Sunday, April 09, 2006


Andrew Sullivan pumps a new word for the old language. And unlike a lot of neologisms, I think this one is not just helpful, it's necessary:

People who believe in the Gospels of Jesus Christ are Christians. People who use the Gospels of Jesus Christ for political gain, and for a political program of right or left, are Christianists. And Christianism, like many "isms", is an ideology that will corrupt faith and poison politics. It has already done both, under the auspices of this president and his acolytes. It is long past time that real Christians took their faith back from these political charlatans. One first step is to deny them the name that they have so artfully coopted. It starts with language. It always does.

We usefully distinguish "Judaism" from "Zionism." We try to draw a line between "Islam" and "Islamism" (I'm not sure there is one). And we awkwardly distinguish "Hinduism" from "Hindu nationalism" (as though all Hindus were Indians and all Indians were Hindus). You don't have to be a Christian (as I am not) to resent the debasing of the language in having a word with a broad and necessary definition hijacked into a narrow political ideology. And since "both sides" are engaged in this linguistic legerdemain, the correction is politically neutral.

Classical Values picks up the riff:

The word "Christian" has more and more become a mainstream media (and Christian political conservative) synonym for a highly politicized version of fundamentalist Christianity. Who gave the left and the right such a monopoly to use that once neutral word?

And adds the necessary disclaimer:

It has to be remembered that even the "Christianists" Sullivan condemns don't blow themselves up, they don't throw homos off buildings, they don't issue fatwas against cartoonists, or beat women, or stone people, or chop off hands and feet. Instead, more than anything else, people like Robertson and Falwell specialize in being annoying, making pretentious claims to political influence beyond what they have, and above all making money at it.