Tuesday, March 31, 2015


A current fad among those who are enamored of new words, is the attaching of "-phobia," "-phobic" or "-phobe" as suffixes to certain words or word fragments. Thus our current usage includes "homophobia" (fear of homosexuality or of homosexuals), "Islamophobia" (fear of Islam or Muslims) and a few others of which I have not yet heard. These words are usually used negatively to describe those who differ politically or religiously, regarding their supposedly bigoted attitudes toward homosexuals, Muslims or whatever.

I personally strongly dislike the use of the words and hesitate to use them myself. I feel that these words are often themselves expressions of bigotry by the user. Not everyone who has misgivings or negative convictions regarding homosexuality or Islam is a bigot.

Thus when the words "Christianophobia" or "religiophobia" occasionally pop into my head while reading or listening to criticisms of Christianity, I stifle myself from using them. So when I saw an article in Christianity Today online, entitled "What Christianophobia Looks Like In America" by George Yancey, 3/27/15, I was intrigued.

George Yancey is a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas and author of ­So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? I have not read his book, but I suppose the article pretty well sums up his thesis.

The article appears reasonably unbiased. Yancey speaks of the fact that Christianity's cultural dominance in America is fading, even though most Americans still identify as Christians. He attempts to look at the problem from both sides: the "growing animosity" toward especially conservative Protestants, and the growing fears among these, of their supposed increasing loss of religious freedom. He mentions surveys in which conservative Christians are rated lower than other groups, excepting Atheists.

Yancey points out that these negative rankings come from "a disproportionate number of white, highly educated, politically progressive and wealthy respondents." He says, "The fear part of this definition came from respondents who saw conservative Christians as a dark force seeking to take over society and impose Christian rule.  "Some," he tells us, see Christians as "similar to the Taliban or Nazis," seeking "to impose a theocracy on a secular nation."

These Americans hostile to Christianity see Christians in "two categories:  foolish, ignorant followers and manipulative leaders." Christianophobes do not want to do away with Christians, they simply want them to - as one said - "Keep all religion in your church, in your home, out of the public square, and most of all, out of my face."

Yancey's solutions to the problem seem to me rather disappointing and simplistic.  I'd hope that his book expands on and elaborates the options.  In the last paragraph of the article he merely challenges Christians "to convince such individuals that they have the same rights to influence the public square as anyone else" and to learn "how to communicate, and hopefully find ways to co-exist."

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I feel that the greatest need here is not for arguments to convince Christianophobes of the error of their views, but for convincing my fellow-Christians, myself included, of the necessity for self examination, for asking ourselves what we are doing to bring about these negative views.

We must recognize first of all that since the beginning, Christianity has been viewed negatively by those on the outside. Jesus said, "Do you suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you - but division" (Luke 12:15).  "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me first" (John 15:18). Paul spoke of "the scandal of the cross" (Galatians 5:11). We who follow Christ should recognize that many oppose Christianity for its claims of exclusivity, sometimes for its morality, sometimes for various theological reasons or misunderstandings.

However, these are not the complaints mentioned in Yancey's article. As I said earlier, not everyone who has misgivings or negative convictions regarding homosexuality or Islam is a bigot.  And neither is everyone who has those same thoughts about Christianity - at least as Christianity is perceived. And that's the problem. We Christians have managed to paint a picture of Christianity that looks very little like the Christianity of the New Testament - very little like Jesus.

First of all, there's the label.  While the label "conservative" is often used of our way of interpreting the Bible - i.e., "conservative" = "literal" as opposed to some radical "liberal" critical interpretations, it is understood by most outsiders as a political word.

And there are many "conservative Christians" who understood the phrase as such. To them Christian = Republican. When Christian leaders and Christian colleges endorse Republican candidates for president, when they endorse the Republican - and even worse, the Tea-Party platform, they present a Christianity that is a false Christianity, a Christianity that promotes Christianophobia.

When Christianity is presented as moralism, as an opposition to particular types of sin - often only the two "biggies" - abortion and gay lifestyle/marriage, it is a false Christianity. Yes sin should be recognized as sin, but there is a danger when only particular sins are pointed out and when the solution to these is sought through imposing moral standards on others through the political process.

We have allowed the Gospel of Christ, the love of Christ, the ethics of Christ, to be pre-empted by a vapid semi-political religion.  When I see this, when I hear this type of Christianity coming from Christian leaders, I confess that I too am tempted into becoming a Christianophobe.

I recognize that many - probably most, who claim the label of Christian, are living lives that exemplify the reality of Christianity.  I only ask and pray that all of us would - or if not, to stop calling themselves by the Name.

"Keep your conduct beautiful among the Gentiles, so that though they verbally put you down as evildoers, they may, by seeing your beautiful works, glorify God on the day that He returns" (1 Peter 2:12).

Father, help us as those who name the Name of Your Son, to live lives like His, lives of love, lives that would bring honor to Him and not shame.

Friday, March 6, 2015


For years, Uni and have followed The Daily Show, a satirical "news" program, hosted by comedian Jon Stewart.  When Stewart announced he was going to leave his program, we asked each other, "Where will we go for our news?"  Though there are plenty of news programs on the air, we felt that there will be a huge gap in coverage.

An article in The Week magazine (2/27/15, page 16) gave various views on the program's demise, and I suppose these comments are an honest sampling.  Though some recognized the contribution Stewart made, many seemed to be simply saying "good riddance."
Stewart was a master of satire, skewering not only politicians, but also other news coverage and commentary (and Arby's).  One of his favorite, and I believe most effective routines was to take some self-righteous pronouncement of a politician or pundit and to throw on the screen the many totally contradictory (but just as righteous) pronouncements they had made previously.  Of course, most of his attacks were on those of the right but he especially loved to attack Fox (Faux) News, whose "newspersons" seem to always have something stupid to say.  Some have even wondered if Fox News was really set up just to supply him with material.
He clearly hated pomposity and hypocrisy and loved shredding those who were masters of those arts - Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity.  And he enjoyed airing their "defenses" against him.
One commentator who claims to be "one of those liberal Millennials" quoted in The Week article said he was "glad to see Stewart go."  He said that "Stewart's sneering dismissal of all politicians was a form of 'anti-politics' in which sophisticated debate over genuine ideological differences take a back seat to snark, and the only correct response to our national dysfunction is cynicism."  Apparently this person failed to watch whole programs, every one of which always included an interview with some well-known person.  Though many movie stars and comedians had their place, as often as these, Stewart was visited by leading people of America and the world - authors, congressmen, presidents, presidential candidates, many with "genuine ideological differences."  And there was "sophisticated debate."
I don't always agree with Jon Stewart.  There are many times I that wince at his criticisms of opinions that I hold closely.  But they are usually fair, even to religious people.  And I also wince at his crude language and his 5th grade level sexual and bathroom humor.
Another complaint in the article was that Stewart's audience is small and includes mostly "young, East Coast liberals" or "Millennials."  However there are a few of us mid-American old geezers who watch.  We certainly won't get this kind of coverage on the networks or 24-hour "news" channels.
We'll miss you Jon!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


I often have difficulty communicating with people who do not appreciate sarcasm and satire whether used by me or others.    They tell me that it signifies a weak argument or that it is hurtful - even un-Christian.    (See:  FRANCIS & CHARLIE  -  1/19/2015.)    I've tried to ex- plain that these are legitimate ways of conveying truth and have even given examples from the Bible:  the Hebrew prophets, the apostles, even Jesus used it frequently.

I began to think that possibly those who object to sarcasm may have difficulty under- standing it - perhaps their brains are wired differently, like even the brilliant genius Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.  I recall my frustrations in teaching Bible Study Methods at the College of Biblical Studies.  There were a few - though very few - students who just couldn't catch on, not only to sarcasm and irony, but to similes and metaphors.  As I recall, their inability to grasp these and other figures of speech had little to do with their intelligence or lack of the same.  Perhaps the objections I was receiving were from those who just couldn't get it.  Perhaps.

However, I am now of the opinion that many who object to sarcasm do so, not because they don't get it, but because they do.  They don't like it because it points out their faulty thinking or behavior.  In other words, if your argument is weak, if you can't refute what's being said, condemn the method of argument - or even better the one who uses sarcasm to make his argument.  Use ad hominem; sometimes a good offense is a good defense.

Often in the Gospels we're told that Jesus' hearers didn't catch on to His use of parables - "You'll keep on hearing but won't understand" (Matthew 13:14).  But now and then they did understand.  "And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them" (Matthew 21:4, 5).  And what was their reaction?  "... they tried to seize Him" (verse 46).

So if you object to sarcasm, ask yourself why you are objecting.  Maybe it fits!