Are the congregants massacred in Sutherland Springs martyrs?
THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:
A shooting rampage during Sunday worship at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, took 26 lives (counting an unborn baby). It was the worst slaughter at a house of worship in American history, though such atrocities occur all too often at mosques or churches in strife-ridden Muslim lands.
The murderer -- “Religion Q & A” will not dignify him by using his name -- sprayed hundreds of bullets at helpless worshipers trapped in the pews, and may have especially targeted youngsters.
We usually think of a martyr as a brave Christian executed by authorities or slain otherwise for professing the faith or refusing to spurn it, as with the biblical St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-60).
Unlike Southern Baptists, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity specialize in martyrology and have recognized as saints hundreds across the centuries who faced death for professing their faith. The Catholic church’s official definition:
“Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: It means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by chrity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude” (Catechism #2473).
Understand that here “he” covers both genders.
A more succinct Russian Orthodox definition says “martyrdom is bearing witness to the truth of Christ and God’s church to the death.” Whether that’s the appropriate label for the Texas victims depends on the motives of both the killer and those killed.