A note on Christian Anarchism

[My ideas and beliefs have developed a lot since I first wrote this, but there is an important discussion in the comments, so I’ve decided to leave the past there, and add this note.
I still believe the word anarchist best describes my political views, because today’s state is largely just organised violence and exploitation, and I detest violence and exploitation. However, I also believe people ought to discuss matters, and work collectively in wise ways. I wouldn’t even mind a king, if he was wise, explained his decisions properly, and wouldn’t use violence (but a nonviolent king is practically an oxymoron, except for Jesus Christ).
Probably the biggest change politically, is that I’m accepting the Bible’s instruction to pray for rulers, both for their good and the good of their subjects.
The Catholic Worker movement, begun by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin is my biggest inspiration in politics, and their vision is so good I have made it my own.
I’m now becoming a Catholic, and so my views/ideas on organised religion and hell have changed.]

My political position is Christian anarchism, which I believe is a key part of Christianity. I understand many Christians and many anarchists think the two are not compatible, so I‘ll try to clarify it.

Christian anarchism is Christian

The Christian basis for anarchism, is the institutional hypocrisy, violence, and judgment of government, and that the state is an idol that takes God’s place. Jesus told us to “resist not evil“, “turn the other cheek“, “love your enemies“, “forgive your debtors“ and obedience to these is not compatible with the capitalist state.
Here are some bible passages-

And there came also tax-gatherers to be baptised, and they said unto him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ and he said unto them, ‘Exact no more than that directed you.’
Luke 3:12-13(John’s baptism) [YLT]

Tax collectors weren’t actually given a wage. They were told how much they had to bring the Romans, and allowed to take however much they wanted for themselves. So John was telling them to take no pay.

And questioning him also were those warring, saying, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ and he said unto them, ‘Do violence to no one, nor accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’
Luke 3:14 [YLT]

Now John is pretty much telling soldiers not to do their job! The NKJV has “intimidate“ rather than “do violence“ but that is still a key part of soldiering/policing.

When Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar, he asked to see a denarius, and asked,

‘Whose is this image, and the inscription?’ and they said to him, ‘Caesar’s;’ and Jesus answering said to them, ‘Give back the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God;’ and they did wonder at him.
Mark 12:16-17

Caesar was, according to state religion, divine. The denarius Jesus held called him the son of a god, and had an image of him. It was idolatry.
Jesus pointed out the idolatry, and, in saying to “give back“, told us to return what we owe Caesar, and what we‘ve taken wrongfully from God.
There are plenty more examples of anti-state talk in the Bible, particularly 1Samuel chapter 8, where YHWH says that by choosing to have a king, Israel is rejecting Him.

Christian anarchism is anarchist

Peter Kropotkin recognised in the anabaptist movement the anarchistic impulse, and noted its following of the early Church. Near all of the “important“ anarchists, were strongly anti-church, and some “anti-theist“.
But the Christian anarchist Church, (often but not always) is not “the organised church“. The anabaptists knew the terror of the organised church.
Does God count as an “archy“? He is king after all. Well, that depends. If you look at Him as a voluntary provider and Father, no. If you look at Him as one who throws His enemies down to hell for eternal torture, yes. I‘d like to note, however, that this idea of hell is not as well founded in scripture as I should like for such a widespread doctrine. Many Christians believe it’s life or death, not joy or torture forever. Others see hell as the torture of seeing heaven, and missing out. So God isn’t necessarily a tyrant, even if He is all-powerful.
Slavery is probably another big issue with the Bible for anarchists (and others).

The servants! obey the masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to the Christ… having known that whatever good thing each one may do, this he shall receive from the Lord, whether servant or freeman.
Ephesians 6:5…7,8

So slaves serve their masters out of love, not fear. It is not about justice, it is about love, which in its strongest form, means bearing injustice for your enemies.
But the Christian masters have the same burden.

And the masters! the same things do ye unto them, letting threatening alone, having known that also your Master is in the heavens, and acceptance of persons is not with him.
Ephesians 6:9

A master who treats his servants the same, and does not threaten them, is no master at all.
Christian anarchism is crucially centered around an uncompromising love.
God bless you.

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6 comments

  1. “I believe”, “I don’t think”, “it may not” – all examples of what I would call cherry-picking. I fully agree that there are parts of both the old and new testaments that include life-affirming stories or good advice. Unfortunately there are other parts that are horrific, bloodthirsty and inhumane to the extreme. The fact that your cognitive dissonance over this leads to to disregard or re-invent the meaning of parts of those texts demonstrates that you have far better morals than the characters of the bible and the people who wrote it.

    A good deconstruction of the Sermon on the Mount can be found here: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Sermon_on_the_mount

    As to your questions I’ll try to turn those into a short entry on my blog over the next few days (with a link-back to this conversation), so as to give it the attention it deserves.

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  2. The problem in all of the above is that I can find just as many quotes in the bible showing Jesus to be a megalomatic authoritarian, and the bible itself to condone the most horrific of behaviours. Anarchism isn’t simply a rejection of the state, but of all forms of authority which you do not have agency within. Christianity easily falls within this category. If you are simply going to ignore the bits you don’t like then why do you need any of it?

    Your logic surrounding the mythology of heaven and hell and the role the Christian god plays in all of that is logically flawed. If this god can do what you say then why the need for the whole charade? What evidence do we have to go on? It sounds like a story to keep people in line (what you later call one of the illusions that run society).

    As to your claim that “Christian anarchism is truly distinct from other anarchisms … It is focussed not on tearing down the old, but on building up a new, better way, in the midst of the old.”, that is simply wrong. All forms of anarchism talk about prefiguration and/or making the world a better place. The main difference is that most other forms of anarchism recognise the authoritarian nature of Christianity and see it as part of the problems being faced in the world.

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    1. What passages show Jesus to be authoritarian?
      There are certainly parts that appear to condone terrible things, however, it is usually God’s faulty servants rather than God Himself. Other times, there are bad things because of the law being unfulfilled (for example, Biblical slavery was the ancient equivalent of debt). I can’t give an great explanation for them generally, but I’d like to provide responses to specific issues. Some parts though, God has not yet explained to me.
      I don’t understand what you mean by not having agency within Christianity. It is a choice or series of choices people make for themselves.
      Unless you mean God makes decisions about you without you. But then, so does everyone. And without God, logical laws are making the same decisions about you without you, apart from you can’t appeal to them.
      I don’t ignore any bits of the Bible.
      How is it flawed? If by charade you mean life on Earth, then I would say God made it for the sake of us struggling through it. But not as a punishment or a test, as an opportunity to work in partnership with Him for great things.
      There is actually a considerable amount of evidence for Christianity, including the historicity of Biblical figures (not least Jesus), many testimonies of miracles, and the conclusions of philosophies. My conclusion is that it is true.

      You’re absolutely right about other anarchisms building a better world, and I apologize for my mistake. It was misleading to say the least. I think I must have written that when I was far less educated about the various anarchisms. I will correct it now.
      Thank you very much for your criticisms and corrections. There are certainly things I need to examine better to bring proper harmony to my ideas.

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      1. Jesus the Authoritarian can be seen all through the hugely problematic and flawed Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); he states “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27); “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:22-23). This is a small selection of the nasty stuff Jesus does.

        I would suggest that it isn’t that a mystical being hasn’t revealed the deeper meaning of the bible to you, but it is in fact that a text is exactly what it seems to be. A horrific mythology designed to keep people in line. Sure it has good bits that we can all agree on, but the barbaric nature of much of the bible is simply a reflection upon the times in which it was written.

        You do not have agency within Christian doctrine as your choice is the same one offered by the mafia boss looking for protection money. The Mob boss says that if you pay the proection koney that everything will be ok. If you don’t pay then you will suffer. God says that if you accept Jesus as your saviour then you will go to heaven. If you don’t then you go to hell. Why does god need this convoluted plan?

        I do not find any reason to believe in any of the Christian doctrine. Rather than repeat the questions and answers of others I’d ask you to head onto YouTube and watch several hours worth of a show called The Atheist Experience – pick some later full eps.

        I do wish to thank you for your intellectual honesty surrounding other branches of anarchism. If you have any particular questions of my own politics then feel free to ask, or comment on my blog posts when they get going ;)

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      2. I believe that the man in Luke 19:27 is not meant to be taken as being a literal example of what Jesus would do. The man in the parable is harsh and reaps where he doesn’t sow, unlike Jesus.
        Your quote from Revelations is very challenging. I don’t think it means any literal children, and it may not even be about one woman, and may not be about physical adultery; but even still, it’s challenging.
        You described the sermon on the mount as problematic and flawed, and said that it shows an authoritarian Jesus. I don’t see how at all. Leo Tolstoy’s book, “The Kingdom of God is within you” expresses the liberty of the Sermon on the mount brilliantly.
        I’ll make sure to check out the Atheist Experience, as I’m sure listening to the arguments will only ever lead me closer to the Truth.
        Thank you for the offer. I have two questions for you (but they are practically the same); what do you believe is the meaning of life? And what is the foundation of your political ideas?

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