A Call to Christian Anarchy
Not 100% for sure, but compared to Wednesday, I’m the epitome of health. Thanks for your prayers.
Well, obviously the last five days haven’t been the most productive in my life. But when I wasn’t a total zombie staring at the TV I managed to get a little work done for the new website. I transposed many of the Q & A e-mails I’ve saved over the last year onto the site, where we have Q & A and essay sections. (Don’t worry, I took out all the names and any possible personal references and I edited most of them). The site will be up and running very soon.
I also managed to read a couple of good books on “Christian Anarchy.”
For some background I first read Daniel Guerin’s Anarchism (gives a history of secular anarchism). I then read Jacques Ellul’s Anarchy and Christianity, followed by a re-reading of Vernard Eller’s Christian Anarchy. All are highly recommended.
So, you’re wondering, what is Anarchism?
Basically (this will be very general) it’s a political philosophy that goes back to two radical thinkers in the 19th century: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his disciple Mikhail Bakunin. They held that there are no political solutions to human problems, because politics lies at the foundation of most human problems. All top-down forms of government — which means, pretty much all governments — are evil. If the collective whole of humanity would commit to not allowing anyone to rule anyone else, a new bottom-up kind of order would naturally arise as humans formed egalitarian, reciprocally beneficial associations with others.
Unfortunately, the elite and powerful benefit from the present hierarchical political and economic systems and the masses have been brainwashed to believe that they need to be ruled. The masses fear freedom, which is why they surrender autonomy over to alleged superiors. (In totalitarian regimes, people surrender autonomy by allowing the regime to go on. In democracies, they surrender it with a vote — which Anarchists view as little more than a means by which a government gives citizens the illusion that they’re empowered). As I understand it (mainly from Guerin), the Anarchist movement was born to help people escape their brainwashing, see the truth of what is going on and be empowered to live truly free lives.
Jacques Ellul was a brilliant French thinker who saw profound similarities between Anarchism and the view of government espoused by Jesus (and, he argues, the rest of the Bible as well). Of course, the secular anarchists were too optimistic in thinking humans could ever govern themselves. But they were right about the evils of government. Government is ruled by Satan and the rebellious principalities and powers (which, unfortunately, Ellul thinks are mythic symbols of human evil).
The Kingdom Jesus established is anarchistic in that it recognizes God alone as the arche (supreme power). It thus lives free from all other powers (an-arche [anarchy] means without authority). Governments are part of the fallen, oppressed world system that has been done away with in Christ.
In Ellul’s estimation, it’s not appropriate for Kingdom people to either support or revolt against governments. This gives them too much credit. Rather, following the example of Jesus, we should ignore them as much as possible, put up with them as much as we need to, and stay focused on living out the radical Kingdom. If we do this, then we, like Jesus, will find ourselves revolting against the government (and culture). We are, most fundamentally, called to be non-conformists. Our service to the world is the way our counter-cultural lives expose the invalidity of all forms of government by manifesting the reign of God.
Anyone who has read The Myth of a Christian Nation would immediately know what I think of this perspective.
Vernard Eller’s Christian Anarchy espouses basically the same perspective and covers much the same ground and Ellul – but he’s actually a better writer than Ellul (though this may partly be due to the fact that Ellul’s work is translated from French) and is more thorough. He also has a playful style I enjoyed (especially when feeling close to death as I read it). Here’s how he re-states Paul’s call to submit to ruling authorities in Romans 13:1-7:
“Be clear, any of those human arkys [governmental authorities] are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with a stinker like the Roman Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can’t fight the Roman Empire without becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in Gods’ hands where they belong” (Christian Anarchy, p.11).
Anyway, I encourage you to join the Christian Anarchistic movement. Get along with the ruling powers as much as you can, but put no trust in them. Let’s let our lives reflect the truth that governments are part of a fallen world order that has been rendered obsolete in Christ. May our lives reflect the truth that the hope of the world lies in the power of the cross, not the sword — or the vote.
Viva la revolution!