV. C. L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN
Congregational Church of the Lighted Window
United Church of Christ
La Cañada Flintridge
I often ask myself whether there is any place that remains beyond the reach of modern society’s ever-increasing needs.
It’s certainly wonderful to have technological innovations like cell phones that enable us to communicate in ways never before possible — and I believe many of these advances, such as the Internet, are a great boon for religious organizations since they help us spread our spiritual message to a broader audience. But at some point, we must all take a step back and examine our priorities.
Are mobile phone towers really more important than the sanctity of a cemetery?
Cell phones have literally become appendages to the human body, and many people are tethered to them almost 24 hours a day. But I hope we haven’t become so dependent upon them that we’re willing to compromise the dignity of the dead.
According to Jewish tradition, cemeteries are places where the deceased find a measure of rest and solace. We visit the grave sites of the departed and say special prayers for their souls so that they may find peace in the afterlife.
Inserting cell phone towers into these serene locations denigrates the sacred atmosphere and shows real disrespect toward those who are buried there. And we must be sensitive to the feelings of the people who come to visit their departed loved ones, since most visitors would probably feel disturbed and distracted by such an intrusion.
Cemeteries across the nation should maintain a sense of dignity — and that means maintaining a certain level of protection against all businesses and developers who would trample upon their hallowed ground.
RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN
Chabad Jewish Center
Beauty is in the mind of the beholder. But the viewer is the living, not the dead. The gravestone monuments in cemeteries that still allow them range from pleasing to the eye to downright ugly.
With today’s ingenuity, we can make almost anything more beautiful. We have active oil wells in Los Angeles that appear to be ordinary homes. We have some offshore oil wells that are disguised as islands. We have cell phone antennas that look like palm trees or pine trees. Not to mention cosmetic surgery, which enhances the human figure.
To make a rational judgment on the 100-foot cell phone tower in a cemetery, we need much more information.
How large is the cemetery? Forest Lawn could easily hide that tower and no one would notice it.
What does the surrounding area look like? Residential or commercial? How high are those buildings?
Since it is a church cemetery, they probably have a chapel, office building and perhaps a mausoleum.
The cell phone antenna could be hidden in what looks like a bell tower. The Glendale area has about a dozen, and you probably haven’t noticed any of them.
The advantage to the church is of course a monthly rental income and to the public a better cell phone reception. The wanted conveniences of modern living require us to make some accommodations.
THE REV. GENE FRILOT
Incarnation Catholic Church
This incident gives us an insight into our attitudes toward death and the dead. It is akin to the events that took place in our own community a year or so ago with the closing of Grandview Memorial Park.
Raising a tower or closing the doors of the cemetery has no effect on the residents, but our reaction to these events speaks volumes about our fears and our need to connect to the infinite.
In our society, we have lost the connection to the sacred, and we look for opportunities to create those ties. Death is still mysterious enough that we approach the remains of the individual with reverence. From embalming to the linings of the caskets, we painstakingly try to preserve decomposing bodies and pay premiums for choice real estate to house those remains.
Take a look from anywhere in Glendale and you’ll see the green hills of Forest Lawn on both sides of us attesting to our need to pay top dollar for our dead, not because it’s the least we can do. But because, sadly, it is the most we are doing. Because we’re not living to our fullest capacity and potential, we compensate by making amends for it in the end.
In scripture we read that before a certain man would follow Jesus, he asked if he could go and bury his father. Jesus gives a seemingly insensitive answer, “Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.” (Matt. 8:22 New Revised Standard Version)
It may sound crass, but it’s the same response I’d give to this story. Yes, for some, the placement of remains is a sacred act and does require a view with reverence. For me, there are so many other things that require our attention and certainly our reverence. These things are the living. The health, education and welfare of our children and the suffering, to name just a couple of those living entities, will always preempt the needs of the dead. If a cell tower brings in money to do the good work, so be it.
FATHER VAZKEN MOVSESIAN
Armenian Church Youth Ministries
In His Shoes Mission