The Blood of the Martyrs....

Over in MPSIMS Satan posted a link to “the 100 Most Influential Southerners of the Century” and someone commented:

This led me to a rather scary train of thought. I was just shy of 20 when Ray killed MLK. Up to that point the TM seemed to see the civil rights struggle as something being pressed by a few activists, or at least that was the press coverage. From that moment on, there seemed to be a paradigm shift in public attitudes. Suddenly it was a Good Thing that one ought to be supportive of. And today racism is pretty well hidden.

Very much the same sort of thing apparently happened during WWII. Being anti-Semitic was not automatic grounds for the snub direct prior to the war, though it was not exactly kosher. But when the news of the Holocaust hit, boom…it became the mark of true evil to be anti-Semitic.

I see something very similar happening today with Matthew Shepherd’s death. The fact that gay people have a right to live their own lives, regardless of what you or I may think of their sex lives, is suddenly a Cause to be supported.

The thread title is from an old Catholic line I do not remember the entire quote of, but which amounts to “The blood of the martyrs is the fertilizer that makes the faith grow” (though it’s expressed a bit better than that…Tom, got the real quote?)

I’d be very interested in what people think about this tendency for shocking deaths to cause a shift in public opinion.

I think it’s as much human nature as anything else concerning death.

If a loudmouth dies, he is eulogized as being “loquatious.” If the deceased was closed-minded in real life, he might be referred to as “opinionated” at the funeral.

Death is something that touches us all, and we all like to think that after we’re gone, people are going to say nice things about us. So why not return the favor?

To me, a natural extension of this is the martyr.

Yer pal,

I’ll agree the “speak no ill of the dead” sentiment may have something to do with this, but I think the deeper issue is the galvanic response produced by the death of one who comes to be known as a martyr.

Any cause, any idea, with any number of backers, can only be as strong as the willingness of those backers to act, and to recruit supporters. It seems to be human nature to say “Oh yeah, that sounds important. I don’t have a lot of time right now, though. Can we talk about it some other time?”

Death provides a focal point, even it’s only a recognition on the most basic level that, “Hey, someone died for this!” The natural response is curiosity - what was so important to this person that the cost was life itself? Even in cases where there is no single martyr (such as the Holocaust), the sheer horror of the deaths of many forces some recognition of the cause.

From that point forward, there is a convenient, horrific, rallying point, a unifying theme easily identifiable and understandable, both to those who support and those who oppose the cause. There may even be a rallying cry - “Remember the Alamo!”

It seems a sad commentary, but did you ever think sometimes it’s necessary for a martyr to bring some cause to the attention of the masses?

I know you understand what you heard me say, but what you don’t understand is what I said is not necessarily what I meant.

The Christian God certainly seemed to think so.

Polycarp wrote:

Nice choice of adjectives at the end, there. Though probably not intentional. :wink:

He’ll be here all week, folks! Tip your waitstaff!

Polycarp, there is a similar quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”


Adding absolutely nothing to the discussion, at this time, but since my name was invoked:

Tertullian: We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed. Often rendered: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Laurens Beyerlinck: The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.

Thomas Fuller: The seed of the Church, I mean the blood of primitive martyrs.

Sometimes it takes a dramatic example to snap the public from it’s complacency. A form of injustice can continue with tacit public approval for a long time, but when someone finally REALLY gets hurt by that injustice, and there is no humane way to deny that a gross injustice has occured, rationality slowly clicks in.

The example of Matthew Shepherd’s death is apt. Even people who are zealously opposed to homosexual conduct (e.g. Jerry Fallwell) are finally coming to the realization that physical attacks on gay people are a gross injustice.

This thread brings to mind the life of Mahatma Gandhi, who understood the art of awakening the public consciousness to social injustice.

It makes me wonder: What are the injustices we continue to tolerate as a society, and who will our future martyrs be? In 30 years, what will people look back at and say: ‘‘I can’t believe that form of discrimination was still widespread in 1999.’’

I am no fan of martyrmania. I think it stinks.

Some of you get it, and some of you are dreaming. People don’t change their opinions of guys because they die; they simply know it is socially better for them to shut up about guys who are killed.

MLK couldn’t have accomplished more if he was still alive than by his dying? That’s an awful thing to imply about the guy.

There’s nothing noble in-and-of-itself about being murdered (as opposed to the nobility of sticking to your beliefs no matter what.) I hope you lot don’t find yourselves respecting bad people after they’ve been killed.

As the Christ was brought up, I will inject that his being allowed to be crucified has been plenty misinterpreted. He proved the unreality of death by rising from the grave. It was not simply a snappy method of attracting attention.