WE ARE familiar with Islamism. Let me use it to explain unfamiliar Christianism.

Islam is a religion, a way of relating to Allah, fellow humans and all of creation. Like any great religion it promotes universal justice, peace and harmony. Believers of Islam are called Muslims.

Islamism is a political ideology. Its advocates, fundamentalist Muslims, use Islam to attain dominance over a territory. They impose Islam’s shariah law to be the basic law in territories they control. Promoters of this ideology are called Islamists. Jihadists are Islamists who use violence (Holy War) to promote the ideology.

By analogy, Christianity is the religion that promotes Christ’s way of love, justice and truth in our relationship with God, with one another and with all of God’s creation. Believers and imitators of Christ are called Christians.

Likewise, Christianism is a political ideology whose promoters use Christian belief and practice to gain dominance over a group of people, be they the Catholic faithful or a territory’s people. Advocates of this ideology have started of late to be called Christianists.

Thus it was not Christianity vs. Islam in the Crusades or in Mindanao as neither religion espouses violent means of social change. It was a war between Islamists and Christianists vying for dominance over a territory.

The Inquisition too was a Christianist undertaking. It was the King of Spain consolidating power by eliminating heretics. So was our conquest by Spain. At bottom it was Spain expanding its empire using religion to soften the opposition.

(This, I suspect, is the reason we are not familiar with Christianism. Christianist misadventures have always been projected as the spread of Christianity.)

Don’t get me wrong. My Catholic Faith gives my life meaning. I just don’t allow it to blind me to the injustices of Spanish colonizers and local successors under the guise of Christianity.

More recently Christianism is said to include peripheral practices such as rituals, laws and dogmas (infallibility?) that are aimed at controlling people’s thoughts and actions.

Thus the Sinulog is a Christianist practice, the Traslacion even more so. The hidden message is that as long as people have the Sto. Niño and the Black Nazarene to solve their problems there is no need for them to change the existing social order.

Reason tells me we are in a dark socio-economic place after 500 years because we got a bigger dose of Christianism than of Christianity. But Christ did not spread his message in any political way. He simply invited people to live their lives like He did His...with love and compassion for every one.

In sum, Christianity is about love and service. Christianism is about power and dominance.