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©2001 The Society of
Archbishop Justus, Ltd


Hallo again to all.

We remember that during the era of the Vietnam war, when many young men were trying to decide what to do, that a common symbolic act of protest in the USA—at least if you believed the newspapers—was to attend a public rally and burn one's draft card. (A 'draft card' was issued to men when they turned 18, and indicated that they had registered with the Selective Service system for possible conscription into the armed forces.) We also remember a man who said that he boiled his draft card because he didn't think that he felt passionate enough to burn it.

Boiled or burned, the net effect was the same: the destruction of the card. But one act had so much more symbolic power than the other, even though the direct results were the same.

The 4th of November is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, on which we are asked to 'give voice to the martyrs'. To us the word 'martyr' signifies blood and death and heroism, giving up one's life for one's faith. We urge you to support this worthy cause and to read more about it on their web site.

But we also urge you to think about just what it means these days to be a martyr. The word 'martyr' means 'witness' in Greek; a martyr was one who gave his life in witness to his faith. In traditional usage, saints were people who gave their hours and days to the church, and martyrs were people who ended their lives for it. A person who freezes or starves to death in the service of his church is just as dead as one who is violently martyred. Somehow our society holds that a martyr who was broken on the rack or pierced with a spear has died a more noble death than one who died quietly in the library while translating the Bible or planning a youth activity on a Friday night. It's the same concept as boiling a draft card rather than burning it: some acts are intrinsically more memorable and heroic-seeming, even if the end result is the same.

As we see it, in the modern meaning of the word, there are plenty of martyrs who aren't dead yet, and are not going to attract much notice when they do finally die. You can give your life to the church one hour at a time, or you can give it all at once in a terminal act of symbolic heroism. You are a martyr if you give up your life, intentionally, for the sake of your faith and your church. It is important to remember and pray for the blood of the martyrs. But let us not forget the sweat and tears of martyr-like people. And if the martyrs that you are praying for are still alive, please consider thanking them as well as praying for them. The dead ones need you more, because they gave their church everything they had. We do not mean to diminish their contribution by asking you to pray also for those who are giving their lives for the church one hour at a time.

As always, please visit our New This Week section and our News Centre, to see what's going on in the Anglican world.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 21 October 2001