The horrific massacre of high school students at the Columbine High School in 1999 spawned an entire new movement within Christian popular culture that promotes martyrdom as a noble way to die.
As Vox's Alissa Wilkinson writes, the mythology surrounding the Columbine massacre is centered around Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, two victims who both reportedly told killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris that they believed in God just before being fatally shot.
Wilkinson then writes that the two girls' deaths quickly became legendary among churchgoing teenage suburbanites, as she was in the late '90s.
"Books and songs about Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott circulated widely — especially among teenagers in suburban churches, as I and many others can personally attest," she explains. "They prompted not just teenage soul searching but also that other teenage phenomenon: aspiration."
This aspiration took the form of, in the words of Washington Post reporter Hana Rosin, a "kind of teenage hysteria, a Christian-sanctified death wish" that portrayed dying in the name of religion as a romantic ideal.
"That might sound horrifying. But for many Christian teenagers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it made a strange kind of sense," she writes. "If you were a Christian teenager during the period of time following the era of the grunge-and-flannel dropout Gen-Xers, following your faith was preached to you as a radical act."
Although such fetishes for martyrdom have died down since their peek in the post-Columbine years, Wilkinson says that they led to another trend in modern Evangelical thinking: Namely, that Christians in America are uniquely persecuted for their beliefs. This way of thinking has led to a belief that there is a "war on Christmas" that is being waged by secular forces whose goal is to completely eradicate the Christian religion from the country.
The whole essay is worth reading and can be found at this link.