Skip to main content

Columnists Remarkable Providences

Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord

In an age of fear, Christophobia is the truly widespread one

This is an age of phobias. When we turn tail and run we are no longer cowards; we are merely acting in accord with our phobias. We may suffer from phobias we don't even know. For example, the word homophobia smogged up the air over the Democratic convention in Los Angeles last week, as we learned once again that a man who criticizes homosexuality on biblical grounds is trying to repress his true desire to plant a big sloppy kiss on the dude next door.

The Bible describes a true phobia-fear of God and his angels-that truly is a consuming fire for many. Virtually every angel needs to say to men and women, quivering in the presence of the supernatural, "Fear not." That's because we are all sinners and have good reason to fear a holy God, until He graciously tells us, "fear not," and even more graciously provides a way to escape His wrath.

If we run from Christ we fear Him all the more, because deep down we know we are throwing away our only realistic hope. So Christophobia, unlike homophobia, is widespread -although you wouldn't know that from press coverage. I checked Lexis-Nexis and found less than one reference to Christophobia, on average, over the past 20 years but over 1,000 in each recent year to homophobia.

How Christophobic has America become? Two centuries ago Americans were against any particular denomination becoming the established religion, but they saw Christian belief underlying our entire government and social structure. Alexis de Tocqueville in the early 19th century noted that "Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other." But the Williamsburg Charter Survey on Religion and Public Life a decade ago found 92 percent of surveyed academics demanding a "high wall of separation" between church and state. One-third even claimed that evangelicals are "a threat to democracy."

A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has been Christophobic for almost four decades now. Many "wall of separation" decisions come to mind; one of the most bizarre was Abington vs. Schempp in 1963, when the court majority argued that reading portions of the New Testament could be "psychologically harmful" to children. But the court, providentially, has always had a remnant to remind us of what the Constitution actually says.

For example, now-Chief Justice William Rehnquist's dissent in Wallace vs. Jaffree (1984) noted that "the greatest injury of the 'wall' notion is its mischievous diversion of judges from the actual intentions of the drafters of the Bill of Rights." Mr. Rehnquist added, "The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."

Perhaps the most observant current viewer of Christophobia is not a Christian but an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Daniel Lapin wrote in his book, America's Real War, "The educational bureaucracy expects the state to accommodate every possible bizarre cultural mutation and lifestyle, but finds prayer at graduation an intolerable and fatal compromise of state neutrality toward religion." Why else would such illogic reign if fear were not involved?

Some Jewish leaders would point to the Holocaust to say that their fear has an objective basis, yet the faith that animated Hitler was not Christianity but a racist version of Social Darwinism's emphasis on survival of the fittest. And the reason Hitler could put his faith into practice is because of a powerful government apparatus; although the left hates to admit it, National Socialism was one type of socialism.

That's why Rabbi Lapin's fearless statement makes sense: "Those of us who venerate freedom, be we Jewish or Christian, be we religious or secularized, have no option but to pray for the health of Christianity in America. No other group possesses both the faith and the numbers sufficient to hold back the ever-encroaching, sometimes sinister, power of the state."

But Christophobia in America is not primarily connected to Judaism or any other non-Christian religion; liberal Protestant churches are often the most Christophobic of all. A tough-minded evangelical presence brings with it the moral confrontation that Christ emphasized and that churches fleeing from the gospel hope to avoid. But churches and members that have given up their heritage do have much to fear, because in God's economy it is not better to have loved and walked away than never to have loved at all.