When I was in high school, I took a sociology class, and it was just the kind of class you might expect. One day the teacher came in (a very nice young lady), and asked if any of us had ever been afraid of a black person. I helpfully raised my hand, and she called on me, pleased at this opportunity for us to do some helpful relating. “And why do you think you were afraid of him?” she asked, wanted to get to the root of some of our societal problems. “Because he had a knife,” I said. Now to be perfectly fair, we were kids, and it wasn’t much of a knife. But it was enough of a knife to scare me at the time, and to make me seek help years later in my sociology class.
This was the same teacher who, on another occasion, taught us all that all teenagers went through a time when they hated their parents. But I didn’t, and raised my hand and honored my parents by saying that I loved them. She said, no, that wasn’t true.
Words form societal expectation; words catechize; words build. And if there is another civilzation in the way, words tear down. In The Abolition of Man, Lewis provides a striking quote from an old English song about Herod — “and so he sent the word to slay, and slew the little childer.”
So let’s return to the question of “fearing” whoever it is now. There is a missing premise in the question, which is that all such fear is irrational, a point that is reinforced by the increasingly fashionable use of the suffix –phobia. Some unfortunate people won’t go outside anymore because of a phobia about a bee getting in their hair. Others are irrationally afraid of enclosed spaces, and others have hyper-jitters about heights. But there are irrational fears, for which the suffix –phobia works quite well, and then there is the PC-point that is advanced with every use of that suffix in words like homophobia or Islamophobia.
You should see the tactic clearly — any opposition to their agenda, for whatever reason, is dismissed as a mental illness. It was the Soviet Union that first pioneered this tactic, because anyone who opposed the establishment of that glorious paradise was obviously sick in the head. You obviously need treatment. They haul you away to their reeducation centers more in pity than in anger.
Christians therefore have no business using such words, unless it is to make fun of them. I know lots of Christians who think that Leviticus and Romans exclude homosexual behavior, but I don’t know any Christians who have an irrational fear of homosexuals. I know many Christians’s who don’t believe that Mohammad was Allah’s prophet, but I don’t know any who have an irrational fear of Muslims. And when prudence dictates extra precautions, what some might call fearful precautions — say you are flying to an airport that is on the State Department’s list of dumb places to fly to — that is hardly an irrational fear. One soldier does not turn to another, right before they go over the top, and ask if he ever struggles with bulletphobia. “Why, yes,” the reply might come. “Thanks for this opportunity to open up a bit. I think my mother must not have tucked me in enough at night when I was little.”
Words matter. Phobia is a weapon. So are words like Christendom — used negatively or positively — and words like community and missional.
Even when someone is defending the biblical position that homosexual behavior is biblically prohibited, they can still be (wittingly or unwittingly) giving away the store. This discussion here provides a helpful case in point (HT: Joe Rigney). If someone is saying that homosexual behavior is, at the end of the day, excluded from the array of biblically ethical sexual options, but that we conservative Christians nevertheless “have to learn how to reach out in a missional way to the gay community,” then the battle is already lost.
Gays don’t have a community, any more than a sack of bolts can hold anything together. And, while we are on the subject, gays aren’t gay. And missional is just evangelism lite, using soft soap outreach, and the soap is most often made soft by leaving the law and gospel out. We don’t need missional outreach; we need to preach the gospel in season and out of season. What is the difference in meaning between “missional outreach to the gay community” and “preaching the gospel to sodomites”? Rest assured, there is one.
And you can also be assured that those who would prefer the former phrase would likely think that Christendom is a really bad idea, and those who opt for the latter phrase would probably really like it if Christ were honored as He ought to be in the public square. And this is why I would argue that the kind of gospel that will establish this mere Christendom I am talking about will a gospel preached by vertebrates.