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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The early martyrs talked about battles, warfare, and victory, but all of their "combat language" was spiritualized as they peaceably emulated Jesus' sacrifice. That's not always the case today. New Year's Day 2011, a car bomb killed about 20 worshipers at a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt. Despite Christian leaders' pleas that the violence should stop with these deaths, local Christians ransacked a mosque, burning its holy books.
Notre Dame University professor Candida Moss uses that anecdote to introduce her new book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (HarperOne). She believes that the "violent" response of Christians sprang from seeing themselves as a persecuted minority, a perspective that she believes grew out of a flawed understanding of church history. Moss wants to undermine the martyrdom "mythology" that feeds this sense of persecution. But she goes beyond the pale when she writes, "The rhetoric of persecution legitimates and condones retributive violence."
The martyr tradition does nothing of the sort. This is why Egyptian Christian leaders argued against a violent response. The authentic martyr tradition emulates Jesus, who remained silent, "like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb" (Isa. 53:7, RSV).
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