A Religious State of Affairs
“We don’t expect Christians to condemn the Planned Parenthood shooting,” said Qasim Rashid, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, referring to [the 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting] in Colorado. “That would be ridiculous. . . . We need to recognize that terrorism has no religion. We need to stand united against intolerance, against bigotry, and certainly against terrorism and violence.”
Following the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, hundreds of Muslims, including imams and scholars, signed a joint declaration condemning the attack perpetrated by a Muslim man. In their statement, they wrote:
“We will not allow the extremists to define us, mold us in their benighted image, or sow the seeds of discord among us. We are one people, so let us all in good conscience and human solidarity reject this extremist narrative and assert our shared humanity and mutual respect for the sanctity of all human life.”
Following the 2016 truck attack in France on Bastille Day, many Muslims condemned the incident, including al-Azhar, aka the Sunni Muslim learning center, which writes that
“the ‘vile terrorist attack’ contradicted Islam and called for ‘uniting efforts to defeat terrorism and rid the world of its evil.’”
Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015, Muslim leaders and organizations from around the world condemned the murders. The Birmingham Islamic Society wrote that:
“This attack in no way represents the teachings of our beloved prophet Muhammad. There are many examples from the life of prophet where he could have responded physically to those who mocked him. On the contrary, he wished them well and prayed for them.”
Arsh Mirzary added that the act against Charlie Hebdo “was an act of a few individuals not the Muslim community.”
According to Soner Cagaptay at The Washington Institute, a think tank dedicated to the Middle Eastern policy, Islamism is not Islam. While Islam is a religion, is a faith, is “an expression of piety,” Islamism is not a religion, not a faith, not an expression of piety. Instead, Cagaptay argues that Islamism is an anti-religion. While a religion tends to stand for something, Islamism stands against things. Cagaptay argues that Islamism is anti-Judaism, anti-Christianity, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and anti-West.
Indeed, in 2015 70,000 Muslim clerics from around the world issued a global fatwa against global terrorism groups, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. As Willa Frej writes:
“The[se clerics] want to spread the message that they don’t consider groups like the Islamic State to be true Islamic organizations — nor do they view members of these organizations as Muslims.”
While the rise of Islamism has been, and continues to be, a problem for Muslims in the Middle East, the rise of Christianism is a growing problem in the West.
More and more, we see Christians arguing for a differentiation between themselves and so-called Christians. Christians reject the radical nature of Christianists. Christians reject Christianists turn away from traditional teachings, and away from the words and actions of Christ. While we see the term “white evangelicals” used some times to describe the ever-more-radical version of Christianity, I prefer to use Christianists because A) the term “evangelical” has a history and the emerging version of evangelicals differ distinctly from that past, and B) the term “Christianist” highlights the hijacking of more traditional Christian views and practices, and C) the term illustrates the parallel movements taking place within Christianity and Islam.
Further, echoing Cagaptay, I would suggest that Christianism is defined as much by what it stands against as what it stands for. Christianists are anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-Islam, anti-Judaism, and anti-government.
For example, Eliel Cruz, writing for Religion News Service, notes that evangelicals have been silent on “religious homophobia.” Cruz notes that evangelicals have stood silently — and even explicitly praised — anti-LGBT efforts around the globe. Cruz says:
“Our theology is killing people. Right now, people are dying because of it. Christians everywhere, regardless of theological stances on same-sex relationships, need to vocally and actively denounce the criminalization of LGBT people. If we stand idly by without condemning these laws that outlaw LGBT people, we might as well have written them ourselves.”
Others have noted the polarity of views and practices at the US southern border. People who claim to be Christians have detained individuals seeking asylum. And yet, other Christians see the policy and the practice as antithetical to Christianity. The Baptist minister Alan Cross writes:
“If you can read this [NYT article on the conditions in the camps], and you are an American Christian, and you think this is okay or this doesn’t grieve you in some way, may God have mercy on your soul,” Cross tweeted. “All that we do is pointless if we can’t care about this issue. What are our churches doing to help?”
Following the 2015 shooting in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado by a Christian man, “pro-life leaders” decried and condemned the act of violence in the name of Christianity. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writes:
“Vigilante violence against abortion clinics is not the way that Christians are called to stand for justice.”
Reverend David Wilson Rogers writes more generally of the shift in Christian values:
“Economic inequality, racial injustice, the politics of hate, unquestioned nationalism, profit-centered environmental destruction, inhumane treatment of immigrants, denial of access to affordable health care, a pervasive and evil culture of fear, and the rampant immorality of partisan political rhetoric that dominates our nation today does nothing to serve the cause of Christ or promote authentic Christian values.”
For one, Christians who reject Christianists and Christianism as a false form of Christianity should fully recognize and understand what Muslims mean when they say that Islamists do not represent Islam. They should recognize that distinction in both faiths.
For another, Islamists and Christianists both advocate for a theocracy. They want to live under a government that is wholly shaped by their own version of their holy text. And, yet, Muslims and Christians both point out, that whatever version that is, it is a corruption. It does not represent the true faith.
Finally, the emergence of Christianism and Islamism demonstrate the collapse of religion and politics. They are both fully entwined in politics; they argue for political outcomes, and they run and support like-minded political candidates.
At present, however, Muslims outnumber Islamists, and Christians outnumber Christianists. For now.
Ritch Calvin is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. He is the author of Feminist Epistemology and Feminist Science Fiction and editor of a collection of essays on Gilmore Girls.