Over the past few decades many in the Western world have witnessed a growing hostility against Christians and churches. Such is the growth in this hostility that the word “christophobia” was coined in 2003 by Jewish scholar Joseph Weiler in his book, A Christian Europe? He used the word not as we might presume to describe anti-Christian behaviour in general, but focussed on what he saw as Europe’s particular embarrassment with its Christian past.
However, today, ten years later, the word’s usage covers a wider range of responses. This includes, as suggested above, the refusal by some to concede that Christian moral ideas have a place in the arena of public debate. Here christophobia is more likely to be defined as “having an irrational fear and hatred of Christ and of Christians.”
For example, in our community today it seems that one of the worst things one can be label is “homophobic”. While the technical definition is “having an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals” more often that not Christians are denounced, as has occurred here in Hobart, as “homohobic” just for maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage.
We live in a strange world. Many who call for Christians to be tolerant of their point of view, are less than tolerant in accepting our point of view. And while they advocate for a diversity of views, they are quick to denounce views they do not agree with theirs.
Perhaps we should not be surprised. Throughout history Christians have faced similar resistance. In fact, the more God’s presence is felt in a community, the more opposition God’s presence provokes. This was true for Jesus, so it will also be true for his followers. The more vigorously the gospel is presented the more the forces that deny it will intensify their opposing efforts.
Yet, while we may detect a growing christophobia here in Australia this cannot compared to the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in other countries. According to the German based International Society for Human Rights (a secular organisation) some 150,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year (411 each day, and 17 every hour). It happens in 133 countries, representing nearly two-thirds of all nations on earth. In countries like, Mali, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan, Christians are murdered or forced to leave their homes in large numbers. Churches are destroyed and so too are Christian villages.
All this information could lead us to lose hope and despair. Yet, despite what we and our fellow Christians around the world experience we of all people should be full of hope and expectation. Why? We know how the story ends. We are those who live in the light of the resurrection and the promise it contains that Jesus will one day return and establish his Kingdom. We are those who live today with an eye to the future when God’s purposes will be realised and the world will live in peace.
It is in this hope that we are called to live. May God grant to his people around the world the ability to stand firm, be strong and endure in these promises despite what the world may bring against us.
Stephen L Baxter