World Concern (Seattle, WA) is one of the few charities my wife and I consider worthy of support. In a recent letter from its president, Paul Kennel, we learned some chilling facts. Writes Kennel, “…an average of 160,000 Christians worldwide have been killed for their beliefs every year since 1990. More Christians are being martyred today than in 100 A.D., during the persecutions of the Roman Empire.”
Later, in the same letter, Kennel made another shocking statement: “In fact, 45 million Christians – or two-thirds of all Christian martyrs in history – were killed in the past 100 years. And it’s getting worse.”
As Christians, these facts ought to shake us to the core. The Jewish people lost some 6 million of their number in Hitler’s Holocaust, and we are constantly reminded of it in movies, television specials, holocaust museums and an endless stream of books and articles. We are told that we must “never forget” the greatest single act of barbarity in human history – and they are right, we must not forget it. Yet we Christians have lost 45 million of our number and we scarcely hear about it at all. There may be several reasons for that, all of them somewhat frightening in their implications.
One of the reasons the ongoing slaughter of Christians gets little play in our nation’s newspapers and electronic media is that most of them are controlled by the political Left. The Left is engaged in a culture war against the Right. The Right usually comprises people who adhere to traditional values: God & country, the Church, the institution of the family, the Constitution, free markets, patriotism and political freedom.
The Left wants the Right to go away. It considers the Constitution and traditional values to be obsolete. It wants to bring about a secular socialist world in which an all-powerful State, run by an elite, for all practical purposes, functions as God. In short, the Left is not concerned about the plight of Christians around the world. It is concerned about growing its own political power. Christians who take Biblical faith seriously are in the way.
The Left views the religious Right as “stupid.” Conservative religious figures, from the President on down, are typically characterized as low-grade morons barely able to spell their own names. Committed Christians, who take the Bible literally and authoritatively, especially in moral matters, are dismissed as “fundamentalists” and fanatics. They are even likened to Islamic fundamentalists! The Left is more supportive and tolerant of hostile foreign religions, and New Age gods and goddesses, than it is of the Christian faith. Christians are the only religious group in the United States that it is politically correct to persecute. The verbal abuse of Christians is not considered “hate speech,” but opposing homosexual behavior is.
In short, the Left couldn’t care less that Christians are dying around the world. It works to their advantage.
The Apathetic Church
Talk show host Dennis Prager, a conservative Jew who takes his religion seriously, often expresses amazement that Christians aren’t out there marching on Washington over the treatment of their own in this country. Why are they so silent in the face of what’s happening to them?
I think there are several reasons for this. First, the conservative manifestation of the Church has no tradition of activism upon which to draw. Those who have gotten involved in politics have often made a botch of it. Many Christians are ambivalent about getting involved. They’re not sure what their proper role is in all this.
Secondly, there is confusion within the Church about whether or not Christians are supposed to “turn the other cheek” in the face of persecution, or whether they have the right to defend themselves and their families. The doctrine of pacifism also needs to be clarified.
Thirdly, the Church is not well-informed about the treatment of Christians around the world for essentially the same reasons the general public is not informed about it: it simply isn’t often or fully reported on.
Fourth, the Church is generally apathetic about what happens outside of its tight little fiefdoms. Many Christians wear blinders. They can see only what happens within their denomination, congregation, neighborhood, family or job site. Unlike the Jews, who view themselves as part of one large, global family, Christians do not tend to express solidarity with the larger Christian community.
Fifth, Christians tend to be parochial and chauvinistic about their congregations and denominations. This exclusivistic mentality leads many to see their group as the true, authentic form of Christian faith, while others are seen as “watered down,” heretical or just plain wrong. A Sabbath-keeping member of the United Church of God might not see himself as a brother to an African Christian who is the product of English evangelists who operated during colonial times. The issue here of course is “what is a real Christian?” Should Sabbatarians reject the billion or so other Christians in the world as heretical, even if millions of them are willing to die for Christ?
The “Church” in the largest sense is a discordant cacophony of conflicting doctrines, dogmas, sacraments, catechisms, theologies and polities. Its common denominator is Christ. Many groups believe that they hold to The Truth of God and that others are therefore wrong in some sense. I’ve even heard people in the Churches of God Pod describe other Christians as “pagan.” As I’ve said many times in this column, the Church needs to build unity on its common denominators and work out its differences under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We all have God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in common. We share the Bible as our sourcebook. We are all part of a long tradition going back to the first century of our era. The time for cults of personality, isolated exclusivist sects and nonsensical turf wars is over. It is time for the Body of Christ worldwide to come together in the Gospel. The enemies of the Church do not distinguish between Sabbatarians and Sunday-keepers. They are not generally aware that some Christians keep the Israelite holy days, and that others don’t. All they know is that we are “infidels” worthy of humiliation, suffering, enslavement and death. To them, we are like goats to be slaughtered.
Sadly, many Christians in our own country have little or no concern for the plight of the Church worldwide. Perhaps the words of Paul have prescient meaning for the Church today: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…without natural affection…”(II Timothy 3:1-2, excerpts). Could it be he was talking about the Church?
Jesus said to his talmidim, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another” (John 13:34). What love is the Church generally showing for its suffering brethren around the world? Precious little.
What We Can Do About It
We do not have to be passive in the face of the torture, unjust imprisonment, enslavement, rape, humiliation and murder of fellow Christians around the world. There are many ways we can help. Here are some of them:
- Get Informed
One of the best ways to keep current on what’s happening to Christians around the world is to subscribe to, and support, the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. This fine organization puts out a free magazine for its mailing list. Every issue documents what is happening to our brothers and sisters throughout the world. It often includes a global map depicting areas of special concern. It is headquartered in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and its web site is: www.persecution.com
- Intercede in Prayer
Once you know who’s doing what to whom, get down on your knees and lift those people to God in prayer. Where you can, do it by name. Be specific. Keep track of those for whom you are praying. Follow up. In some cases you may be able to write encouraging letters to them. It really helps to know that somebody actually cares. When God delivers someone as a result of your prayers, spend time thanking him for so doing.
- Begin a Letter Writing Campaign
Government leaders in Washington need to know that their constituents are concerned about the global abuse of Christians. Write to them often, detailing what’s going on and why they should do something about it. Write also to the leaders of governments in persecuting countries. Politely demand that they enforce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their country (if their country signed off on it). You can get a copy of the Declaration at the UN web site, and there you can also find out which nations signed it. Take special interest in the section about slavery.Publicize the Plight of Fellow Christians Any Chance You Get
Once you are informed, let everyone you can know about what’s happening to Christians around the world. Encourage fellow Christians to pray about it. Americans, Canadians and Brits ought to be outraged at what is happening to God’s people in this so-called “modern” world. Much of the world is still languishing in the Dark Ages. Those who kill Christians often think they are doing God a service. That’s what Hitler thought when he came up with his “final solution to the Jewish problem.”
In Communist-run nations leadership is paranoid about Christians becoming a “disrupting influence” in their tightly controlled society, so they over-punish even the slightest, harmless infraction. The stories coming out of China would break your heart.
Many Christians don’t want to face the ugly reality of what’s happening to their brethren around the world. “It’s so depressing,” they say. “I don’t like to dwell on it. It gets me down.” How do you think God feels about it — or the people who are experiencing it? How do you think Christ feels about the lack of love Christians have for other Christians?
Let’s face it: the world is an ugly, brutal place. Many of the people who run nations are barbarians, thugs, murderous religious fanatics and degenerates. They cannot be reasoned with like civilized people. There isn’t a democratic bone in their bodies. They are tyrants, pure and simple. The only thing they understand is brute strength and the willingness of those who have it to use it. So long as the worldwide Body of Christ remains passive in the face of the wholesale slaughter of Christians, those who do it will continue to get away with it. The writer of Ecclesiastes said this: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
The same writer also wrote, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors was power; but they had no comforter” (Ecclesiastes 4:1).
Today, there is no shortage of tears of the oppressed. The world is awash in them. And who, if not their fellows, will comfort them? Who will pray for them? Who will render concrete help when possible?
Try not to let a day go by without praying for our brothers and sisters who are in constant danger from those in power. Many of them have been willing to give their lives for Christ. The least we can do is lift them to God in loving prayer.