The reality of being a Christian in the red zone.
According to the Open Doors website, persecution of Christians is extreme in the following countries: Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. These countries, all in or around the proximity of the Middle East, number in severity from 2-10, but the #1 spot for extreme persecution sits isolated from the rest: North Korea. After these, many other countries are listed as enduring persecution of a severe, moderate, or sparse level. A map on the website marks the countries with various colors as indicators—red being extreme. The greater portion of the world map is colorless, clear of persecution in any measurable report.
The majority of the planet’s inhabitants may be unaware of the dangers of being a Christian in certain parts of the world. Some nations may not consider the possibility that persecution might enter because Christianity has already abandoned their religious landscape. But even in these places, a number of Christians are active, though perhaps they meet in secret and evangelize with discretion.
Here in America, Christians see this as a horrible reality, but only for those brothers and sisters whose countries are given a color on the persecution map. It’s far away. Foreign. Our experience tells us we must be quiet at school and perhaps in the workplace. Media reminds us we’re close-minded bigots who want to keep good people bound by our antiquated morals. General attitude pushes us toward shame. Shame on us for holding onto our principles, when the time is far gone for such things. But we can’t compare this mental manipulation with the martyrdom of believers in those foreign places.
I live in the South where walking space and doctrine separates churches. They’re close together, common, numerous. Yes, they vary in methods of “doing church” but if the Gospel is being preached, then church is being done. In other parts of the U.S.A., churches are farther apart and offered with less variety. And in some cases, less of the Gospel message. I can feel it when I travel—a wasteland exists here. A mission field. If persecution of the extreme, or even the sparse kind were to spread across the oceans and takes root in America, would the unchurched notice? Would the population of South take a different attitude than the people of the Northwest? (I know there are well-functioning churches in the Northwest, but they are far apart.) Would Americans stop viewing Christianity as an organization clinging to the past and realize it holds the only hope for the future? The answer might depend on the persecuted church. Would we cower, or stand resolved?
The made-up Christians I write about fall somewhere in between cowering and standing. Wake the Dead portrays Christians as ultra-subtle, not wanting to bring on the fury of government, meeting underground but only beginning to consider that they may face greater persecution. The next book, Killswitch, releases this summer. In it, Christians are captured and delivered to facilities where death machines await them. Readers find the menacing fiction startling in light of the real possibilities. But already, in those “red” countries on the map, acts of persecution are not fiction. The Bible has always taught us this would be a part of our existence as followers of Christ. It’s always been that way. But not for Americans. And still, it’s not here. Not quite.
Will the persecution map alter? Will it even be permitted to remain as a testimony of the times in which we live? The map supports the truth and warning of Scripture. And if the prophecy of Scripture has been and is being fulfilled, then what follows the persecution of Christ’s followers is something much worse: The wrath of God.
I won’t fear what man can do to me. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21) Nevertheless, I will pray for those suffering persecution. It’s a trial that for now I can only imagine. May God give them encouragement and peace.
As for the wrath to come, I’m covered by the Blood of Christ. In this red zone God’s children are safe. What a good, amazing, loving Father He is to rescue us from His own wrath.