Daniel Izuzquiza’s Rooted in Jesus Christ is a very stirring addition to contemporary theology, and in particular is a helpful engagement with and extension of the project of liberation theology. The book focuses on four central features of liberation theology: method, God as liberator, the martyrs, and the poor. Some of his statements about martyrdom are particularly good:
If our discourse about martyrdom focuses on the violence, suffering, and death operating against the poor people—instead of highlighting their fortitude and endurance—the unwanted effect might be a victimization of the people themselves. In this scheme, the poor would be mere passive recipients of the violence exerted on them, while the real protagonists would be the executioners. The paradoxical outcome of such a theology of martyrdom would be a factual dis-empowerment of the victims, who are left with no other option than silent suffering of their unjust fate. Considered from another perspective, this approach seems to mimic the dominant discourse, with its emphasis on dramatic excesses, that may get attention from the mass media. In a sense, the recent film The Passion of the Christ might be an example of what a distorted theology of the cross and martyrdom may look like: a bloody and dreadful affair with little connection to human praxis in daily life. (p. 13)
In other words, if a theology of martyrdom is fixated on the violence suffered by the martyrs rather than on their courage and witness, we end up simply valorizing violence itself, making martyrdom something of a fetish.