“Suffering is not a particularly popular or attractive strategy for human flourishing. Churches on the look out for effective marketing strategies for Christian discipleship would therefore be advised to look elsewhere” (Vanhoozer 2014)
The English term Martyr means Witness, Soren Kirkegaard defines witness as “someone who directly demonstrates the truth of the doctrine he proclaims, directly by partly by being the truth within him, partly by his volunteering his personal self and saying; See now if you can force me to deny this personal doctrine” (1996)
Suffering is part and parcel of the plight of the evangelist, the plight of the christian, indeed, the plight of the person – especially those who are fighting for a cause, a belief that the world would be better. Especially those who desire better for others in the face of barriers, be they prejudice, disability, academia, health or gender.
In Faith Speaking and Understanding, Kevin Vanhoozer talks about the Theatre of Martyrdom, how the church, the christian is to be prepared to experience suffering due to the doctrine they profess to, and yet although he is talking about Doctrine in terms of Christian doctrine – beliefs in human flourishing and the transformation of communities might also be as compatible to endure suffering for. Vanhoozer goes on to say “Doctrine ( Beliefs) is never more dramatic when, in the face of various internal and external trials, individuals (and communities) must decide in freedom whose story to enact, which plot to develop”
For Christians the pinnacle of the endurance of Suffering is that of Jesus on the cross, yet there are many others who act in suffering in pursuit of a cause without a deep held belief in Christs act, but yet persevere none the less.
There will be suffering. There will be challenge to undergo because we want things to be different for young people, for the church, and for the communities in which we exist in, There is suffering where faith is met head on with reality, but that reality is exactly the space of the stage where we put ourselves to perform as martyrs, giving of ourselves, our values in the grand cause of human and community and kingdom flourishing.
There is hope, even in the cry of How Long? How long for the disciples lasted 3 days, yet the Bible is littered with the sentiment of How long? that doesnt go away, we are allowed to question, to suffer, to feel the pain of others we see around us and bring pleas to God, yet there is still hope. One Victory has been won.
Suffering accompanies the actions of the performance yes, but is it the story we are trying to enact? No, it is of hope, it is of freedom, it is of flourishing and change, of grace, forgiveness and love. We have a plot to develop, actions on the stage of the world to perform, a stage not always to our liking, but the stage none the less. Lets do theatrical martyrdom.
For Ricoeur; “wisdom fulfils one of religions fundamental functions, which is to bind together ethos and cosmos, the sphere of human action and the worlds order. It does not do this by demonstrating that this conjunction is given in things, or by demanding that it be produced through our action. Rather it joins ethos and cosmos at the point of their discordance; in suffering and more precisely, in unjust suffering. Yet wisdom does not teach us how to avoid suffering, or how to magically deny it, or how to dissimulate it under an illusion. It teaches us how to endure, how to suffer suffering. It places suffering into a meaningful context, by producing the active quality of suffering” (Ricouer 2010 p124)