What threat do we Christians pose? Why is Christophobia the only acceptable bigotry that seems to be left in the world?

One of the worst things you can be called today is "Homophobic," often defined as "having an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals." However, while alleged homophobia (together with any opposition to homosexuality) is being aggressively intimidated out of existence by an ever-vigilant media and militant homosexuality, another phobia is growing, Christophobia, "an irrational fear and hatred of Christ and of Christians." Indeed, often those who are most vigilant against homophobia are the most violent in their Christophobia. 

Christophobia is not new; it's as old as Luke 8:26 where, after Christ delivered a man from thousands of demons, people reacted not by rejoicing but by running away in terror, then urging Him to leave. Even the healed man seems to have felt the crowd's hostility and begged the departing Jesus to take him too.

However, although Christophobia is not new, it does seem to be a reaching epidemic proportions in many places.  Last century, communist nations such as China, the Soviet Union, and North Korea waged a merciless and murderous war on harmless Christians. This century, while communist oppression has diminished, many Islamic countries have taken on the persecutor's mantle. In January 2011, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist convert from Islam, wrote a Newsweek article on the "War on Christians" being waged across the Muslim world resulting in thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths:

Fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. 

But we don't need to look in the history books or to other nations for Christophobia. Even in America, there is a determined effort to remove Christianity from the public sphere and consciousness: Christian holidays and symbols are being extirpated, prayer is banned in public schools, the 10 Commandments have been removed from courts and classrooms, blasphemous art and a mocking media deride Christian values. We might ask, "What have we done to deserve this? What threat do we pose? Why is Christophobia the only acceptable bigotry that's left?" Let's return to Luke 8:26 for some answers.

1. People are afraid of others being changed
When Jesus came into the demoniac's life, everything changed for him: changed location, clothes, language, actions, body, mind, and soul. But instead of welcoming this change in his life, the people are very afraid. Why is this a common reaction to Christian conversion?

First, it's because many don't want people who are worse than them to get better than them, because it makes them look bad. As long as there's a demoniac, an alcoholic, a drug addict, a gambler around, people can look down on them with moral superiority. But when Jesus cleans up such "dirty" lives, it then makes the "clean" feel dirty in comparison. And that's uncomfortable.

Many notorious sinners will tell you that they got more sympathy and love before they were converted to Christ. Some will even say "I preferred you as an alcoholic." 
Second, such conversions prove the existence of a supernatural dimension and divine power. Just as in Luke 8, when someone is dramatically converted, people know in their hearts that this was not some man-centered "10 steps to a better you." This was a God-centered "Salvation is of the Lord." It was a testimony to God's power and grace that they could not argue against. Again, that's not a comfortable experience for God-deniers.

2. People are afraid of society being changed
When Jesus commanded the devils to leave the man, He gave them permission to enter a herd of pigs, 2000 of which promptly ran into the sea and died. This was not a normal day in Galilee. Jesus changed the status quo; He upended the way things usually went. Such revolutionary change deeply upset the local population who fled, gathered a crowd, and returned to the scene.

And what did they see? They saw a great change in their community. Instead of a large herd of pigs doing well and a man doing badly, they saw a man doing really well and a herd of pigs doing really badly. 

Will they rejoice in the change? Or will they prefer everything as it was? They choose the latter. They preferred fat pigs to a sane man. They prefer business and profit to the good of souls. They prefer the status quo to societal change.

That's why many fear Christianity. They fear the change it will bring in the culture, in businesses, in schools, in entertainment, and in public morals. They've seen what it can do from time to time, and they want nothing to do with it. They'd prefer other people to be suffering than their pockets to be suffering. Demons make them more money than holiness. 

3. People are afraid of being changed themselves
When the Galileans saw the transformation in this man, it reminded them of their need of change, the possibility of change, the availability of change, and the extent of change required.
Some people may want others changed and some may want some change in society. Very few want to be changed themselves; at least, not as much as this man was; not a change at the very core of their being. A little personal change, maybe; but not the kind of change that impacts everything about them. People fear how Christ could change their relationships, their entertainment choices, their business practices, their spending patterns, and their morals. 

Therefore, Christophobia. Hence "Get out of here!" They'd rather have a maniac than the Messiah. 

How can so many so hate someone who loved and loves so much? How can we continue to choose pigs over Christ? Does this not show us how much we need changed ourselves?  

Are you Christophobic? Ask the One you hate to love you, change you, and give you love for Him.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He Blogs at headhearthand. and you can follow him on Twitter@davidpmurray.

Originally published July 30, 2012.