Skip to comments.My Problem with Christianism
Posted on 05/10/2006 6:28:01 AM PDT by bondjamesbond
A believer spells out the difference between faith and a political agenda
Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented byÂ the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.
The number of Christians misrepresented by the Christian right is many. There are evangelical Protestants who believe strongly that Christianity should not get too close to the corrupting allure of government power. There are lay Catholics who, while personally devout, are socially liberal on issues like contraception, gay rights, women's equality and a multi-faith society. There are very orthodox believers who nonetheless respect the freedom and conscience of others as part of their core understanding of what being a Christian is. They have no problem living next to an atheist or a gay couple or a single mother or people whose views on the meaning of life are utterly alien to them--and respecting their neighbors' choices. That doesn't threaten their faith. Sometimes the contrast helps them understand their own faith better.
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.
I would say a clear majority of Christians in the U.S. fall into one or many of those camps. Yet 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. "Sides are being chosen," Tom DeLay recently told his supporters, "and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will." So Christ is a conservative Republican?
Rush Limbaugh recently called the Democrats the "party of death" because of many Democrats' view that some moral decisions, like the choice to have a first-trimester abortion, should be left to the individual, not the cops. Ann Coulter, with her usual subtlety, simply calls her political opponents "godless," the title of her new book. And the largely nonreligious media have taken the bait. The "Christian" vote has become shorthand in journalism for the Republican base.
What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of the religious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?
So 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. 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.
That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.
Let's just get that put away from the very start.
Ah yes, the usual desire to label someone.
must've skipped his medications...
All that being said, we are all free to vote for any candidate in any party, so what is the problem?
As long as you're breathing, Andrew, it's not too late to repent.
Andrew is a libidinist. He follows his little Andrew's directives.
Yes, there are many and they are called heretics.
In other words, the term "Christian" should be applied to anyone who thinks Jesus was a swell guy. Anyone more stringent than that is an extremist.
I find it amazing that some people seem to think a Christian's religion should not inform his political beliefs. It should not be a problem when some people take the meaning of "I knew you when you were in your mother's womb" and find that abortion is abhorrent. How can anybody expect them to do otherwise?
I don't see how someone can be a Christian and a liberal at the same time.
... snif, snif...
And I don't feel represented by the gay Episcopal Bishop Robinson.
Why can't we all get along?
I agree with you!
Andrew should try reading his Bible....I think belief in it is the foundation of being a Christian.
While I essentially agree with the premise that Christianity shouldn't be associated with a particular political party or philosophy, the sad fact is most of the people who insist on this premise really mean that Christians should be liberals.
If my neighbor is hopping and skipping his/her way toward Hell, I am compelled by my faith to try and make them see the error of their ways in a compassionate way WITHOUT beating them over the head with my faith.
But sometimes you have to hit certain people between the eyes with a two-by-four to get their attention...
Especially when a perfectly acceptable and agreed-upon label, "The Religious Right" is already available.
But Sullivan wants to use the "Christianist" label because that reflects the bugbear "Islamist" label that people use to describe Islamic imperialists.
In spite of his mealy-mouthed denials, Sullivan is obviously trying to equate Islamic imperialism and Christian political activism. He should be ashamed of himself. But I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon.
"I don't see how someone can be a Christian and a liberal at the same time."
If Jesus were alive today, 99.99% of FReepers would label him a "liberal". He spoke of equality, love, compassion, tolerance, and peace.
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