by George Yancey
I remember vividly a disturbing conversation that I once had with a good Christian friend who taught in a high school. He told me that he mentioned one day in class that some Christians around the world were being killed for their faith. To his amazement, some students approved of these murders. In their minds, it was time for Christians to face the same death that Christians had inflicted on others.
I was struck by the ahistorical nature of this line of thought. Although Christians in the United States do not face jail or death for their faith, there is a long history of Christians around the world being punished for their faith. I also wondered how so much hatred had developed against Christians. This conversation took place almost two decades ago, and I see little evidence that this type of hatred has abated.
In fact, my recent research has confirmed that such hatred is still very powerful. David Williamson and I conducted a survey of culturally progressive activists using open-ended questions. The survey questions elicited a variety of hostile statements aimed at conservative Christians. One statement in particular (from a male, age 36-45) caught my attention: “The only good Christian is a dead Christian”. . . .
That response should have shocked me. It didn’t. I had already read a lot of hateful anti-Christian comments. Because of their anonymity, the respondents of the survey felt free to state their opinions bluntly. Those interested in exploring the remarks in more depth can examine our academic treatment of the subject, but suffice it to say that such remarks remind us that some people harbor a high level of irrational hatred toward Christians. We do not know how many people hold similar opinions, but we do know that many of them have social power.
As a Christian, I was tempted to become angry at those who spew such venom. I might also have matched the hatred of my friend’s students with hatred of my own, but I know that this is not the right way to respond. There is a contrary temptation to shy away from confronting such unfair attacks. After all, are we not told to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)? By one interpretation of this advice, I should merely smile and forgive others when they make hateful comments. Perhaps if I do not say anything and avoid unpleasant people, then life will be easier. Yet I know that this is simplistic and not the proper answer to such attitudes. What is a Christian response to hatred directed at us? Do we ignore that hatred to suffer in silence, or do we confront it? Do we actively confront it, and if we do, then how should we do so? I wish I could tell you that I have perfect answers to such questions. The reality is that I struggle to identify the proper responses.
Over the past few years I have done research into Christianophobia, defined as an unreasonable hatred or anger toward Christians. My research indicates that these negative emotions are generally directed at Christians with a conservative theological or political perspective. This research has helped me to understand some of the sources of that hatred—not justify that hatred but understand it. Diving into the data about Christianophobia forced me, as a believer, to consider how I should respond to such rancor. This book allows me to share some of my insights regarding how best to respond to those who dislike or fear Christians.
Excerpt taken from Introduction
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.