I was teaching a class recently at a local parish, and my topic was in part on martyrdom as the fullest expression of the Christian idea of holiness.
The topic required that I speak about the raw brutality of humanity. I chose to share some of the the vivid details of the martyrs’ sometimes gruesome deaths not because I love sensationalizing, but because I believe those details lend to the martyr’s faith, hope and love a certain gravitas and power. In addition, I believe that one of Christianity’s greatest assets is its capacity to look honestly at humanity in its worst moments and shine into that deepest darkness the first rays of Easter light. Indeed, the Church, like Christ himself, actively and aggressively searches for those places of inhuman brutality in order to bring the humanity of the God-Man who alone can heal the wounds of sin and death.
At the end of the evening, one of the participants said: ‘I liked it, except for the awful gruesome stuff. I could have passed on that.’
I replied with my well-worn trope, ‘What I love most about Christianity is that at the epicenter of our faith is a brutalized, crucified, dead God who made the last word life and not death. And whether or not we ourselves see the reality out there, the fact is the violence of humanity is everywhere; and our work as Christians is to make sure the Gospel always shows up at the scene of every crime.’
Another woman piped up, ‘Yes, my husband was a homicide detective. It’s real.’