Professor, we’ll start from here. You define Christians as those who believe in Christ. “Christianists”, on the other hand, are those who exalt and defend Christianity, the Christian civilization …
RÉMI BRAGUE: The word “christianist” is not very nice perhaps. But I’m not sorry to have proposed it. First of all because it’s amusing. And then because it pushes people to reflect on what they really want. Those who defend the value of Christianity and its positive role in history I certainly find more likeable than those who deny it. I certainly don’t intend to discourage them. It would even please me if they were more numerous in France. And this is not because they may be “objective allies”. But only because what they say is true. So, thanks to the “christianists” therefore. Only I would like to remind them that Christianity is not interested in itself. It’s interested in Christ. And Christ also is not interested in His own self: He is interested in God, whom He calls in a unique way, «Father». And in man, to whom He proposes a new access to God.
There is more in the same vein. I think his distinction between “christian” and “christianist” is a deep and fruitful one, and in reading this essay I got the sense that it might provide the grounds for illuminating my own discomfort with the rhetoric of many Catholic conservatives (who are my erstwhile allies against a secular culture). Someone like George Weigel, for instance, comes to mind: ignoring for the moment his conservative political stance, I find myself very uncomfortable with the way he frames the relationship between Catholicism and the broader culture. But I cannot (in the limited time I have right now) make this more precise.
So to help me get my own thinking in order, let me turn this into a question: what do you think of this distinction? It is grounded in a particular European debate about the Christian roots of Europe; is it more generally applicable? In particular, what can we take from it that will be of benefit in the American setting?
I realize that this is an invitation to polemic from all sides, but take a moment to reflect on the second reading from last Sunday before responding:
Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.