A World of Speculation

Christians are getting down to the discussion of the two reporters who decided to “convert” to Islam at the point of a gun.

Grace asks pertinently:

I’m not saying that the martyr’s crown is for everyone. If it was, there would be nothing exceptional about martyrs. But here we are, nearly 100 years later, and the radical Muslims are still fighting a religious war. Have they not noticed how much the Western world has changed? Do they know how many prisoners they would have to go through to find one that wouldn’t deny Christ to save his or her life?

Will they find any?

And GetReligion points out the double standard:

Try to picture an army of Ann Coulters — in black leather skirts, perhaps — forcing a pair of defenseless Muslims to convert, with swords at their throats and video cameras aimed at their faces. That would not happen, of course. At worse, Coulter would force them to listen to her do dramatic readings from her upcoming greatest hits collection. But you get the point. At Georgetown University, if would almost certainly be a thought crime to ask two Muslims to get a cup of coffee and discuss the Trinity.

And Rod Dreher agrees with David Warren that the freed reporters ought at least to have the decency to be ashamed of their cravenness.

And I don’t dispute any of their points. But one of the commenters on Dreher’s blog gets at the essential confusion about what it means to “die for Christ”:

I would choose life. I would choose to carry my faith in my heart and lie through my teeth to survive the experience, because no matter what you say about faith, it dies when the body and mind dies, and there is little to depend on beyond that very faith for what comes after death.

But it’s really not about “dying for Christ,” so much as it’s about not letting a little thing like death make someone lie about who he is or what’s real. Or, more accurately, it’s that death clarifies and reveals the essential reality at the base of who we are.

It’s no benefit to Christ that people die, whether for Him or for Western civilization. The Christian martyr is not the master of his own death — which is exactly the point.

The “witness” of the martyr is not that death is nothing, but that it’s the final spotlight on who we are and what we care about. It’s the Misfit saying, “She could have been a good woman if she had someone to kill her every minute” (quoted from memory, so not guaranteed for accuracy). It’s St. Polycarp replying to the same offer the reporters had: “I have served Christ for six and eighty years, and never has he done me evil. How, then, can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”

Obviously, reporters Centanni and Wiig have not served Christ for 86 years (even together, they probably haven’t lived that long), and when the bright light shone on their values, they revealed what they believed. They seem satisfied with what they found.

Like Dreher, Warren, Mattingly and Grace, I would be horrified and humiliated to discover that my reality was so small. I would come back, not bragging about it, but repenting of its paucity and working to enlarge it. In fact, as I type this post, I worry that my reality doesn’t measure up to that of an 86-year-old (or older) man’s (though my assumption that reality shrinks as we age is perhaps evidence of my own immaturity).

We all get that light shined on us sooner or later, though for most the decision isn’t televised. I think I’m glad. It raises the concept of Survivor to a whole new level.