Christians in the West risk missing the point of their own faith.
That is the dire warning in best-selling evangelist Johnnie Moore's latest book, "The Martyr's Oath: Living for the Jesus They're Willing to Die For."
Moore is the former vice president of Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University who became chief of staff of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's film empire. He has since founded his own PR and marketing firm, The Kairos Company.
Moore is also a globe-trotting defender of the faith, a modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer who teamed up with top talker Glenn Beck several years ago to charter an Airbus that rescued hundreds of persecuted Christians in Iraq, and flew them to Europe for resettlement.
"Martyr's Oath" is his latest effort to shine a light on the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
"There are more martyrs now than any point in Christian history," Moore tells Newsmax. "The world was sort of awakened to it because of ISIS, and a lot of people of faith – and people of no faith at all – saw this for the first time.
"But what they haven't seen is that equally grotesque actions against Christians preceded ISIS, and have continued since ISIS. Boko Haram in Nigeria killed more Christians than ISIS last year. And they've been at this for more than a decade."
"The Martyr's Oath" is not just a catchy book title. It is quite literally a pledge made by thousands of followers of Jesus Christ, that "Even in the face of death, I will not deny him."
It is a vow that might sound absurd to Americans who sip their latte in the foyer of their church each week, while watching their pastor give a homily on a big-screen TV. But to Christians living out their faith in war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, or even in more stable nations like India, or Saudi Arabia, or China, the stark choice they face is all too real.
They realize the day may come when they have to choose between renouncing their faith or paying the ultimate price: imprisonment, beatings, torture, rape, and execution. It is a horrific reality they live with every day.
An exaggeration perhaps? Well, explain that to the families of the 21 Egyptian Copts who ISIS marched out to a beach in Libya and beheaded.
Moore says for Western Christians, faith is part of what defines them. But the people he writes about, he says, "cannot separate their Christianity from their identity even if it costs them their lives."
According to Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Research Project, Christians are the No. 1 most persecuted religion in the world. German chancellor Angela Merkel has called Christianity "the most persecuted religion worldwide."
Indeed, Pope Francis frequently remarks on what he calls "the ecumenism of blood." Last October he noted: "When terrorists persecute Christian minorities or Christians, they do not ask: 'Are you Lutheran? Are you Orthodox? Are you Catholic? Are you Reformed? Are you Pentecostal?' No. 'You are Christian.' They recognize only one: the Christian. The enemy is not wrong: He recognizes where to find Jesus. And this is the ecumenism of blood."
The Christians in Moore's book have suffered the withering flames of persecution, yet forgive their terrorist tormentors. The book is a deserving complement to Moore's prior book on the subject, "Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and In Your Own Backyard."
"Martyr's Oath" shines like a lantern across a dark global landscape. It does so in large part thanks to the author's willingness to remain in the wings as he ushers onstage the victims of extraordinary acts of evil, who tell their stories a gut-wrenching simplicity and clarity. He briefly tees up each chapter, then let's them share stories sure to provoke American believers to ponder what the Gospel means – really means – to them.
Among the riveting stories of persecution that have emerged in recent years:
A disciple of Osama bin Laden who spied for him in the Middle East converted to Christianity, gave up terrorism, and is now preaching the gospel all around Africa and the Middle East.
A judge in North Africa had a compelling dream the night before he intends to imprison and torture a pastor. A messenger in the dream orders him to in no way harm his intended victim. The next day, the judge sets the pastor free.
Pastor Gao of China, whose entire family was beaten during China's repressive run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
"My son was beaten and seriously injured," he says. "They almost beat him blind."
A pastor's wife in China, who used her body to block a bulldozer that government officials sent to tear down their church. She was killed, and the church was plowed under.
The book contains over 30 stories from people living in more than a dozen nations. The worst abuser of all, he says, is North Korea, where despot Kim Jong Un has imprisoned an estimated 60,000 Christians. Moore brands Kim "the foremost bigot in the world when it comes to religious persecution."
Moore collected the tales of brutal persecution first-hand during his distant travels. One of the lessons he says he learned in writing the book is that the authentic Christian life requires either paying a terrible price for one's faith, or helping those who are. Or as Pope Francis stated earlier this year, "There is no Christian mission in the name of tranquility."
Now Moore is bringing the compelling stories back home, sending his fellow Christians an urgent plea to help the suffering believers whose lives teeter daily on the edge of a sword.
"These are our family members, our distant relatives," Moore tells Newsmax. "We would have no Christianity in the West if it weren't for these Christians in the East. This is the strangest thing in the world, that our relatives have been crucified, their churches have been brought down to rubble, their cemeteries have been desecrated, their pastors have been killed, and their children have been sold as slaves. And yet we're totally content to roll into our churches on the weekend, and worship, and hear a nice sermon – and we don't give a hell about these people."
"That is a moral issue," Moore insists. "How can we expect the government to take seriously the persecution of Christians abroad if we in the church don't?
A regular visitor to the White House complex these days, Moore has two primary policy objectives to help counter persecution.
First, he is asking for a presidential directive ordering the state department to consider sending persecuted Christians hundreds of millions of dollars in relief so they can rebuild their decimated communities.
Secondly, he wants the Trump administration to assigns someone to work in an interagency way to ensure all of the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus is working to promote the pluralism of Christianity, particularly in the Middle East.
"The Martyrs Oath" is a sort of spiritual Emergency Broadcast System whose alarm interrupts the daily programming of prosperous Christians everywhere.
For the others, those who live in war-torn lands bereft of the rule of law, this is not a test. Their lives, Moore warns, could well depend on how American Christians respond.
Moore hastens to add that, based on his own experience, the Good Samaritans who respond will receive far more in return more than they could ever imagine.
"Their perseverance, their faith, their self-sacrifice, their love for their enemies, their forgiveness of people who caused incomprehensible harm to them – they changed my life," he says of the martyrs portrayed in the pages of his book.
He adds he "sort of found my faith again in these dark corners of the world with these persecuted people."
Moore offers their inspirational stories to help U.S. believers learn how to live for the Jesus that others are willing to die for.
"If we could build that bridge to them," he says, "it will change us in a really powerful way."
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