The Last Lecture: Life or Lie?

by A. Maeve McDonald

Soon after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and being given months to live, 47-year-old Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave a stirring speech to his students in what soon became famously coined as, “The Last Lecture.” The lecture went viral. Dr. Pausch appeared on Oprah to deliver a condensed version of his lecture before millions of viewers. And during his remaining months, he co-authored a best-selling book based on his life-lessons, which involved a discussion of the importance of childhood dreams and how to go about achieving them as one grows older.

You likely remember Dr. Pausch from a few years ago. And perhaps you think of him as a brave, inspiring, and likable man, who helped many people live life to the fullest and appreciate more deeply the time they have with their loved ones. He was certainly successful in encouraging us all to stop sweating the small stuff, and for that there is something to be said.

But, tragically, the truth is this: Dr. Pausch missed the point. In fact, he didn’t even come close to it.
As the New York Times lightheartedly put it,

Dr. Pausch gave practical advice in his lecture, avoiding spiritual and religious matters. He did, however, mention that he experienced a near-deathbed conversion: he switched and bought a Macintosh computer.

While many may have been inspired by the head-on, practical, and good-humored way in which Dr. Pausch faced his imminent death, listening to his lecture sent chills down my spine. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him. I liked him a lot. And that made it even worse. For all I could think as I listened to him talk was, where is God? Yet, surprisingly many Christians joined in the widespread acclamation of Dr. Pausch, embracing his positive outlook, sharing his video online, and buying his book.

Recently, as I awaited the results of a biopsy myself—results that might very well have meant I could be facing something similar to Dr. Pausch—I thought of The Last Lecture. And I thought of what type of lecture I might give if I were in the same boat. What would I want the world to know? What wisdom would I want to impart to my children?

The immediate answer was black-and-white, pure and simple…


Faith Actually: The Last Lecture: Life or Lie?