Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

Taking It Home: God's Gonna Trouble the Water: Martyrs and Sacrifice

Let all who live in freedom, won by the sacrifice of others, be untiring in the task begun, till everyone on earth is free. — James Reeb, Unitarian Universalist minister, who was killed in Alabama, March 11, 1965

Of martyrs, Susan Bergman has written:

... if we are not all called to this extremity of submission, we can at least recognize—in our own choices to persevere despite personal cost, to honor our beliefs in the contest with doubt—the significance of the daily, incremental decisions that influence who we become, and how we behave. — in "Twentieth Century Martyrs: A Meditation," in Susan Bergman, ed. Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996)

Reflect on the "daily, incremental decisions that influence who we become, and how we behave." What decisions of yours reflect choices to "persevere despite personal cost?" Consider what it means to witness to your faith. Journal your reflections.

Consider the actions of some who were present in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, July 28, 2008, when a gunman entered the sanctuary of the congregation and opened fire, fatally wounding Linda Kraeger of the Westside UU Church and inflicting injury on several others. Greg McKendry, a member of the congregation, died while trying to shield others. Several others charged the gunman, sustaining critical injuries, while still other adults worked quickly and bravely to clear the sanctuary.

Is there a difference between being put to death for what one professes, as were the 16th- to 18th-century martyrs, and, being inspired by one's faith, standing against prevailing powers by offering moral resistance—that is, refusing to allow evil into one's life, or into the life of the oppressed with whom one stands, in the manner of our 20th-century martyrs?