24 March 2009

"Christianism" defined

In his Daily Dish column this weekend, Andrew Sullivan reiterates the difference between a "Christian" and a "Christianist" - a distinction he first elucidated for Time magazine in 2006:
Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.


  1. I agree somewhat with the Christianist/Islamist vs. Christian/Islam argument but Sullivan's presentation is so incredibly facile. It does more to muddy the waters than clarify and it more often used as a cudgel against people you disagree with than an actual philosophical/political point.

    You could easily allow religion to inform morality which informs your politics. This happens all the time. The Catholic who is pro-life, anti-death penalty, and anti-war and votes that way is not a "Christianist" simply because they have a moral system that informs their politics. Or if that is how you define the term than you could make "Humanist" into a dirty word.

    The way Christianist is thrown around you would think that anyone who finds abortion abhorrent or the death penalty wrong on Biblical grounds is secretly agitating for theocracy in America which is not an argument I find particularly convincing.

    The real difference between Islamist and Christianist is that there actually are Islamic theocracies run by Islamists who are clamoring for a world wide Caliphate. If you looked hard enough I am sure you could find equally nutty Christians. However, outside of Vatican City you aren't going to find Christians subjugating national law in favor of the law of Christ.

    Even the most militant Christians in the US get all worked up to go out and vote for their candidate... not stage armed uprisings in the name of God in order to overthrown Congress and install the Chief Pastor of the United States of God.

  2. Well said, Mr. Fischer. Well said.


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