September 6, 2006


Centanni and Wiig, the Gaza-kidnapped and now-released Fox jouralists, feigned conversion to Islam at gunpoint.

This incident reminds us that Islam, for all the talk of "no compulsion in religion" approves of conquest of the unbelievers.

It also raises the question of whether we in the secularized West have the strength and belief to resist a more brutal but more committed creed such as Islam. Kobayashi Maru, in spite of the name not a Star Trek site, argues here that it would be a good thing if Western Christians accepted martyrdom (literally "witness") instead of forced conversion.
There was once a time when ordinary men and women with families and homes and perfectly bright futures and plenty to go back to--just like most of us, and just like the FOX reporters--were so convinced of the beautiful truth that God had come into the world for their sakes and sacrificed His only son that they did the irrational thing and refused to profess loyalty to Roman gods they knew to be false. They allowed themselves to be hung on crosses and ripped apart by lions and pierced with arrows and burned and beaten and minced in innumerable ways.

Most of them could have avoided such fates quite easily. They didn't. And people paid attention. Even Rome eventually paid attention. On their suffering and in their memory was born a great religion of peace--one that doesn't have to say so repeatedly in order to be taken seriously.

* * * *

Those same courageous individuals at the dawn of the first milennium could have said simply, "whatever". Roll the tape, Achmed. Hand me the script, Caesar... and we never would have remembered them. Nothing would have been built.

They were not so different from us... except in their reverence for words and oaths and the infinitely rippling impact of public expressions of faith (or lack thereof). They are the saints of old. They are alive and watching. They are praying for a few brave souls to hold back the waves of bowel-clenching dread and say to their captors:
'No'. I will not bow to a false god. Behead me if you wish. I know my salvation is in Christ. I know the world is watching. I know what I must say. I know what I must do. Your will, not mine, oh Lord.

Imagine such a spectacle: a modern saint on the nightly news--a wholly different kind of martyr. Not the kind we're used to hearing about who blows himself up on the subway. Just as firm in conscience, but utterly submissive in body. Imagine. More powerful than the greatest army. . .
I'm not a believer, and I'm chary of judging those who face terrors I only imagine. But KM has a point. If we love life so much we are afraid to lose it, as a civilization we are, perhaps, done for.

Nor is martyrdom only ancient. Multitudes of Orthodox Russians died in the gulags. Although it can't be said that all the victims of the Holocaust died for their faith, some of them did, with the Shema'a on their lips. Who knows, but I will not say they died in vain.

HT: The Anchoress.

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