The noble army of martyrs

A blog from Christianity Today has posted data on The History of Martyrdom:

Table of Martyrs

The number of people who have died for their faith has shot up dramatically since the 20th century, dwarfing every other period. Other observations: Since martyrs are defined according to the definition of each tradition, the Muslim martyrs would include those killed while fighting in jihads, which is how nearly all of the Muslim wars of conquest have been classified. Also, it would appear that Protestants hardly ever martyr anyone!

What other conclusions can you draw from this data?

HT: One Eternal Day

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Snafu

    Truly interesting that Protestants have very marginal number on this “persecutor” column. However, that hasn’t stopped secular media pointing out how the Christians have always destroyed the indigenous people with missionary work. So either the colonialist era isn’t included here, or the actual number people killed e.g. in former British colonies really is surprisingly low.

  • Snafu

    Truly interesting that Protestants have very marginal number on this “persecutor” column. However, that hasn’t stopped secular media pointing out how the Christians have always destroyed the indigenous people with missionary work. So either the colonialist era isn’t included here, or the actual number people killed e.g. in former British colonies really is surprisingly low.

  • Carl Vehse

    What? No Lutherans martyred?

    In any case, the data comes from the World Christian database at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. The data is taken from World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd edition (David Barrett, George Kurian and Todd Johnson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 2 vols.) and World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200: Interpreting the annual Christian megacensus (David Barrett and Todd Johnson. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001. 934p. CD included).

  • Carl Vehse

    What? No Lutherans martyred?

    In any case, the data comes from the World Christian database at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. The data is taken from World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd edition (David Barrett, George Kurian and Todd Johnson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 2 vols.) and World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200: Interpreting the annual Christian megacensus (David Barrett and Todd Johnson. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001. 934p. CD included).

  • http://pastoralkorn.blogspot.com ALan

    Does Islam consider suicide bombers and jihadists to be martyrs? That would increase their perceived numbers.

  • http://pastoralkorn.blogspot.com ALan

    Does Islam consider suicide bombers and jihadists to be martyrs? That would increase their perceived numbers.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    It’s dangerous to be religious, I guess. It also looks like Roman Catholic bishop may qualify you for hazard pay.

    I’m curious as to how one establishes that “Atheists” are responsible for 31.7 million martyrs of various sorts, since atheists are notoriously difficult to organize much less motivate.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    It’s dangerous to be religious, I guess. It also looks like Roman Catholic bishop may qualify you for hazard pay.

    I’m curious as to how one establishes that “Atheists” are responsible for 31.7 million martyrs of various sorts, since atheists are notoriously difficult to organize much less motivate.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Pastor wcwirla, Stalin, Mao, and arguably Hitler were rather well organized atheists who managed to slaughter people in the tens of millions.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Pastor wcwirla, Stalin, Mao, and arguably Hitler were rather well organized atheists who managed to slaughter people in the tens of millions.

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Inarguably Hitler. That he was an atheist is beyond doubt. That he at times employed religious-sounding language proves that even an atheist will use “god” (whom he first kills) to political advantage.

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Inarguably Hitler. That he was an atheist is beyond doubt. That he at times employed religious-sounding language proves that even an atheist will use “god” (whom he first kills) to political advantage.

  • wcwirla

    Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were all heads of state, therefore they would fall under the category of “State Ruling Power” in the chart. Also, even granted that Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were indeed atheists, they did not themselves kill tens of millions of people. Those who worked under them did. So we must assume that all those who worked under Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were likewise atheists, which at least in the case of Hitler, may not in fact be true.

    Let me be clear. I’m not arguing that atheists are not capable of killing for religious reasons. I’m sure the current batch of militant atheists would love to get rid of “faith-heads” of all sorts if they could legally get away with it. There certainly wouldn’t be any moral argument against it, from their perspective. It would, in fact, improve the Darwinian gene pool by eliminating irrational believers from the human race.

    All I’m questioning is the category “Atheists” in the table and its undefined overlap with “State ruling power.” That part seems statistically dubious.

  • wcwirla

    Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were all heads of state, therefore they would fall under the category of “State Ruling Power” in the chart. Also, even granted that Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were indeed atheists, they did not themselves kill tens of millions of people. Those who worked under them did. So we must assume that all those who worked under Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were likewise atheists, which at least in the case of Hitler, may not in fact be true.

    Let me be clear. I’m not arguing that atheists are not capable of killing for religious reasons. I’m sure the current batch of militant atheists would love to get rid of “faith-heads” of all sorts if they could legally get away with it. There certainly wouldn’t be any moral argument against it, from their perspective. It would, in fact, improve the Darwinian gene pool by eliminating irrational believers from the human race.

    All I’m questioning is the category “Atheists” in the table and its undefined overlap with “State ruling power.” That part seems statistically dubious.

  • Pingback: Graph shows the history of martyrdom : The Daily Scroll

  • Pingback: Graph shows the history of martyrdom : The Daily Scroll

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Lots of Lutherans were martyred, particularly during the Reformation and at the hands of the Inquisition (as happened with the Spirituali in the Michelangelo post), though it also happened in the Soviet Union and in places in Africa today at the hands of Muslims. The chart just throws all “Protestants” together.

    Does anyone know if Lutherans were guilty of martyring people of other theologies? There was the Peasant War, but I’m not sure that fits the category. Luther opposed using force in the name of religion. Calvin burned the anti-Trinitarian Servetus. Did the Lutherans do that sort of thing?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Lots of Lutherans were martyred, particularly during the Reformation and at the hands of the Inquisition (as happened with the Spirituali in the Michelangelo post), though it also happened in the Soviet Union and in places in Africa today at the hands of Muslims. The chart just throws all “Protestants” together.

    Does anyone know if Lutherans were guilty of martyring people of other theologies? There was the Peasant War, but I’m not sure that fits the category. Luther opposed using force in the name of religion. Calvin burned the anti-Trinitarian Servetus. Did the Lutherans do that sort of thing?

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Calvin burned the anti-Trinitarian Servetus? I know we Lutherans love to beat up Calvin with our post-modern, anti-capital-punishment world view, but he neither burned Servetus nor had him burned – although it is stylish to accuse him of same. The trial, condemnation and execution (in particular the selection of the mode of execution) of Servetus were entirely the work of the city council of Geneva at a period of time when it was particularly hostile to Calvin. Its prosecution of Servetus was intended to demonstrate its impeccable orthodoxy as a prelude to undermining Calvin’s religious authority in the city.
    I could press the point further: many religious folks including JWs seek to discredit Calvin’s entire theological system on the basis of this one event. Yet Thomas Aquinas himself had written explicitly in support of burning of heretics: “If the heretic still remains pertinacious the church, despairing of his conversion, provides for the salvation of others by separating him from the church by the sentence of excommunication and then leaves him to the secular judge to exterminated from the world by death.” Yes – brutal in 2009, but can we today condemn Aquinas’s religious and political views in their totality as a result? I’m not advocating for burning heretics; I think Luther’s approach to this matter was biblical and compassionate. I only flinch when I read “Calvin burned Servetus”. That revision of history is repugnant. In the Servetus affair Calvin is often portrayed as lawyer, minister of propaganda, judge, trial jury and executioner all at once. Although it was Calvin, acting as an individual, who arranged for Servetus’s accusation and arrest, it was the city council who took over the case and prosecuted Servetus with vigour.
    It should be noted that Calvin’s role in these procedures was subsequently that of technical advisor or expert theological witness (Calvin was a trinitarian, after all), rather than prosecutor. Interestingly, the Roman church had requested from Geneva Servetus’s extradition to face similar charges in Vienne. Geneva offered Servetus the choice of going to Vienne to face Rome or staying in Geneva to “face” “Calvin”. Interestingly, he chose Geneva. Calvin also, perhaps with memories of stake burnings in Paris fresh in his mind, attempted to alter the mode of execution the more humane beheading. He was ignored.
    This is not my love-in with Calvin; I’m only trying to treat of the situation fairly. We Lutherans should only understand that we have all condemned and executed our Servetuses, whether directly, or – as in the case of Calvin himself – indirectly. Let us praise God that this period of sectarian violence within the Christian church is over.
    CL

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    Calvin burned the anti-Trinitarian Servetus? I know we Lutherans love to beat up Calvin with our post-modern, anti-capital-punishment world view, but he neither burned Servetus nor had him burned – although it is stylish to accuse him of same. The trial, condemnation and execution (in particular the selection of the mode of execution) of Servetus were entirely the work of the city council of Geneva at a period of time when it was particularly hostile to Calvin. Its prosecution of Servetus was intended to demonstrate its impeccable orthodoxy as a prelude to undermining Calvin’s religious authority in the city.
    I could press the point further: many religious folks including JWs seek to discredit Calvin’s entire theological system on the basis of this one event. Yet Thomas Aquinas himself had written explicitly in support of burning of heretics: “If the heretic still remains pertinacious the church, despairing of his conversion, provides for the salvation of others by separating him from the church by the sentence of excommunication and then leaves him to the secular judge to exterminated from the world by death.” Yes – brutal in 2009, but can we today condemn Aquinas’s religious and political views in their totality as a result? I’m not advocating for burning heretics; I think Luther’s approach to this matter was biblical and compassionate. I only flinch when I read “Calvin burned Servetus”. That revision of history is repugnant. In the Servetus affair Calvin is often portrayed as lawyer, minister of propaganda, judge, trial jury and executioner all at once. Although it was Calvin, acting as an individual, who arranged for Servetus’s accusation and arrest, it was the city council who took over the case and prosecuted Servetus with vigour.
    It should be noted that Calvin’s role in these procedures was subsequently that of technical advisor or expert theological witness (Calvin was a trinitarian, after all), rather than prosecutor. Interestingly, the Roman church had requested from Geneva Servetus’s extradition to face similar charges in Vienne. Geneva offered Servetus the choice of going to Vienne to face Rome or staying in Geneva to “face” “Calvin”. Interestingly, he chose Geneva. Calvin also, perhaps with memories of stake burnings in Paris fresh in his mind, attempted to alter the mode of execution the more humane beheading. He was ignored.
    This is not my love-in with Calvin; I’m only trying to treat of the situation fairly. We Lutherans should only understand that we have all condemned and executed our Servetuses, whether directly, or – as in the case of Calvin himself – indirectly. Let us praise God that this period of sectarian violence within the Christian church is over.
    CL

  • Karl Hess

    I’m not in favor of a Lutheran inquisition, but I do think there should be some form of public chastisement for the guy who decided to do a praise version of “A Mighty Fortress” at the Northern Illinois District Convention. Perhaps a caning, administered by an 80 year old Lutheran Laymen’s League member.

  • Karl Hess

    I’m not in favor of a Lutheran inquisition, but I do think there should be some form of public chastisement for the guy who decided to do a praise version of “A Mighty Fortress” at the Northern Illinois District Convention. Perhaps a caning, administered by an 80 year old Lutheran Laymen’s League member.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    Harsh, but fair.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ wcwirla

    Harsh, but fair.

  • rojolee

    It’s interesting that the likelihood of being martyred is higher for a catechist than for a foreign missionary.

  • rojolee

    It’s interesting that the likelihood of being martyred is higher for a catechist than for a foreign missionary.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Okay, okay, Crypto. I’m glad to know this fuller account. Calvin is associated with that incident, and I’m glad to know that it is unfairly. I apologize to you, John Calvin! (sorry, take that back–I don’t want to look like I’m praying to the saints.) I apologize to Calvinists everywhere. In my own mind, if anyone was guilty of heresy and deserved the legal punishment (which no one does), it was Servetus. But coercion and punishment when it comes to the Gospel is always wrong, since faith cannot be coerced (as Calvin emphasized more than anybody!).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Okay, okay, Crypto. I’m glad to know this fuller account. Calvin is associated with that incident, and I’m glad to know that it is unfairly. I apologize to you, John Calvin! (sorry, take that back–I don’t want to look like I’m praying to the saints.) I apologize to Calvinists everywhere. In my own mind, if anyone was guilty of heresy and deserved the legal punishment (which no one does), it was Servetus. But coercion and punishment when it comes to the Gospel is always wrong, since faith cannot be coerced (as Calvin emphasized more than anybody!).

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    No offense taken.
    I was brought up orthodox reformed but have been won over by the BoC. I still have a lingering appreciation for Calvin – I still consider him to be one of the best exegetes I’ve ever read. However, the strength of Lutheranism is precisely in its sacramental theology and absolute central view of Christ and the gospel and its view that the primary role of the law is one of condemnation. To segue that to the topic currently under discussion, I would say that I fully agree that faith cannot be coerced – not even the Holy Spirit coerces but gently leads. I can also say that the murder of Servetus was wrong, I just can’t bring myself to reject all of Calvin’s voluminous writings on the basis of that one fact. I only wanted to point out that his role in Servetus’s death was very limited.
    Grace, (after hearing the Law, of course)
    CL

  • Crypto-Lutheran

    No offense taken.
    I was brought up orthodox reformed but have been won over by the BoC. I still have a lingering appreciation for Calvin – I still consider him to be one of the best exegetes I’ve ever read. However, the strength of Lutheranism is precisely in its sacramental theology and absolute central view of Christ and the gospel and its view that the primary role of the law is one of condemnation. To segue that to the topic currently under discussion, I would say that I fully agree that faith cannot be coerced – not even the Holy Spirit coerces but gently leads. I can also say that the murder of Servetus was wrong, I just can’t bring myself to reject all of Calvin’s voluminous writings on the basis of that one fact. I only wanted to point out that his role in Servetus’s death was very limited.
    Grace, (after hearing the Law, of course)
    CL

  • http://books.google.com/books?id=dBFKAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover John Calvin

    I accept your apology, Veith.

  • http://books.google.com/books?id=dBFKAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover John Calvin

    I accept your apology, Veith.

  • http://books.google.com/books?id=dBFKAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover John Calvin

    I will admit that the Servetus affair was not necessarily my finest hour. But can we please move on and discuss more urgent matters, such as the NBA playoffs? Go Cavs!

  • http://books.google.com/books?id=dBFKAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover John Calvin

    I will admit that the Servetus affair was not necessarily my finest hour. But can we please move on and discuss more urgent matters, such as the NBA playoffs? Go Cavs!


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