David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Courage, Death

Courage

• In Poland, Irene Gut Opdyke witnessed Nazis shooting unarmed Jews, and she prayed to God to ask Him “to give me responsibility, to bring me the opportunity to help, even if my own life should be taken.” She helped many Jews, and she even hid several Jews at the villa of the elderly German major for whom she worked. (The architect of the villa had realized that war was coming, so he had built a hiding place under the gazebo. Much of the time the Jews were hidden there.) Unfortunately, the elderly German major discovered that she was hiding Jews. However, he said that he would protect her secret if she would become his mistress. She did. After the war, Ms. Opdyke said, “It was a small price to pay for the many lives.”

• At the trial by the Inquisition of Joan of Arc by biased judges who knew ahead of time that they would find her guilty no matter what defense she made, her judges asked her trick question after trick question. One example was this question: “Are you in God’s grace?” If she answered that she was, her answer would be evidence that she was guilty of the sin of pride. If she answered that she was not, her answer would be evidence that God had rejected her. However, she was very intelligent — as well as justifiably defiant — and she answered, “If I am not, may God bring me to it; if I am, may God keep me in it.”

• St. Athanasius tried to escape from some assassins by rowing a boat on a river. As he was rowing in one direction, the assassins approached him in a boat going in the other direction. When the assassins saw him, they cried out, “Where is the traitor Athanasius?” He avoided lying by answering, “Not far away,” continued to row, and escaped the assassins.

Death

• According to Deuteronomy 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” When Rabbi Akiba was about to be unjustly executed, it was the time of the Jewish prayer known as the Shema. (Shema is the first word of the Hebrew sentence which means “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.”) His disciples asked him why he was reciting the Shema at this time. He replied that he had interpreted the verse “with all thy soul” to mean “even if He takes away your life” and he had always worried about when he could obey that commandment. Now that he had the opportunity of obeying the commandment, he would do so.

• Entertainers were not always regarded with respect; long ago, they were regarded as wicked people who needed to repent. Jean-Baptiste Lully became very ill, and thinking he might die, he sent for a confessor. The priest told him, “In view of your stage-life, I want you to do penance by sacrificing something very dear to you.” The priest then suggested that Lully allow him to throw into the fire the manuscript of a new opera that Lully had composed. Lully agreed, and the manuscript was burned. Instead of dying, Lully recovered. A friend remarked to him that it was a pity that the opera had been burned, but Lully told him, “Oh, that’s all right. I have a copy of it.”

• A general swept through a region during wartime, creating havoc and terror wherever he went. He entered a temple and was surprised that the Zen master was not terrified of him. The general asked the Zen master, “Don’t you know that I can run this sword through your body without batting an eye?” The Zen master replied, “Don’t you know that I can have a sword run through my body without batting an eye?” The general bowed to the Zen master, and then left him in peace.

• Martin Luther King’s mother, like himself, died because of violence. On June 30, 1974, while playing the organ in church, she was shot and killed, as was a church deacon. The murderer was Marcus Wayne Chenault, a mentally disturbed African American who said that he had killed them because they were Christians. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die. However, the King family opposed the death penalty, and the sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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