Thursday, 15 August 2013
Thoughts on Christian Anarchism
Belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force...
I first heard of the term "Christian anarchy" about three years back when reading up on a band I had being enjoying and I was taken aback by it, it seems like the ultimate oxymoron and to this day I do not like the term as I find it to be both confusing and unhelpful. Anarchism (at least to the general public) brings to mind pictures of chaos, rebellion and violence, while Christian anarchism emphasises subversiveness and non violence. One of the better known anarchist slogans is "No gods, no masters", while the bible says "you will have no other Gods before me" and "call no man your master for one is your master" (Ex 20:3 & Mat 23:8). So while traditional anarchism and Christianity are clearly at odds in some areas, there is actually a ton of common ground to be found as well.
Both biblical Christianity and anarchism recognize how power corrupts those who exercise it and call for non hierarchical societies. God never wanted Israel to have a King (1 Sam 8:7), but to be governed by Himself and guided by judges. This is similar to the function of elders in the church today. But this is not to be mistaken for hierarchy, scripture teaches that men are to submit one to each other (1 Pet 5:5), not to seek titles (Mat 23) and that anyone who wants to be great must become a servant to others (Luke 22:26). Moreover, we are specifically instructed not to exercise authority over one another (Mat 20:25). The heart of the church is realized in community, not just a weekly service run by a few and at the same time it is to be governed by consensus decision making (Acts 6:3).
Christian anarchist theology is largely based on the teachings found in the sermon on the mount with a strong emphasis on non violence and servant hood. 2 words that come up repeatedly in Christian anarchist literature are "kingdom" and "community" and they seem to be at the heart of the movement. Most Christian groups throughout history that have had an anarchist impulse in them have been community based, think of groups like the Anabaptist's, the Quakers, Misseo Dei or the Jesus Radicals. Adherents to this philosophy/theology have recognized that the bible speaks of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of the earth. And the two will always be at odds with one another. Christian anarchists recognize that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus and that he alone is the true King (Mat 28:18, Isaiah 9:6-7). While we are to serve, obey and live at peace with the worlds leaders as much as possible, we answer to God and pledge allegiance to Him alone. (Acts 5:29).
It is very interesting to see how Jesus never got sucked in to the politics of his day, people were always asking him questions, trying to get him to weigh in on earthly matters which he would kind of side step or turn around on them. He said himself that his kingdom was not of this world so why would he really devote his energy to worldly ones? Certainly he saw the oppression around him and was moved by it, but he chose not to fight against it by becoming part of it (Matt 4:8-9). This is in stark contrast to what we see in the West today. Christians often appear to place more faith in political leaders and parties than they do in God. I am sure that I am not the only one who has struggled with the idea of having to vote for the lesser of two evils when elections come around.
We would do well to recognize that our neighbor is not necessarily the one on our side of the border line (Luke 10:36-37) and that we are all of one blood (Acts 17:26). For the most part I have found the writings on this topic very interesting and in harmony with the Gospel of the Kingdom that we read about throughout scripture. Certainly a few objections will be raised by many, Romans 13 comes to mind. Instead of trying to write a mini booklet I would rather point you toward what others from within have written. Here are some great starting places for further digging.
On defining Christian anarchy
On Romans 13
In conclusion I think that we should live at harmony as much as possible with worldly authorities but not replace God with them. Jesus and many of his followers spent time in prisons and died at the hands of their political and religious leaders. Not because they were morally loose, but because they would not bow their knee to Ceaser. Faith and politics do not mix well, ever since the merging of Christianity and the Roman empire in the 4th century the history of the institutional church has been a bloody and sorrowful one. We would do well to hear the call of God in Revelations 18:4 and "come out of her". Let us take it upon ourselves to further Gods kingdom through His ekklesia rather than build up the kingdoms of men. The church looks like Christ when it carries the cross, not the sword.