On Phobes and Phobias

I will not be calling anyone a Christophobe because they rail against Christians. In fact, I make no use of any of the “phobes”: homophobe, transphobe, Islamaphobe. Here is why.

First, a phobia is an unreasonable fear of something. Yet, these phobias are applied to anyone who fails to completely support the positions of these different groups. Too often anyone who opposes anything argued for by gay activists is called homophobic. The term is often used without any connection to fear or without bothering to show that a fear is unreasonable.

Second, I can’t read minds. If someone is spewing hate toward Christians, I can’t look into their mind and know if they are motivated by fear, hate, or a terrible experience with people who claim to be Christians. When we accuse someone of having a phobia without really knowing them, we make the arrogant claim that we can read their mind and know their motives. And even if they are motivated by fear, given their understanding (or misunderstanding) of history and their own encounters with mean Christians, their fear may be reasonable.

This leads to my last reason: almost all religions and groups have expressions that should be feared. If the phobic language were used to discuss which fears are reasonable and unreasonable, it might be useful. But it is not. We can look at times when state sanctioned Christianity resulted in a terrible loss of personal liberty, terrible cruelty, and the loss of life. We can also look at places today where Islam is used to justify honor killings, discriminate against women, and the persecute other religions. One does not need to be a Islamaphobe to regret the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. The track record of Islamic countries supporting women’s rights, democracy, freedom of religion, and a free press is not encouraging.

In the end, the use of phobic language is nothing more than name-calling. It is name-calling that ends discussion and shuts-down debate. Calling someone a phobe cancels them and invites others to silence them. It makes impossible sincere (and needed) debate about what fears are reasonable and unreasonable and why. Christians should call no one a “Christophobe”, but instead love them, listen to their concerns, and patiently answer with facts, logic, and compassion.  

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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