I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christianist? It has the ring of truth to it.

I stopped by the Sideshow this morning to get my weekend fix of Avedon Carol's wit and wisdom. I found this discussion raging, and it seems worth sharing. Avedon was weighing in on a dustup between Glenn Greenwald and the generally toxic Ann Althouse over the recent usage of the word "Christianist" by Andrew Sullivan. Avedon's primary complaint wasn't with the use of the word so much as Greenwald's implication that it was of recent origin and a construction of Sullivan.
But the truly odd thing is that Andrew Sullivan seems to think he invented the term "Christianist" and neither Althouse nor Greenwald (nor, for that matter, his commenters) seem to have noticed that it isn't so. In fact, a number of us independently started using the word at least as early as the '90s, when it began to gain currency. To my knowledge, the earliest use on the web was in this post by Tristero in 2003, picked up and proliferated by David Neiwert at Orcinus.
Still, she had some comments on why such terminology is not only valid, but useful and required in today's lexicon. Primarily, Greenwald and Sullivan are simply pointing out that certain Right wing elements in this country have been frighteningly successful in conflating the religion of Islam, and it's billions of global Muslim practitioners, with the tiny number of extremists who espouse terrorism. There are those (the vast majority) who simply view Islam as their religion and the foundation for their personal beliefs and philosophy. (Muslims) There are others who wish to take that viewpoint and make the centerpiece of their political and governmental structure. (Islamists) And then there are the extreme whackos, who right wingers choose to call "Islamofascists" and such, rather than simply labeling them as the criminals they are. The fact is, all three of these groups have Christian counterparts right here in our country and around the world.
I have argued that "fundamentalism" is a misleading term because it implies that it is based on something fundamental to the practice and inspiration of Christianity. The people who call themselves "Christian fundamentalists" certainly want you to think so, but the essence of Christianity (as opposed to monotheism) is not found in the entirety of the Bible, but only in the first four books of the New Testament, known as the Gospels - that is, the teachings of Jesus. Jesus doesn't spend a lot of time telling his followers to dominate their country's governments or men to dominate their wives. He doesn't waste a lot of words on hating homosexuality, and he never once mentions abortion. Yet these seem to be the focus of the Christian Identity movement and the Dominionists who currently have such profound influence on our government (and even our media). At the same time, the Christianist leaders act in ways that seem to directly contradict the essential teachings of Jesus; they deride "welfare" (help to the poor), they laud economic success, and they promote war. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, who gave no-strings aid to someone who was not of his tribe or his faith; Christianists want to deny aid to anyone who does not first agree to submit to their teachings. Jesus told people to cast off their material belongings; Christianists promote the acquisition of more wealth by the already wealthy. Jesus told his followers to pray in closets; Christianists make ostentatious display of their "religious" practice.
(Linked Sideshow text used without permission, but hopefully Avedon will give me a pass for it.)

Getting back to crossing the t's and dotting the i's on the term usage, Glenn points out exactly what the definitions are that we're dealing with, and how they apply to our modern, western society.
That term "Christianist" -- like the term "Islamist" (but unlike the term "Islamofascist") -- does not remotely denote violence or terrorism, as Sullivan, who coined the term, has repeatedly made clear. It merely refers to those who view Christianity not merely as a religious doctrine to govern their personal and private lives, but far beyond that, as a set of beliefs to which secular law must conform when constraining others
That sounds about right. Frankly, I think that the people who originally sat down to pen the first four books of the New Testament would be aghast in horror to see what their religion has been twisted into today in some sectors. Personally, I suspect that they would have put aside some of their more peaceful beliefs for a time and helped the Romans hoist Pat Robertson up onto a stake if they'd run into him back in the day.

Anyway, some Sunday reading and thoughts to ponder for you today. Hope you all had a nice holiday (for the U.S. readers) and our best wishes for a happy, peaceful and prosperous holiday season and new year to come.

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