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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The meaninglessness of tenure

(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV - Update V)

Ann Althouse today:

I wonder how many people "recoil" at [Andrew] Sullivan's sanctimonious pronouncements about "Christianists." He's become so devoted to that word of his. Does he not notice how snide and hostile it feels even to people who are not fundamentalists?

Ann Althouse, February 21, 2006:

I wonder how the history books would read on the cartoons story if, by some crazy chance, fascistic Islamists win World War IV.

Ann Althouse, January 22, 2006:

This isn't meant to appeal to Islamists, who, the article suggests, would find these depictions wrong. But Mutawa has Western leanings (a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and an M.B.A. from Columbia University) and is trying to appeal to kids who feel an attraction to Western culture. Interestingly, Teshkeel has acquired Cracked magazine and plans to bring it back. Not for Arab Muslims, however, for Americans.

And then there is this, from her patron, Instapundit, on October 22, 2006: "Sounds bad. (Via Dan Riehl, who thinks this means that France's accomodationist (sic) policy regarding Islamists isn't working)." And on October 13, 2006: "And Grameen's efforts to empower women have made them very unpopular with Islamists, which is reason enough to applaud." And over and over and over -- they are always "Islamists," except when they are "Islamofascists," which is, in Reynolds' world, almost as often.

But yesterday, Reynolds also objected to Sullivan's use of the term "Christianist" (which is almost certainly why Althouse wrote about it today). This is what Reynolds said when complaining about Sullivan's use of that term to describe those individuals in Tennessee who lobbied to force the cancellation of a broadcast of a Madonna concert:

This whole "Christianist" thing is kind of silly, as episodes like this one illustrate. At best, it's a vapid book-marketing term, but it seems more like a variety of bigotry on its own account, and a pretty empty variety of bigotry at that.

That from someone who routinely -- meaning on a weekly basis, at least -- refers to whole groups of people as "Islamists" and "Islamofascists."

How odd that such "sanctimonious pronouncements" about "Islamists" are everywhere -- including coming out of Althouse's and Reynolds' own mouths -- yet "do[ they] not notice how snide and hostile it feels even to people who are not fundamentalists?" People like Althouse and Reynolds love to complain about the supposed religious hostility which exists towards Christians -- a whine triggered so easily that the mere use of the word "Christianist" is sufficient for us to be subjected to it -- because feeling persecuted is an insatiable need they have.

And their "evidence" for anti-Christian "bigotry" consists of nothing more than statements and sentiments that are indescribably benign and innocuous, especially compared to the hostility and scorn that spews forth from them towards "Islamists," "Islamofascists," and similar terms. In their world, referring to people who believe that the law should comport to their Christian religious beliefs as "Christianists" is "sanctimonious," "snide" and "hostile" "bigotry" -- even though they are people who use exactly the same terms, and (in Reynolds' case) much worse, to refer to Muslims.

We are now headed into the season where this type of petulant hypocrisy flows abundantly -- it is, after all, the Season of the War on Christmas -- and it's good to see these two nonpartisan, above-it-all, "swing-voter"/professors are getting such an early start on the persecution festivities.

UPDATE: Blue Texan has related analysis of the odd spectacle of self-proclaimed "libertarian nonpartisans" pledging their allegiance to a political party dominated by "social conservatives" who advocate the most un-libertarian policies imaginable. And in this instance, these "libertarian non-partisans" go even further and anoint themselves the defenders of those same "social conservatives" and loyally echo their petty cries of religious persecution.

UPDATE II: Ann Althouse responds and seems angry:

* Glenn Greenwald is such an idiot.

* Am I supposed to respond to this foolishness?

* Glenn, you moron, in case you didn't notice, Sullivan is mocking Mormons in general.

* . . . . you disreputable slimeball.

* And your writing is putrid.

* But I do love the pathetic jealousy of your post title.

And all of that is packed into a one-paragraph outburst.

As for the actual "response," Althouse now claims she doesn't object to the term "Christianist" in general (what she said originally was: "He's become so devoted to that word of his ["Christianist"]. Does he not notice how snide and hostile it feels even to people who are not fundamentalists?"). She now claims that she was only upset because "Sullivan is mocking Mormons in general" and "he shows a hostility toward ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world."

But that's both incoherent and dishonest. It's incoherent because Sullivan's post which was supposedly "mocking" Mormons had nothing to do with the term "Christianist." Althouse's claim that that was the post to which she was referring when objecting to the term "Christianist" literally makes no sense at all, since Sullivan didn't use the term there.

Her response is dishonest because the post of Sullivan's which was about "Christianists" was not merely referring to ordinary religious people going peacefully about their business, but instead, was about a new poll which revealed that "53 percent of evangelical Christians would not even consider voting for a Mormon president" -- that would be Christians who would categorically refuse to vote for a political candidate solely because of his religion.

Sullivan was describing as "Christianists" people whose specific religion so dominates their political beliefs that they would refuse even to consider a candidate who is Mormon. And he was hardly "mocking" Mormons there; if anything, he was defending Mormons from the Christianists who would refuse to vote for them for political office simply because of religious differences.

To defend her attack on the term "Christianist," Althouse completely misrepresents Sullivan's use of the term (she falsely claims that he was using it to describe "ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world"). Then again, Althouse gets to be a law professor at the University of Wisconsin so perhaps my seething "pathetic jealousy" over that fact is impeding my judgment.

UPDATE III: To Althouse's professorial critique, Glenn Reynolds adds that I am "extraordinarily lame," and then links to Althouse's outburst. He claims:

The problem with the term "Christianist" isn't that it adds "ist" to the end of a religion. It's that, by parallelling "Islamist," it is a deliberate attempt at conflating people who oppose gay marriage -- or, apparently, Madonna's schlocky posturing -- with people who blow up discos and mosques, and throw gay people off of walls.

Like his colleague Althouse, Reynolds is just making up arguments and then attributing them to Sullivan because he's otherwise incapable of responding and defending his attack on the term "Christianist."

That term "Christianist" -- like the term "Islamist" (but unlike the term "Islamofascist") -- does not remotely denote violence or terrorism, as Sullivan, who coined the term, has repeatedly made clear. It merely refers to those who view Christianity not merely as a religious doctrine to govern their personal and private lives, but far beyond that, as a set of beliefs to which secular law must conform when constraining others, such as this:

The Texas Republican Party's platform, which in 2004 contained this:

We pledge to exert our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.

Or the 2006 Texas GOP Platform which declares that "America is a Christian nation." Or those who believe in laws providing that American adults who have un-Christian sex in the privacy of their own homes will be arrested and imprisoned as criminals. Or those who want to outlaw private consensual activities among consenting adults -- including pornography and gambling -- solely because such activities violate Christian morality. Or those who believe that the Federal Government ought to intervene and take control of end-of-life conflicts being adjudicated by a state court judge because the judge, when faithfully applying state law, reaches an un-Christian result. Or those who believe that our Middle East policies ought to be governed by a desire for Rapture. Or those who would refuse to vote for a political candidate because he's a Mormon.

The Republican Party to which Reynolds and his readers are so loyal (while pretending not to be) is dominated by a contingent which believes that secular law should conform to Christian doctrine. Such individuals ("Christianists") are distinct from those who merely believe in Christianity as a matter of personal religious faith ("Christians"), and the notion that the use of the term "Christianists" somehow suggests a propensity to engage in terrorism or a willingness to use violence is pure fantasy which Reynolds simply made up to justify his baseless, petulant cries of persecution and "bigotry" over the use of that descriptive term.

UPDATE IV: What makes Althouse and Reynolds' claim here so particularly dishonest is that their ideological comrade, Hugh Hewitt, previously made the same argument -- that Sullivan's use of the term "Christianist" is "deeply offensive." Hewitt was just as petulant and hysterical as Reynolds was, labelling the term "hate speech." In response, Sullivan explained exactly what the term means and what it does not mean:

Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists.

And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

That is not a complicated distinction. Are Althouse and Reynolds (and their like-minded comrade, Hewitt) really incapable of comprehending it? "Christians" (like "Muslims") are those who believe in the religion. "Christianists" (like "Islamists") are those who believe that their religious beliefs ought to shape politics and dictate the law. "Christian fascists" (like "Islamofascists") are those who believe in the use of violence and terrorism to achieve those goals. The term "Christianist" has nothing to do with violence, only with a desire to compel others to adhere to Christian religious views via the force of politics, state power, and secular law.

What seems to be guiding Althouse and Reynolds' hatred of the term "Christianist" is that it highlights a fact which they both are eager to ignore -- namely, that the political party to which they are so devoted is dominated by individuals who believe that their religious/Christian beliefs ought to dictate the American political process, shape secular law, and exploit coercive state power to constrain the choices of their fellow citizens.

UPDATE V: As Avedon points out in Comments, Tristero actually wrote about this topic back in June, 2003 in an excellent post which concluded: "In short, not only must we make a distinction between Islam, Islamism, and radical Islamism, I think it is important to distinguish between Christianity, Christianism, and radical Christianism."

Tristero made the same basic distinctions made by Sullivan, which Althouse, Reynolds and Hewitt are incapable of understanding (or unwilling to understand, though I think it's the former) -- namely, that Christians (like Muslims) can be divided into three groups: (1) those who believe in the religion ("Christians/Muslims"); (2) those who seek to have their religious beliefs dictate politics and law ("Christianists/Islamists"); and (3) those who are willing to use violence to enforce compliance with their religious beliefs ("Christian fascists/Islamofascists" - or "Christian terrorist"/"Muslim terrorist").

The Republican Party is dominated by those who belong to group (2) -- Christianists -- and to conflate that group with group (3) ("Christian terrorists") in order to discredit and mock the term "Christianists" (see Reynolds' "Update" for a particularly misleading example of that tactic) is nothing short of pure mendacity, driven by a desire to hide the fact that "Christianists" (along with their odd partners, the neoconservatives) now control and define the Republican Party.

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