Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Question of Faith and Conversion

The Anchoress has an article up about the recent forced conversions of Steven Centanni and Olaf Wiig. They "converted" to Islam at gunpoint because they didn't know what else to do.

Let's face it: the survival instinct is very strong. And we live in a time and a culture where, I suspect, many of us had not had to make tough life-or-death choices about what we want and what is right. Nor have we had many examples.

When I was growing up, the threat of Communism was very real. The Irish Sisters who taught us would talk to us about martyrs who died rather than renouncing Christ. We were suburban kids and Vietnam hadn't yet taken over the Nightly News. But the Sisters had missions in what was then known as "French Indochina." They saw what happened in Russia, in Poland, in Cuba, in Hungary, in Greece. There were Communists in Italy, on the very doorstep of the Vatican. The Soviets looked invincible and the U.S. looked to be the only country strong enough to stop them.

So we had to be strong in our Faith. We had to Believe. We had to be willing to lay down our lives for our God.

Then Vietnam became a debacle and the Sisters moved back to Ireland. The Communists were defeated in Greece and became just another political party in Italy. Poland, China, Cuba, Russia--well, they weren't much of a threat. We turned our focus inward--to the injustices in our own society (and there were--and are--many) and to our families and to ourselves.

We "cocooned."

Events are dragging us, kicking and screaming, out of that cocoon. I don't want to be a martyr for my Faith, thankyouverymuch. I want to live long and see my great-grandchildren. I don't want to worry that somewhere some maniacal imam is stirring up the discontent of his congregation and they're planning on blowing up a commuter train or bus or airplane or building. I just want to live my life and worship God in my own church.

Instead I am faced again with the question: "Would you die for your Faith?"

And I find myself answering, like I did when I was eight, "I hope so." I hope my Faith is strong enough.

The Anchoress, however, throws another question into the mix: Would I sacrifice one of my children?

I could get into all sorts of legalistic hair-splitting. If conversion is forced, is it a true conversion? (If I "convert" with my fingers crossed, does it count?) Can I be a "Christian for Allah," much like the "Jews for Jesus"?

Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac at the behest of God. (There's no record in the Bible if Allah made a similar request that he sacrifice Ishmael. I don't know about the Koran.)

Would sacrificing my children for my Faith be analogous? Would I want my children to live in a society where their lives would be spared only if we were of the "correct" faith? (I'm not so sure I'd want to live during the Spanish Inquisition.) And can we all agree the Inquisition was not the Church's finest moment and move on? How many Popes have to apologize for it before we can all agree that the Inquisition, at least as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, will never happen again? The next Inquisition is shaping up to be a Moslem Inquisition and just as barbaric as Torquemada's, only this time captured on video and broadcast worldwide.

Jesus never said being a Christian would be easy. But He did say we would never be alone.

Update:See also Don Singleton: Gunpoint Conversions and Martyrdom.