video post- Aradhna “Mukteshwar”

Lately I have been trying to take time to center myself more often; to be more mindful of the way I move through the world. I listen to a lot of music, especially on my morning commute, and lately I have been listening to a lot of the group Aradhna. Chris Hale, who plays the sitar for the group, is a friend of mine.

I really appreciate their music, both for the beauty of it and the message. While I don’t always agree with the theology of every song, for the most part this is music I can get on board with. It helps that I know Chris personally and know him to be a good and kind man who is devoted to loving and following Jesus. We can disagree on theology and still consider ourselves to be followers along the same way.

Below is a video from their new album “Namaste Sate”. I hope you find it moving. The video was shot by Ben Stamper.

around the web: interviews, poetry, books

* There is an interview on the Colorlines blog with Reina Gossett who works for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York. She has a lot of really important things to say about hate crimes law. You can read the interview here.

* Tanya Davis is an amazing poet. She was really popular in my Facebook feed for a while with her poem and video “How to Be Alone”:

Recently she posted the following on her blog and I found it to be really beautiful (especially the part towards the end). I hope you find it meaningful as well.

* Rachelle Mee-Chapman is amazing. A wonderful person who does great work. She recently posted the following and I found it to be so moving. Rachelle is going to be a guest on the anarchist reverend podcast in the near future.

* In a combination silly/serious link, I read the Tumblr “Hot Guys Reading Books.” It features pictures of, you guessed it, hot guys reading books. Recently the writer of the blog posted a link to a group that helps to bring books to kids. You can buy an awesome “Reading is Sexy” shirt (I am hoping to get one soon!) and support this great organization. As a book lover, I approve.

anarchist reverend podcast: Brian Murphy

Today brings a new feature to the blog: my very first podcast! I’m really excited about some of the people who have agreed to be interviewed for the podcast and can’t wait to share it with you.

My guest today is Brian Murphy. Brian talks about his own spiritual journey and his life as an activist.

You can listen in here: anarchist reverend podcast. I am working on getting the podcasts loaded into iTunes, but I am having a bit of technical difficulty at the moment. I’ll update as soon as a feed is available.

To learn more about the things talked about in today’s podcast:
Brian’s Blog
Strategy+Action Mailing List
The Equality Ride
Legalize Trans*
Legalize Trans* is also looking for interns! To get more information and to apply, go here.

Why I call myself a “Christian Anarchist”

(This is another in a series of posts where I will talk about Christian Anarchism)

I first started calling myself a “Christian Anarchist” out of pure naiveté. It was terminology I used to say that I didn’t feel called to a particular denomination; in fact I was feeling that denominations were pretty unbiblical and against the spirit of Jesus’ teachings. So I called myself a Christian Anarchist. It seems kind of silly now. I still hold the same beliefs about denominations, but I had no idea that Christian Anarchy had such a long and storied history.

Honestly, much of my life was lived in naiveté! I grew up in a sheltered home. I had no understanding of racism, privilege, classism, queer issues, feminism, any of these concepts. I think if I would have been born a straight male I might have never grappled with any of these things. My faith would have stayed firmly in the fundamentalist camp. But I wasn’t born a straight male. And so in coming to terms with my queerness, I was also given the opportunity of education. I realized how much I benefit by simply being white, by being born in a middle class family, by being able to go to college and seminary. In getting that education, my faith became radical. I think in a lot of ways that it’s my faith that keeps me queer. It was my queerness that deepened my faith, and it’s my faith that has made me deeply connected with queerness in all its forms.

My first exposure to the thinking of Christian Anarchists came in my introduction to Jacques Ellul by a mentor of mine. I read his pamphlet on Christian Anarchy and was struck but how much it made sense. Since then I have read both secular and Christian Anarchists and while I am by no means an expert, I feel slightly more comfortable calling myself a Christian Anarchist because I have a better sense of what it means.

At the same time I realize that I have significantly different beliefs from both Christian and secular Anarchists. First the secular: I am opposed to violence and wish to remain non-violent in all that I do. (I know that not all secular anarchists believe that violence is okay, but there seem to be quite a few that do.) I don’t always succeed in my quest, but it is my desire.

I know that my basest desires would allow me to be violent and selfish. I sometimes have to work to look out for the needs of other people. I am deeply flawed. I would like to think that given the opportunity I would always choose to do the right thing, but I kind of doubt that in actuality. Because of that I appreciate the teachings of Jesus. I appreciate his call to live a life of service, to be in resistance to the empire, to try to bring about peace and wholeness on earth. I desire to emulate the life of Jesus in all of its risks and danger. I do this because I believe that there is a God; whether you want to call it God, or energy, or a universal consciousness; I believe there is something that is bigger than me. I want to tap into that. Therefore I don’t believe in the slogan of “no gods, no masters”. My desire to be an anarchist comes from my deep desire for the wholeness of all people. For all people to be fed and clothed, to live whole lives, and to be their full humanity. I think anarchism is the only way this will come about. My desires are deeply rooted in my faith.

Now for my differences with Christian Anarchists: I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I am not convinced that one day God is just going to come back and fix everything. There seems to be a sense in some of the Christian Anarchist literature that God is going to do just that, and so we can sit back and wait for that to happen. I don’t believe that. I also don’t believe that God is actively involved in the world (in the sense of God as a puppet master) outside of the actions of humans.

For me anarchism is about getting dirty. It’s about resisting the empire non-violently, but also about setting up new structures in the shadow of the empire. It’s about rejecting power (even as I desperately want to be powerful). It’s about rejecting security (even as I desperately want to be secure). I will by no means say that I am a successful anarchist. I still struggle and fall. I still partake in the consumer culture too much and compromise my beliefs in order to keep myself safe. I struggle with what God is calling me to do and to be. But I would like to at least say that I am trying. I am trying to be like Jesus (wow that sounds like so much hubris!), I am trying to love other people, I am trying to set up new structures in the shadow of the empire.

I am desperately trying, by the grace of God.

book review: Christian Anarchism by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos

This week’s review is: Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel
by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos.

Overall I really appreciated this book. Christoyannopoulos weaves together all of the different strands on christian anarchy to provide a picture of the thinking of the movement as a whole. No one has ever done that before and his contribution will be a great addition to the christian anarchist scholarship. Since much of the work can be hard to find, this survey (with meticulous footnotes) is very important.

He traces the thought through Leo Tolstory, Vernard Eller, and Jaques Ellul while also including the work of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers (which many books tend to ignore). There is also some recent scholarship from the Jesus radicals among others. The scope of this work is impressive.

My frustration with a lot of the conclusions drawn (both by this survey and by other christian anarchist writers) lies in a poor academic reading of many of the Gospel texts. These texts are read with a cursory exegesis and not in light of the empire. Whether that is because empire scholarship is relatively new or whether it’s because christian anarchists haven’t completely done their homework is unclear. This lack of exegesis leads to conclusions that don’t fit with the gospel texts. In this book, Christoyannopoulos’ conclusion tries to set up the way forward by christian anarchists but sets up a false dichotomy; either one is completely non-resistant (read non-engaged) with the political world, or one buys in to the state. My reading of the gospel texts is more of a both/and. One must resist the empire while also creating a new way of living in the shadow of the empire. You can’t just disengage, set up your own community and that’s it, you must also be prophetic about calling out the empire and working to upset it non-violently and always with Jesus’ teachings in mind.

It’s a delicate balance, one that requires humility and accountability. One that is about freedom for all people and service to all people instead of a life that seeks to overthrow and become the new power in charge.

I still recommend this book simply for it’s scope and attention to detail. I found it to be very readable (even though it is a doctoral dissertation!) and accessible even if you haven’t read a lot of the people featured in the book.

around the web: trans people and bathrooms, banned books, and more

* I found a great essay on tenured radical’s blog about a trans* professor being denied tenure. you can read about the case and the radical’s thoughts on it here. I especially like the radical’s final comment.

* as a lover of both reading and free press/speech it’s good to see reports of banned books being allowed back into Tunisia and Egypt. Here’s an article from The Guardian.

* i found this blog post to be very interesting. The poem on the page speaks so much truth, and the video is both beautiful and insightful.

What’s caught your eye this week? What are you reading?