Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 26, 2000
Heroes who died for Jesus
Jesus Freaks: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus: The Ultimate Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs, Albury Publishing: Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1999. 368 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
Special to the WCR
What would you be willing to die for? Where do you draw the line between self preservation and Christian giving? Would you die for a stranger? Would you die for a friend? What about your spouse? Your child? Or your God?
Jesus Freaks by Christian rock artists dc Talk is a book about those willing to die in the name of Jesus. Beginning in the first century with the martyr Stephen, described as The First Jesus Freak, in the year 34 to the present (the most recent being 1999, Columbine High School), the book provides stories of courage, heroism and great faith in God.
Many of the martyrs are familiar names: Paul, Peter, Andrew, Thomas, St. Bernard, Martin Luther, Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Others are not - Fang Cheng, Petrus Kristian, Pastor Masih.
Whether the names are familiar or not, they share one characteristic: they chose "to suffer death rather than to deny Jesus Christ or his work." According to dc Talk, they were the ultimate "Jesus freaks."
These stories, generally only a page or two in length, reveal an unqualified love of God and faith in Jesus Christ. Most of them died for refusing to renounce their faith in God.
Many of the stories come from various periods in history when the Church was severely persecuted. Most recently, these periods of persecution have occurred in the Soviet Union, Communist China and Vietnam, Cambodia, Sudan, and many of the Islamic countries.
The book provides background information on various nations that presently persecute Christians. Short descriptions of the forms of persecution being carried out in these countries are included and are quite informative.
Background information is also provided by Tom White of the organization Voice of the Martyrs, "a nonprofit, interdenominational organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted Church worldwide."
I found the book interesting. The young lady who lent it to me was excited by it and felt that I would be intrigued by it. I was . . . but I was immediately struck by the people who were included, those omitted, and the nature of the language of faith.
The book has a highly evangelical slant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just made me uncomfortable at times.
I also discovered that all the martyrs since 1530 were people who defended the "true faith," the Bible-based Christianity. In more than a few cases they were people at odds with the Catholic Church, for example Martin Luther, Walter Milne, and William Tyndale.
Very few of the martyrs were Catholic and even when they were this was not mentioned. The martyrs that are missing and could have been included are those like Archbishop Oscar Romero, Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe.
Despite this oversight, I found the book a tribute to the role models of faith our kids (and adults) need to read about, hear about, and reflect upon. For those open to the work of God in our world and willing to share the stories of those who are committed, it would be a wonderful gift for a young person.
The benefits of this book are immense. It forces the average Christian to reflect on the priority faith fits within our lives. Do we proudly share our faith with those around us? Would we be willing to die for our beliefs? As an old high school religion questions asks: if being a Christian were against the law, would there be enough evidence in your life to find you guilty?
(Dean Sarnecki teaches religious studies at Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park.)