Today, I finished Colleen Drippe's short story "Tenniel", from Infinite Space, Infinite God II. In it, Bishop Tenniel and two fellows are captured on Rythar. He fights the leader of the Wolfbane clan to the death to win the lives of his people and the tribe's conversion to Christianity.
On Rythar, we've gone back to pre-Christian Rome, or to a far unevangelized corner of the modern world. One group, in trying to protect their culture from the Christian invaders, go so far as to crucify ten missionaries and converts. They had "taken from the missionaries their own symbol of charity and hope and made it a means to torture and kill." (It's a curious reversal, since Christians took from the Romans their means to torture and kill and made it a symbol of charity and hope.) Reading the story, I couldn't help but think of missionary martyrs, like St. Isaac Jogues, that gave their bodies to save the souls of others. However, in Bishop Tenniel, we've gone back to an earlier, darker time in our own history, or perhaps to the savage still hiding inside modern man. While he's not an earthling, the Bishop is very familiar, pulled between deep faith and the culture of his upbringing.
I have a bit of savage in me, too, for I was rationalizing the Bishop's decision to fight the chief rather than go to a "wasteful" martyrdom. "He's right to fight," I told myself. "He's taking one life, arguably in self-defense, and saving the lives of many others." I argued the point internally right to the end - to Tenniel's final, shattering words.
It's far to easy to think about bodies and forget about souls. Who can say what plan God has for others' souls - for their salvation? Who can say what part our own witness will have in the long term? Only God. When we judge others' salvation instead of judging their actions, we reveal that longest-running streak of sin that tells us we, too, can know good and evil like God.
We're not God. We have to get by, for now, with our finite intellects and weak wills. We have to navigate on damaged moral compasses. Thank God - literally - that we are offered forgiveness for every time we veer off-course. Bis tells the Bishop, "You'll do well enough, Tenniel... Well enough for Rythar." With His grace and mercy, we'll do well enough too.
If we accept it, God's grace and mercy is enough to make up any difference, to bring us to perfection we couldn't acheive alone. The place of crucifixion in this story is called sunslaughter. I assume, from the wealth of sun-related names on Rythar, that it's a merger of "sun slaughter". However, I can't help but notice that it can also be read as "sun's laughter". He got the last one at His place of crucifixion too.
'Want to know what those final words were? ISIG II is on sale in Kindle format for $2.99 until Saturday, April 23. You can purchase ISIG2 directly from Twilight Times Books as well as through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.