Is Jesus welcome here?
We hear a lot today about phobias. Phobias are extreme or irrational fears that can take over given a certain set of circumstances.
I have come across people who have suffered from acrophobia (fear of heights), agliophobia (fear of pain), ailurophobia (fear of cats), arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and aviophobia (fear of flying).
In more recent years, there have been claims of homophobia and Islamophobia. Our fears and phobias usually require careful attention as they prevent us from growing and lock us in to fear-filled behaviour.
May I suggest that in our modern culture there are traces of a new phobia, Christophobia. It is essentially the fear of Christ and the influence of Christianity. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins believes “religion poisons everything”.
Religion, it is claimed, has a negative and corrupting effect on us and therefore we need to be cleansed from its influence and power. It sounds a little phobic, even a little Stalinist. People of faith were placed in the gulags and salt mines of Soviet Russia so they would not contaminate the atheist society. Jesus was not welcome. It does however raise the question, how welcome is Jesus in our society?
Last week my attention was drawn to an article in the Australian newspaper that read “Jesus not welcome in school yards”. The article was about primary schools in Queensland. Queensland education officials have moved to “ban references to Jesus in the primary school yard”. The prohibition suggests that talking about Jesus in conversation should be stamped out as it “could adversely affect the schools ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment”. The ban on Jesus also included the sharing of Christmas cards and creating Christmas decorations.
When I read this I began to wonder if Christophobia is beginning to emerge in Australia.Thankfully for the next few days there was a howl of protest.
Atheists wrote in saying religion should not be off limits in a school yard. Students should be free to talk about their beliefs, questions and doubts. Democrats wrote in saying in a democracy, freedom of speech is a basic human right. Educationists wrote in saying a well-rounded liberal education must include the discussion of religion inside and outside the class rooms. People of other faiths wrote in wondering why only Jesus was banned and what was the status of Buddha, Mohammed and Moses; where they also barred?
Why pick on Christianity?
Even Christians wrote in pointing out that Jesus, teaches us love our neighbours and enemies and go the extra mile in caring for people was hardly damaging to a “supportive or inclusive environment”. One letter writer also pointed out many Christmas cards contain the positive message of “peace on earth” and “good will to all people”, not words that could undermine the well-being of human community. Children sending Christmas cards to their friends is not breaching inclusivity or mind polluting. One wonders what will be next and what has motivated the educational bureaucrats to behave in such a negative way towards Christianity.
Why do they fear?
It feels and looks like an irrational fear or phobia. Character Strengths and Virtues by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman shows research that Christians are less aggressive, have better marriages and family life and care for others more than those of no faith. It turns out that Christianity rather than poisoning everything when carefully applied actually enriches people’s lives with harmony, peace and meaning. Of course Christians can be hypocritical and judgmental, but when Christianity and the teaching of Jesus are generously applied to the life of an individual or a society the world is a better place. In my view we need to make more room for Jesus not less.
I don’t know about you but Jesus is most welcome in my life and in my world.