Islamists use Islam to further their narrow political agenda. Christianists use Christianity in the same way. Hearty churchless thanks to Andrew Sullivan for sharing this insight in his recent TIME magazine essay, “My Problem with Christianism.”
Your problem is my problem too, my friend. I like Sullivan. Politically, he’s conservative on Iraq and other issues. But culturally he’s progressive. And not coincidentally, gay. He’s appeared on Bill Maher’s HBO program several times. Sullivan is well-spoken, humble, and clearly a nice guy.
Which helps explain why he dislikes so much the cocky certitude of Christianists who believe that they, and only they, know what God wants of us. This just happens to be precisely what the right wing of the Republican Party wants. Amazing. God only speaks to conservative Christian ideologues.
Sullivan makes a lot of sense here:
And there are those who simply believe that, by definition, God is unknowable to our limited, fallible human minds and souls. If God is ultimately unknowable, then how can we be so certain of what God's real position is on, say, the fate of Terri Schiavo? Or the morality of contraception? Or the role of women? Or the love of a gay couple?
Also, faith for many of us is interwoven with doubt, a doubt that can strengthen faith and give it perspective and shadow. That doubt means having great humility in the face of God and an enormous reluctance to impose one's beliefs, through civil law, on anyone else.
Naturally the Christianists are threatened by a devout Catholic who refuses to accept every bit of Church dogma and the right-wing party line. Gregory Borse considers that there is no room for individual moral choices in Catholicism. He says that he belongs to the Catholic Church; the Catholic Church doesn’t belong to him.
OK. Agreed. I belong to the American Automobile Association. I don’t believe that AAA belongs to me. But I can disagree with some of the central policies of that organization and still be a member. Tell the Pope to shove it on abortion, gay marriage, and female ordination, and you’re not going to be welcome at the Vatican.
That’s why Christianism, or any “ism,” is so dangerous. It is intolerant and authoritarian. If you mistakenly believe that you’re carrying out God’s will, like George Bush does, any and all evidence that you’re on the wrong track is going to be ignored. I talked about this in “Religious values have no place in politics.” Andrew Sullivan makes a similar point in his blog:
I'm not arguing that faith should have no role in political discourse. Someone's faith will affect her politics. My faith informs my own positions on torture, the death penalty, gay dignity, the Iraq war, and so on. But in the political sphere, mere recourse to religious authority is insufficient, because, by definition, it cannot persuade those of a different faith or no faith at all.
And so religious doctrines need to be translated into moral arguments, applicable to any citizen with good will and an open mind. When Tom DeLay, at a Republican gathering, invokes Christ as his ally; or when the Catholic hierarchy comes close to barring votes for Democrats; or when Jesse Jackson uses the pulpit to garner Democratic votes, they have crossed an important line. It's important to defend that line - for the sake of politics, and for the sake of faith.
In another post Sullivan observed that the Christianists are fighting back against his eminently reasonable suggestion that religion should focus on spirituality, not politics. Hugh Hewitt is worried that others are going to pick up Sullivan’s term.
Be worried, Mr. Hewitt. Be very worried.
Christianist. Christianist. Christianist. I’ve picked it up.