I have grown to deeply dislike the way we use the word “phobia”. Not only is our current use inaccurate, it’s become nothing but a specious label that obscures the truth.
As we all know, phobia means unreasoning, irrational fear. Now I really, really don’t like standing on the edge of tall buildings or mountain cliffs. In the past, I have written scripts with scenes on the roofs of skyscrapers. Trust me, I wasn’t there when they were shot. I was very glad that there are so many others who don’t have my particular little phobia. It seems to have grown somewhat worse with age. I suppose I could try to overcome it, but it’s so much easier to make peace with it. The odd thing is I can sit next to the open door of a helicopter flying thousands of feet in the air and it doesn’t bother me at all. Not much rationality in that.
Our problem isn’t unreasoning fear. Our problem is unreasoning hate. Fear and hate often go hand-in-hand, but that isn’t always so.
I have the sneaking suspicion that those who love to use the word phobia attached to a whole range of societal issues are themselves guilty of unreasoning hate which they project onto anyone who disagrees with them. But this much I know, hatred projected at any person or group is evil and destructive. We may hate what they believe and what they do, but when we start to hate them as human beings we have crossed a very dangerous line. And it is easy to cross, isn’t it?
Having worked in Hollywood for many years I can say without the slightest doubt that as a Christian I have been on the receiving end of unreasoning hate and bigotry. This is not paranoia. It is a fact. Let me tell you a little story.
A number of years ago I was working at Universal Studios. I had sold a television series to a network. Not only was I the creator, I was the executive producer and the “showrunner”, the person responsible for every creative decision relating to that production. I had a suite of offices in the producers building and my creative team was in place. Most of my writer/producers were old friends, people I had worked with in the past.
Just outside our offices was a secretarial pool, an open area where our assistants had their desks. I had little personal dealings with the assistants who worked for other members of my team. These were all universal employees most of whom had worked at the studio for years.
In this group was a particular woman who struck me as very odd. There wasn’t an ounce of friendliness or cordiality in her. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with her at all. She worked for a friend of mine who was on the team.
One day I got an unpleasant surprise. This woman had reported me to HR for religious harassment. Now the only contact I had had with her was greeting all the assistants when I walked through the room in the morning. How was I harassing her? Here’s how: Among several other books on my desk, I kept a Bible. That’s it. That’s all it took. She was never in my office when I was there, so she must have come in and seen it after I was gone. That Bible and my existence filled her with unreasoning hate. Reporting someone to HR is a serious step.
Now I have worked with many people on a close basis in Hollywood. There is not a person who can tell you that I jammed what I believe down anyone’s throat. Everyone who worked with me for any length of time knew that I was a Christian, but always there was mutual respect. And more than just respect, so often there was deep friendship that continues to this day. Though I can hardly think of one staff colleague who shares my faith or even agrees with me on many issues, I love those people. I miss working with them terribly. When we did work together, I did all I could to protect them. Hollywood can be a vicious place. As a Christian I believe in servant leadership. If you are given leadership you are not there just to serve yourself.
That little experience with bigotry at Universal meant nothing. HR never contacted me at all. I wouldn’t have known about it if someone in my office hadn’t told me. But I will tell you this. I experienced that same kind of unreasoning hate at much higher and far more destructive levels. That too, is a fact based on solid evidence. Out of fear of unreasoning hate and discrimination, many Christians in Hollywood remain silent and hidden. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.
Every writer writes out of what he or she believes and how we view the world. I’m very thankful that for three and a half years on The Equalizer, I was given the freedom to write from what I believe and in doing so to prove the quality, the validity and, yes, the commerciality of that kind of writing. But those things don’t matter in the face of unreasoning hate. I was never given that kind of freedom again. And ultimately there was a serious price to be paid, which I do not regret.
So for those who mock the idea of Christians facing such hate I say, walk a mile in my shoes, friend.
A transformation needs to take place in this country because there are hate-filled bigots everywhere. The first foul odor of bigotry comes in arrogant, elitist, self-righteous blather. We are in desperate need of a transformation that will lead to mutual respect and patience with each other. When that’s in place it can lead to real friendship. That I know from personal experience. So many of my friends in Hollywood were patient with me. Is that going to happen in America? No, it is not. So we deserve what we’re going to get.