When I first heard the term Christophobia, I thought how ridiculous. Not anymore. I’ve learned something I should’ve always known. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. Yet few want to talk about it.
This has to stop.
A week on from the appalling terrorist atrocity in Sri Lanka, one thing is clear. Many politicians refuse to state the obvious. That is, the attacks in Sri Lanka were a religiously motivated hate crime against Christians (I shall return to the hotel attacks separately).
The media call it an act of terrorism, which of course it is. But terrorism is the tactic used to spread fear and hatred. The motivation for Islamic terrorism is an ideology born from a particular religious interpretation. And this ideology declares hatred toward other religions, in this case, Christianity.
Naming Christophobia for what it is.
In response to this atrocity, I want to offer an explanation as to why so many politicians and commentators are reticent to name the hatred against Christians and what we can do about it.
But first, take a look at these twitter responses to the atrocities and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
I mean seriously. This is a well-educated person who I would otherwise respect, regardless of politics. The phrase ‘Easter worshippers’ has been rightly criticized for the stilted platitude it is. Since Hillary Clinton is someone who clearly prays, I wonder who it is she prays to. Does she also worship the Easter god?
But how about this.
Describing the Easter Sunday attacks as an attack against humanity is equally obfuscating. What exactly does this mean? Abstracting the obvious religious target into some vague sense of an attack on everybody completely avoids the crime.
Following that logic, every murder of anybody is by definition an ‘attack on humanity’.
But Sri Lanka was an attack on Christianity. Deliberate and planned for the holiest day of its year for maximum impact.
In the UK, we see a similar flaccid response from Britain’s PM. Ironically, herself a Christian.
An attack on Church buildings and hotels? As if somehow this horror was an affront to facilities management!
Why are politicians straining to avoid the obvious, that Christians are victims?
The answer is threefold; fear, arrogance, and ignorance. I’ll explain.
Fear in naming hatred of Christianity.
This reason I can understand. I believe some politicians are concerned that naming Christians as victims may stoke up unnecessary Islamophobia in their respective countries. They fear the consequences (like another Christchurch attack). I can understand the motivation, which is good. But I disagree entirely with their approach. Because it fails.
One, it looks like they’re trying to control public opinion by being silent. This is stupid. People can see right through it and it only fosters suspicion and the sense of double standards.
But politicians have no need fearing to say the truth. Religious leaders are bold enough to do it instead because they understand what’s happening. Read this commendable response from the Muslim Council of Great Britain:
Or this response from the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. Humbling given the tragic history of Jewish Christian relations.
He not only condemns, but he also calls for action. If only we heard this cry from our own leaders. No chance there.
But there is another reason why this hate dare not be named, and that is arrogance.
Arrogance in ignoring Christophobia.
Our culture in the west is supposedly rational, scientific and sophisticated. Thanks to the Enlightenment, religious fervour and superstition have apparently been put back in its box. And that religion, historically for us in the west, is Christianity.
The anti-Christian bias at the heart of the Enlightenment project runs deep. We live with it today. Few academics, intellectuals or commentators are Christian. Our elites are embarrassed by our Christian history and go out of the way to ignore it.
And those that are favourable tend to be conservative and are pilloried for being ‘reactionary’.
This is arrogance. Many (sadly on the left) go to great lengths to bury our own heritage under the guise of a cultural revolution, historical revisionism or political correctness.
While appearing noble, putting other cultures first, it is anything but. Its purpose is partly to re-enforce an entrenched anti-Christian bias.
Which in turn blinds them in ignorance.
Ignorance of the hate against Christians.
We in the west find religious commitment difficult to understand. We mistakenly assume everybody thinks like us. That is, that you can be religious but private in your devotion, moderate and humane. Religion or ‘spirituality’ is seen as a lifestyle choice. Something to dip into, to help out with life’s stresses. Few, if any, would die for it.
We rarely encounter religious fervour, nor understand it.
But the majority of the world is religious and define themselves by that identity and are deeply committed. Even to the point of martyrdom.
Likewise, we don’t understand how Christianity is making huge gains in the global south. The unconscious bias for many westerners is that because they are poor and uneducated, they are therefore religious. This is simplistic and has a whiff of arrogance to it.
But we don’t understand how someone in the Muslim world thinks either.
Understanding different world views to counter extremism.
When I was travelling through Turkey, a relatively moderate Muslim country, I was struck at how people assumed everybody in the west were Christian. The freedom to choose one’s religion was a foreign concept. Why wouldn’t it be? If you’re born to a Muslim family in a Muslim country, you are Muslim. Full stop.
And that helps to explain why westerners are also targeted in terror attacks, such as the hotels in Sri Lanka. The terrorists associated being western with being Christian.
In the struggle to combat dangerous religious ideologies, it would certainly help to understand the theology that motivates them and how they view us.
But talking about the importance of theology to the educated westerner will cause them to break out in a rash. An area like theology isn’t worthy of serious understanding, of course.
Enlightenment bias again.
But the worst ignorance is this. I return to the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and yet we rarely hear this talked about. This is despite so much evidence to back the claim as well as the many who are seeking asylum here in the UK as a result.
I know, because I’ve personally met them. Good, honest people who are treated with suspicion and scorn in seeking refuge from persecution.
The hate that dare not be named, again.
So what is our response?
What would Jesus do?
Jesus taught, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44), ‘if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.’ (Matthew 6:14) to quote just a few verses from the gospels.
My prayer is that the Christian community in Sri Lanka will resist the temptation to retaliate in some way. My prayer is that Muslim majority countries will show solidarity for their Christian minorities and vehemently challenge the interpretation that fuels bigotry and hatred toward them.
And I hope and pray for a time when Christian communities all over the world will not be ignored or silenced by those in power. For theirs is a voice deserving of dignity.
And that’s something all of us, Christian or not, can speak up for.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays April 2019.
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