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Dressing up hate

Most pundits have rejected the term "Christianist" because it tries to link Islamists and evangelicals

Issue: "The Da Vinci craze," May 20, 2006

What does the term "Christianist" mean and why is Time peddling it?

Time columnist Andrew Sullivan uses the term to describe evangelicals with whom he disagrees. He says his goal is to "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."

He explains further, "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."

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Most pundits have rejected "Christianist" because it obviously tries to link Islamists and those evangelicals Mr. Sullivan loathes. He is attempting to dress up hate speech as simple precision, but given the vast spectrum of political opinions among believers on the center-right, "Christianist" is a howler. Still, no one should be laughing when a once-respected newsweekly defines a huge portion of the American mainstream as the equivalent of the Islamists who attacked the country on 9/11. Be prepared as others pick up Time's term.

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