Saturday, September 02, 2006

Contra Apostasy

I see a lot of blog activity regarding the recent release of FOX news reporters Centenni and Wiig, who were set free after forcibly converting to Islam. Most of the commentary is disapproving--yet usually along the lines of "I'd have done the same thing, only I'd feel worse about afterwards than they do."

I'd hope, if it were me, that I wouldn't go apostate. I dunno if Centenni and Wiig have any Christian faith; I do, and I was raised to appreciate the glory of martyrdom.

I've heard Catholicism accused of morbidity, and with some reason: the omnipresence of death and the promise of Eternal Life through Christ is a winning sales pitch around the world. Death, to Catholics, marks not the end of awareness, but the end of our ability to improve ourselves in Christ, a dormancy ended by the Day of Judgement. The living might pray for merciful intercession on behalf of the dead, but the dead themselves cannot perform good works or undertake repentance. Apart from those devout and grace-endowed few who are granted immediate colloquoy with God--the saints--for most, death is a time of uncertainty which we can approach with hope but without certainty of salvation. (For a thorough secular examination of the Catholic view, see Patrick N. Geary's "The Cult of the Dead").

Not so the martyrs.

We have the direct assurance of Christ that "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:10. Which elsewhere was demonstrated at the martyrdom of Stephen, who said "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Acts 7:56. And there is the second crucified thief at Golgotha, who dying, acknowledged Christ as the king of heaven and was assured salvation: "Truly, this day you shall be with me in Paradise" Luke 23:40-43. And also there are the thousands of documented intercessions by martyred saints through the millenia.

To die affirming Christ takes strong faith and humility--the submergence of the ego into a concentration on spiritual matters--but its reward is purity of spirit and the only true Eternal Life.

I don't have to condemn Centenni and Wiig to affirm the Truth that a martyr is always a successful Christian.