03/09/2006 08:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Martyr Love


As a child I fantasized about martyrdom. Like millions of Catholic school kids, I literally prayed for the honor to die for my religion. I dreamed my death romantic. "Betray your G-d or die," the pagan inquisitor would say. I would defiantly quote Tertullian, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." Then, like St. Stephen, the first Catholic martyr, I would be stoned to death. In Catholic kid fantasy, a martyr's death is fast, painless and immediately followed by a fabulous party in heaven, hosted by Jesus himself. Who would, of course, provide the wine. By high school my desire to be stoned had moved in other directions. But my martyr love remained. "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country," and "Give me liberty or give me death," were the chants of 1776 revolutionary heroes, and 1964 black panthers.

But from grade-school Catholic to middle-aged Jew, my favorite martyr remains Samson, the first suicide terrorist. 'Cause he was a martyr with muscles. Samson didn't just die for his religion, he kicked major butt for it. For twenty years Samson terrorized the Palestinians -- I mean Philistines -- like a one-man Al Qaeda. He didn't just kill Philistines, he tortured their animals, stole their clothes and groped their women. At one point, Samson to burned Philistine crops and stored grain. It was his version of agricultural sanctions. But then Samson had to hide in a cave until his own people, who of course knew where he was, got him to surrender. But then, just as he was surrendering, the spirit of G-d moved him to kill another thousand men.

Samson was finally caught only due to his weakness for hot Philistine babes, who back then were the Jewish man's kryptonite. Betrayed by Delilah, Samson was bound and blinded and brought into the temple of Dagon. The great hall and the balcony were filled with worshipers. Samson used them muscle martyr arms and pecs to bring down the temple's central pillars and kill more than three thousand people in one act, more than died on 9/11. G-d answered his prayer to, "Let me die with the Palesti- er, Philistines."

I understand why Muslims put up posters and websites about their martyrs. I've read comic books and watched movies about mine. As a grown man, I no longer want martyrdom. But the stories of my martyrs still shine....