I see the word "persecution" thrown around quite a lot on Christian blogs these days. People write something controversial- they are vilified all over the place on the internet- and then they cry persecution.
I confess: This drives me more than a little bonkers. Every day, I read stories of people who faced physical and psychological torture and death, who had body parts ripped off, who faced being torn to shreds by wild animals, who saw their children murdered in front of them- all so they would deny the Truth Faith and renounce Jesus Christ. I thought I'd put up a few short stories of some great women who suffered and died because they were Christians and because they refused to back down. Hopefully, learning about a bit about their stories will offer a little perspective to this new "persecuted" crop of Christians.
St. Sophia and her daughters Faith, Hope, and Love : St. Sophia witnessed the brutal torture and murder of her daughters because she would not renounce her faith in Christ. Her daughters endured this torture, but also refused to renounce their faith.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity : Both these mothers were brought into the Roman arena to be dismembered by wild animals. When that attempt failed, they were both impaled by the sword.
St. Paraskevi : She was imprisoned, tortured (including being boiled in oil) and STILL managed to forgive and even heal her captors.
St. Christina, the Great Martyr of Tyre : St. Christina had her breasts and tongue cut off before being impaled.
St. Maria Skobstova : She hid Jews during WWII in Paris. St. Maria was finally arrested and sent to a concentration camp where she volunteered to take the place of a Jew in the gas chamber.
St. Julitta : Hid with her son from those who were arresting Christians. After finally being arrested, she was tortured in front of her son. Her son cried out for her but would not be persuaded to renounce Christ. He was murdered in front of her and she was beheaded.
St. Katherine : Faced torture over an iron wheel before being executed. Hers is one of the most extraordinary stories I've ever encountered and goes so beyond the one line I've recorded here.
St. Markella : Secretly became a Christian and spent years nursing her sick father. He recovered and somehow developed a sexual interest in his daughter. Eventually, he tried to rape her. She fled and became greatly injured while trying to escape him. He caught up with her and dismembered her limb by limb.
For these people, facing persecution was a way of life. They lived with the constant threat of imprisonment, torture and death hanging over their heads. I've listed people here who were martyred for their faith, but there have been millions of others who have lived with no right to safely practice their faith, who lived in constant fear of being discovered. I think about the Romanian Christians sent to Pitesti to undergo "re-education", which mean enduring months and years of psychological and physical torture all because they would not forsake their faith. Let's not even mention the tens of millions of Christians who were killed under Communism! Forget about what it was like for Christians to live under Muslim rule in Turkey for hundreds of years...
Believe it or not, keeping a blog on the internet, participating on Facebook, interacting with people on message boards and comment threads- all of that is voluntary. If we put ourselves out there by writing controversial stuff, Christian or not, we should expect disagreement- we should expect to be vilified. That comes with the territory. But if we write about that stuff, we also need to have a mighty thick skin and a little more perspective on what it actually means to be persecuted.
We become stronger when we remember their lives and the stand they took for the Faith because we can see how small our lives and our problems are compared to what they faced. We draw strength from them- if they could faith torture and death without renouncing Christ, certainly we can endure an internet smack-down.
Gossip, snark boards, nasty emails, even baseless threats- can those really be called persecution? Really? I'm inclined to say "no."