Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fundamentalist Parallels

Andrew Sullivan has been having a fascinating discussion for some time now about what he calls "Christianism"—a movement analogous to Islamism that is currently ascendant in the fundamentalist, Rovian wing of American politics and faith. Today, he responds to a reader who draws specific parallels between Christian acquiescence to the Christianists and the "apparent willingness" of Muslims to allow their religion to be hijacked by hardliners.

Sullivan starts out, rightly, by saying that Muslim extremism far outstrips Christian extremism in its deleterious effects. He also points out that Americans have certain Constitutional guarantees [for now -ed.] that prevent a full-on theocracy. He then concludes on this note:
Ordinary Christians, especially those whose faith is a little less dogmatic and a little more self-effacing than the Christianists', can easily be intimidated into silence or acquiescence. But that silence is slowly ending. As the political project of the Christianists crumbles—as all such political projects inevitably do—we'll see another cycle of withdrawal from politics and concentration on, you know, actual Christianity. That's my hope, at least. And history gives it credence.
My question to Sullivan is: how is this not also true for Islam? If "all such political projects" are doomed by definition, then shouldn't that translate to the Muslim world as well? Certainly the less dogmatic Muslims in places like Iraq and Iran are much more easily intimidated into silence than their Christian counterparts in America. A lopped off head will always motivate behavior more than a disapproving gaze from the pulpit.

If this is so, then it's cause for (eventual) hope in the Muslim world. If not, then the inevitability of the Christianists' "crumble" needs to be better defined. Is it the U.S. Constitution that will protect us from Christianists, or is it a more basic, universal principle? If it is the Constitution, then Christianist efforts to rewrite that document need to be taken far more seriously. After all, once an editor gets started, it's mighty hard to put the red pen away.
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