“I no longer fear martyrdom.”
These were the first words to appear on this website. I wrote this not long after my conversion to Orthodox Christianity when I was full of zeal and eager to share my new faith.
The concept of martyrdom has an immediacy in Orthodoxy. In our worship, icons depicting martyrs for the faith surround us. We commemorate saints who refused to reject Christ at the cost of their lives. Martyrdom is a reality with historical roots.
But Americans have an abstract idea of martyrdom. What we see as persecution is merely inconvenience. We tend to see each new rejection of Christianity in popular culture as evidence of a coming persecution. Every attempt to shut God out of the public square is the precursor to a pogram against Christians.
My Facebook feed brims with outrage over every new offense. Someone is always calling for boycotts. We want granite monuments to the Ten Commandments at every courthouse and truck stop, and wail when someone objects. That’s not martyrdom. It’s a persecution complex.
You aren’t being punished for your faith when you get a red cup at Starbucks. You’re just being overly sensitive.
That’s not to say our culture isn’t actively shutting Christianity out of the conversation. Popular media is anti-Christian and always will be. Americans live in a post-Christian nation, and are going to have to accept the fact that our influence in culture and politics is waning.
Still, the majority of American citizens identify as Christian. It’s unlikely an American Christian will die for their faith on their home soil. Islamic terrorist attacks are indeed increasing in this country. But there is no wholesale slaughter happening.
martyrdom in the middle east
In Egypt and other Islamic nations, Christians are dying for the faith regularly. Islamic terrorists are bombing churches during services and executing women and children. New martyrs are being created with alarming frequency.
And yet these Christians take to the streets in the face of death to proclaim the risen Christ. Their boldness is an amazing sight.
Christianity has always thrived under persecution. The message of Christ exploded out of Jerusalem in a time of Roman occupation. It survived the conquest of the Turks and the Enlightenment. Christianity is producing martyrs for the faith even today in a war-torn Middle East.
American Christians must take notice of the plight of Christians truly suffering for their faith. We can help our brethren through organizations that give aid and comfort. And we must pray for their salvation.
Here in America, we can show Christ through our actions every day. We must live our faith, and not just proclaim it online. And we must not only fight imaginary persecution, we must be willing to bear the real thing.
Our comfort and hope is in the knowledge that Christ has overcome a world that would make us martyrs.
Do you not see them exposed to wild beasts, that they may be persuaded to deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the greater becomes the number of the rest? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God; these are the evidences of His manifestation.
– Mathetes Epistle to Diognetus
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