Saints and Civil Religion: What Martyrs can Teach Us

We must not forget the great cloud of witnesses!

“In church history, there has often been a strong correspondence between the absence of truly Christian heroes and martyrs and the presence of religious-like commitment to the nation state and its heroes and martyrs (civil religion). This is not only because the absence of martyrdom means that the state is not persecuting the church (and may even seem to protect it), but also because Christians know instinctively that they collectively need to have something ultimate for which to live and die. Without a close connection to the church’s saints and martyrs, Christians will often follow the cultural norm and make their nation state (or tribe or race), rather than the Gospel, that ultimate. Although the presence of this connection to saints and martyrs certainly does not guarantee the defeat of nationalism and civil religion, its absence contributes greatly to their triumph.” (p. 135) Michael J. Gorman – Reading Revelation Responsibly