Execution isn't self-immolation

Execution isn't self-immolation

Execution isn't self-immolation

A Christian apologist says TIME magazine's recent dive into protestors setting themselves on fire wrongly includes Christian martyrs as examples.

In late February, a U.S. airman died after he dowsed himself with an accelerant and set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington to protest the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, which he described as a "genocide."

The next day, TIME published an online piece on the "history of self-immolation" that mentions several similar cases.

But Dr. Alex McFarland takes issue with its claim that "self-immolation was also seen as a sacrificial act committed by Christian devotees who chose to be burned alive when they were being persecuted for their religion by Roman emperor Diocletian around 300 A.D."

McFarland, Alex (Christian apologist) McFarland

"The early Church suffered horrendous persecution," McFarland points out. "There were Jewish, Greek, and Roman persecutions. It wasn't martyrdom by choice or self-immolation; it was execution."

Though they did not choose to end their own lives, he says the Christian martyrs of the early Church often died joyfully because they knew Jesus.

"It's very sad when people give their lives to ideas or ideologies or causes that are false," the apologist submits. "But Jesus Christ, who beat death -- people were willing to die for their relationship to Jesus."

When analyzing historical events, he says people are often guilty of what he calls presentism; they judge the people of the past according to the values they themselves hold now instead of the values of the time.

Christian martyrs of old were people who had met Jesus Christ. They knew He had risen from the dead, and they were willing to die for their faith.

That is not the same as activists killing themselves to make a political statement.

McFarland adds that protestors who set themselves on fire rarely move the needle on whatever issue they are protesting. The blood of martyrs, on the other hand, in the words of Tertullian, "is the seed of the Church."