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.