"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why I like Boxing Day

Not because of the tradition that the British made of the day after Christmas, which is about extending Christmas gift-giving. Rather, because it's the Feast of St. Stephen, the first recorded martyr (Acts 6:8-7:60). What I love about this saint is that, "filled with the Holy Spirit," he did not hesitate to tell the religious "authorities" exactly what they did not want to hear, in a manner that could not have been better calculated to infuriate them. He probably knew he would pay for it with his life—which he promptly did, while forgiving his killers.

Since it is related approvingly by Scripture, what this episode shows is that there is a place for confrontation about religion. In a country like ours, that place seems ever narrower. Persecution is very rarely violent, and takes place not in the name of putative Truth—which I wouldn't so much mind—as in the name of "diversity" and "tolerance," which disgusts me. In keeping with the values of our cultural √©lites, the courts are determined to make the public square ever more secular. Ideology aside, only religious nuts fail to weigh the evangelical disadvantages of being considered a religious nut. And many of us have obligations to others that the pleasure of martyrdom would not be excuse enough for avoiding. Even so, I know there is a fearless St. Stephen hidden within me, itching to get out, and I am far from alone: otherwise we wouldn't be writing blogs in which the subject most often discussed is one that American mores enjoin people from discussing, save perhaps obliquely, in polite company. A few sound religious bloggers I follow, who shall remain unnamed for reasons that good sense precludes stating, have received death threats for publishing their views.

But the world is bigger, both temporally and spatially, than the deracinated West nowadays. The 20th century saw more Christian martrys than all others combined. Today still, though not on a totalitarian scale, Christians abroad are being attacked and in some cases killed just for their faith. Behind our computers, it's easy to forget that.

St. Stephen, pray for us.
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