murder and martyr

With yesterday's post about Benedict's speech -- which, apparently, was an insult to Allah, to the extent that violence, murder and mayhem was warranted to refute the Pope's claim that violence, murder and mayhem are illegitimate tools of religion -- there has to be some mention of , who was almost immediately a victim of Muslim outrage.

Let's be clear that this murder is a moral outrage, a political line in the sand, and an exemplary demonstration of what Islam is trying to achieve on the global stage. The death of Sister Leonella ought to be a wake-up call for the West -- and for anyone who values Western civilization in any way. That would include, for example, any country that makes a lot of money by selling oil to the West -- somehow our ideas are fetid and repulsive, but our money spends just fine.

The death -- excuse me: the murder -- of Sister Leonella is certainly a crime. It demonstrates that we are in a high-stakes game between two kinds of civilizations. It is the ultimate kind of injustice, when the merciful and the generous are murdered because of the alleged intellectual crimes of their leaders.

But let me ask a question if it will not turn the blog into a brawl: was her death "martyrdom"? That is: was she murdered for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, or was she a victim of another kind of crime which really didn't really have anything to do with the Gospel?

I think that's an interesting question. See: I'm not suggesting that because she's a Catholic that she could not have been advancing the Gospel -- that's a question which is itself interesting, but it ought not to be the topic we prop up on the grave of an innocent woman. What I'm suggesting is this: when we indisciminately call any death of a person with a religious title "martyrdom", we are cheapening the language of evangelism and of the faith by a significant degree.

I want you to think about this seriously. The primary reason the gunman who murdered Sister Leonella was the insult to Islam he perceived in the remarks by the Pope which had nothing to do with the Gospel. James White has done a fine job of outlining Benedict's use of 14th century sources to make a specific point, but what is that point? Jesus Christ is Lord and Christ? He who does not accept the Son does not accept the Father? No: the point is that no matter what your religion is, the use of violence to advance your point is both inhuman and evil.

Anybody could say that and be taken seriously. And the Pope has a fine pulpit from which to say such a thing because he is perceived by Muslims as speaking for a large part of the rest of the world. That is: if you really believe that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet, say it, don't spray it with bullets.

And in that, Sister Leonella was murdered for the plea for mere political and intellectual civility on the part of the Pope. He didn't say, "let's just settle for the God of Abraham and call it quits, yes?" He said that if mankind is to address the moral questions which we encounter in this day and age, we must begin from a moral platform which allows for dissent and for reasonable encounter.

So on the one hand, let's not confuse some act of indiscriminate violence with martyrdom. Sister Leonella died not because the Gospel was preached but because merely-political philosophy was preached -- and rejected! Calling her death "martyrdom" discounts the message of the Gospel to worldly political reasoning.

But on the other hand, Sister Leonella was murdered to threaten and oppress Western values of political discourse and intellectual freedom. That shouldn't just scare Catholics, or Christians in a sociological definition: it should scare anyone who wants the human right to have one's own opinion about any subject.

Today, frankly, I mourn for Sister Leonella -- and the whole world should be mourning for her. She didn't die for the cause of the Gospel: she died because some people still think that you can make an argument out of the barrel of a gun. That's not an argument: that's war. And war is not an idyllic state: war is hell.

Let's remember that today as we consider who and what her death represents. She was assassinated for the sake of ending a conversation and suppressing any dissent -- even if she was not personally making that dissent. She was an innocent victim, and her blood is an object lesson in Muslim political reasoning.

Let me close with this: if you are a Muslim, and you think it is unfair to judge all of Islam based on the actions of "a few", I challenge you today to stand up and reject the murder of Sister Leonella as a valid expression of your religion. Stand up today and reject the burning of Christian churches as acts of righteous indignation. Stand up right now -- Blogger's free, my friend -- and denounce the use of violence and threats to advance your culture's way of life. Show us in some way your religion's peacefulness and love of men as image-bearers of God. That is, in practice.

God have mercy on us all if this is the way of the world we are going to leave to our children.