Sunday, October 05, 2008

Difficult Question Time for the Religious

This is a question for the Judeo-Christian types. There are some atheists that this question may apply as well as a few Hindu, Muslim, and perhaps even Buddhist types (and I recognize that some in the last category view it as not so much religious as philosophical).

With little exception, we all want the best for our children. We want them to be happy. We want them to be successful. We want them to Live Long and Prosper.

However, today I happened to think of the Columbine High School massacre and more specifically about Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott. Both are considered to be martyrs and, by the best accounts of the witnesses given, Bernall was possibly given a chance to recant her faith.

I received an email recently that gave the following scenario: Gunmen enter a church and tell the congregation that they are going to kill the believers. They then offer any non-believers the chance to leave. Once most of the congregation has left, they tell the preacher he may continue and they leave. It was meant to be a ruse to purge the unfaithful and the hypocrites from the congregation.

I like to think that I would be faithful to the last and that I would die fighting. I like to think that were I to die fighting, my “side” would be victorious. I like to think that if fighting were not an option, I would be an honorable martyr.

My question is not for what you would do or like to think you would do.
My question is thus:

If put into the scenario where your child were to either die a martyr or had the option to live if only he would recant his faith, which would you prefer he do?

I must admit, this one is hard for me.


Weetabix said...

That is a hard one. It tests how thoroughly you believe in the afterlife.

If you're a serious and true believe in salvation, I'd think you would have to answer, "die a martyr" if there's absolutely no alternative between dying and a true recanting.

The purpose of life on earth (to severely over-simplify) is growth and salvation. The best for our kids is salvation.

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

That's the pure (boolean?) answer.

The more real answer is that no choice is really ever that clear. I'd try, and I'd want my kids to try, to make the other guy die for his faith and to save the other people in that church.

Shawn McManus said...

100% agreed.

I like to think that my children would have the fortitude and faith to hold something that sacred.

I also like to think that my children will do everything they can to make sure any zombies die for their faith before any of my children die for their own.

Mark said...

I followed the link from your e-mail and read this, thought I'd respond.

There's one thing missing from your Christian understanding of martyrdom, it's not AT ALL up to you. It is entirely due to the Grace of God that you have the strength to be a martyr. You therefore don't rely upon your own faith, your own strength, your own belief.

Some years ago I read about a group of monks who went to Rome to offer themselves as martyrs under the Neronian (IIRC) persecutions, they all wound up recanting and escaping martyrdom because they saw it as their own choice, not God's.

In the end, it doesn't matter what I'd want my (in my case theoretical) children to do, it's not up to me or them. It's like the old bromide, if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans.

Shawn McManus said...


Thanks for the comment. I'll rephrase the question this way:

Would you rather your child perish mortal death for his faith or recant?

I understand that I don't understand God's plans. I once asked God how long a billion years was to him. He told me, "A SECOND." So I then asked how much a billion dollars was to him. He told me, "A PENNY." Trying to be smart, I asked, "May I have a penny." He said, "SURE. JUST A SECOND..."