Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Christophobia"?

There are a number of people who fear any term that ends with the suffix "-phobic" or "-phobia" when it is applied to a demographic group, be it ethnic or otherwise. We all know these words. Homophobia. Xenophobia. Islamophobia. Transphobia. But dropping these words cause some to run, some to fight, and others to put their heads in the sand to hope that they can ride this out without getting "caught up in the rapture".

Frequently in 2017's social climate, these terms are utilized to point out an offensive slight or attack on the victimized group representing the underlined root of the term. In other instances, these words are stated as a means to control, manipulate, or militate against the activity of those who voice their displeasure towards or disagreement with the underlined groups. In other words, these terms are increasingly and strategically used to scare into compliance those people whom societal public opinion often (but not always) mislabels as bigoted, hateful, narrow-minded, archaic, and obsolete.

However, I would like to introduce a word containing this familiar suffix.  This term is rarely ever verbalized, utilized, publicized, or displayed. It is a term that some might argue is nonsense and should not get any publicity whatsoever, mainly because it is being swept up by the societal tidal wave of a changing morality. It is a word that cannot be found in any contemporary English dictionary, but it is undoubtedly present in the blogosphere and seem to be catching some buzz.

Christophobia.

In this post-Christian society we live in, it is very much the tendency to use the media (social and otherwise), the arts, political activism, literature, and other avenues to push an agenda. When these words are inserted into the dialogue, steam picks up and what occurs is a swing of the societal pendulum. Victim becomes victimizer, and vice versa. And we wind up in the same place.

These terms bring up a larger discussion on the definition of the terms hate and bigotry. You see, any form of behavior, activity, or speech can be labeled "hate" if it simply shows itself as antithetical to an existing en vogue set of societal mores or customs. And the label is not always fairly or accurately applied.

Consider this: Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas has become ignominiously synonymous with hate speech because it seeks to picket and protest various groups it finds offensive and opposed to Biblical principles, as they say. Yet this church often uses language that tends to divide rather than unify. Despite their insistence that the Bible does not condone the behavior displayed by the objects of their protest, the language and behavior undertaken by these congregants cross the societal and Christocentric lines, landing squarely in the "hate" realm.

Now consider this as contrast (click here).

I understand there have been numerous sociopolitical movements and military campaigns throughout history, launched in the name of what was perceived, understood, or marketed as Christianity. I also understand that these same movements committed in some cases heinous acts in the quest to destroy paganism and conquer the world for Christ. The Crusades begun by the Catholic Church in the 11st century come to mind. And I understand that these movements have contributed to a not-so-positive globalized perception of Christianity. I am not questioning historical facts. What I do question is the true definition and usage of terms of which many in our American society may not be fully aware or knowledgeable.

To define the suffix, one who is actually phobic exhibits clear and specific signs.  The word originated from the Greek language to mean "flight" or "to flee". Here are how different dictionaries define the word "phobia":
  • A persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid the feared stimulus. (American Heritage Medical Dictionary)
  • A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. (Dictionary.com)
  • An exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • An abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object. (British Dictionary)
  • An extreme and often unreasonable fear of some object, concept, situation, or person. (American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy)
The concept of phobias has its proper usage in the medical realm, focused squarely on a mental, emotional, or psychological impairment. Individuals with claustrophobia avoid and run from the idea being confined in closed spaces.  Those who struggle with agoraphobia tend to experience panic at the mere thought of going outside of their homes. These conditions are diagnosable by medical professionals and usually are accompanied by a treatment plan.

But when armed with the social labels that end in -phobic, those who attempt to label others with the social terms are not doing it in a medical or professional manner. Oftentimes, it is just the contemporary social "wind of doctrine" by which some are being carried away that influence them to hand down the pseudo-diagnosis on those in disagreement with the "politically correct". And the only treatment plan offered by these individuals is this: comply or else face an even worse label...a bigot.

The "Holy" Crusades. Not the best sales pitch for toning down anti-Christian views.
Here is what Wikipedia (regardless of how you view Wiki) stated about these alleged phobias:
Such terms are not phobias. They are derogatory terms for negative attitudes towards certain categories of people or other things, used in an invalid analogy with the medical usage of the term. These terms were coined with the purpose of shedding a negative light on the people within these opposing groups, by suggesting that everyone within has an irrational fear towards the objects of the terms. Usually these kinds of "phobias" are described as fear, dislike, disapproval, prejudice, hatred, discrimination, or hostility towards the object of the "phobia".
Those professing Christianity who are mislabeled as "phobic" according to the current sociological winds find themselves at times more in fear of the terms themselves than the actual beliefs or practices of those who apply the labels. These terms are what these "phobic" people try to avoid and flee from. And their fear is not exaggerated, irrational, or unreasoned. And their fear certainly does not typically rise to a level of prejudice, hatred, discrimination, or hostility. If anything, they would rather seek to understand yet remain principled. 

So what about Christophobia? Take a look at this article for some context. The term is not indicative of what occurs on a wide scale; however, it stands to reason that there cannot be a reflexive action to use this term as a way to "get some get back" on those who label certain groups of Christians as socially phobic in any respect.  Because the reality is this: all Christians - even within their respective enclave (denomination, fellowship, etc.) - do not view social issues through the same lens. (And by "Christians" I mean the entirety of American "Christendom"). Just like every group in society does not have the same view concerning social issues, Christianity is nowhere near being monolithic or homogeneous. In essence, to go back and forth to the point that EVERYBODY is phobic, and not for medical reasons, paints a bleak picture of understanding what should have been understood already. It gets all of us nowhere. Two wrongs don't make a right.

President Jimmy Carter with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin circa 1978.  If these two guys can shake hands, well...
Here is the bottom line: people can disagree without being hostile.  Just because you disagree with something does not mean you are "phobic" or intolerant. I don't have to be bigoted or hateful because I disagree with a worldview that opposes mine. In most cases, a person who disagrees is not bigoted or hateful at all. He or she simply does not agree. Now how voicing a dissenting opinion or belief came to be regarded as hate speech is a mystery, and that idea needs to be debunked. But it does matter in how that opinion or belief is phrased. Words and tone matter, and cutting off the nose to spite the face is never a wise move.

This is 2017 (for goodness sake), so those who are progressive-minded, enlightened, or eschewing ignorance should be more evolved to understand that everyone is not going to "go along to get along". We don't all believe the same thing in this society, and the evolved mind should understand that, above all, respect for differing views is a more mature and diplomatic course of action.

To Christians reading this: I must make you aware that the usage of the term Christophobia would not be the wisest course of action. To do so would come across as retaliatory. What would be a wiser, more effective course to take in the long run? Jesus spoke these words to His disciples that are entirely applicable to this situation for the believer living in our postmodern, secularly humanistic, post-Christian American society:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’" (John 15.18-25, NIV)
If society continues to label us unfairly, diagnose us without possessing proper credentials, and ostracize us for the righteous stand we must take - even while we truly endeavor to eschew rigid dogma, show compassion and mercy, demonstrate grace and forgiveness, serve without bias, righteously judge as the Spirit convicts, pray for and over our adversaries, and display the authentic love and Spirit of Christ in all we do - be confident in this one thing:

We must be doing something right.

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