It’s obvious that a hateful dynamic has been building against followers of Jesus. It’s older than Emperor Nero but new to followers of Jesus in America. Rejecters of the Lord often aren’t satisfied just rejecting Him and being quiet about it. Now they celebrate it and happily mock those of us who do not join them in their way. I’ve heard them spit foul words as they lie about us. I’ve heard them draw strange caricatures of us as they try to bully us into fear and silence. This is common in the broad public square and in academia. It’s becoming more common in individual neighborhoods and workplaces. It’s the new reality: a growing Christianophobia in America.
George Yancey—in his thoughtful book titled Hostile Environment, published by IVP—well-describes the problem. Simply said, Christianophobia targets followers of Jesus with irrational, unwarranted hatred. It seems to me that this phobia, when unleashed from common courtesies, also features irrational thinking and lies, foul language, hateful name-calling, and bizarre behavior.
Yancey cites the Hobby Lobby case, decided in favor of Hobby Lobby by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, as evidence of the strange response of our opponents. Recall that the owners of Hobby Lobby simply did not want to pay for their employees’ use of drugs that induced abortions. Yancey notes that, Even small legal victories by Christians engender a hysterical level of anger . . . the wild accusations following the case are unreasonable. The only reaction some of those with Christianophobia will accept is complete capitulation of Christians to their social and political desires.
Yancey cites research that shows that Christian-haters do not understand Christians, nor do they want to understand them. Next to that comment in the margin of the book, I wrote, Right. They don’t want to know or understand Christians, but they also don’t want the biblical Jesus. Or, they twist the Scriptures to create a Jesus who is soft, roundy . . . one who nods with a stupid grin at their basest of rebellions. But Jesus does not contort himself to please people. He is who he is.
I greatly appreciated Yancey’s discussion of how to respond to Christianophobics and their attacks. He cites Luke 6:29 in asking, Didn’t Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? Of course, He did. Yancey notes that the apostle Paul, unjustly arrested for speaking the gospel in Acts 22:22-29, did not silently accept flogging. Instead, he challenged the Roman jailers who were getting ready to flog him. And Jesus, in John 7, challenged the crowd that planned to kill him. Jesus did not allow the crowd, at that time and in that place, to escalate their abuse and kill him. Christians are not called to be the world’s pathetic doormats.
Yancey gets it right: Turning the other cheek is most appropriate when a person is dealing with personal privileges or offenses. Slapping . . . is an insult, a personal affront. In my life there will be those who attempt to slap me, to personally insult me. The insult is directed at me personally. I can confront them, or I can turn the other cheek. I prefer to turn the other cheek in situations of personal affront.
Conversely, says Yancey, confrontation is appropriate when more is at stake than your own sense of worth or personal rights. He argues that turning the other cheek is wrong when seeking after broader justice is required. You don’t turn the other cheek, he argues, when the ramifications of the wrong extend beyond you personally. These are situations leading to sin against certain groups. Determining when to take action to protect other Christians will be important for assessing when to confront those with hateful attitudes and actions against Christians.
If the offense is personal, just be sure you don’t throw your pearls before swine as you turn the other cheek, as in Matthew 7:6. Yancey suggests that, When someone starts a conversation with an insult, you are not addressing someone with whom you can have a fruitful discussion. If individuals . . . do not return some degree of respect, then we are probably wasting our time.
Right. See the Lord use dog imagery: Don’t give dogs what is holy, Matthew 7:6. And there’s the clear difference between those whom Jesus allows into His heaven versus those He rejects. Those are the dogs, sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Revelation 22:14-15. He is who He is.