A Brief Summary About and In Defense of Christian Anarchism: How I Became a Christian Anarchist Part VII

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.

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About ben adam

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and we might miss Armageddon because we're too busy watching MTV and CNN. Please, read a book, throw a ball, bake some bread, and for goodness sake, turn the TV off.
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4 Responses to A Brief Summary About and In Defense of Christian Anarchism: How I Became a Christian Anarchist Part VII

  1. Smits Mckey says:

    “Anarchism, by placing everyone on the stage of equal importance, fundamentally calls for the end of oppression.”
    You apparently know absolutely nothing about the history of anarchism. I would suggest you read Albert Camus’s “The Rebel” in which he talks about the destructiveness, shortsightedness, and violence of Russian anarchism in the early 20th century.
    Humans have never, ever lived in a state of anarchy, or whatever you want to call it. Animals have hierarchies, for chrissakes. The only way for humans to exist in any relevant form is for some people to have power over others; this makes sense because not everyone has the capacity or ability to either govern themselves or provide for others without a hierarchical order. If there was anarchy, nothing would ever get done, because no one would be in a position where they could actually do anything. They would be forced to provide for themselves and live in a subsistence-level existence. There is no philosophical, historical, or anthropological basis for anarchism. Agrarian cultures are not anarchistic; there are even hierarchies within families. Power structures are inherent to the survival of not only humans but all animal species. There is absolutely no instance in recorded human history in which people just were without structure around them. Hell, even religion is just a huge power structure. Anarchism is just a cop-out for people who can’t reconcile the world with their ideas; they just figure they will destroy everything that’s out there and that will make it better. Well, I’m personally proud to live in this country, proud to be an American, and will continue to support the rule of law, representational democracy, and all of the other things that have made America so successful. If you want to destroy all of that because you think that rich people are evil, the government is out to destroy and oppress us, and the Powers that Be are so powerful that no one has any control over their lives, then wake the fuck up. This isn’t Nazi Germany; this isn’t Stalinist Russia. Let’s hope that people like you don’t turn the US into France after the Revolution. The Terror was perpetrated by anarchists in the name of “freedom”; and all they did was kill tens of thousands of innocent people.
    Anarchism=Nihilism, and nihilism is the denial of the human spirit and of the importance of human life.

    • ben adam says:

      Wow, thank you so much Smits for your passionate, albeit misinformed and misguided, appeal. As a brief response, I will agree with you. The U.S. is not Nazi Germany nor Stalinist Russia. Those two countries cannot hold a finger to the level of genocide committed by the U.S.A. who systematically annihilated an entire continent worth of people in the name of an expanding empire that was purportedly “free” and brought liberty for all. I’ve never heard any story of the Nazis or the Russians killing over 100,000 people at once. The U.S. has done it 3 times! All in Japan of course, but hey, who’s counting? Of course, then there is the triangle trade, Jim Crowe, Eugenics (which helped establish the scientific seedbed for the Final Solution), the trail of tears, the Mexican-American War (the first U.S. imperial war of aggression if you don’t consider the extermination of the indigenous a war or aggressive), and the list could continue (Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Grenada, over 1,000 military bases internationally, etc.). So many people tell me that I am a dreamer. That anarchy is a pie in the sky dream. But I think the people who run the State are the utopians. The ones who believe that a $1.2 trillion defense budget and a $14 trillion debt is somehow sustainable or just are the ones who believe in the impossible.

      You quoted some violent anarchists as proof that anarchism is evil. Well, I’m a pacifist, so I guess you’re not really making much sense. Furthermore, if you argue that anarchism is bad because they have used violence, then you sir are a hypocrite, and I believe Jesus would have to agree. The U.S. spends more money on violence and produces more advanced ways of killing other human beings than the world has ever seen. And they don’t dispense that violence fairly or justly. Moreover, being a pacifist, I don’t believe a person can dispense violence fairly or justly. Apparently, neither does Jesus. And I really like Jesus.

      I also like nihilism. If anything, nihilism is the destruction of tradition while elevating the human spirit over old, worn-out rules that have no significance. You should learn what nihilism actually is before making broad statements about its negative effects. Anyway, I really appreciated this comment. It’s given me something useful to chew on.

      • Wallace says:

        Clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about for one the indigenous weren’t systematically exterminated and seeing as they often committed massacres too and also
        And seeing that the nazis and Russians killed 100 times what the us has ever killed and seeing that the atomic bombings and Tokyo bombings saved the lives of 10,500,000 people and seeing that the that the Mexican american war was started by a Mexican attack on disputed territory and also the roman empire spent 25% of its budget on its military you have shown significant ignorance of history the truth is that pacifism often creates more suffering by refusing to take an effective stand against genocides (just look at all the people who who turned a blind eye at pol pot) and nihilism is degrading to humanity it teaches us to mindlessly gratify our impulses become slaves to our biological urges and pursue instant gratification like dogs living in the dirt like animals while stoicism teaches us to transcend

  2. Pingback: A Brief Summary About and In Defense of Christian Anarchism: How I Became a Christian Anarchist Part VII | anarchism around the world

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