26 July 2011

"Christianism" vs. Christianity

Excerpts from an essay by Andrew Sullivan at The Dish:
I coined the term "Christianism" many moons ago to defend Christianity and the gospels from their political co-opters... One of the core messages of Christianity is a rejection of worldly power. The core message of Christianism is, in stark contrast, the desperate need to control all the levers of political power to control or guide the lives of others. And so the notion that Breivik is a "Christian fundamentalist" seems unfair to those genuine Christian fundamentalists who seek no power over others (except proselytizing), but merely seek to live their own lives in accord with a literal belief in the words of the Bible.

But Christianist? Breivik's picture should accompany the term in any dictionary. Christianism is all about power over others, and it has been fueled in the last decade by its mirror image, Islamism, and motivated to fury by hatred of what it sees as is true enemy, liberalism. Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon...

Notice the absence of real faith, which would recoil even at the very thought of killing innocents, but the pragmatic, cold-blooded use of faith as a psychological mechanism to enable mass murder... He did what he did, knowing it was evil, because of a passionate commitment to a political cause, which has become fused with a politicized parody of one religion, and with a passionate paranoid hatred of another one.

If you think that contains no lessons for the United States, you might want to open your eyes a little more widely.
More at the link.

14 comments:

  1. Very well said. It would be wrong to paint all true Fundamental Christians with that brush. Jesus said "Love your enemies, pray for those who persicute you, bless those who curse you and give to those who dispitefully use you, and you will be lie your Father in heaven who sends the sun and rain on both the just and the unjust."

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  2. '...you will be li[k]e your Father...'

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  3. Well said! In the U.S. it is the Dominionist movement in Christian Fundamentalism, such as the C Street Family who seek a theocracy.

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  4. "Christianism" was just one aspect of this person. As the article says he was trying to make a preemptive attack against what he perceived as "Cultural Marxism", which in reality is the culture of openness and social democracy in Scandinavia. He also cited Hayek, Mises and other libertarian/neoliberal idols as well. Not surprised to see Sullivan conveniently leave that out. Seems there were certainly other right wing aspects to his motives too.

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  5. I'll also add that the comparison to Islam is disingenuous. The Islamic world actually has legitimate grievances: bombs being dropped on them, lands invaded and occupied, hegemony and imperialism to meet Western multinational's profits etc. etc. The Christian West not so much. This is of course no excuse for the tactics of either side. Whether that's the Islamic world with its real grievances, or this "liberty" (ahem) obsessed christian with his imagined ones.

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  6. "christianismity" is a word i recently coined to describe the culture of christians who disassociate themselves from other ickier christians via "no true scotsman" arguments.

    do his actions make him not a christian? are his sins unforgivable? how do you measure the genuineness of his faith? when you (or someone else) says he is not a christian, does that mean that his soul can have no salvation?

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  7. I really like this. I found it a sad sign that the media instantly labeled him as a "Christian Fundamentalist", when his actions speak of anything but Christianity. Thank you very much for this clever and useful distinction.

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  8. Sullivan failed to express himself well with the phrase, "a rejection of worldly power", which to me implies a belief that the law does not apply to you. Obviously not what he meant.

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  9. @Colin--it was the Norwegian police who said he was a Christian fundamentalist. This was very early on, shortly after he was captured, one of the first things we were told about him. Up till that point almost all the media speculation had been that it was Islamic fundamentalists.

    Ironically, another bit of info that came out early was that he was a Mason. I saw several Christian fundamentalist and right-wing Web sites that were salivating over this revelation, which they claimed proved that Freemasonry was Satanic.

    The Masonic connection is pretty strange anyway; Freemasons are, as I understand it, a pretty broad-minded, diverse organization. But it's fairly widely believed (probably erroneously) that Freemasonry originated from the medieval Knights Templar, the Christian group on which Breivik's group models itself, militant anti-Islamism and all.

    It looks as if Breivik somehow thought that becoming a Mason would link him in spirit to the Crusaders. And give him a neat costume to wear as well. He seems to have enjoyed playing dress-up.

    --Swift Loris

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  10. Has anyone made such feel good distinctions on behalf of Muslims?

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  11. The second evil here is that the killer(s) will keep on killing and the prayers will keep on praying. Both sides feel that they have accomplished something. The killers have their count and the preyers lay down at night knowing it is all for an intelligently designed purpose and that some day justice will be served. ...horsepucky.

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  12. @Anonymous RE: "christianismity" & Stan B. - you found the heart of the issue (though it's surely lost on those looking to assuage cognitive dissonance).

    Can a religion inoculate its followers against manipulation and the distortion of its precepts, or is that necessarily a paradox?

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  13. This is similar to thoughts I have had running through my mind for many years now. There is a very large number of people who will seek power over others and then when they have it, they will abuse that power. There is no doubt that many have gained power over others via the influence of religion and have abused it in the worst ways possible. Those same people would have been just as happy to have power in any form and would have abused it to the same degree. I believe that the conclusion that it is religion that is the problem is false.

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