In a discussion at the TitusOneNine blog a couple of months ago, traditionalist "ann r," perhaps doubting whether I'm really a Christian, asked me and another commenter, "if the US suddenly came under sharia law, would you be willing to die for the faith? " I thought it was a marvelous, thought-provoking question. Here's an edited version of my response.
I’m not sure I can give a meaningful answer, at least not to the question as posed, in the abstract. I think it might be helpful to address some hypothetical situations.
1. Would I risk death to publicly proclaim the Nicene Creed under sharia? Not a chance, for two reasons:
- (a) My intellectual assent to the Nicene Creed pretty much ends at the phrase, "and in Jesus Christ." As to the rest of it, I’m agnostic, and skeptical.
- (b) I see my duty as to live for the faith, and that includes being tactically smart. It’s roughly analogous to what George C. Scott said in his speech at the beginning of the movie Patton, when he told his troops, your job is not to die for your country, it’s to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
2. Would I die rather than comply with an order of the mullahs to publicly renounce the Nicene Creed? Same answer as # 1, especially 1(b); but see also # 4 below.
3. Would I die to preserve someone else’s right to publicly profess the Nicene Creed? Possibly, but it depends on the circumstances. In a sense, I agreed to do so when I took the oath in joining the Navy. But at that time there was an implicit reciprocal trust that I wouldn’t be asked to risk death unless it made at least some sense in the tactical situation at hand.
4. Would I die under sharia to keep faith with others who profess the Nicene Creed? Again, possibly, depending on the circumstances.
An example that comes to mind is that of the American POWs during the Vietnam war. Hundreds of POWs endured years of torture – some died from it – rather than willingly collaborate with their captors.
From what I’ve read, e.g., in John McCain’s book Faith of Our Fathers, the reason the POWs resisted wasn't that collaboration would have caused any serious damage to the war effort. No, they resisted because to do otherwise would have broken faith with their fellow prisoners and with their countrymen back home, and keeping this faith was crucial.
I've known a few former POWs. They have my unbounded admiration. I only hope I would do likewise in similar circumstances.
5. If the U.S. were to come under sharia, would I risk death to preach the Gospel as I understand it? I hope so.
I'm pretty sure I'd be willing to die so that I didn't have to live under Shari'a law. I tried to enlist in the military after 9/11 for that reason, although I'm actually way too old (I found out later to my great embarassment).
The reason is simple: I'm gay, and they'd kill me eventually anyway. So, either way.
Now, suppose you asked if some hypothetical secular authority, instead of the Mullahs, demanded this. I think the answer would be the same, because asking a person to renounce their religious beliefs means that a person is living under totalitarianism, no matter who's in charge. It wouldn't be a discrete or isolated thing, IOW.
This is why I liked your answer on titusonenine: this is a hypothetical, and you don't even have to get to the "religion" part to give an answer.
Posted by: | October 28, 2004 at 08:52 AM
Yes I would die for my faith because if I lie and try to find all kinds of loopholls in the Word I am not worthy Remember Luke 12:8 . Jesus didn't look for all kinds of loopholls in the system so He didn't have to be crucified, He did it unconditionally and without second thought. I will have to die then.
Posted by: DENITIA | October 28, 2004 at 03:25 PM
Funny question, that. There's a, possibly cynical, side of me that wonders how easily those who ask such things and demand "straight forward" answers would volunteer someone else to do the dying...
I can also see how such a discussion could quickly morph into one of the favorite meme complexes of the religious right - "we're a persecuted minority! and "they" are gonna come and take our Bibles away!"
Posted by: David Huff | October 28, 2004 at 09:15 PM