It wasn’t too long ago that a phobia referred only to an extreme or irrational fear of something. Acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of small, enclosed spaces), and aquaphobia (fear of water) come to mind. In recent years, however, new “phobias” have been added to the lexicon as a way of deflecting criticism and/or questioning. Along with this, the word “phobe” with specific prefixes has come into vogue as a way of name-calling. Let’s take a look at four of them and at what Scripture has to say about them.
Homophobe: a person who is supposedly afraid of homosexuals. This word is freely applied to people who have the gall to question homosexual behavior. In a previous post about whether a Christian should attend a gay friend’s wedding, I wrote about what Scripture has to say about homosexuality. To again quote Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Now, since the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is sinful, does that mean that I am a homophobe for believing so? There is a sense in which I am, especially when it comes to the indoctrination of our children in schools to believe that homosexual behavior is OK. Matthew 18:6 tells us, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Transphobe: a person who is supposedly afraid of trans people. This word is applied to those who think that gender identity is biologically determined at birth, not by what you may “feel” your gender is. And of course, some trans people go all the way, physically mutilating themselves and transitioning from one gender to another. Here’s what the very first chapter of the Bible tells us (Genesis 1:27): “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” People who reject their biological gender are telling God, whether they realize it or not, that He made a mistake! Now, am I afraid of trans people? There is a sense in which I am, especially (but not only) when it comes to the protection of children; I refer you again to Matthew 18:6.
Islamophobe: a person who is supposedly afraid of followers of Islam. This word is applied to people who are ostensibly afraid of Muslims. Let me say first of all that as an ESL teacher, I taught many Muslims, particularly over the last ten years of my career. I found them as a group to be very respectful, and I had no fear of them whatsoever. I sought to show them–and my other students–the love of Christ in my teaching. In the U.S., the vast majority of Muslims self-identify as moderate Muslims, which means they don’t follow the teachings of radical Islam. However, if you study the history of Islam and investigate the culture of the majority of the Middle East, you get a different picture. Those who dare to at least mention this are quickly branded “Islamophobes.” What does Scripture have to say about this? Let’s focus on what the Qur’an says about Jesus. Since it denies His deity, Scripture tells us that Islam, like all religions other than Christianity, is wrong. The good news is that ever since the 1960s, Muslims have been coming to saving faith in Jesus in large numbers. A Wind in the House of Islam (2014) by David Garrison is an eye-opening look at this incredible phenomenon.
Xenophobe: a person who is supposedly afraid of people from other countries. I noticed this word being used a lot last year in reference to people who sought to discover the origin of COVID-19, specifically those who investigated the source as possibly being a lab in Wuhan, China. I have noticed it picking up steam this year in reference to those who are trying to investigate the chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border. At issue is whether the U.S. has the right to “close” its borders, meaning to carefully regulate who crosses and who doesn’t. What does Scripture have to say about borders? Acts 17:26 says, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” If you think that borders are not important, take a look at Joshua 14-19, where the Lord meticulously lays out the borders for each of the tribes of Israel. Or read the book of Nehemiah, where under his leadership, the Israelites rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem after their return from Babylonian exile. I would say that not only do we have the right to “close” our border with Mexico, but that we have the responsibility to do so. After all, one of the primary responsibilities of a government is to protect its own citizens, and Scripture is in agreement with this.
On a personal note: the majority of students in my ESL classes were from Mexico, and I found them very respectful as a group and had no reason for fear. However, many people, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, seem to be confused about compassion, thinking that it applies as much to governments as it does to individuals. Many years ago, after my class had ended, a student from Mexico who was in another class entering the room asked me what I thought about illegal immigrants. I answered her with a question: “If I entered Mexico illegally and was discovered, would your government allow me to stay? What would happen to me?” She was silent.
There are people who like to resort to name-calling with words like “homophobe,” “transphobe,” “Islamophobe,” and “xenophobe” because they don’t want to hear any criticism of the behavior of groups of people or of government policy in relation to them. As always, these people like to say they are “tolerant,” but only as long as other people agree with them. People who disagree are “intolerant” and “phobes” of various kinds; I have mentioned only four. As with everything, however, we have to examine it with the lens of Scripture.