Every 5 minutes, a martyr

State Representative Rebecca Hamilton (OK) reports an alarming statistic:

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, one hundred thousand Christians have died for their faith each year in the last decade. That works out to 11 Christians martyred for their faith every hour for the past ten years.

Can you imagine the outcry if this was one the groups that fashion says we should care about? Just consider the sentence 100,000 _______ were murdered because of they were ______ each year for the past ten years. Supply the name of any group whose rights we hear daily that we are supposed to care about.

Right, nobody cares when Christians get murdered, except of course for hundreds of millions who do care, and especially all those liberals who are clamoring for an end to all religious persecution regardless of who the victim is. Sheesh. But what about that statistic? 100,000 Christians murdered for their faith every year for the past 10 years? One new Christian martyr every five minutes? The recent church bombing in Pakistan killed about 80-some Christians, and that was big news because 80 seems like (and is) a lot. One million murdered Christians, just since 2003, seems a bit high.

I suspect the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, might be conflating figures that include terrorism, sectarian violence, regional wars, tribal wars, and other types of violence that are not necessarily related to trying to prevent souls from being saved for Jesus. There’s certainly a great deal of violence in the world today (as there has always been), and I expect that, if this figure is correct, you’ll find similar figures for other ethnic/sectarian groups, adjusted for population.

Regardless of the actual number, though–and any number greater than zero is too big–it’s interesting that Rebecca Hamilton’s take on it is to condemn it and call for an end to it. That’s a very humanistic goal, and one I wholeheartedly support, but as a self-proclaimed Public Catholic, isn’t she supposed to be happy that Christians are experiencing the very things Jesus both predicted and commanded?

[Jesus said] Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. — John 15:20

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. — Luke 6:22-23

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. — Matthew 10: 38-39

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21

And on and on, of course. It’s God’s will for Christians to suffer and be murdered, and in fact it’s an extra special blessing, because it puts you right in the middle of the same sufferings Jesus experienced, according to the Gospel. Hamilton’s commendable humanistic compassion for Christians puts her at odds with God’s clearly-revealed intentions, desires, and special blessings.

Then again, the justification for such injustices is that believers are supposed to enjoy a superior reward after they die, which is a pleasant fantasy that will never happen. No matter how great life is supposed to be after you die, you’re never going to be there, and believers know it, at least a subconscious level. That’s why martyrdom is really a bad thing, no matter what the Gospel says. Hamilton is entirely right to oppose it, and in fact she ought to go the whole way and oppose all religious persecution. Granted, that’s a liberal and humanistic goal, but it’s a good one, and even Christians would benefit, just as Hamilton herself points out. It wouldn’t be a special privilege that only Christians get to enjoy. But really, is that such a terrible sacrifice to make for the sake of humanity?


  1. ericblair says

    A lot of Christians were disappointed when their cult was officially adopted by the Roman Empire as the state religion. Church doctrine said that martyrdom was a sure-fire one-way ticket to the pearly gates. The cessation of periodic persecutions canceled that ticket – or so it seemed.

    Then some zealot figured out that if people when beyond the borders of the Empire to harangue the heathens about abandoning their native faith, they might annoy the barbarians enough to bring about the martyrdom they so sorely missed. If the Roman evangelizers were anything like today’s, it’s not hard to see how that was a bad bet.

    One thing that the Roman zealots of old shared with modern fanatics was a desire to die for the faith; lacking is the intent to take others along for the ride. Christianity clings to its heritage of martyrdom, and in the Catholic school I attended, children were told that those who died in Jesus’ name were fortunate, and that we should feel unfortunate not to have such opportunities today.

    There are, today, many Christians who cradle that heritage like an ailing puppy, claiming persecution at every turn. When a Christian is attacked on the other side of the world, these people claim to bleed. When one of these types asserts, for instance, that legally guaranteed nondiscrimination of gays or making sure that contraception is a right is infringing on their religious beliefs, we can be quite certain that what’s really being infringed is their intent to impost their religious mandates on people who neither share nor want them.

    I am, furthermore, very annoyed when WordPress allows me to preview and edit an extensive comment, then not tell me until after I click publish that I am not logged in and am assumed to be an impostor. When I return to the original page to log in, my entire post is gone.

  2. says

    One of the ironies of the whole thing is that the people yelling the loudest on this side of the world about Christian persecution elsewhere would likely be upset at the brand of Christianity those people follow. Of course some of them really don’t get that the believers in Egypt or Pakistan usually aren’t born agains who believe in the dispensational Rapture theology they do.

  3. Deacon Duncan says

    USA stats only, for 2009:

    Religious bias

    Of the 1,575 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:

    • 71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
    • 8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias.
    • 3.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Catholic bias.
    • 2.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Protestant bias.
    • 0.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
    • 8.3 percent were victims because of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
    • 4.3 percent were victims because of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group). (Based on Table 1.)

    It’s not clear whether the crimes against Christians (anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant) were not perpetrated by other Christians, but you have to wonder who else cares what kind of Christian you are.

    And by way of comparison, hate crimes based on sexual orientations fell slightly short of religiously-motivated hate crimes (assuming the hate was not also religiously motivated).

    Sexual-orientation bias

    Of the 1,482 victims targeted due to a sexual-orientation bias:

    • 55.1 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-male homosexual bias.
    • 26.4 percent were victims because of an anti-homosexual bias.
    • 15.3 percent were victims because of an anti-female homosexual bias.
    • 1.8 percent were victims because of an anti-bisexual bias.
    • 1.4 percent were victims because of an anti-heterosexual bias. (Based on Table 1.)
  4. Alverant says

    I think he’s stretching with his 100K claim. I bet if you look into the numbers you’ll find headlines like “Church bus falls off bridge killing 50” or “Family returning from Jesus Camp wiped out by drunk driver”. You’d also find the death total in war zones where christians were murdering muslims at the same time and the deaths were just the results of religious strife. It doesn’t justify anything but it would put that number in perspective.

  5. steffp says

    Statistics and criteria… nothing held up high by the Gordon Conwell Theological seminary. They estimate the number of Christian martyrs at 1 million during the last ten years. The only persecution country they point to as a reference is the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 5.4 mio excess deaths in the last 10 years indeed a problematic place. Only that the DRC’s population is 96% Christian, according to the Pew Forum.
    Fine persecution, that…

  6. Routemaster says

    The BBC radio programme More Or Less, which deals with statistics in the news, covered this recently. They weren’t persuaded.

    Sorry to comment on a moribund thread but I only just noticed that you have returned. Good to see you back!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *