kawuli (kawuli) wrote,

Compassion For The Enemy

Compassion For The Enemy

No story of an Anabaptist martyr has captured the imagination more than the tale of Dirk Willems. Dirk was caught, tried and convicted as an Anabaptist in those later years of harsh Spanish rule under the Duke of Alva in The Netherlands. He escaped from a residential palace turned into a prison by letting himself out of a window with a rope made of knotted rags, dropping onto the ice that covered the castle moat.

Seeing him escape, a palace guard pursued him as he fled. Dirk crossed the thin ice of a pond, the “Hondegat,” safely. His own weight had been reduced by short prison rations, but the heavier pursuer broke through.

Hearing the guard’s cries for help, Dirk turned back and rescued him. The less-than-grateful guard then seized Dirk and led him back to captivity. This time the authorities threw him into a more secure prison, a small, heavily barred room at the top of a very tall church tower, above the bell, where he was probably locked into the wooden leg stocks that remain in place today. Soon he was led out to be burned to death.

There’s a book, downstairs on a shelf, called the “Martyr’s Mirror.” There’s two of them, actually, an old slowly disintegrating one, in German, an heirloom from my dad’s family, and a newer one in English. The book is bigger than a Bible. It’s full of these stories.

And this is what I was taught to emulate, growing up: the kind of selflessness that means saving your jailer’s life at the cost of your own. 

It didn’t occur to me until fairly recently just how fucked up that is. Just how crazy it is that I got told these stories from the time I was 7 or 8 years old, that I was taught this is what it means to be a good Christian. To be a good person.

Is it any wonder I have trouble standing up for myself? Is it in any way surprising that I have a hard time identifying what I want, just for my own sake? 

Look: I don’t know if there’s a God, but I’m pretty fucking certain that this is not a reasonable standard for being a good person. I’m pretty fucking sure that my life is just as important as–in this story–my jailer’s. 

And it’s not hypothetical: I am allowed to run away from people who are hurting me–even if they are falling through the ice. Even if they claim they’ll die if I leave. Even if they will die. My life counts too.

They say you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm. Here’s another one: you don’t have to let yourself get burned at the stake to keep someone else from drowning.

Posted in full at: http://ift.tt/2lp1cNP at February 20, 2017 at 22:05 PM
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