In recent weeks we have undertaken the project of reviewing, updating, and adding to our 2003 book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. It had gone out of print a few years ago, but with the HBO docuseries “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” about the Duggars and their spiritual leader, Bill Gothard, it seemed appropriate to update the book and put it back in print. In the process, we came across a practice we had written about which applies to religion, politics, and even personal interactions, and its use is rampant today in the divided society we find ourselves in here in America. We might call it the Art of Name Calling. Name-calling for political or cultural advantage has reached a fever pitch today.
In the 1930s, Roman Catholic priest and radio commentator Fr. Charles Coughlin discovered a very effective way of discrediting people he considered political threats. He would appeal to the anti-Semitism and isolationism shared by much of his audience by denouncing various individuals as “atheistic Jews” or “imported radicals.” It mattered little to Coughlin that the sources of his “information” were often untrustworthy. He knew that once he used the power of the broadcast medium to slap labels on people, those people would find it very difficult to remove them from their reputations.
In the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph P. McCarthy used the new medium of television to boost his political career by taking advantage of Americans’ fear of Communism. No evidence was too slight, no testimony too tainted, no logic too specious for him to use in labeling various individuals as “Communists” or “subversives.” Reputations were destroyed. Careers were ruined. For decades after, McCarthy himself was discredited and died as his victims struggled to rebuild their shattered lives. McCarthyism has come to be synonymous with intimidation through labeling and blacklisting and has often been mistakenly portrayed as a “right-wing” tactic. The fact is, however, that McCarthyism is equally useful to demagogues of all political persuasions. In truth, it has become a favorite tool of the left for stifling opposition to their agenda today.
Conservatives are often labeled “Uncle Toms” if they are black or “racists” if they are white for daring to voice opposition to any aspect of the left’s “civil rights” agenda. People who oppose gay “marriage” are labeled “homophobic.” Men and women who oppose abortion on moral grounds are dangerous “extremists,” and so it goes. Thus, opposers are allegedly motivated by “hate” or “fear” rather than rational disagreement. Name-calling becomes a very effective substitute for rationally defending one’s case, legitimate viewpoints are summarily de-legitimized, and thinking is short-circuited by knee-jerk reactions to an emotional appeal. Whenever you hear someone slap a label on someone else without providing careful definitions and clear evidence, you are more than justified in suspecting that you may be listening to a propagandist, rather than someone who truly desires to inform the public.1Don Veinot, Joy Veinot & Ron Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life; Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc; 2003, pp 179-180
This practice is probably as old as time, but it has become THE “go-to” tool for silencing any opposition when a sound, reasoned argument is unavailable or seems likely to be less effective than a smear in silencing one’s opposition. Of course, we have properly updated labels to throw around today. While the “homophobic” label has been applied to people for some time now, the term has been updated and expanded to include “biphobia,” “transphobia,” and other sexual preference/”identity” phobias. “Racist” has been upgraded to “White Supremacist,” although racist is still quite popular in everyday negative labeling usage. Then there is the “Domestic terrorist” slur, used against people who merely love their country despite its flaws, with “extremists” thrown in for good measure. You might be an “extremist,” for example, if you complain about people rioting or running rampant in a violent manner in city streets, destroying businesses, or generally raising havoc. The rampant rioters are NOT extremists, of course, because their “cause is just.” First rule of extremism – you cannot be an extremist if you have an “approved cause.” Then there is the “dog whistle.” A dog whistle is speech with no racist, sexist, or homophobic connotation at all, but what the speaker actually said can be understood as a “stand-in” for a racist, sexist, or homophobic comment that the extremist would make if they felt free to do so. Only an extremist fellow traveler gets their real message – along with the approved interpreter of “dog whistles,” of course.
The fundamental problem is, as the fictional character Inigo Montoya in the 1987 film The Princess Bride would often point out:
You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a phobia is:
A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity, or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear or endures it with great anxiety and distress.2“Phobia: What is it?,” Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, March 9, 2022, accessed 7-23-2023
A phobia is defined as an “unrealistic fear.” Since 2013 the meaning has been expanded and adapted to include “hate.” Though inaccurately used to describe anyone with whom one might disagree, it makes for a convenient emotionally charged verbal weapon against any naysayers and/or detractors of the pet cause of the moment.
Wikipedia’s entry begins by describing “Transphobia” as “negative attitudes, feelings, or actions towards transgender people or transness in general.” But the entry is also honest enough to admit this usage is inaccurate. Under the subheading “Etymology and use,” it is pointed out the correct term is “transmisia” or trans hatred.3Transphobia is not a phobia as defined in clinical psychology (i.e., an anxiety disorder). Its meaning and usage parallels xenophobia. The noun transphobe denotes someone who harbors transphobia. The adjectival form transphobic may be used to describe a transphobe or their actions. The words transphobia and transphobic were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It has been argued that transmisia, with the suffix “-misia” meaning “hatred”, would be a more accurate term, because transphobia is more about hatred of than about fear of transgender people”
As we said, name calling is as old as the sun (that may be a slight exaggeration), but now many seem to set a much higher bar by demanding lock-step agreement with their views – or they will be labeled “phobic” and/or “haters” and canceled. Are there not any legitimate grounds for disagreement anymore among free people without utter defamation of character? For the most part, those falsely labeled as sexually “phobic” are not afraid of nor do they “hate” homosexuals, lesbians, trans, etc. They simply are unwilling to view these behaviors as normal but believe them to be wrong or, dare we say, “sinful,” based on biblical moral teaching. It should be noted that sexual sin of any kind, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is sin in the eyes of God. The same is true of lying, pride, gossip, slander, bearing false witness, and anything else that is contrary to God’s holy nature, against which all of us are measured, whether we accept that truth or not. The Law was given to demonstrate to us how utterly sinful we all are –which may lead us to redemption. (Galatians 3:19-25) We most assuredly do not fear or hate people we disagree with on these issues. All human beings are sinners, having transgressed God’s Law. All of us need a Savior, which God has provided in the person of His son, to pay our penalty and grant us eternal life if we will but accept it.
Do those engaged in the “Art of Name Calling” – to ostensibly defend their beliefs, but actually to defame opposition inappropriately – have “moralphobia?” It depends. Obviously, the problem is not that they have an “unrealistic fear” of morals as they shake their fists at God’s moral law and demand He conforms to their image and likeness. That does not look like “fear.” It would be more accurate to point out they have what we might call “theosmoralmisia,” a hatred of God’s morals. The Apostle Paul describes this condition in Romans 1:28-31:
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Not only do people engage in all the behaviors the Apostle Paul outlines, but they also often demand everyone condone, celebrate, and agree with them. And many do agree, for their own reasons.
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
As we said above, we and other Christians are not “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “transphobic,” etc. We do not “dog whistle” either. Our fervent wish is for all people to lay down their angry opposition to God and find peace with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36 NIV)
© 2023, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑1||Don Veinot, Joy Veinot & Ron Henzel, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life; Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc; 2003, pp 179-180|
|↑2||“Phobia: What is it?,” Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, March 9, 2022, accessed 7-23-2023|
|↑3||Transphobia is not a phobia as defined in clinical psychology (i.e., an anxiety disorder). Its meaning and usage parallels xenophobia. The noun transphobe denotes someone who harbors transphobia. The adjectival form transphobic may be used to describe a transphobe or their actions. The words transphobia and transphobic were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It has been argued that transmisia, with the suffix “-misia” meaning “hatred”, would be a more accurate term, because transphobia is more about hatred of than about fear of transgender people”|