Why do you Christians fear…..? You can insert plenty of words at the end of that sentence, and I’ll bet they would be relevant. In our conversations with others, Christians are often accused of fear or ‘Phobias”. We fear sex, same sex marriage, all of the LGBTQ community, science, knowledge, free thought, change and choice. We fear socialism, democratic socialism, atheists, antitheists, agnostics, pagans, witches, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Buddhists. The list could go on and on with supposed Christian phobias.
Are Christians Really Fearful?
If these charges were true, it would be a wonder people had any interactions with Christians at all. If we were truly scared of as much as we are portrayed as, we’d all be hiding under our covers clutching our Bibles and terrified to leave the bed. Sometime this seems to be the image that the secular elite would like the world to have of us.
So what’s really going on here? Are Christians really afraid of all these things? Some may be. Some may have irrational fears about any or all of the subjects I listed. But the majority do not fear the things we take a stand against. We are simply advocating for a different worldview. One we think offers people the greatest chance for true joy. One that puts them in harmony with their creator.
The Fear/Phobia Tactic
So why do so many people quickly play the “Fear/Phobia” card in conversations? In truth I thinks it’s a bit dishonest. I don’t think the people making these claims actually believe what their saying. I think there is something more strategic going on here.
If you can create the impression that your opponent’s view is outrageous it’s easier to defeat in the court of public opinion. Nobody wants to be labeled a bigot or a hater. Fear or phobia language is a softer version of calling someone a hater or bigot. The handy thing about this for the person making the claim is that they now no longer have to engage with your argument. They simply brand you a phobic and move along. Case closed.
This move may or may not be elicit. If you fall into the category of a Christian that is in fact scared of the things I initially listed, then the charge is true. But what if you fall into the second category, and are simply arguing for your view? How do we handle this somewhat underhanded attack on our character?
How Do We Respond To The Fear/Phobia Charge?
Greg Koukl in his book Tacticsoffers a great technique to counter this move. The key is to understand that this is simply name calling and is not a refutation of your argument. To do this, you simply ask a few questions. The first being “Why do you think I’m a _____phobic?” The person will most likely reply “Because you won’t support ____.” So you have a difference of opinion.
The next key is to ask a follow up question. Something like “I understand my view is different than yours. But I have a question. Since your view is different than mine, doesn’t that make you a hater too?”. Now the other person is faced with a dilemma. Either they must admit that disagreement equals hate, or they must revise their view.
What If They Continue To Use The Fear/Phobia Label?
Not everyone will go for this of course. Some will continue on knowing that they can get away with not having to engage our arguments. People that fall into this category leave us only one option. Praying for a change of heart. They are not open to hearing what we have to say and will continue to cast aspersions on our character. The best thing to do in this situation is simply model, pray and attempt to make our case as graciously as possible. They may not be listening, but others are. Sometimes we have a greater impact on those who are listening to or reading our conversations than those that we are actually engaged with.
Wisdom From The Judge
For those that will in turn give us a fair shake, we also need to be gracious. We as Christians never want to assign motives to our opponent’s views. We want to be as gracious and as charitable with our opponents’ arguments as possible. So the next time someone says to you, “Why do you Christians fear….” Remember the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.”
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