Do Not Put Your Trust In Princes – Christian Anarchism
2014 06 27 – London Anarchist Book Fair workshop
See updated/improved model 2016 07 23
Not – discuss the existence of God
Not – bring anyone into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ
Not – to defend religion
Not – autocritique
Don’t – assume knowledge of anarchism or Christianity
Don’t – belittle individuals who may or may not be present – it’s okay to say ‘i find evangelicalism problematic’, but not ‘evangelicals are stupit’, which they are not. Try to avoid generalisation. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
Do – ask questions, guide the discussion, many many approaches and areas of interest
Do – give the benefit of the doubt
Do – give space for thought, response
To – identify the anarchist impulse historically in Judeo-Christianity
To – suggest ways to reimagine contemporary Christianity
To – talk about the spirituality of Empire and resistance
My Christian Anarchism – intro
Raised conservative evangelical in the UK in intentional community, part of a church which shared life together – pretty cutting edge eh
Not much sense of political importance
I picked up a lot of things without realising. Roles of patriarchy, ideas about globalisation, etc.
Wasn’t until I got to university that I heard about anarchism
Realised this is me
Following Jesus means saying no to worldly things – which includes worldy government.
Recognising that state violence is still violence, nothing gets a pass just because it’s done by a human authority.
Christian Pacifism – centred on Jesus, assuming that he was being serious when he said ‘love your enemies’
He practiced it himself, what would happen if we did?
And ultimately – how can you participate in justice system based on violence, in a government based on violence, in a system of property ownership and protection based on violence, in a
Characterise this as ‘Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar is not’
Response to a theology of empire that deified the emperor – literally
It is a personally effective model. Tends towards a sort of individualism, which works with an evangelical mindset – individual salvation, freedom of conscience, a sort of splendid martyrdom complex – as for me, I can do no other, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
but there is more.
The imperial critique of Paul and the apostles
Recognise that the Bible has a deep core of anarchism
Not just ignoring worldly powers but actually opposing them/replacing them
Use of imperial phraseology – mocking phrases like peace and security – 1 Thessalonians 5
Son of God – Caeser’s title
Christians were atheists
Principalities and Powers – this has been spiritualised, to talk about sin, temptation, ambition
But St Paul uses the same language for governments that he does for demons.
This spirituality of empire indicates that there is evil embedded in the structure of the empire.
Not just about bad people, or people making bad decisions, it is the very structure of society itself that corrupts and protects evil.
Conception of spirituality as ‘the interiority’ of institutions.
The culture, history, traditions. The spirit of an institution – racism, exclusion, inflexibility, shame…
The Christian Faith as a way to engage and disarm those things.
The UnKingdom of God – the idea that Jesus does, in fact, have authority, Jesus is perhaps the only one who can claim to be a king (for various reasons) and his way of exercising that is to leave home, family, job, to wander the world teaching, serving, healing, and confronting the powers and authorities of his day, nonviolently, in such a way that they choose to murder him.
So that is the model of kingship that exists in the Kingdom of God – God’s alternative reign.
That’s part of the ideological, theoretical basis for finding anarchism in Christianity
More practically, anarchist principles of organisation, discipline and responsibility, mutual aid – all these are things necessary to survive without relying on violence-based dehumanising structures.
Christian Anarchist Principles
Menu of Options
Songs, Poems and Prayers –
Even in cultures that have lost their orality, songs, poems and prayers are important ways to learn, shape values, and share community. The Bible and the Christian Tradition encodes a lot of truth and history in songs, and sometimes there are surprising depths.
Do not put your trust in princes – songs of faith and doubt Psalm 146
The Poet Amos – prophetic accusation, lamentation, and unexpected endings…
The Punk Prayer of Mary – Magnificat – Luke
The Our Father as a manifesto for revolutionary community
We shall overcome, kumbaya, spirituals…
Myths & Roads
We are in a culture of myths – likely, mythology is essential to humanity, innate. These stories we tell to explain ‘why the world is the way it is’ are selected, developed, taught and told because they construct the social world we inhabit, appropriate to the bioregion. Everyone tells stories and understands the world by means of their myths/schema/narrative, but usually this functions unconsciously. If we don’t exercise creative power and cautious excitement about selecting/creating/interpreting our own mythologies then these mythologies will exercise power over us. Think about rightwing journalism and scaremongering – these rely on existing racist myths and fears.
Creation Narrative – countering Babylon
The Tower of Babel – liberation of diversity
The Exodus Liberation (and the Eisodus Genocide)
Fiery Furnace Faith – fireproof vegans withstand assimilation (Daniel)
Wilderness Temptation – Jesus’ vision quest and the trickster – Matt 4
The Revelation of Saint John – Babylon is fallen!
Paradise Lost and the Winchester Boys – the Devil and hellfire
The Church is our word for the Ekkleisia – a political gathering to make decisions. The primary expression of the Church has existed at the behest of empire – offering heavenly justification for hellish governments. The alliance of church and state is not unique to Christianity but we cannot deny the role of the Christian faith in slavery, colonialism, genocide, anti-semitism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia…
One of the tricks that the Church and the Empire play is to assert that they are the One Way. ‘One God, One Religion, One Empire’. They invisibilise independent communities and those in resistance as rebels, scroungers, heretics, diseased, or terrorists – where necessary they forcibly starve, assimilate or execute such divergent minorities.
I refuse to allow the Church of Empire to name itself as the sole heir of the teachings of Jesus. Here are some churches and religious communities that refuse the demands of empire
The Way – all things In Common – Acts 2:42
Quakers – something stirs in silence
Anabaptists – reclaiming baptism from the state
Charismatics – rejecting hierarchy, war, segregation…
Anglo-Catholicism – ‘unmanly and unEnglish’
Catholic Worker – making a society where it is easier to be good – removing poverty, getting back to the land, resisting war and preparation for war
Civil Rights – we tend to ignore the religious aspects of this – that strength of conviction and ability to get beyond justified and reasonable fear (Kumbaya)
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Student Christian Movement – need elders? Reminder that it has been bad before!
Redemption, Salvation – rewriting Christianese
“When we look at the early Christians, we see that they were pacifists, communists and charismatics. These three ingredients are resurrected over and over again in church history, among the monks and nuns, among the Waldensians and Anabaptists, among the Pentecostals and Jesus Hippies. They’re all part of the biblical movement that wants to combine non-violence, community of goods and signs and wonders.” Micael Grenholm