In response to the Blogging Parson's post on martyrdom I will refer to Chris Huebner's Precarious Peace. Huebner writes that martyrdom offers a possible alternative image to the violent dance of power between victims and victors (or heroes) who both compete for security and control. He goes on to say that both the position of hero and that of victim miss "the ability to put self into question, such that the notions of culture and identity remain fundamentally closed and fixed entities."
The martyr emerges as one living outside the demands of security. This is "a life lived out of control."
This is at least partially reflected in the fact that one cannot designate oneself a martyr. Rather, to have one's identity narrated in terms of a story of martyrdom essentially involves the existence of others with whom one's life is inextricably bound up. The martyr is a figure who very identity is constituted by the memory of others. Martyrdom thus points to a conception of cluture that is not reduced to a conflict between self and other, but rather one in which self and other are interpenetrably interwoven. Among other things, martyrdom is thus the expression of a message of hope in which we are saved from the temptation to place our hope in ourselves, to confuse salvation with survival.
Huebner goes on to quote Rowan Williams in commenting how the image and reality of martyrdom release us from the imperatives of violence as it pulls us out of the drama of victimhood and heroism as both positions desire for "clear divisions between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. [Both hero and victim] want to get back to that clear frontier between insiders and outsiders which is so comprehensively unsettled by the trial of Jesus in the Gospels."
We cannot make ourselves a martyr (contrary to popular opinion) but we can position or posture ourselves in such a way that our lives are lived "out of control" questioning assumed models of relating and offering and opening ourselves up to others.