Main | Thursday, September 25, 2008

On "Christianists"

I've gotten a number of emails inquiring and/or complaining about my use of the word "Christianists" to describe the Christian right. The word's origin is not, as some have suggested, a portmanteau of "Christian" and "activist", although that seems a logical conclusion. If I recall correctly, I first saw the term in a 2006 article by Andrew Sullivan in TIME.
[L]et me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. 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.
I'm uncertain whether Sullivan actually coined the term or merely launched its widespread usage, but I think it's a fair way to denote a difference between the personally, privately devout and those other people.

Labels: , , ,

comments powered by Disqus