An example of how misleading and unhelpful Andrew Sullivan’s “Christianist” designation is: Andrew’s denouncing as a “Christianist” the Bruderhof pastor Johann Christoph Arnold, because Arnold is opposed to gay marriage and says, “God’s law is supreme.”
For one thing, surely Andrew knows that the refusal to follow, on grounds of religious conscience, laws that one finds unjust is the basis for civil disobedience. Thomas More died because he considered himself “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was also martyred because he insisted on serving God instead of Adolf Hitler. Martin Luther King went to jail multiple times because of his belief that “God’s law is supreme.” Today in Iran, a Christian pastor who converted from Islam is preparing to face execution because he will not recant his faith.
I hope that I have the courage to refuse to follow an unjust law that I profoundly believed contradicted the law of God, no matter what the consequences for me. Andrew professes Christ also; he would be a sorry Christian if he weren’t prepared to do the same.
For another thing, does Andrew realize who Johann Christoph Arnold is? He is a pacifist whose grandfather led the Bruderhof community driven out of Nazi Germany by persecution. His writings are usually about peace-making and forgiveness. He is by no means part of the Religious Right. But because he holds to the Bible’s clear teaching about marriage, Andrew vilifies him as a “Christianist.” If Johann Christoph Arnold earns that designation, then it belongs to everybody who professes Christianity but who disagrees (as most Christians in every time and place, until the last 20 years, have done) with Andrew’s position on marriage equality. In which case, how useful is it as a descriptive term?
It’s not. It’s only a term of abuse for Christians Andrew dislikes. I wish he would withdraw it. To apply it to a man like Johann Christian Arnold, who comes out of the most un-Constantinian Christian tradition there is, of being a “Christianist” is to reveal how bankrupt the concept is.
UPDATE: What Alan Jacobs said. (Thanks Leroy Huizenga.)