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So I was reading this post on slacktivist’s blog, and the whole thing just felt very odd to me — I mean, beyond the usual oddness of trying to wrap your head around a subculture you don’t belong to. And I realized a little later that what was striking me as odd was the whole concept of martyrdom. I don’t get it at all.
I mean, from my perspective, the choice of ‘renounce your faith or die’ isn’t a choice. The answer is: you lie. You lie your head off. (It becomes much more understandable in a situation like Joan of Arc’s, where you’re going to die no matter what you say and lying really wouldn’t do you any good. In that case, yes, stand true to yourself and your faith. But if lying can save your life from an unjust tyrant, you fucking lie.)
Okay, yes, telling a lie is ‘wrong’, but there are mitigating circumstances. Slacktivist writes elsewhere (I can’t find the post) about the ‘righteous Gentiles’ who lied and lied and lied to the Nazis in order to protect hidden Jews. It’s the whole ‘lying to a murderer who asks where his victim is’ thing. Those lies are at the very least ethically defensible, if not obligatory.
And — more to the point — what use are you to anyone if you’re killed? If you can lie to get away, then you can continue helping others and serving your religion and doing good, even if you have to do it in secret. If you get killed for your faith, maybe you’ll be able to inspire others, but you won’t be able to feed them or protect them.
In Judaism we have an entire holiday around the New Year — Kol Nidre — which is based on this. Essentially, at Kol Nidre you say to God, “Hey, I’m just letting you know that in this upcoming year, I might have to lie about my faith in order to survive. If that happens, know that I don’t mean it, that you and I are still cool even if you hear me say otherwise. Sorry in advance.” That is how you do it, how I’m used to doing it. That’s what I was raised with.
I don’t know all that much about Christian martyrs, early or otherwise, so if I’m missing some vital part of this whole process, please let me know. And know that I in no way intend to offend anyone, Christian or otherwise; I have enormous respect for all Christians (and all people), especially those who are dedicated to the principles of kindness and charity expressed by their religion. I’m just expressing a cultural difference that jumped out at me while reading this post.
I love you all, and I hope you found this interesting or enlightening in some way.
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Anger, that beautiful daughter of hope, demands action. Anger changes things. It seeks to correct the injustice that offendedness merely wants to savor. Anger sees injustice and tries to rip it out at the root. Offendedness looks at injustice the way a oenophile looks at a nice bottle of Chianti — wanting to preserve it in the cellar with the rest of the well-stocked, impeccably organized collection so that one day it might be taken out and enjoyed, swirled on the tongue to luxuriate in every piquant note of flavor.
Quote with 5 notes
If we believe that all humans are both intrinsically valuable and intrinsically fallible, then we are compelled to be tolerant of others in recognition of their worth and dignity and of our own humble and partial and likely flawed perspective.