Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fox Journalists 'Convert' to Islam

I have yet to see the videotape of the two Fox journalists freed today in which they announced their "conversion" to Islam, but I did hear one of the two men, Steve Centanni, say that they read their statements with guns pointed at them.

Their plight might be compared to those of early Christians, many of whom were commanded to renounce their faith and burn incense to Caesar, or die.

One might say that if these two men were "real" Christians (and I have no knowledge whatsoever about their faith, or lack thereof), they would now be in the presence of God.

Such a thought troubles me, and causes me to make the following observations:

1. They were captive, and cut off from the eyes of the world.
2. They were being forced at gunpoint to make a statement that was being videotaped
3. They could assume that videotape would be used for propaganda purposes
4. If they refused to make the statement, they had every reason to believe they would be shot
5. They also had every reason to believe that no videotape of their refusal and subsequent deaths would ever be made public
6. Hence, their martyrdom would be lost to the wider world, though not to their murderers
7. They had reason to hope that if they did consent, they would be freed
8. As free men, they would have the opportunity to repudiate their "conversions"
9. Tough call

Any comments?


poetreader said...

I am not authorized to sit in judgment upon anyone's soul. However, I am not only authorized but commanded to judge as to what actions are acceptable to God. Oftentimes that requires hard words, and words that hard provide enormous temptation toward a spirit like that of the Pharisee in today's Gospel: "Thank God I'm not like that one." The fact is that I am. I can't know what I would do in such circumstances, weak and sinful as I am, but I can know what is demanded of me by my Lord; and that is complete and unswerving loyalty to Him. There's only one right answer in situations like this: martyrdom rather than false worship. That is the blunt truth. But humans fail God, and God forgives. I know martyrdom to be a privilege, but I know myself to be weak enough to cave in under such demands unless God gives supernatural power -- and I know He won't abandon me, any more than He abandned St. Peter.


albion said...


You said "there's only one right answer in situations like this: martyrdom rather than false worship."

Remembering that martyr means witness, and keeping in mind the observations I made, what would be the greater witness -- to die in the obscurity at the hands of a few presumably diehard Islamic fascists, or to live, go on television and witness to the entire world the shameful act of those men forcing "conversion" at gunpoint?

As I said: Hard call.

poetreader said...

Sorry, but, at the cost of seeming overly hard, I still have to disagree on this one. To do otherwise is to call the Three Children fools for not pretending to worship the idol, to call Daniel a fool for not doing his prayers in secret, to call the martyrs inder Diocletian fools for refusing to burn one tiny piece of incense, to call the uncountable 20th century martyrs to Communism and Islam fools for not pretending to renounce the Faith. All of these were being offered a choice: conversion or forcible death, many of them in obscurity.
Frankly, to declare that one has converted at gunpoint without also confessing it as serious sin is to bear witness that the evil of men is stronger than the Faith of Christ. It's as Luther wrote in [i]Ein Feste Burg[/i]
"The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still
His Kingdom is forever."

Would I be that faithful? I don't know. But if I weren't, I would be wrong.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

I believe that if I were in this situation it would be my duty to die. The witness of martyrdom might be only to the killers themselves. But, we see what that witness, from Saint Stephen, meant to the life of one Saul of Tarsus.

Salome said...

I have always understood that the martyrs were already well before their martyrdom conspicuous by their piety and virtue. If this is the case, then perhaps we should cut a bit of slack for the lapsi.

In addition, I think conversion to Islam requires public confession of the Islamic faith (there is one god, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet) and (for gents) a little surgical procedure. Consequently, I very much doubt that these journalists really did formally convert.

poetreader said...

1. You are quite correct that we should cut them slack. We cannot sit in judgment on another's soul. That's not really what this is about. If they have sinned, they have equal chance for complete forgiveness as I do for my many sins.
2. I think the real question, though, is what the Lord would have us do in such a case. Fr. Hart is right. There is only one right choice, one that has been made many times, both by those already recognized for a holy life, and by those finally sanctified in their martyrdom.
3. Many of the martyrs, both in ancient days and today, were not distinguished for their holiness in life. Some were not even Christians before their death. The 40 martyrs of Sebaste were freezing to death on the ice. One of them wimped out, went to the altar, burnt incense to the idol, and was warmed and freed. One of the pagan soldiers, so moved by their witness, got up, and joined them to bring the number back to 40. He is a martyr. The one who turned away is not. St. Alban, a pagan, sheltered a priest, pretended to be him, and died for his brand new faith. He is the first martyr of Britain. I could go on.
4. Simply burning a pinch of incense before a Roman idol was enough to show the Romans that one had denied Christ, AND to show the Church that one was an apostate. That latter applied equally to those who did actually revert to Paganism and to those who claimed after the fact that they were still Christian. One simply doesn't have to go through the whole conversion process to have bowed before a false God. One needs only to bow.
5. To repeat. There is forgiveness for those who have worshiped false gods. That was settled in dealing with the Donatist Heresy.


Sibyl said...

Salome said:
"In addition, I think conversion to Islam requires public confession of the Islamic faith (there is one god, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet) and (for gents) a little surgical procedure. Consequently, I very much doubt that these journalists really did formally convert."

I'm assuming that the video _was_ their public confession of faith, and virtually all American men my age (62), and twenty years and more younger, had that little surgical procedure at birth, if they were born in a hospital, automatically for boys, whatever their faith, though I understand that's not being done so much any more. I wouldn't know about the New Zealander. As I said when Albion originally indirectly quoted me (and that's fine, Albion), I also don't know what they were _before_ their conversion. Another point is that under Sharia law, no matter whether the conversions were forcible or not, they were real (so far as Sharia is concerned), and if serious Muslims catch them again after they've recanted, they're legally (Sharia legally) justified in executing them. _That_ has happened to a number of official Saints. See, for only one example of many

Fr. Robert Hart said...

None of us can afford to make excuses or to be flexible in this matter. We simply must not let ourselves think that way.

In the ancient Church a lapsed person could receive forgiveness; but because the danger was very real, such a one could not enter the congregation for some period of time.

albion said...

Here are some interesting observations from Diana West at The Washington Times.

poetreader said...

If West is surprised at Islamic forced coercion, she hasn't been watching religious current events very closely. It may not have been the fate of many high-profile Westerners, but it is a daily threat to native Christians in Islamic countries. Every issue of Touchstone Magazine (I mention the one because I subscribe) has reports of native Christians martyred or jailed for refusing to convert, or for renouncing a previous forced conversion. Islam (or at least a large portion of it) does not share the Western aversion to such forced conversion, and does not recognize that such a conversion can be undone. In modern times only Communism and Nazism have produced more Christian martyrs than has Islam. The only news in this story is the wide publicity the incident got.