Guest / Limited Access /
Marketing Martyrs: Does Iranian Pastor's Theology Impact Advocacy on His Behalf?
Marketing Martyrs: Does Iranian Pastor's Theology Impact Advocacy on His Behalf?

While facing the prospect of a hangman's noose, Iranian pastor and convert Youcef Nadarkhani has become a worldwide cause célèbre. A former Muslim imprisoned for criticizing mandatory Islamic education, he faces a death sentence for refusing to recant his faith; his supporters now stretch from the United States Congress to the European Union to Brazil.

However, long before a Twitter advocacy campaign surpassed 1.3 million tweets this spring, online critics emerged of Nadarkhani's status as the new face of Christian persecution. They primarily cited his denomination's support for Oneness Pentecostal evangelist William Branham, who denied the Trinity.

The theology question is not irrelevant. Religious-freedom groups are reluctant to discuss their marketing strategies, but acknowledge that a subject's orthodoxy does help form a connection with donors and advocates.

"It is somewhat more difficult to raise funds for someone who is not a Christian in the way most Americans would define that," said Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA.

Moeller and other religious-freedom leaders are split on whether Nadarkhani is an orthodox or heretical Christian. But they all affirm that his situation merits advocacy regardless.

"We've used [Nadarkhani] as a bellwether for what's happening to hundreds of people in Iran," said Moeller. "For us, the issue of faith is not a theological one. We're not involved in supporting people or advocating for their freedom only if they believe the right way."

"We believe everyone is equally entitled to human rights, including freedom of religion," said Daniel Hoffman, advocacy and development director for Middle East Concern.

Nadarkani's imprisonment underscores tensions between Iran's Islamic ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueBlack Church Barrios: African American Churches Adapt to Latino Neighbors
Subscriber Access Only Black Church Barrios: African American Churches Adapt to Latino Neighbors
Shifting demographics necessitate a second look at historic churches' ministries.
RecommendedIncredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement
Subscriber Access Only Incredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement
Why it’s the best and worst of times for India’s burgeoning churches.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
Christianity Today
Marketing Martyrs: Does Iranian Pastor's Theology Impact Advocacy on ...
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.