|Pagans fed Christians to lions for entertainment|
during ancient Roman persecutions.
It's always been this way you see. Christianity was first persecuted by ancient Judaism, which directly led to the persecution of the early Church by the ancient Roman empire. The party of the Pharisees approached Caesar in the late 1st century and notified Caesar that the Christians no longer practiced the Jewish religion (as the Pharisees defined it) and were therefore no longer entitled to the same religious exemptions Jews enjoyed under the ancient Roman empire. (Jews were exempt from Caesar worship so long as they prayed for Caesar to God.). Once the Jewish exemption was removed from Christianity, the early Church fell under the same laws as the Roman pantheon of Pagan religions. Thus Christians were required to worship Caesar along with all the Pagans. Of course Christians refused, and so began one of the most ferocious periods of Christian persecution by the state. It lasted over 240 years! In spite of this the Church grew and eventually became the dominant religion in the empire. Only the hand of divine providence can explain this.
Perhaps one of the longest periods of rest from persecution was during the early middle ages, before the rise of Islam in the middle east. With the "prophet" Mohammad however, came the end of relative peace and tranquility. For the centuries to follow, to this very day, Christianity has suffered under the yoke of Islam. Periods of Islamic persecution against Christians had actually reached such extremes that European kings (including the pope) at some times even saw it necessary to wage retaliatory wars (crusades) against Muslim jihads deep into Christian territory. In spite of the crusades however, Christianity has lost some two-thirds of it's territories to Islam. (All of Northern Africa and the Middle East, up trough Turkey were at one time Christian countries.)
Christianity enjoyed relative security in Europe, Russia and the Americas for centuries following the fall of Christianity to Islam in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The late middle ages were are period of missionary expansion for both Christians and Muslims in the new worlds. For Christianity, missionary expansion was found in the Pagan regions North and South America. Muslims saw most of their new converts in Africa and Asia. By the 20th century that era officially came to a close.
The 20th century was an era of dichotomy. On the one hand, the people of the 20th century enjoyed unprecedented technological development with the expansion of knowledge and education. There has been no previous era in history like it. On the other hand, the 20th century was the most bloody and barbaric period of world history ever known. More people died from wars during the 20th century than all previous centuries combined. Entire cities were leveled and civilizations upturned. The world is still reeling from the 20th century, and the full effects will not be known for centuries to come.
It was during the 20th century that Christianity's last "safe haven" in Europe, Russia and the Americas was thrown into upheaval. The rise of Marxism, in various forms (communism, socialism and fascism) brought with it direct persecution of the Church. Nations that turned to communism (China, Russia and Eastern Europe) persecuted Christians most severely, imprisoning virtually all believers and confiscating church property. Next in line were the fascist nations that persecuted Christians who dared to resist the influence of the state, confiscating church property and imprisoning Church leaders. Finally, nations that embraced socialism (Western Europe and the Americas) persecuted Christians through means of defamatory propaganda, creating public intolerance, and gradual state intrusion into Church business. By the early 21st century, Christianity was so reviled by public opinion that western society thought nothing of threatening to remove the tax exemption status for Christian churches, all the while using those same tax regulations to control what pastors say behind the pulpit. Lawsuits were filed against churches for "discriminating" against the new Marxist morality, and legislation was passed to criminalize basic Christian teaching on sexual morality. Of course, much of this was spurred on by the news and entertainment media which virtually encourage anti-Christian sentiment.
By the late 20th century to early 21st century Islam reared it's ugly head again in the form of radical fundamentalism. Once again, Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East began to be persecuted in force. Now there seems to be no end to the violence.
So by the early 21st century, between Marxist ideology and Islamic fundamentalism, Christianity has once again seen the most persecution since the days of the ancient Roman empire. More Christians have died for their faith over the last 100 years than in all previous centuries combined. If history is any indication of the future, and the blood of the martyrs really are the seeds of the Church, than we can only assume that a great worldwide Christian Renaissance must be on it's way, or else if not, this really is the end of time.