If You Want to Fight Islamophobia then Deal with Christianophobia

Anti-Fascist sign at a gay rights protest at Federal Plaza, Chicago on November 15, 2008.

By George Yancey Published on January 3, 2016

Because of my study of Christianophobia, some have criticized me for being unconcerned with prejudice and discrimination against those of other faiths. Not so. For example, I am deeply concerned with the level of Islamophobia in the United States. The violence that sometimes emerges from this bigotry must be confronted, as the conservative Christian commentator Michael Brown has also insisted. But this situation isn’t either/or — that is, either we deal with Christianophobia or we deal with Islamophobia. Instead, there’s a crucial both/and dimension to the problem. A recent survey suggests as much, indicating that an important but widely overlooked aspect of fighting Islamophobia involves rooting Christianophobia out of academia and elsewhere.

The survey was focused on college campuses and indicates one source of Islamophobia is when people feel their own religion is not respected and don’t feel safe to express their own faith. This should come as no surpirse. When we think others want to silence us, a natural human reaction is to try to silence others.

I appreciate the efforts of the authors of the study, but I don’t think their presentation goes quite far enough. They seem hesitant to suggest which religion is most often disrespected on college campuses, and thus which type of anti-religious bias is likely tied to Islamophobia. I will fill in that missing piece with a couple of observations. First, in my book on Christianophobia I found that, unlike animosity towards Mormons or atheists, animosity towards Christian fundamentalists was more likely among those who are white, highly educated, politically progressive, irreligious and financially well-off. That sounds like a lot of college professors and administrators. So anti-religious perspectives fostered by those in power at universities is more likely to be focused on conservative Christians than on Muslims or Jews.

Second, I blogged recently about some data in the University of Colorado system showing that Protestants, as well as Jews and Mormons, are the religious group most likely to perceive disrespect, prejudice or to be intimidated due to their religious beliefs. And I suspect the findings would have been even stronger if it had looked at specifically conservative Protestants.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of conservative Protestants on U.S campuses. If most of them regularly have their faith disrespected by anti-religious, secular faculty and students, it doesn’t seem unlikely that some fraction of those conservative students would develop Islamophobia, in part from their sense of feeling constantly under attack for their faith.

Let me be clear that I do not approve of Christians who develop Islamophobia because they encounter Christianophobia (an unreasonable fear or anger towards Christians). As Christians we are called to be better than that. When given a chance I will confront a Christian who justifies hatred of others from his having faced hate. However, as a social scientist I have to deal with reality and not how Christians should act ideally. So if we want to deal with the lack of respect towards Muslims, if we want to minimize the problem in our country, then it is prudent to ask questions about the lack of respect towards Christians at institutions of higher education.

It is not hard to find evidence that supports the idea that conservative Christians are not respected on colleges and universities. Some colleges have successfully used all-comers rules to derecognize Christian groups. After all, how can a Christian group remain a Christian group if it is forced to accept leaders who openly oppose Christianity? Christian students also have faced sanction for public prayer.

The reality is that many academics are more willing to discriminate against conservative Christians than against those of other faiths. We have seen the results of this willingness in court.

Sometimes conservative Christians exaggerate their problems, but they do have legitimate concerns about intolerance towards them in academic settings. If college administrators want to deal with Islamophobia, then they would do well to address concerns about Christianophobia in a respectful manner.

Given the type of person who tends to have anti-Christian animosity (i.e. highly educated, irreligious, politically progressives) there is a good chance that at least some college administrators who want to deal with Islamophobia themselves have animosity towards conservative Christians. If those administrators are serious about dealing effectively with Islamophobia, then they may have to deal with their own anti-religious prejudices first.

Of course, the problem of Islamophobia in America stretches beyond college campuses. But some of the Islamophobia in our wider society likely is also fueled by the disrespect and prejudice aimed at conservative Christians. Perhaps many who are talking about ending Islamophobia should question whether they are fostering unfair anti-Christian attitudes, attitudes that contribute to an overall atmosphere of religious bigotry in society. Ridding the Christianophobia in their hearts, it seems to me, isn’t a bad price to pay for helping reduce the Islamophobia they rightly decry.

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  • Gail

    New word Islamophobia. Lol!
    Let me be clear. No one has a phobia! We are angry not scared!

    • Bandit

      Do you realize that there are a great many people who suffer from arachnophobia as well as herpaphobia (or a fear of snakes), good thing I only suffer from arachnophobia, or an extreme fear of spiders.

  • RodKuehn

    An empty puff-piece.

    There are a host of legitimate reasons why people who follow the news are ticked at conservative Christians.

    Their elected officials are incredibly science-illiterate and they vote as a block. Their transparently “handled” views on climate change make them a serious threat to the security of the globe.

    They manufacture their science, American history, constitutional history out of whole cloth. Are other faiths really supposed to sit around while these folks try to make this a “Christian country” in which separation of church and state is a hoax?

    They cannot fathom the use of evidence or the process of determining the validity of evidence or a source.

    Is the rest of the country supposed to sit on our hands while they cram denomination-specific doctrines down our throats while, at the same time, voting in politicians hand-picked and purchased by the Koch brothers and ALEC?

    I believe it is true that conservative Christians are turning off the younger Americans from religion. This is self-defence, not a phobia.

    • sandraleesmith46

      No prejudice in your remarks (MUCH)! First, you obviously know NOTHING about Christianity, beyond the Lib talking points; second, you clearly do NOT know American history, and third real SCIENCE (as opposed to the false religions of evolution and global warming/climate change, neither of which has a basis in actual science) is NOT antithetical, or unknown to Christians. Quite a few of us practice science-related professions, in fact.
      As for the “cramming” you and others of your ilk are doing far mor “cramming down throats” than the most fiery Christian evangelist has ever done. BTW, where in the Constitution do you find the words “separation of Church and State”? And don’t bother with the establishment clause; that’s NOT what it says, or means.
      Evidence? Show me a fossil that crosses phylla! It’s not we who fail to comprehend evidence. Your religions require a great deal more faith to blindly believe than Christianity will ever ask of me.

      • ronjonmd

        Read the founding fathers.They did not want a state religion. Unfortunately, you have been brainwashed by fundamentalist teachings.

        • sandraleesmith46

          I HAVE read the Founders, as well as the Constitution. Nt establishing a “St.atme” religion did, and does, NOT equate with keeping Yhwh God out of State affairs. It simply means there wshould be no single religion elevated above others. However, while you fools have been screaming about Yhwh being present in public venues, you’ve IGNORED the FACT that O established ISLAM as the state religion a couple of years ago, or so, and that IT permeates EVERY facet of government and schools and even our military, already! You think we Christians were pushing a Thocracy? Just wait! You’ll GET your thocracy, only it won’t be tolerant of you, or charitable in any context!

          • RodKuehn

            You really need to read a wider range of publications. You’re living in a bubble. More to the point, you need a reality check.

            For me, the reality check was the doctrine of original sin. The idea that all subsequent generations could be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve made absolutely no sense. It is fundamentally immoral. That was my starting point for chucking religion.

            I also had help from a magazine called Skeptical Inquirer. It’s a magazine devoted to an organized approach to debunking nonsense. Usually it covers things like, UFOs, psychics and crystal power. Along the way, it uses specific methods of thinking. For instance, Carl Sagan’s Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof. Another one is Occam’s Razor: you take the simplest answer to a mystery that covers all the evidence. If more evidence appears, re-evaluate your conclusions.

            As a practical application, you can visit the American Academy of Science or National Academy of Science website. These are the folks that make the scientific breakthroughs, the Nobel Laureates. They’ll tell you that climate science and evolution is legit. Now, what are the chances that only conservative Christians know about science? Why aren’t they touting their scientific breakthroughs? You must look carefully. They’ll often take a word or phrase and enlarge it to something fantastic. Use your critical thinking skills.

            You’ve been heavily propagandized until you’re left with nothing but plots and conspiracies. Don’t feel bad about being scammed. I grew up as an anti-evolutionist. It took a lot of reading and thought before I finally understood the incredible strength of the idea.

            You have to be devoted to the truth, not a doctrine. There are a thousand contradictory doctrines but not that many truths.

            Follow the evidence.

            Good luck.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Reality check! You aren’t paying for the sins of Adam and Eve, although the consequences still affect each and every one of us; YOU are paying for YOUR sins alone! You might have learned that if you’d read a little more of the Bible and a LOT less of the humanist deceits.
            I’m acquainted with science, both the real deal and the idolatry that paases itself off as science. Real science isn’t in conflict with Yhwh or His Word. Your evolution and “anthropogenic climate change” are both of the latter category. If you knew the Creator of the Earth, you’d know how to discern the true from the false.
            I’m not the one believing the fairy tales, that would be you. However, there IS a “cure” for that; His Name is Yeshua,and you WILL both bow to, and answer to Him.

          • RodKuehn

            How is anthropogenic climate change opposed by “His Word?”

          • sandraleesmith46

            I didn’t say it was opposed by, I said it’s in conflict with. But I’m not surprised you don’t grasp the difference.

          • RodKuehn

            Whatever. What’s the link between the bible and anthropogenic climate change? I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from.

          • sandraleesmith46

            There is NO anthropogenic climate change; climate change is what Earth has done since creation.

          • RodKuehn

            We obviously don’t agree on any of this. I’m an atheist, humanist, follower of science. However, I’m interested in your point of view. If you have no interest in simply exchanging perspectives, say so and I’ll drop it.

            “Real science isn’t in conflict with Yhwh or His Word. Your evolution and “anthropogenic climate change” are both of the latter category.” Where is the reference in the bible to climate change?

          • sandraleesmith46

            There doesn’t need to be; the Bible clearly tells us Yhwh controls the climate/weather phenomena, as He does all things, and that He set the natural laws to govern them as He set them to govern all aspects of nature. However, the latter came from Earth science, from before the rise of the “global cooling/global warming/climate change” cult, when real science was still occasionally being taught in schools. Man simply does NOT .hmave that much power.

          • RodKuehn

            “Yhwh controls the climate/weather phenomena, as He does all things” So you’re basically a non-interventionist, preferring to live as close as possible to a “natural” lifestyle? Perhaps in the Amish tradition?

          • Johnny Armstrong

            @sandraleesmith46:disqus Thank you for your comments. They’re VERY well stated. You’ve done your homework and I thank my God for you.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Thank-you. I thank Him for granting me the wisdom to see, and the language skills to share.

          • ronjonmd

            I do not think that you have read the beliefs of the founding fathers. When did President Obama establish Islam as the state religion. Can you please give me the exact date and the document where it was written that Islam is the state religion. Really I teach school and no one has told us that Islam is the state religion. Please, please tell us where we can find this information. In the mean time we will pray for you to be enlightened away from conservative and fundamentalist teachings. Adios.

          • sandraleesmith46

            You’re free to believe whatever you choose. No one said Islam is the state religion, itcame about incrementally by default. Yhwh God help the poor children subjected to your brand of “education”; you don’t even know what’s happening now, let alone history!

          • ronjonmd

            Sorry Sandralee, I know everything that is happening now. I believe that as an American I am well versed about the happenings in our country. YOU said that Islam is a state religion created by Obama. There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE for your saying this. By the way, which religion do you profess and what church do you attend? My church teaches that you should love everyone because we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God. In addition, you should love your enemies and pray for them. The best example for this is those family members of the people who were shot to death in the church in Charleston. What true Christians they are because they practice what Jesus teaches.

          • sandraleesmith46

            I did not say he created anything, I said he instated Islam as the state religion. That’s what you havewhen it’s the ONLY religion permitted to be freely taught, and practiced in schools, government institutions, etc. And if you missed that happening, I submit it was selective ignorance!

          • ronjonmd

            sandralee…What in the world is “Instated”?-not an English word. You must live in a different that the rest of us because Islam is not taught freely in schools nor is it practiced. I think that you have been brainwashed by conservatives and fundamentalist Christians. None of what you say can be proven. Allah is going to get you–watch out.

          • Bandit

            Have you not kept up with what is going on; congress is at this time working on a number of bills that will install sherea law as well as parts of i-slam, what we have in the W/H is a full blown mazlam ( and yes I misspelled the word on purpose). O is doing everything to help the mazlam and nothing for any other religion.

          • ronjonmd

            Bandit, You had better learn to spell “sherea” correctly,, otherwise your argument is baseless, but it is nonetheless.

          • Bandit

            If you had bothered to reay my post you will have noticed that I did say treay misspelled the words on purpose. Read my post again.

        • hmar007

          Do you brainwash your students with Islamic teachings?

          • ronjonmd

            hmar007. No, I do not brainwash my students because they are intelligent thinkers and have appreciation of all religions because their parents teach them to respect all religions. I always teach my students to think critically and to do lots and lots of research to arrive at intelligent conclusions based on scientific reasoning.

  • Sheila

    Doesn’t Islam teach to kill all infidels, specifically naming Jews and Christians as enemies? This is why I’m against Muslims and believe there are none peaceful, only some who are biding time to act. I have no such opposition to any other religion because no other religion is trying to (rdered to!) kill me or mine.

  • OutsideTheGate

    ‘When we think others want to silence us, a natural human reaction is to try to silence others.’

    That’s a glaring non sequitur, and spoils the whole thing for me.

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