Catholics, Mormons, and Stephen Crane

My Organized Response to an LDS Missionary

Chapter 8 - Under Duress

July 2001


There was one I met upon the road
Who looked at me with kind eyes.
He said, "Show me of your wares."
And this I did,
Holding forth one.
He said, "It is a sin."
Then held I forth another;
He said, "It is a sin."
Then held I forth another;
He said, "It is a sin."
And so to the end;
Always he said, "It is a sin."
And, finally, I cried out,
"But I have none other."
Then did he look at me
With kinder eyes.
"Poor soul!" he said.

Stephen Crane:Black Riders #33

I am not sure why, but you took an odd interest in the Biblical story of Peter denying his faith three times in Gesthemene. I believe it was to highlight how the greatest of men, the rock of the church, would lose faith at times (I think). I must admit that I have heard that particular story hundreds of times, starting with the nun's filmstrip in 2nd grade catechism, and have never given it any weight (beyond the divine profundity of the prediction coming true).

In my life, I have a set of rules of fairness that I live under in all circumstances where I am treated fairly and can expect the same. I have raised my own child this way. We refer to its opposite as "under duress". When a robber points a gun at you and asks you to do something, you agree. There is no thought. There is no conscience. As a child, I saw an episode of the old black-and-white Superman TV show where robbers forced Perry White to promise not to call the police after they left. The fool honored his "promise"! With the crooks getting away, he said he would not break "his word". At the age of eight, I was aghast that Perry White (a role model for me at the time) would strike a bargain with a sociopath and then keep it. The robber had made no honest deal with him, had offered no trade or payment in exchange, but had simply threatened to kill the editor and his reporters if they did not provide a verbal promise. Yet Perry White honored "his word" after they (and their guns) were gone.

As I use it, the legal term "under duress" applies to and voids any agreement made by a person unable to choose freely. It was like the old wild-west where if you didn't sell your ranch you'd have it burned down. Any sale in that situation was illegal (albeit unenforceable) and certainly immoral.

I presume that St Peter simply spoke words that night to save his skin. The same would be said to armed Gestapo agents in Nazi Germany, or if one were kidnapped by terrorists. The Stockholm syndrome is for morons. A keen mind does or says anything necessary, and runs like hell when his captor inadvertently looks away. Why would Peter say "Sure! I'm with him!" as a troop of Roman soldiers are leading Jesus away? His statements, clearly made "under duress" and in the presence of sword bearing legionnaires, do not reflect upon his beliefs or spirituality. The world did not need two martyr's on that particular night.

The concept of "under duress" is certainly a morally tricky one, and difficult to monitor. My own belief is that you make any promise, or any denial, as best fits the requirement to escape your captor, but that you not make any additional offers, raise no addition possibilities, while attempting to escape. Obviously "duress" does not apply to actions when not in personal or familial danger. Nor does it apply to sworn testimony freely given in legal procedures (unless performed when hostage in totalitarian states) as the "fifth amendment" and perjury statutes supersede "duress" (see my letter to the editor regarding President Clinton). That is why, when an LDS missionary rings my doorbell, I simply tell him either that I'm a Seventh Day Adventist or that I practice animal sacrifice. I am no different than St Peter.


Copyright, 2001, All rights reserved

Chapter 7 Return to Main Page Chapter 9

Introduction & Background


I'm Right and They're Wrong


Serene Futility


Under Duress


Damning Hypocrisy


Money in the Bank


Institutional Corruption


The Carrot and the Stick


God's Voice


Heaven Must Be Laughing


"All Religions are Corrupt"


God the Bouncer


Sealed with Chains


Unlock the Temple Doors

Catholic & Mormon Links Page

Originally Written: April 2001
First Upload: July 2001
Last Update: November 4, 2001