Dominionist Author Renews his Call for Martyrs
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 01:41:04 PM EST
Christian Right political operative David Lane based his recent call for Christian revolution largely on the work of Christian Reconstructionist author Peter Leithart. (Lane's provocative essay, published at World Net Daily in June was taken down without explanation after bloggers took notice.)  Lane opened with a quote from Leithart's book Between Babel and Beast:  
"Throughout Scripture, the only power that can overcome the seemingly invincible omnipotence of a Babel or a Beast is the power of martyrdom, the power of the witness to King Jesus to the point of loss and death."
 And speaking of America, which he equates with Babel, Leithart wrote:  
"If America is to be put in its place - put right - Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus an imperator and the church as God's imperium or to begin drinking holy blood."

Leithart published that just last year.  But in the wake of the recent Windsor decision of the Supreme Court that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, he took to the blog at First Things and renewed his call for martyrs.

In his post, "A Call to Martyrdom", Leithart argues that Windsor "presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom."  He also suggests that Christians may face a Holocaust when he wrote: "We're being sent into an oven."

Leithart seems to be being careful not to directly call for Christians to risk their lives in confrontation with the state.  Perhaps it was, in light of the David Lane flap, an effort to assure everyone that he is not advocating something that sounds too much like he is inciting sedition.

In Greek, martyria means "witness," specifically witness in a court. At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. Scalia's reference to the pagan Roman claim that Christians are "enemies of mankind" was probably not fortuitous.

He concludes by drawing on biblical stories that mention separating wheat from chaff, and inserts an image that also evokes the Holocaust.

The only America that actually exists is one in which "marriage" includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.

God has his winnowing fork in his hand, and he's ready to use it. There's likely to be a lot of chaff, blown away like mist. But there will be a harvest. We're being sent into an oven, but Jesus will crush the grain of the harvest so that, baked in the fire of the Spirit, it will become bread for the life of the world. [emphasis added]

In the introduction to Between Babel and Beast, Leithart's meaning was plain.  He wrote that Christians must respond to what he calls the heresy of "Americanism" -- to which he observes that too many of his fellow conservative Christians have conflated with Christianity itself.  He believes the correct response is for martyrdom in two senses of the term.  "Churches must repent of our Americanism," he wrote, "and begin to cultivate martyrs -- believers who are martyrs in the original sense of "witness" and in the later sense of men and women ready to follow the Lamb all the way to an imperial cross."

It is worth noting that David Lane did not back off from his call for Christians to wage war and create martyrs. He just took his essay down. (It seems likely that his political clients, such as Sen. Rand Paul, probably saw his essay as a potential obstacle to their electoral ambitions.)  Peter Leithart, the former Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrews College in Moscow Idaho, and current director of the new Trinity House Institute in Birmingham, AL, has apparently also not changed his views between his book of last year and his blog post of last week.  He clearly believes that martyrdom is what is required -- and that horrific confrontation lies ahead.  

I recognize that one cannot expect fanatics to adhere to standard theological understandings, but I do want to point out that in most mainstream Christian thought, seeking to be a martyr pretty much automatically disqualifies one from being acclaimed as one. The true martyr seeks to live faithfully and non-violently, speaking truth to power in the face of mortal threat. This was as true of Jan Hus, the 598th anniversary of whose martyrdom is commemorated today (July 6), as it is of such modern-day martyrs as Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were willing to die rather than recant or be cowed into silence. But in no way did they seek death. This is a critical difference that I think needs to be emphasized when we engage in discussions on the topic.

by MLouise on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 03:38:55 PM EST

What concerns me is the willingness of Beinhart, Laine and their companions to make martyrs out of their fellow citizens to destroy our government in order to establish their theocratic polity.

by khughes1963 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 03:00:19 PM EST

My apologies for getting Peter Leithart's name wrong.

by khughes1963 on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 03:02:19 PM EST

Why don't the people who call for martyrdom go ahead and martyr themselves first if it's such a good thing to do?  Then the rest of us can go on with our lives.

by coralsea on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 12:58:54 PM EST
that this is not something one would want to encourage.  

Paul Hill advocated the murder of doctors as justifiable homicide for some time before he decided that rather than merely advocating that others do it, he should do it himself. He is viewed by others as a martyr. Hill himself saw himself as setting an example, that others would emulate. And others did.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 02:45:57 PM EST

Sorry for my rash post.  I guess I was thinking about the "leaders" who exhort their followers to make sacrifices that they themselves would not make.  But when one is talking about the truly zealous, I can see them taking such a step -- and encouraging others by example.

by coralsea on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 05:54:00 PM EST

The problem with 'fundamentalists' of whatever ilk is that they are excellent at cheap talk which bodes rabble-baiting but shrinking violets when the chips are down! The Muslim Brotherhood surely lacked the critical/analytical depth that would have led to an understanding of inclusion of diversity as a first step in going forward instead of hijacking the Arab Spring revolution unto itself. Morsi allies quickly appropriated power to themselves at the expense of alienating secularists without compromise & participation. Fundamentalists always claim to know "G-d's will" uncompromisingly, our Christian Right or Islamic, which a textual-literalism rubber stamps. Just look at the tea-party 100+ in our H.R. who in their deranged thinking really think their midterm election justifies blocking everything in the call to purpose. We have a way to UN-block via the next election, but the 48% in Egypt was voided via a quickly-enacted Islamic constitution that gave no credence to participatory democracy. A majority that made a way for democracy in the streets and squares held no sway once presidential/parliamentary electoral process was held. Morsi overplayed his hand in his exuberance to consolidate his power for the recently banned Brotherhood organization and self-justified everything while opposition gelled. He made sure that some imposition would be forthcoming but altogether different than he was working to achieve, even with 48 hours to recant or rethink. He had no need for a different "god's will" idea in his exclusivism. Ditto for the spokeswoman for the M.B. in Britain as she appeared on BBC World News this morning: if the Brotherhood in Britain once achieved a more solid slice of society overall, would a coup be in order? Hardly a month ago, an Islamist extremist hacked to death a military member "as an example" for Muslims being killed hither & yon and no one caring, so said.

We must await time & place for the Egyptian fate to materialize, but in the meantime we shall not hear a recantation from Morsi or his supporters. After all, they knew "G-d's will" and were just acting upon it.  It's classic fundamentalism. The M.B. in Egypt has a greater stomach for martyrdom, steeped in their particular history. The christian Right in the U.S. blow hard on their horns on cable-TV, talking rather than die-ing but fomenting mischief nevertheless.  Each will be the last to learn from the other!

by achbird65 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 10:47:10 AM EST

is IMO where this country is headed if we can't stop the dominionists - and then from there to something like Iran but far worse.  I also expect that if the dominionists win, we will see multiple civil wars (after they first kill off all of the LGBT people, the atheists, the pagans, and the others they call "enemies of God"), followed by pogroms as they demand greater and greater purity of belief.

I was reading about the situation in Egypt this morning and thinking about the similarities between the fundamentalist Islamists and the dominionists... how similar they are in just about every way (the exceptions being their "Holy Book" and the name they call God - which is based on language anyway, along with their view of the person called Jesus in English).

Theocrats all... and willing to spill innocent blood to win their theocracy.

The comparison between the two fundamentalisms is quite strong and valid.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 11:49:41 AM EST

It is easy to get agitated by taking too seriously our own analogies. So let's give ourselves a break.

While there are certainly things to learn and insights to gain from other times and places and circumstances, it is a large error to conflate analogy with reality, current or historical. In fact, the differences are far, far greater and more numerous than any of the similarities.

Let's focus on the situations we actually face, which are serious enough, without adding-in the latest Middle East crisis as an intensifier.  We don't need it.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 12:41:20 PM EST

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