Before I go too far into my series on persecution, I just want to say that, yes, I am aware that there are people around the world who are being tortured and killed for being Christian, and no, I am not trying to belittle their suffering in any way. That said, this isn’t really about them. It’s about the Christians in America, and I just want to talk about how a lot of people, not all, view the suffering of their fellow believers in other countries. Now, this is my own experience, so please bear that in mind.
We have books like “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” an old document of all the martyrs tortured and killed for simply being Christian, and its more modern counterpart “Jesus Freaks.” We hear about the persecutions committed by Roman emperors like Nero and Diocletian, and we hear about the killings in places like Soviet Russia, where all religion was banned. It still happens today, and there are even a small magazine called “The Voice of the Martyrs” that testifies to the beatings and arrests of people who worship God and Jesus or even own a bible in some countries. As much as there are organizations, including the people behind “Voice of the Martyrs,” there are many who simply read the testimonies of persecution and justify their own righteousness as Christians by the persecution of others.
There’s this idea that, because Christians in other nations are persecuted and martyred for their faith, just as Jesus said they would be, that must mean that Christianity is the One True Religion. At the same time, Christians in the United States aren’t faced with the same kind of persecution. I remember hearing a sermon where we were told that, if we were doing right, then we would be persecuted, and if things were going well for us, there was something wrong with our Christian life. That said, where is the persecution of the Church in America if the religious right is in control? Yes, there is the occasional person who will berate or even assault a person for being a Christian, but often, the people who give someone a hard time for living Jesus’ command of “Love your neighbor as yourself” may even call themselves Christians, who then say that they are being persecuted by atheists and other non-believers.
When someone says that that they have a kind of solidarity with people thousands of miles away, that their persecution supports our cause, simply because they all say that they’re Christian, the person who isn’t being beaten up, robbed of a job and a home, and killed, is really insulting the person who is. Their pain and their martyrdom, doesn’t support the American church. It doesn’t support the religious conservatives. It supports Jesus, the divine Messiah that they worship. Pray for them, yes, but don’t use them to support your cause.
Don’t say, “This is what can happen here in America,” because the people in power are not going to let it. There are atheists out there who don’t want Christians to be assaulted, simply on the basis of religious freedom. Don’t say, “All atheists hate Christians, and this is proof,” because it’s not true. Yes, people get angry when Christians picket homes and places of work and worship that they disagree with, and they get angry when Christians get confrontational and angry at someone for not believing in God, but that’s not the same as hating them for going to praying to a deity they don’t believe in.
If you really want to support the Christian martyrs in other countries, don’t just spread the news about them and say, “They’re doing such a good job for the Christian cause.” Don’t just say, “We need to defeat the atheists in America or this can happen here.” Try to help them get to a safe place if you can, a place where religion, or even lack of religion, is able to be had without being violently harassed. If you can’t do that, pray for them if you believe that the God you worship is capable of saving them. Christians who self-justify by pointing to the persecution of others in other countries really don’t help themselves, and insult the real suffering that those martyrs have to face.
- BBC Criticizes U.S. Christians Who May be Playing Hanky-Panky With Martyr Statistics (patheos.com)
- Accusing the Messenger (anthonyuplandpoetwatkins.wordpress.com)
- COMMENTARY: A call for a more realistic reporting of Christian martyrs (religionnews.com)