What is “Christianism”?

One of the more tedious memes that Andrew Sullivan insists upon pressing (now that the burning issue of Trig Trutherism and his bizarre fascination with Palin’s femininity is–finally–receding from his consciousness) is something called “Christianism”. It’s a sort of tu quoque term that was coined to say, “IknowyouarebutwhatamI?” to toss sundry Christians into the same bin as lunatic Islamists who fly planes into buildings and blow up busses with children. It’s part of the general attempt by the left to say “If you’ve seen one Abrahamic religion, you’ve seen ’em all.”

Sullivan tries to say that “Christianism” is about the politicization of Christianity: the attempt to turn the gospel into a secular messianic program of ideological conformity imposed on the culture by force. In short, he wants to say it is the mirror of radical Islam. And, to be sure, there are elements in the Christian Right who do have a secular messianic tendency to conflate the Kingdom of God with the American Way (much as there are Christians on the Left who seem to have the impression that Margaret Sanger and Karl Marx were apostles and who had a rather creepy messianic vibe about Obama going a few years ago). But as used by Sullivan, “Christianist” is a term so malleable that it’s not surprising many people have a difficult time pinning down what it actually means.

So, for instance, Sullivan regards Tim Tebow as a Christianist. Why?

Is he somehow

  • Conflating American imperialism with the Christian missionary imperative? No.
  • Calling for gays to be jailed? No.
  • Confusing whoever is this week’s NotRomney candidate with a prophet of God? No.
  • Demanding imperial wars, torture, the death penalty and electrocution fences on the border in the name of Jesus? No.
  • Declaring Obama the Antichrist? No.
  • Urging us all to support whatever Israel does as the will of God? No.
  • Convinced that a capital gains tax is the will of Satan? No.
  • Saying, “There is no God but Jesus and Rush Limbaugh is his prophet”? No.
  • Begging for America to recognize the anointing on Sarah Palin and draft her as President before God’s favor passes us by? No.
  • Longing for the day America becomes a Bible-based state with a Constitution modeled on the Law of Moses? No.

Those sorts of things (and similarly politicized stuff) could arguably be called “Christianism”: the conflation of a peculiar political agenda with the gospel. But Sullivan’s reason for seeing the telltale traits of Christianism in Tebow? He prays publicly. He’s overt about his faith. This discomfits Sullivan, whose own Irish Catholic pieties see this as Not the Done Thing. So Tebow is consigned to the circle of the Christianists.

What then, is “Christianism”? Whatever a conservative Christian does, says, or thinks that Andrew Sullivan doesn’t like. Mystery solved.

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