Smith’s Dictionary: Christianist
Anyone who reads the Daily Dish knows that “Christianists” are an Andrew Sullivan staple of villainy. Yet inquiring minds need to know: who or what, exactly, is a Christianist? In one sense, Sullivan is quite obviously referring to Christians who mix religion with politics: Sarah Palin, James Dobson, and Christine O’Donnell — to name a few prominent examples.
At the same time, it’s clear that Sullivan doesn’t have in mind all politically active Christians. Just today, Sullivan heaped praise on comedian Stephen Colbert for breaking character to draw attention to the powerlessness and suffering of migrant farmer workers:
[Colbert’s] is an inspiring piece of Catholic testimony, informed by the words of Jesus and what Christianity – not Christianism – should stand for. Above all else, caritas.
Colbert’s remarks most certainly were an inspiring piece of Catholic testimony. Yet, if religion and politics don’t mix, it would we seem out of place to characterize Colbert as a “Catholic witness,” as Sullivan does in the post. I therefore conclude that Sullivan has in mind politically-engaged Christians whose views he finds offensive. (The aim of all politics is to shift power relations, so it would be superficial to define Christianists as Christians who seek power. Such a definition also fails the Colbert test: for religious conviction — “whatever you have done for the least of my brothers…” — is precisely what Colbert says motivates his testimony on behalf of, and desire to empower, migrant farm workers.)
Megan McCardle’s characterization of Sullivan’s definition of the term seems accurate: “Christianist n. Someone who selectively ignores different parts of Christian scripture than I do.” This one’s going in Smith’s Dictionary!