Do you want to be a Modern Martyr?

The stoning to death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in a painting by the 16th-century Spanish artist Juan Correa de Vivar

I’m assuming that the concept of a Martyr is familiar. It is of course somebody who is persecuted and perhaps also killed because of their strongly held beliefs. It need not be religious but can also be political. However, the most common use of the word is usually associated with religion.

You don’t need to think too hard to list a few famous examples. Paul, the guy who wrote many of the new testament letters, most probably was killed by Nero, but there is a great deal of fuzziness about the precise details. The disciple Peter was also, by tradition, killed by Nero, but once again so much time has passed, we don’t have precise details. Tradition identifies them both as Martyrs.

On Wikipedia you can find a long list of famous Christian Martyrs. Just click each name in turn to see who they were and what happened. There we can find many well-known names. For example William Tyndale, the guy who translated the bible into english then flooded England with printed copies. There we also find Thomas More, the Chancellor of Henry VIII who had his head chopped off because he refused to go along with Henry’s break from Rome.

A more familiar example of a modern political martyr is Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, lawyer, anti-corruption activist, and political prisoner who died in mysterious circumstances while serving a 19-year prison sentence in the corrective colony FKU IK-3. Even if his death was natural, there is no denying that his arrest and imprisonment was political persecution. There is also no denying that he fully deserves to be recognised as a hero who took a stance against corruption and it has cost him his life.

Do we have any Modern Christian Martyrs?

Yes, but the use of the word “Martyr”, while strictly true in the dictionary sense that they died because of their religious beliefs, it is also not the whole story. Because they are recent we have access to all the details and can see that it was not purely religious but instead was utter stupidity that got them killed. Let’s look at a few to see what actually happened.

John Allen Chau

John Allen Chau attended Oral Roberts University and graduated in 2014. He then went on to become an Evangelical Christian Missionary for an organization called All Nations. There he gained a passionate desire to convert the Sentinelese, a tribe who live in voluntary isolation on a remote island.

The Sentinelese are deeply hostile to all outsiders and have killed any who approached or landed on their island. Despite knowing this, John set off in November 2018. He got there by paying two fishermen US$420 to take him near their island.

In his diary he notes …

“Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold, where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”, “The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand”, and “I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed … Don’t retrieve my body.”

Once he got close the fishermen begged him to go no further, but he ignored them. As he approached they became hostile so he retreated. Undeterred, he kept trying.

The inevitable happened, he persisted and they killed him.

While some might consider him to be a Christian Martyr and hero, he was in reality a very delusional 26 year old kid who managed to get himself killed by doing something utterly stupid. Chau’s father blamed his son’s death on the missionary community for inculcating an extreme Christian vision in his son.

When the news of it all broke, there was a great deal of wholly justified criticism of his efforts because of the risk that he carried to the Sentinelese. There was a significant possibility that he would be bringing lethal infections that would have potentially wiped out the entire group because of their unprotected immune system.

3 Christian Missionaries Killed in Haiti

Davy and Natalie Lloyd (via Facebook)

An even more recent example concerns the deaths of Davy and Natalie Lloyd, and also Jude Montis last week (May 24).

Reuters reports …

Three Christian missionaries from Missions in Haiti were shot and killed in an ambush by a gang in Haiti, the Oklahoma-based group said on Friday.

A Facebook posting by Missions in Haiti has further details …

Then …

For a bit of context, Haiti is now such a dangerous place that the U.S. State Department has very explicitly warned Americans against traveling there with a very strong advisory …

What happened to them is utterly tragic.

It was also grossly irresponsible for their Mission Organisation to not pull them out but instead knowingly left them in extreme danger. It was not an accident, but rather was once again the result of a jaw-dropping degree of crass stupidity. They were not slaughtered because they were Christian, but rather because they placed themselves into the middle of a failed lawless state and so they were easy targets for local gangs.

One could also ask what these missionaries were actually doing there, because Haiti is already supposedly 94% Christian. That nation is currently in dire trouble and does indeed greatly need a great deal of help. However, what they really did not need was for victims to show up and then toss themselves on an alter waiting to be sacrificed.

My Key Point

Yes there are people who do willingly give up their lives for a just cause, for example Alexei Navalny.

However, there are also people who become ensnared by fanatical beliefs that then motivates them to do some incredibly stupid and utterly pointless things that then results in them being jailed or killed.

What we believe ends up inspiring us to do specific things. If those beliefs are a delusion, then people will act in a manner that is destructive to both themselves and also potentially. It need not be the big dramatic stuff such as the above examples.

COVID resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Americans. 232,000 of those that died need not have done so. They died as “Martyrs” to the false believe that vaccines were harmful and that masks did not work. Because such beliefs went viral and enough people refused to wear masks, or get vaccinated, and insisted on attending super-spreader events many died.

Believing stuff that is not actually true can and does have consequences.

This is perhaps really a tale of caution that warns us all to be prepared to examine our own conclusions about what is and is not true. Seriously now, who actually wants to be a martyr for a belief that is not actually true at all, and yet sadly, as COVID illustrated, people manage to do exactly that all the time.

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