Funeral music can be beautiful, declaring the Gospel and the majesty of God. Or, it can be maudlin, superficial, banal — and even heretical. The choice says much about us, and much about our faith.

In an increasingly secular world, the abandonment of Christianity is now reflected in a drastic change in funeral music.

Janice Turner, writing in the November 19 edition of The Times [London], reports that many families in England are choosing secular music for funerals. In “Say Nighty-Night, But Not With a Hymn,” she describes this change: To us hymns are just half-remembered school songs; prayers are comforting but broken spells; God’s name has been sullied by hypocrites and zealots; death — we’re betting, though we hoped to be wrong — is no glorious hereafter but the great bugger-all. Without faith, all we have is now, each other and the songs we grew up with, which embody our lives’ meaning, our love affairs and losses. What sounded profane to our parents is to us sacred. Pop is our only ceremonial music and, in the years to come, it will provide our unlikely requiems.