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Ism’s and Phobias – Part 2

If you missed part one of this set on Ism’s and Phobias, I looked at a brief examination of some of the major ism’s facing our culture and congregations today. Isms are ways that we live when we don't take a hard look at our own attitudes and behaviours.  And these isms can turn into phobias. [1] And this is where the phobias come in. Phobias are irrational fears or beliefs of groups or things that are based in stereotypes, fear or ignorance. In the past, my own consideration of phobias was more about others and how unfortunate I thought it was for people to live with arachnophobia, claustrophobia, homophobia or islamophobia (some common examples).By looking closer at phobias, I have learned a couple of terms that are new to me.

The first is Androphobia, the fear of men. May 5 is a date that commemorates the crisis of MMIWG.[2] I participated in a local ceremony and walk to remember and offer prayers. I became cognisant of my own presence there as a man, the symbolic perpetuator of most of these crimes. So, I say this mostly to men, how can we show up in these spaces in ways that don't create more 'isms' or phobias?  How can we urge each other on, to not comply with poor standards of unreasonable power, aggression and emotionless personas?    

Do you feel yourself saying whoa, whoa, those are strong words and accusations?

The other word that I did not know is Christianophobia. There is a growing bias against Christians. As anti-Christian bias rises, professing Christians should ask ourselves why this is so and how our community of believers is being perceived. If a fear or phobia is in response to the possibility of personal harm, exclusion or death… what is that saying about communities of Christianity?  If we think we are bringing the good news of the gospel and a pathway to salvation, why is it that others view Christians as oppressors, extractors and excluders? If Christians are called to be diverse communities of love, peace and reconciliation… why do others view some of us as white supremacist, homophobic, misogynists? [3]

Do you feel yourself saying whoa, whoa, those are strong words and accusations? Yes, they may be, but there has to be a reason this is emerging more and more. Here is a small quote, pulled off a social media post I saw recently, in reaction to current social issues and feelings towards Christians (specifically views of CRC members). I removed names and specific identifying components, but know anonymity and restraint most often does not exist on these platforms… others name names and do not hold back. “I was friends with someone who was raised in this community and its ideology is basically a hodgepodge of every negative stereotype of right-wing Christians out there.”

If we are living in humility and seeking the will of our Creator, there is no place for Genuphobia

You only have to spend a short time on social media to see words attributed to Christians like toxic, vengeful mob, radical Islam and Christianity are the same, racist, sexist, homophobic and so on…  Even famous celebrities with a lot of sway get in on the act, “I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus… But the reality is that organized religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it’s not really compassionate.” - singer Elton John. [3] 

Words like these are both heartbreaking and challenging. It is only one part of the story and certain individual’s perspectives, but perhaps if we lean in there will be a new perspective on what it means to be salt and light in our present culture. I don’t bring this up as a defense of the white Christian position in society as being oppressed in any significant way, but as a prophetic listening to others about how one’s self is being potentially viewed. In the Journal of Sociology and Christianity, an article from fall 2021 states, “It is an understatement, then, to say that Christianophobia does not bode well for reconciling the cultural/religious and political polarization that characterizes the United States [and Canada] today.” [4] I really hope each of our Christian Reformed Communities continue the hard work of examining the ways we portray and act out principles of humanization, accessibility, inclusion and diversity. I hope we challenge the stereotyped notions of the evil ism’s and be places where the only phobias prevalent are the fears of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth (Arachibutyrophobia). And most certainly if we are living in humility and seeking the will of our Creator, there is no place for Genuphobia (the fear of kneeling) or Philophobia (the fear of love). 

3 - “So Many Christians, So Few Lions” – George Yancey & David A. Williamson
4 - Book review of Christianophobia  – Journal of Sociology & Christianity – Volume 11, Number Two. Fall 2021. Joseph A. Scimecca (George Mason University).
Related reading – “The Rebel Christ” – by Michael Coren

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