Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Robbed of one's head or robbed of one's martyrdom

Image result for beheading of john the baptist

It's always a bit of a shock to us when we realise that people die horribly for the Christian Faith. Apparently, the Christian Faith is one of today's most persecuted religions. That seems rather glib compared with the Holocaust and because of the suffering of our Jewish brothers and sisters. We Christians have had genocides of our own certainly in the Middle East today, but also in such times as the Armenian Genocide of the last century. This is not a point-scoring exercise: it should make us all more compassionate for each other and not allow one more person to suffer for their faith.

Today, we watch aghast as the Last Prophet is beheaded just like our brothers at the hands of ISIS for no other reason than that his Faith is offensive. He is beheaded during a feast, a time of celebration, and thus kills the ability of those present to celebrate without his blood staining their festivities. St John is no fool: he knows that this day is coming. He knows that his words that he must decrease for Christ's sake bear a revolting irony. And yet he embraces it, just as St Bartholomew, in some narratives, embraces being skinned alive, as St Lawrence embraces the grid-iron and St John Intercisus embraces being dismembered slowly.

How do they do it? How could we ever hope to go through the same thing for the love of Christ?

However, in the West we are being robbed of the opportunity for martyrdom.

If we just step back a bit, as soon as someone becomes a martyr, their belief becomes apparent to all around them. That's not exactly something that the Devil will want to encourage, so what obstacles can this wretch put in our way to prevent us from embracing martyrdom?

First, he can present it as something too much for us to endure. This is true. Not one of us really wants to think about the awful ways that we could be put to death and culture seems to take a morbid fascination with the details of death. We worry about whether we could hold on and thus despair of our own ability to be faithful. In our comfortable Western lives, the idea of suffering is contrary to anything that we could imagine. The key thing to remember is that we trust in Christ and, if ever we are called to suffer like this, that He would be there somehow to help us. We don't have to imagine it now, but rely on Him. Satan wants to undermine our trust in God's fidelity.

Second, the Devil can present us with an easy escape from martyrdom. Not all martyrdom involves death, though that is the popular usage of the word. Martyrdom is about the testimony that we bear and for which we are prepared to suffer by bearing it. The issues of Abortion, Euthanasia, Divorce, and physically expressed Same-Sex relations are all related to the issue of taking away the necessity for someone to suffer. Because it is not necessary to suffer, it becomes morally acceptable to take the easy way out. This is not the way out of Temptation that St Paul mentions in I Corinthians x.13. Again, there is a temptation of a lack of faith in God, but further, there is a temptation to see Sin as preferable to suffering for love of God.

For example, we can look at the suicide of Razis in II Maccabees xiv. He commits suicide rather than being taken by the wicked Nicanor. This cannot be a moral act, for wilful and intended suicide is still a form of murder. Samson fell to the Philistines who shamed and humiliated him: his death was incidental to his intended destruction of the enemies of God. Razis' situation is not. However it may be a sin, we can see that it cannot have the gravity of the suicide of one who is bored with living. His death forces us to be compassionate on all who are tempted to suicide such as those dying of painful, debilitating disease.

The same is true of each of the other temptations. It becomes the duty of the Church to reach out to those in this form of temptation lest they fall into sin. Indeed, it is the failure of members of the Church to provide mechanisms to prevent the spiritual damage that makes these issues all the more distressing. There are those who dispassionately cite chapter and verse and do nothing else save "pray," and there are those who capitulate and legislate that sin become morally acceptable for compassion's sake. Neither are acceptable.

Third, the Devil seeks to use the problem of Evil to discredit the love of God. The problem of suffering is horrible and yet inescapable. It is the reason why so many clever and respectable intellects have turned their back on the The Creator and, thus, on the One Who can give any form of suffering a worth greater than can be imagined. The answer to this is the Cross: an answer that the Atheist cannot accept, and yet the only answer the Christian can give. Yet it is the Cross that we must bear if we are to be martyrs to the Gospel of Christ of the reality of Salvation, of the remission of Sin, of the purification, justification, and sanctification of the soul and of the sure hope that we can and will be reconciled with God in Eternity.

At every stage, our opportunities for martyrdom in the West are being robbed by the politically correct. Ironically, it provides those who seek to be faithful to God, His Creation and Rule, with the opportunity for a different form of martyrdom - that of social death! This is what we see now. To oppose the Transgender Agenda, Same-Sex Marriage and the cry "Abortions for all, at any time, for any reason" is now seen as social suicide and estrangement often results. No longer are Traditional Christians allowed to voice their dissent without being seen as personae non gratae. Yes, we have the freedom of speech and we must accept the consequences for what we say. That's exactly what St John the Baptist did,

Yet, before we accept the world's punishment and embrace "Martyrdom," we ought to ensure that our witness truly is of the Love of God for the world, especially for every single individual human being. There's no way that the "God hates Fags" theology of the Westboro Baptist Church is Christian. Their suffering for this "creed" will be shown up on the Last Judgement for what it is.

Saying that, so will my suffering for the creed I profess.

And yours.

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