18 July 2006

Christianists and Christianism - ugly neologisms or useful descriptors?

I just discovered the term Christianist today (see earlier post), and then discovered that there has been quite a bit of discussion about it already.

The meaning seems intuitively obvious to me, by analogy with Islamist and Zionist. It refers to those who try to turn the gospel into an ideology, and are prepared to use violence to spread it. Elizaphanian has written quite a bit recently on ideologues and fundamentalists, and this seems to link to those ideas.

Samuel Huntington, in his book The clash of civilizations predicted that the post-Cold War world would see clashes of civilizations rather than clashes of ideologies. The three worlds model of geopolitics would be replaced by civilizations, of which Huntington identified nine. Clashes would take place at the boundaries of civilizations, like the geological tectonic plates. In many ways his predictions have been remarkably accurate. Since the end of the Cold War most violent conflict has taken place at the boundaries of civilizations. Where there have been conflicts within civilisations (such as that in the Democratic Republic of Congo) the world powers and the world media have paid very little attention.

These civilizations are strongly linked to religion, according to Huntington, but what he perhaps failed to predict is the extent to which religions have tended to give rise to ideologies. Some years ago people talked about "Militant Islam"; I'm not sure when it became "Islamism" or who first used the term, but "Christianism" seems to be an analogous phenomenon, as does Hindutva.

Anyway, the Donklephant article on Christianism seems to make a good case for the word.

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