Sometimes my kids come to me and say, “We're starving!” When this happens, I try to help them understand that there are children in the world—even in our community—who are truly starving or undernourished.

Sometimes Christians in North America say, “We're persecuted!” While Christianity has faced increasing cultural disdain in recent years, to call this treatment persecution “stretches the definition violently,” says one writer in Relevant magazine.

The first three centuries of the church are known as “the age of martyrs.” The Roman Empire mercilessly persecuted the early Christians, who refused to worship the emperor as divine or make sacrifices to Roman gods. They were tortured, thrown to wild animals, set on fire and used as human torches. Their willing sacrifices led to the rapid growth and spread of Christianity. The church father Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Today, there are still places in the world where Christians are jailed and killed for their faith, where they must meet in secret. Sarnia, Ont., where I live, isn't one of them. I can go to church openly, listen to Christian radio while driving home and then watch a Christian TV show or movie. We have Christian daycares, schools and universities; Christian magazines, books and publishing companies; Christian games, greeting cards and dating websites.

It's true that Christians are sometimes ridiculed and marginalized, but being made fun of is not persecution. Being a Christian will not get me killed. So why does a certain segment of Christianity in North America claim persecution? I think it's because we're losing our grip on power, and we're afraid.

In the fourth century, the emperor Constantine adopted Christianity after a key battle and made it legal. It became the official religion of the empire and the church gained tremendous power, influence and cultural dominance. This was the beginning of Christendom, a partnership between church and state that shaped Western society.

Christians are used to being the dominant majority in our culture, but that's changing. We now live in a pluralistic society, made up of many traditions, cultures and religions. Not everyone thinks or believes the way we do. But acknowledging and respecting our differences doesn't mean we have compromised our faith. It means we understand that religious freedom means freedom for everybody.

Scripture is clear that living as a Christian will bring opposition: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12); “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

In my opinion, we aren't persecuted, but we do have a persecution, or martyr, complex—an unfounded and obsessive fear or sense that we are the object of collective mistreatment or hostility.

Do we read persecution into things because we want to prove our worthiness? Has it become a badge of honour that inflates our pride? Something that marks us as part of an elite group? Alan Noble, an English professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, writes about the dangers of a misguided understanding of persecution in The Atlantic: “The danger of this view is that believers can come to see victimhood as an essential part of their identity … the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: they fetishize suffering.”

It's true that the church no longer occupies a central place in our culture—but is that a bad thing? When the church became a powerful, state institution, abuse and corruption followed. Throughout history, reform movements have arisen to call the church back to its roots—to be countercultural, pointing to a different way of living, different values.

Bishop Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, writes: “I think the detachment of the Christian religion from the culture in which we are living—the end of the age of Christendom—is an opportunity … [the] church can now emerge, [unencumbered] by the institutional arrangements that were part of the age of Christendom, and that's an opportunity for some real religion. Now we [can] get on with the work of really following Jesus, really being his disciples and the community of his disciples in the world.”

We aren't persecuted just because we're no longer on top. Let's get back to being the church—salt and light in a dark world.

Captain Mark Braye is the corps officer at Sarnia Community Church, Ont.


On Sunday, February 12, 2017, Douglas Smith said:

I agree with Captain Braye. It is also true that over the centuries the church has become compromised in its entanglement with worldly leaders and has found it difficult to witness truth to power. In the West we have become compromised by the spirit of the age, with commercialism and national egos - confusing the Christian Gospel with our national cultures! We also have come to confuse persecution with the inability to impose our values and ideas on a wider society through the power of the state!

On Thursday, January 26, 2017, Martin Ketteringham said:

This article is an excellent reminder to keep life and faith in balance. There will always be exceptions where Christians have been persecuted for their faith here in our western world. But let us not confuse not getting priority as Christians with persecution. We live in a very diverse world and recognizing that diversity means allowing for other expressions of faith. Allowing equality rights for others does not mean less rights for Christians.

Thank you Mark for that reminder!

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017, Stephen Scarborough said:

Dear Editor,

I'd like to address a statement made by Captain Mark Braye in an article entitled "Martyr Complex: are Christians in North America persecuted?" (December 2016):

He asserted: "..we aren't persecuted, but we do have a persecution or martyr complex-an unfounded and obsessive fear or sense that we are the object of collective mistreatment or hostility".

Perhaps the Captain has not heard the story of Cassie Bernall. Cassie, along with fellow Christian, Rachel Scott were gunned down in the school library during the Columbine High school massacre in Littleton, Colorado, USA in April, 1999. Although Cassie and Rachel were just two of twelve students who died that day, what stands out glaringly in this tragedy is HOW the two girls were singled out for their faith in Jesus.

Trapped in the school library, the gunman asked Cassie, who was well known as a devout Christian on campus, "Do you believe in God?". Carrie carried her Bible to school every day and wore a 'what would Jesus do?' wrist bracelet. When Cassie decided not to deny her Lord and Saviour and answered, "yes", the gunman pulled the trigger.
Cassie's courage has been memorialized in a book entitled, "She said yes: the unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall"

Closer to home, in Toronto last year, the Christian singing group, "Voices of the Nations", were denied a permit to perform by the City. The accusation: they were singing about Jesus and "proselytizing" (witnessing). Since when was freedom of speech not applicable to Christians in Canada? It was only through thousands of petition signatures and a public march by christians demanding this right, that the City relented.

True, so far, christians in North America have not been tortured for carrying Bibles or arrested for meeting in churches but there are valid reasons to be concerned for Christians' rights as citizens, a need to be aware of the signs of the times, shun apathy and not think we are 'safe'. Jesus commands us to 'watch and pray' for a reason.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Scarborough

On Friday, December 16, 2016, Eugene Gesner said:

I would disagree with the author. There is some persecution, not on the scale of death or physical harm, but in lawsuits putting Christians out of business for wanting to follow Christian values in their businesses. Some of the awards are ridiculous, six figure penalties for not providing a service that might have netted them only a hundred or so dollars.

Martyr complex? Blame the educational system in the western countries for promoting victimhood, not the church. Now, some churches may just be reflecting the culture, as they tend to do in other areas as well. It is not loss of power, the church seems to have been losing power for at least the last fifty years, so why the accusations at this time.

Should we not build each other up, not tear down or make fun of those suffering? This article is not a help and gives what I believe to be a mistaken point of view.

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