Anarchism, by placing everyone on the stage of equal importance, fundamentally calls for the end of oppression. Unfortunately, ending oppression is not a goal unique to anarchism. Leftists and even the Right maintain that they long to see an end to oppression. Marxists, socialists, democratists, republicists, libertarians, federalists, and even many capitalists excuse and promote their behavior in the name of liberating people from extrinsic evil that can be broadly qualified as oppression. The promises made by those in power and all vying for power distorts the rhetoric of liberation. What anarchists find in common with nearly all ideological regimes, when employed by all parties wanting power, is of no use. What profits our thinking about ending oppression lies in how we propose to end it. Instead of simply standing against oppression (the platform of the Left), anarchists stand against the opportunities to be oppressive. The opportunity to oppress comes with hierarchy: one person being in a position of authority over the other. Through eliminating hierarchy, anarchists lucidly admit more than anyone else the human capacity to commit crimes against another. They force themselves to organize without repressing even the smallest voice. We could hardly call this idealism. It is no more idealistic than believing a state government run by the wealthy will provide for the needs of the poor or establish justice and peace simply because of checks and balances.
What I find completely extraordinary is how vehemently people react against such a reasonable belief as though anarchism is comparable to fascism, the very antithesis of anarchism. A professor, whom I truly respect and like, once commented that anarchism is nothing more than turning oneself into a monarch. When one actually thinks about this, it is crazy not to be an anarchist, for if everyone were a monarch, no one would be a pauper. Furthermore, the obvious implication of my professor’s comment, that anarchism would result in us all trying to take power over one another, exposes his ignorance of anarchism, a word whose plain etymology negates monarchy. By using autonomous monarchy to take power over someone else, the way he suggests anarchism does, would cause a person to cease to be an anarchist! His critique is totally ridiculous.
Essentially, anarchism finds that people are neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but rather, capable of both right and wrong. It self-consciously prevents people from assailing one another by functioning in egalitarian cooperation. Surprisingly, despite the obvious benefits and logic of anarchism, people still perpetuate in elevating themselves over others, and in cases such as republic style governments like the U.S., elevating others over themselves. Quite clearly, this happens because systems that dominate people develop better and better techniques of indoctrinating people into hierarchical ways of thinking. What might be even more convincing is using fear of death through massive military might to uphold that indoctrination. As you can see, anarchism poses a major threat to any state or institution hierarchically organized. To be an anarchist is a sure way to invite the fear of state-sanctioned repression. This is why Jesus, and the resurrection in particular, is so important.
We need to take very seriously why the Roman Empire and the Judean puppet authorities crucified Jesus. Rome killed people for political and not religious purposes. To purport that the Judeans convinced Pontius Pilate to kill Jesus because he disrupted their religious cult stinks of absurdity. Take for example in Matthew 26.64-5, “’You have said so. But I [Jesus] tell you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He is worthy of death.’” The Judeans had no authority to kill Jesus, yet his words convinced them that the Romans would be willing to use his words as a reason for execution. Without question, Jesus’ teaching challenged and threatened the Judean elite’s power to the extent that they felt the need to silence him. They appealed to Rome’s power to accomplish their goal. I do not want to read Jesus anachronistically as an anarchist, but I want to be plainly clear that Jesus shared anarchism’s challenge to authority. In the end, by identifying with Rome’s power to kill, we cease to be on the side of Jesus who died by that power.
When Jesus’ challenge to authority arrives at his execution, the power of oppressive structures won. However, the resurrection surprised everyone. Additionally, the resurrection showed the oppressive powers their inability to have power over life and death. Power over someone’s very life is the ultimate form of hierarchy. To dominate someone to the point of forcefully removing their very animation represents hierarchy in its most dehumanizing form. By rising from the dead, Jesus removed that final authority from those who kill as a means of maintaining their own authority. The resurrection revokes the hierarchy of murder.
Finally, ask anyone who believes in heaven what it will be like. Ask them which person will be in charge. Ask how elections will work. Ask who will have the most money, who will live in the largest house, and who will have the sweetest toys. The answer to all these questions is clear to anyone. Heaven will not be stratified along any of these lines. All will be of equal value. When we resurrect from the dead, just as Jesus did, will it not be anarchy? Will people have power over others? No. Then how can we excuse, as Christians, power over each other now? Jesus rose from the dead which means that life after resurrection begins now, not later. The resurrection leveled us all. For us to say otherwise is to deny Jesus’ resurrection, and that is something I, as an anarchist and a Christian, am unwilling to do.
Anarchism aims to end oppression by living in a way that prevents power. The prevention of power keeps us from abusing that power. We do not trust leaders to be good. We trust leaders to be either good or bad, but we would rather cover our bases by making sure they can never act antagonistically to people subjected below them. Jesus, like anarchists, confronted and confronts the power of hierarchies by turning the power to the “have-nots”. Eventually, the highest power in the land killed him, but he rose again. The promise that we too will rise again calls us to live in a way that rejects the system that killed Jesus and was refuted in his resurrection. Anarchy does this in the most proactive, realistic way possible by organizing in ways that do not allow the powerful to exercise their power over others. Unlike the other Leftists in the world, anarchism questions both hierarchies and oppression. That is why I, even though I am a Christian, subscribe to anarchist ways of being. Thank you for reading.