The Martyrdom of Stephen

I often hear Christians say that one testimony for the truth of the Gospel is the fact that people died to promote it. Beginning with Stephen's martyrdom, they point to the threats to life & limb that early Christians endured, all to carry their faith to the world.

Wouldn't a modern-day equivalent be Dr. George Tiller? He was previously shot, sued, stalked, threatened, nationally vilified, and eventually gunned down in his own Lutheran church. To convince this family man and skilled physician to continue his course of action, the values that he followed, placing the lives & welfare of women above his own, must have been equally powerful as any "truth" espoused by the early Christians.

Others have lauded the sacrifice made by his killer, Scott Roeder. By the way, Roeder is complaining to the Associated Press because jail is chilly and he needs his sleep apnea machine.

(Does whining disqualify you as a martyr?)

If willingness to suffer for others describes holiness, it seems to me George Tiller has achieved far greater sainthood than Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II. The Lutherans dumped beatification at the Reformation, but you get my point. Obviously, Dr. Tiller will be missed. And still, his care and concern will be picked up by other valiant professionals. There must be something to his gospel, if people are willing to risk death for it, right?

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Comment by NH Baritone on June 15, 2009 at 5:59pm
He also paid dearly by being shot by an anti-abortion activist a few years ago in both of his arms, national ridicule on Fox, being charged with crimes that he was later vindicated of, and being stalked outside his home & workplace. If that were the cost of doing business, most of us would have packed it in long ago. And after his death, a women's support organization received a check from Dr. Tiller, mailed before his death, for several thousand dollars to help poor women cover the costs of family planning services.

If you look into the eyes of a paramedic who just saved your life and say, "you were just doing what you were paid to do," then you have precious little understanding of why they do it. I suggest you also have little understanding of why Dr. Tiller pursued his life's work up to the end.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on June 14, 2009 at 1:35pm
"Risking death for a cause does not make the cause correct, or good, or right."
or logical, or sane
Comment by Daniel W on June 14, 2009 at 9:41am
This is the wikipedia definition of martyr: " individual who sacrifices their life (or their personal freedom) in order to further a cause or belief for many." Without wanting to ennoble the murderer, in a sense both men could be considered martyrs.

By all accounts, Tiller was a noble and brave man, who continued to do what he beleived in at great risk to himself. He was aware of the risk and sufferred prior attempts on his life. He was murdered because of his service to his cause.

Roeder is a terrorist. By whining about jail being chilly, he certainly makes terrorism seem less bold and manly. He rad away and hid after commiting his murder, so he obviously wanted to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. He did take some personal risk in commiting the murder, but his actions showed that he is a coward. Not the best example of a Christian martyr, but still meets the definition, in a legalistic sense. Says something about modern Christian martyrs. He's up there with Prejean, another martyr to the Christian cause, having undergone the torture of boob enhancement and forced to disrobe in order to testify for Jesus. Joan of Arc would be proud.

Risking death for a cause does not make the cause correct, or good, or right. It just means that the person who risked death placed a higher value on what they were doing, than on their life. Or that they were not thinking clearly.

That being said, I consider Tiller's example one worth great honor, and Roeder's example worthy of shame and derision.


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