Time magazine issued a flowery piece on the glory of self-immolation on Wednesday, complete with a dose of anti-Catholic bigotry.   

Authors Solcyré Burga and Simmone Shah used as their starting point the tragic death of Aaron Bushnell, a U.S. airman who died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington to protest the “genocide” of Palestinians in Gaza.  

The Catholic Church teaches that suicide—including what the article describes as “self-immolation”—is a gravely sinful offense against the dignity of human life. And let’s be clear: It is in no way equated with martyrdom.   

And yet.   

Right in the middle of a rambling history of “self-immolation,” Burga and Shah drop a casual 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.” (Emphasis added.) 

Burga’s and Shah’s historical claim is simply false. But worse than that is their insulting lumping together of Christian martyrs with those protesters who chose to “end their own life as a public statement.”  

For Time to give an international platform to such ignorance is inexcusable. The Christian martyrs did not “choose” to die, nor did they narcissistically play God by ending their own lives on their own terms to make a shocking political point.   

The reality is that they were hunted down like animals, tortured, and then brutally murdered by their government because they refused to renounce their faith—and, in particular, their savior, Jesus Christ.   

Precisely because they did not seek death or choose to end their lives on their own terms, the immolation of the early Christians was more powerful than any contrived statement or public suicide could ever be. Instead, the Christian martyrs loved life and strove to find ways to practice their faith in peace. Suicide, for them, as for Christians today, would have been the ultimate rejection of the sovereignty of God over life and death.    

But like many ruling elites today (like the Politico reporter who said “Christian nationalists” believe that our rights come from God, not government), the Roman Empire hated them for simply believing that our first allegiance is to God.  

Time magazine should be ashamed of perpetuating falsehoods about Christian martyrs—especially at a time when Catholics worldwide are suffering persecution and even death in massive numbers.   

While America is still in the nascent stages of persecution, Catholic churches in America have suffered over 400 violent attacks in four years while those in power look the other way. Catholics are being told they can’t adopt because of their beliefs, while major sports leagues defend honoring anti-Catholic hate groups and the federal government threatens to shutter Catholic hospitals for their religious practices. Just last year, Catholics discovered that they were being secretly investigated as “domestic extremists” and spied on in their places of worship by federal law enforcement.   

Why? Because like the Christian martyrs—St. Thomas More, St. Joan of Arc, and countless other heroes of conscience—Catholics understand that they are “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”   

Time, Burga, and Shah probably can’t understand that conviction. They can, however, apologize for their lazy “reporting” that warps high human courage in the face of death into a pathetic political gesture.   

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