The Martyr Myth

Persecution works, except for a risen Savior. 


John Stonestreet

Timothy D Padgett

In the recent blockbuster, Dune: Part 2, a character says something to the effect that they shouldn’t try to suppress a religious movement because martyrdom will only make it stronger. This common claim is actually a backhanded compliment to Christianity.  

In most cases in history, repressing religion worked. Among the many religions that failed under the pressure of persecution is Zoroastrianism, once the ruling faith of the Persian Empire. Many former strongholds of Christianity in the Middle East are now Muslim strongholds, and decades of Communism in East Germany virtually wiped out Christianity there to this day. 

When people claim that repressing religion makes it stronger, they’re referring to the rare time in which persecution didn’t work. The experience of first-century Christianity is not the norm. Still, Christ’s first followers did not grow from an obscure sect in Jerusalem to the largest religion in history because of persecution, but because its Founder didn’t stay dead.


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