Real Martyrs Don't Murder
Moss worries that when Christians see themselves as part of the martyr tradition, they turn combative. But that same belief may more frequently lead Christians to accommodate evil, as did many Christians who thought the slave trade too entrenched to overthrow. We must learn to resist evil without demonizing or polarizing.
Michael Glen Bell and Duane W. H. Arnold's new song collection, The Project: Martyrs Prayers (themartyrsproject.com), finds this balance. They have posted two sample videos on YouTube—artfully filmed and musically sensitive vehicles for the prayers of two martyred archbishops, 20th-century Salvadoran Óscar Romero and 12th-century Englishman Thomas Becket.
Candida Moss's logic would say these two were not killed because for what they believed. Instead, they were the victims of power struggles. But surely it was their Christian faith that made them stand up for the church, the truth, and (in Romero's case) the poor. Because of their faith in Christ, they used their ecclesiastical power to resist the abusive power of the state. Each believed he was sacrificing his life for Jesus.
Moss may define martyrdom too narrowly, but she is right to spotlight two outstanding leaders from the age of martyrs, who show best how to respond to persecution. Justin and Tertullian argued for truth, using "the rhetoric and ideals of the Roman Empire to make their case that Christians should be tolerated," she writes. "Perhaps if we are to appeal to the history of persecution in the early church, this should be our model."
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