(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.