Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Christianism vs. Christianity

Andrew Sullivan wants to reclaim Christianity for Christians from rightwing politicians -- the so-called "Christian Right."

He argues “the term ‘people of faith’ has been co-opted almost entirely in our discourse by those who see Christianity as compatible with only one political party, the Republicans, and believe that their religious doctrines should determine public policy for everyone.”

According to Sullivan, “…. let 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.”

Sullivan's concern is for the corrupting influence of politics on the church. My concern is the for the corrupting influence of the church on our democracy. The ability to compromise is a key element in democratic politics. The inability to compromise is an element of authoritarianism and the Christianists are a good example of those all too willing to impose their uncompromised beliefs on the rest of us.

One is reminded of the movement in Spain combining extreme conservatism and Catholicism as part of the larger movement to overthrow the secular Spanish Republic starting in 1936. Conservative Christians joined with the Falange to establish the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco that lasted until his death in 1975.

His essay in this week's Time Magazine can be read here.

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