Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Martyr

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, the US government was quick to remove the body to bury it at sea. There were criticisms from one side fueling conspiracy theories that he wasn't actually killed since no concrete evidence was ever provided. While critics on the other side noted that the Muslim religion required burial within two days.

A few months later, Muammar Qaddafi was killed during the Lybian uprising. His body was kept on full display, long after the two days their religion prescribed, for the Lybian people to see. He is now buried in an undisclosed location.

In both cases, their final resting place was kept secret so as to not become shrines. Critics have pointed out, in both cases, that these leaders should not have been killed but rather held on trial like ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. They argue that killing these leaders elevates them to martyrs, evidenced by how their burials were handled.

This isn't a political post, but Qaddafi's headline was fresh in my mind as I was reading about the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, the first martyr of Christian Church. At the time, it could be argued that the Jewish leaders had enough; after warning the disciples to stop their blasphemy in the Temple and in synagogues, an example had to be made. A later verse stands out to confirm this: "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:3, emphasis added) I would expect their desired outcome would have been the disciples backing away in fear. I expect government and rebel leaders felt the same about Bin Laden and Qaddafi.

But the disciples did not back away nor did they back down. Acts 8 continues, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (v 4) Martyrdom didn't stop this religious revolution, it emboldened it.

Maybe it's a stretch to compare these two brutal megalomaniacs with the first Christian martyr whose "face was like the face of an angel." (Acts 6:15) But I think this example, not to mention others in history, prove that the critics have a valid point.

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