Should We Venerate Martyrs or Those Who Use Violence to Prevent Martyrdom?

July 23, 2017

 

Although nuance is important and required when making any comparison, there’s still a conspicuous contradiction in Christianity’s historical posture towards martyrdom and our desire to use violence to preserve our comfort, wealth, and “freedom.” And added to this, we often ignore the reality that martyrdom is an expression of nonviolence — that violent insurrection, revolt, and self-defence was an option that martyrs rejected.

 

But the contradiction is this: we venerate Saints when they are martyred for the Faith, while simultaneously recommending that we protect these potential martyrs by killing those who wish to carry out the act that would have validated their veneration and Sainthood (it’s okay if you have to read that a few more times).

 

We venerate martyrs while recommending that we make martyrs of those who wish to make our martyrs.

 

So, which is it? Do we venerate martyrdom or the violent prevention of martyrdom? Which one of these two acts exhibits holiness? Do we uphold as our example Christ’s willingness to absorb our violence when he accepted his own execution (1 Pt. 2:21), or do we lament that Jesus didn’t join Peter in defending himself with the sword that he told Peter to put away or appeal to the Father to send twelve legions of angels in his defence that he had the power to do but nevertheless eschewed (Mt. 26:51–53)? 

 

To my knowledge, there is no other act for which a Saint is venerated that we condone killing another human being to prevent it from taking place. This should give us pause and guide what we should internalize, what we should uphold as the model of our own behaviour.

 

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