Friday, January 27, 2006

stupid people and heroes

There has been quite a lot of excitement going on around the Seminary with respect to a documentary and a movie that has just recently come out: End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Both productions are about the story of 5 young men and their young families who went to be missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. There they learned of a tribe called the Aucas, which had a reputation for killing everyone “from the outside” that they had historically come into contact with. This group of visionaries had met at a conservative Christian institution of higher learning, had learned Greek and Hebrew together, graduated and married, before moving to Ecuador. They knew the Aucas were head hunters and very pointedly felt led to evangelize them. Of special concern to them were the spear killings the Auca’s practiced amongst themselves, to the point where practically no-one died of old age. Everyone died of disease or spearing. Yet when the young men made contact with the tribe, it wasn’t but a little while later that all 5 were speared to death by the tribe. In response, the widows of these men went to make contact with the tribe. They and their children were taken in, fed and taught the language and in turn they evangelized the entire tribe. The result was that the killings stopped immediately.

The evangelical world has long since held these men up as heroes of the faith. And heroes they are. Yet all the more their wives are even more-so, heroes. Within the Christian faith, men and women have always expected to die for the faith. Some more noble than others. Laying down one’s life in sacrifice for another obviously being more noble than dying in the war with the Moors (and taking a few infidels with you) in the name of the Lord, in order to gain the Holy City. I believe the later to be a deceived sacrifice. Paul, in the scriptures, points us to give it all we’ve got for the sake of the gospel, for it is the only cause worth finishing well, even if we must suffer and die for it. Acts 20.24.

The buzz here at the Sem has partly been because a current professor is the nephew of Elizabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot, one of the five men. Everyone I know reveres these men of great faith and fortitude. They are examples of how we should live our lives. But hold on a second…Examples? Why are Christians not flocking to dangerous places in droves for the gospel of Christ? Why, when I decided to go to an unknown place, possibly precarious situation, in Mexico last year, were many good Christians attempting to discourage me for reasons of safety? I had a mission not too unlike these heroes.

Yet it was telling, while I was watching the documentary, that the parents of one of these young heroes didn’t even know their son was venturing into possible danger, when the group set out to make a second and fatal contact with the Aucas. The news reporters were on the parents’ doorstep with questions before the parents knew their son was even in potential danger. These young men hadn’t even told their parents to pray for them, which is wide-spread evangelical tradition, when someone needs extra support. My read on the matter is that the men and women likely did not tell many people (including their parents) about their mission for the same reason I quit telling people about mine: for reasons of the pleading of good-willed well-intentioned, sensible people who would keep them from fulfilling their heart-call.

Does this maybe expose the fickle nature of people, even evangelicals, who sing praises to their heroes and then forbid their children to be like them. I doubt that these men would have been heroes in the eyes of their family and church had they revealed their bold intentions in the moment. Back then they would have been stupid. Yet now they are brilliant, valiant and heroes.


Chris B. said...

I also wonder about Christians who feel they have to go somewhere "dangerous" to try and die by getting in harm's way. In some ways I think this is as deluded a perspective on martyrdom as is the general lack of comprehension that American Christians tend to have. The circumcellions in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, were North African Christians that sought out martyrdom through armed resistance. Suicide bombers in the 2nd century, and centuries before the rise of Islam. But they missed the point, and so do people that seek out dangerous countries in the hope of martyrdom. Martyrdom is a gift from God, not a gift to God offered by the martyr. I wish that my fellow American Christians would realize that we should be living dangerous lives here in America through a radical faith rather than seeking existing danger elsewhere.

Jamie Hollis said...

My husband and I are experiencing the double standard currently in a much smaller and unexpected fashion. We have both been accepted to the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary for fall of 2006 and we expected full support from everyone in our family. Now, at least biweekly we receive emails, phone calls, etc, trying to pursuade us from the idea of seminary because they feel it's foolish for us to quit a stable, well paying job. They sing the praises of others in seminary, but when it comes to their own children it can't be heard of. Very frustrating. Please pray for us.

Peter said...
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espíritu paz said...

Jamie, Sometimes it seems that the things you are most certain of are the most illogical to others, especially those closest too you. Assuming that one is discerning correctly, we can liken our experience to Christ's experience. When he began speaking to his disciples of his coming death and resurrection, Peter counters him, and Christ says, "Get behind me Satan." Then Christ takes them to the garden and asks them to pray. They fall asleep! And then they attempt an armed resistance when soldiers come to collect Jesus. Peter, again interferes, and cuts of the high priest's servant's ear.
There's a tradition, mainly old catholic, where the memoir or biography of a saint is told in its likeness to the story of Jesus. As Christians, I believe we are called to walk that path and sometimes our experiences will reflect Gethsemane.

Then there is the deceived sacrifice, which Chris elaborates on.

In general, I prefer not to be manipulated by fear inducing propaganda. Safety guides are helpful to a degree. However, if one does not risk anything one does not run the chance of gaining either. A friend of mine told me today, "Analysis leads to paralysis" A proverb to be applied as proverbs should be applied—with discretion.