Thursday, July 13, 2006

Is the State 'Christophobic?'

This seems to be the claim being made by Christians who are increasing their pressure on the government over the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations. In the Daily Telegraph today a letter was written by numerous pastors on behalf of black British Christians claiming that the new law would be 'Anti-Christian', because;

"The regulations force Christians in churches, businesses, charities and informal associations to accept and even promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality. For the sake of clarity, this is not what the Bible teaches and it is not what we believe to be the truth. In our view, these regulations are an affront to our freedom to be Christians.If the Government thinks that we will accept this law lying down, they are mistaken. This sort of Christianophobia from the Government is no longer acceptable."

And in the Daily Express yesterday (12th July 2006) Ann Widdecombe writes;

IT IS supposed to be a crime to stir up religious hatred but the Gay Police Association either doesn't know this or doesn't care. It has recently run an advertising campaign for which it is difficult to find any description other than Christophobia. There is a picture of the Bible and the headline is: In The Name Of The Father. It then goes on to claim that in the past 12 months, the Gay Police Association has recorded a 74 per cent increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator." (see advert below)

She continues, "It would be interesting to know the nature of the homophobic incidents. Christianity specifically forbids hatred, not just acts of hatred or expressions of hatred but the feeling itself. No Christian can abuse or assault a homosexual "in the name of the Father". Yet, by choosing that very famous line of Christian worship the advertisement suggests that Christianity almost uniquely is responsible for hate crime. "

She ends by stating "The time has come to use the very weapons which have been so successfully used against us. We should complain formally of hate crimes and the stirring up of religious hatred and demand our human rights to religious freedom and to freedom of conscience. The Gay Police Association advert might be a very good place to start. "

(The full article by Ann Widdecombe can be found on )

Now whilst I get the point that is being made I think this all starts to get a bit silly and it just looks reactionary. For one I think the concept of 'hate crimes' is ridiculous (Hatred should not be encouraged but to legislate against it seems crazy to me). And surely Christian groups are undermining themselves by buying into the whole PC language? To me it makes no more sense to talk of 'Christophobia' than it does to talk of 'Islamophobia' or 'Homophobia' .

Now, if the term is used with a self-conscious irony then I have no problem with it, but both these two articles appear to be using the term very seriously indeed. I find it both fascinating and disturbing that any group that tries to influence those in power inevitably ends up aping the political language that's current at the time, even if the origins of such a language or discourse are based on a philosophy quite at odds with its own!!!


At 10:41 am, Blogger meg said...

I think that it's vital we challenge beliefs we disagree with if we feel they're morally wrong, even if it does risk alienating religious groups. I would always show respect to someone's personal beliefs, but when those beliefs lead to sexism (such as a Muslim man refusing to shake hands with a female colleague) or homophobia (such as certain strains of Christianity), I have no issues with challenging that behaviour.

I think there's a difference between challenging somebody's belief system, and challenging something about themselves they can't change (gender / race / sexuality etc).

At 9:04 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

I think the point these Christians were trying to make is that the challenging of beliefs is one-sided, they feel that Christianity is getting worse treatment than other religions and therefore they feel they are being discriminated against. For example the GPA advert does not directly mention Christianity but the picture of the Bible and the words 'in the name of the father' are clear references to it and I do indeed think it is done in an underhand way. To write an article criticising Christian beliefs is one thing but to run an advert like this I think is unfair.
Moreover the concern is that the link is made simply with Christianity when there are many other religions that are also critical of homosexuality. Christians are asking themselves why Christianity is being singled out and conclude that we are seeing a rise of Christophobia!!!

By the way a Muslim man once explained to me why they don't shake a woman's hand and I don't think you can say it's sexism. He said it was about preventing unnecessary temptation through making physical contact. He said you might think, "Oh well, that girl's got a nice soft hand" etc etc. Incidentally I found out because I made the mistake in going to shake his hand!!!!

At 2:47 pm, Blogger meg said...

I think it is sexism - does he refuse to touch men's hands incase he's tempted? I would say that anyone who is scared they might have sex with someone just because they touch their hand has issues. Obviously most men (including most muslim men) do touch women's hands, and I'm sure they all end up ok!

I can see your point about the advert and, yes, you can't really deny it's attacking Christianity specifically. Although, overall, I wouldn't say that Christianity gets the worst press. I would say that Christians tend to be portrayed as slightly odd, sandal-wearing Ned Flanders types. Obviously, that's not ideal (!), but it's better than Muslims who currently seem to all be portrayed as terrorists!

At 5:19 pm, Blogger Shizue said...

I never knew that - very interesting. But don't you think that making something forbidden actually fosters temptation? Whereas normalising such interactions destroys the mystique and thus defuses the erotic potential?

At 3:34 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

MEG - There's different types of discrimination and not all of it is necessarily overt so you might not see it straight away. And it depends where it is coming from - media, governmental policy, religion or community groups etc. There's many different things going on in our society at the moment with regards to the perception of religion and so it's difficult to really pin down. Sometimes you don't see the discrimination unless you are the target of it and so I don't think it is particularly useful to argue that one group is worse off than another. There are many Christians in Britain that are starting to feel alienated and I think that like any group of alienated people if their views are not taken into consideration there could be serious trouble ahead with regards to increased social tension! This is the kind of thing I've been exploring for my dissertation!!!

SHIZUE - you do have a point about things being normalised but this can then be dangerous because you start to push and push the boundaries of what is acceptable. And whether in Christianity or in Islam it is not physical relations per se that are forbidden - they just need to be in the right context - i.e.marriage. I know from experience that going without certain things (eg. food, comforts, sex etc) doesn't necessarily make you want it more. Self-denial can make you stronger. And conversely the opposite is also true - giving into temptation can increase the appetite for it, whatever it is.


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