Tuesday, March 14, 2006

quaker martyr

I'm finally home and done with my midterms after being gone for the weekend.

While hanging out with friends in Northampton, MA, my husband checked his email and learned about the death of Tom Fox, the member of Christian Peacemaker Teams who had been abducted with his coworkers in November. After all this time waiting and praying perhaps I should have been ready for this news, but of course there's always that glimmer of hope--maybe they'll change. Maybe they'll see the Light and respond to it positively. Maybe a miracle will happen...

We went to Northampton Friends Meeting and many people spoke about Tom, as I'm sure happened in many meetings around the world. One Friend stood and said, "Another Quaker martyr is not something we're looking for," and added something about the fact that we're proud of his willingness to stand for what he believed.

I agree--we don't really WANT more martyrs, but it got me thinking: what is martyrdom good for? I was also thinking about this a lot last semester as I studied early church history as well as the Radical Reformation. I've been thinking about the positives and negatives of martyrdom. Tom Fox's death brought it closer to home.

So what is martyrdom for? It's obviously bad in that a person has to die, and someone has to kill them. It's also bad because sometimes people kind of want to be martyred so they'll be remembered and seen as a saint--so it's bad if there are poor intentions.

I think it can also be good in some ways, although I don't think it is ever necessary. The goal is that people would stand up for what is right, and those acting unjustly would see the error of their ways and change, allowing the would-be martyr to live. The goal is that through the life and courage of a person convicted by the Spirit to live a just and truthful life, others will see that and be challenged, and come to God themselves.

But what good is someone's death, even for a good cause, if no one changes because of it? It's good in that the person who died lived their lives fully for God, and that can never be diminshed in importance.

At the same time, I believe each martyr that is added to our ranks adds a weight of responsibility on those of us still left. Are we going to sit around mourning our loss and then get on with our lives, or are we going to take on the responsibility the martyrs have left us and live fully into our callings to truth, justice and radical love?

Another Quaker martyr is not something we want, but it is something we have. How are you--how am I--going to live out the call Tom Fox felt to work for justice in this world? Are we going to let his death remain admirable but meaningless? Or are we going to let it be a challenge and a catalyst for transformation in our individual lives and in the Society of Friends?

Why are there so few people involved in Christian Peacemaker Teams and other organizations like it? Why do we still pay our taxes that support this war and drive our cars that create the need for this war? Why do we talk about peace and justice and continue living as we have?

Are we willing to allow ourselves to be challenged by this witness, this martyr, who through his death is holding us accountable to live out our beliefs or let our hearts be further hardened? What do you feel called to do in response?

I think if we allow ourselves to be challenged and transformed in this way, a miracle will have happened from this situation.

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