Thursday, May 11, 2006

Christianists Fight Back

Andrew Sullivan blogged Two leading Christianists

What the heck is a "Christianists". Is he trying to imply that Christians are as extreme as the Islamists? How many Christians have beheaded anyone? How many have burned down an embassy because of a cartoon? How many have killed someone because of a movie like the Da Vinci Code?
have just fought back against my recent essay in Time magazine. Ramesh Ponnuru and Hugh Hewitt are two of the most articulate advocates for fusing Republicanism with religious fundamentalism.
What is wrong with Republicans being religious fundamentalists.
I can see why they would dissent. But Hewitt surely goes overboard in describing my essay as "hate-speech."

Ponnuru's argument is that the Christian/Muslim vs Christianist/Islamist parallels don't work very well. He has a point. Islam begins with far lesser appreciation for individual liberty than Christianity. But history shows that Christianity, when pressed, will murder and burn and torture countless people to enforce orthodoxy.
Some bad things may have happened in the past, but most of them were no worse, and often much better, than what the Islamists at the time did, and certainly today Christians do not do anything like what the Islamoterrorists are doing.
We live in kinder, gentler times, and Christianity experienced a Reformation, a Counter-Reformation and even the Second Vatican Council in ways that Islam sadly has not. And so regular Muslims are far closer to Islamists than many Christians are to Christianists.
Certainly Moderate Muslims need to speak out and urge Islam to change to join the 21st Century.
Moreover, the Christianists keep moving the goalposts so far to the right that the distinction between Christians and Christianists is far more persuasive now than in even the recent past.   Read More

Leading theocon Robert P. George, for example, believes not just that all abortion, including that caused by rape and incest, should be illegal; he believes that a microscopic zygote is morally indistinguishable from a fully-grown adult.
I.E. he believes that life begins at conception.
Many Christianists therefore now believe that many forms of contraception are the moral equivalent of abortion; and many leading Christianists are moving fast toward banning contraception altogether.
I don't happen to agree with them (on conception, although I do agree that life begins at conception), but I respect their right to believe as they do. I don't think there are enough that believe that way, that there will be any restrictions placed on contraception.
(For an important glimpse into the growing radicalism of Christianism on the question of contraception, check out this essay in the New York Times Magazine). Rick Santorum supports laws that would allow the cops to enter a gay couple's bedroom and arrest them for private, adult, consensual sex; Robert George has no problem in theory with making non-procreative sex illegal (his sole problem is that it would be hard to police such a law). Other Christianists are opposing an HPV vaccine that could prevent 90 percent of cervical cancer in women, because it might lower the risks of extra-marital sex. They seek not merely to oppose marriage rights for gay couples - but to strip gay couples of all rights in the federal constitution.
Opposing granting gays special rights is not the same as stripping them of all constitutional rights.
In Virginia, Christianists have made even private legal contracts between two members of the same gender illegal.
All contracts? Can they not even sell a car? Or is it a contract to do something specific?
They support keeping people in persistent vegetative states alive indefinitely through feeding tubes - for decades, if necessary - even if the individual herself has a living will begging to be allowed to die in peace.
I have never heard of any opposition to following a living will.
They have contempt for federalism, believing that the federal government should over-ride state laws and even families in enforcing religious dogma. Remember Terri Schiavo?
Yes and I did not agree with what they did with Terri Schiavo, but I did feel that what St Lukes was doing to Andrea Clarke was wrong.
In all of this, the Christianists do not represent most Christians, although they have made great strides in the Vatican and in the fundamentalist leadership. I should stress: these people have every right to their views. They certainly have developed an arsenal of arguments and a body of thought to back them up. But this agenda, whatever else it is, cannot be described as mainstream Christianity. Its extremism, its enmeshment with partisan political power, its contempt for individual liberty, its certainty and arrogance and intolerance, demand that some other name be given to it. They have gotten away with too much for too long. It's time for mainstream Christians, in both parties, to fight back. And we are.

Ramesh Ponnuru blogged Andrew Sullivan is just addicted to bogus drama, isn't he? Now I'm a "leading Christianist" who has "fought back" against Sullivan's essay. Oh please. This isn't some epic conflict. I've just criticized some of his writings for their inanity and inconsistency. I'm also supposedly an "advocate[] for fusing Republicanism with religious fundamentalism." He provides not a scrap of evidence for this charge, and it isn't true. I'm not a religious fundamentalist—unless, again, all you have to do to qualify for the phrase is to take public-policy positions of which Sullivan does not approve.
For a Left Wing Democrat, disagreeing with them is just not acceptable.
His latest post exhibits most of the bad rhetorical habits I mentioned earlier today. Sullivan continues to treat positions he once took himself as beyond the pale—note that dismissive reference to "microscopic zygotes"—without even acknowledging that he once held them. Second, having piously claimed that the label "Christianist" is not intended to associate religious conservatives with violence and terrorism, he insinuates exactly such an association in his latest post. I cannot be too offended when Sullivan misrepresents my views, given his evident difficulty in keeping track of his own.

Sullivan concludes by positing himself as a spokesman for "mainstream Christians."
Rather than an extreme left wing Christian.
It's a poisonous claim—as bad as the worst rhetoric that sometimes comes from religious conservatives. It's also absurd. Same-sex marriage may or may not be a good idea, but the notion that it represents mainstream Christianity is pretty far-fetched.
Extreme Left Wingers like Andrew Sullivan believe that their position is mainstream, and that anything they disagree with is wrong.


Steve Hayes said...

The term "Christianist" was new to me -- I first came across it today. B ut it seems to me that it is pretty obvious what it means. Muslims have Islamists, Jews have Zionists, and Christians have Christianists -- being those who try to turn the gospel into an ideology, and use force to spread it.

Don Singleton said...

There are Christian fundamentalists that are very protective of their faith, and there are certainly evangelists (not the same thing, though there is some overlap) who want to spread the faith, but not by force. We can debate what happened in the times of the Crusades, but today's evangelists seek to spread the news of Jesus's birth, death, and resurection by persuasion, not by force.

And the Zionists were active in seeking a homeland for the Jews, but they worked through the League of Nations (and its successor the UN) and used persuasion to get a homeland declared; they did not form an army and capture that land.

The "occupied terrorities" are a result of land captured in 67 during the Six Days War when four Arab countries attacked a peacful Israel, and were driven back, and who subsequently were unwilling to sign peace treaties to get their land back (as two of them did).