A student is punished for refusing to “stomp on Jesus,” a Christian baker faces a year in jail for refusing to cater faux marriages, two men are arrested for reading the Bible aloud near a government building, a school “purges” Christian works from its library. Critics asserting the existence of an institutional anti-Christian bias, and a resultant war on the faith, have often been labeled paranoid. But now two University of North Texas sociologists have produced research showing that just such an agenda exists — among America’s most powerful people.
Professors George Yancey and David Williamson shared their findings in their newly released book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? The researchers say that while Christianophobia — which the sociologists define as "unreasonable hatred or fear of Christians” — isn’t common among common people, it does characterize those in the upper echelons of American society. It’s intense, too. The book’s title was apparently inspired by elitist interviewees lamenting how there were “so few lions,” referencing the Roman Empire’s practice of throwing Christians into an arena to be slaughtered by the wild cats. One respondent even remarked that Christians “should be eradicated without hesitation or remorse.”
This is something about which Christians “should be concerned,” reports the Christian Post, on a warning Yancey issued in an e-mail interview, “because those with ‘Christianophobia’ tend to be powerful elites with influence in certain important areas, such as higher education.” Commenting on this and the professors’ motivation for conducting their research, Yancey told the Post, “There is a lot of literature on hostility toward many different groups but just about none on hostility toward Christians. Yet when we collected qualitative data from cultural progressive activists we quickly saw some of the unnecessary vitriol and fears within many of our respondents. We also saw the social status of those who exhibited this hatred and many of them would be in positions that allowed them to at least subtly act on their anger and fears.” As for the sources of their data, the Post writes that it “comes from a large national survey, the American National Election Survey, and interviews they conducted with members of liberal advocacy organizations.”
And some of the remarks made by the “cultural progressive activists” are eyebrow-raising. The Blaze reports on a sampling referencing the “Christian right”:
“I want them all to die in a fire.” (Male, aged 26-35 with Doctorate).
“They should be eradicated without hesitation or remorse. Their only purpose is to damage and inflict their fundamentalist virus onto everyone they come in contact with.” (Female, aged 66-75 with Master’s degree).
“They make me a believer in eugenics…. They pollute good air…. I would be in favor of establishing a state for them…. If not, then sterilize them so they can’t breed more.” (Male, aged 46-55 with Master’s degree).
This brazen hatred brings us to something else motivating the researchers. Yancey in the Post again:
Another aspect that drove me to work on this project was that while I consistently saw evidence of Christianophobia in other areas of my life and in our society, unlike other types of intolerances, those who exhibited Christianophobia do not tend to think that they are intolerant. Usually those who do not like blacks or Muslims admit that they are intolerant but simply try to justify their intolerance. Those with Christianophobia tend to deny that they are intolerant but rather that they are fairly interpreting social reality. Envisioning themselves as fair and free of intolerance allows them to blame those they detest.
This reflects the common modern usage (and misuse) of the term “tolerance,” which is supposed to pertain to a person’s ability to abide a perceived negative. We wouldn’t have to “tolerate” a fine car or delectable meal; we relish those things. But we would have to tolerate bad weather or a stubborn cold. In this sense, not liking blacks, Muslims, or Christians is not indicative of intolerance; quite the opposite, only a person with such feelings could exhibit tolerance with respect to such a group because he perceives the group as a negative. If he liked the group or was indifferent to it, he couldn’t exhibit tolerance because there would be nothing for him to have to tolerate.
So there are two relevant questions here: Is the perceived negative an objective negative? And is the intolerance truly justified? Examples:
• You may dislike exercising self-discipline (emotion, remember, isn’t logical), but recognize that since it’s objectively good, your feelings are disordered; thus, when you tolerate its exercise, it’s virtuous.
• You may dislike a neighbor boy’s piano playing. But while you have a moral right to your tastes in this case, practicing an instrument isn’t objectively bad; thus, tolerating it in the name of good fellowship is virtuous.
• You will surely dislike having the flu, and it is objectively negative. Once you’ve done all you can to ameliorate the symptoms, however, keeping a stiff upper lip and tolerating it is virtuous.
• Almost all of us dislike theft, and rightly so because it’s morally wrong. And tolerating it would be a severe fault because when dealing with a remediable objective negative, the only virtue lies in wiping it out.
The same applies to belief. We may recognize someone’s First Amendment right to espouse Nazism, but should we be tolerant of Nazism itself? Likewise, should the Spaniards have been tolerant of the Aztec religion prescribing the sacrificial slaughter of thousands of innocents? Many today believe that tolerance is ever and always a virtue, but as Greek philosopher Aristotle put it, “Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.” Tolerance of vice is vice itself.
So the question about the anti-Christian elitists isn’t whether they’re intolerant. By definition they are: They view Christianity as a negative and want it purged from society. The only question is whether their intolerance is justifiable. Does it serve to preserve understanding of Truth and expose lies or just the opposite? As to this, Dr. Yancey pointed out that Christianophobes claim to believe “that they are fairly interpreting social reality” but don’t “recognize how their emotions have distorted their intellectual judgments.” In other words, they don’t realize that what their feelings tell them is negative isn’t actually objectively so. But why do they have these disordered feelings?
It’s an old story. We all have had the experience of rendering some constructive criticism, only to have the object of it react with anger. No one likes having his bubble burst. And the more attached to the misbegotten idea the person is, the stronger his resistance will be — and the more viciously he may attack those who dare challenge his illusions.
In this relativistic age of “If it feels good, do it” where sin is in, Christianity upholds the absolute, unchanging, nonnegotiable standard of morality. It tells people that their sins really are sins — not just lifestyle choices — and that they’ll be judged for them. And just as one small pin can burst a balloon, a tiny bit of Truth can shatter a rationalization.
It’s no surprise Yancey found that anti-Christian elitists are generally “white, educated [miseducated, actually] and wealthy.” These are not just the “idle minds” that are the “Devil’s playground” or, to echo George Orwell, the kind of people who could believe truly absurd ideas: intellectuals. They also invariably are advocates for some anti-Christian movement, such as feminism or our Great Sexual Heresy. They not only usually indulge sin (people tend to push what they’re attached to), but have come to believe that their very happiness depends on the realization of their social vision — and Christianity stands in its way. And there’s something that is often a corollary of “If it feels good, do it”:
If it feels bad, destroy it.