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Anthony Esolen: Over Our Dead Bodies


Anthony Esolen, “Over Our Dead Bodies: Men Who Are Willing to Lay Down Their Lives Are Truly Indispensable,” Touchstone (June 2006, Vol 19, No. 5).

Someplace, Pennsylvania

Anthony Esolen’s article is rich and lyrical. It describes an all-American small town and the slate quarry that was once the economic heart of the community. Some might see the abandoned quarry as an ugly scar on the land. Others see it as a place to test and re-create themselves.

Even with modern equipment and techniques, quarries are risky, difficult places to work. Yet they produce products of great beauty, durability and value. The slate wrestled from the earth serves as superior roofing, tables or flooring. The product is worth the price.

The intended purpose of the quarry is in the past, but it continues to serve as a place where beauty, durability and value are created. Young men use the place as a swimming hole and graffiti wall. They test themselves against the very real risk of falling among the jagged rock, miles and hours from any reasonable help or rescue.

There are two main reasons for their somewhat reckless behavior. The first; the innate male urge to demonstrate their abilities and capabilities. The second; to leave enduring evidence of their passing through a place.

Risk And Reward

Sooner or later, men want to prove or demonstrate their skills and powers. They might try to perform for a large crowd. They may be satisfied if only they themselves know. Regardless of the audience, they want an authentic encounter with their limits. The reward of knowing exceeds the hazard of doing.

Every man wants significance.

That heartfelt desire does not die when a man becomes a Christian. In fact the Savior wants to harness the itch to exceed ourselves to our mission and calling. Who does not want to be Peter on the water? What man can resist being Moses before Pharaoh?

The problem is that we have taught ourselves to play it safe. Climbing out of the boat is an insane act. Challenging the might of Pharaoh with a single stick is suicidal at best.

We cannot advance God’s Kingdom from a place of safety and security. At the risk of becoming martyrs we do things that will bring others to Christ. Whether facing a spear in Ecuador, or the unsaved man in the next cubicle, are you willing to put yourself at risk for God’s Kingdom?

Long Term Significance

Every man wants significance. We want to matter, in a weighty way, if only for an hour in our lives. The scars or missing limbs become our badge(s) of honor. “I was there, and I did what needed to be done.”

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Category: Fall 2006, Living the Faith

About the Author: Kirk Wesley Hunt, MBA, is a minister at Tucson Church International in Tucson Arizona. He is the author of Soldiers Of The Kingdom: Reclaiming the World for God (CadreMen Press, 2002) and Blessed and Blessing: Devotionals for Gospel Champions (CadreMen Press, 2015). He publishes a weekly devotional at:

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