Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity

radical summa: christianity and anarchism

Question: Can a Christian associate herself/himself with anarchism?*

Objection 1.“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1,2 NRSV) Thus, God, sovereign over all, should be trusted with whom God grants power over particular nations and peoples. To resist authority means to resist God.

Objection 2. Further, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel and Judah celebrated and respected their kings when they followed God. Anarchism rejects leadership of any kind for the will of local groups and individuals. The People of God have trusted God for their leadership. To reject leadership is to reject God’s will.

Objection 3. Further, Christianity cannot assume other ideologies. The Christian Scriptures present the only ideology that a Christian can bear. To allow other ideologies to corrupt a Christian’s conscience and way of life forfeits one’s religion and relationship with Jesus.

On the contrary, Studying the history of Christianity, one can gather that there are as many Christianities as ideologies. In the genesis of the Christian church, many of the members were platonists or neo-platonists ( Augustine, Tertullian, Justin Martyr). As history pursued, Thomas Aquinas adhered to Aristotelianism.Then, scholars in the Renaissance critiqued medieval scholarship, which  John Calvin and Martin Luther included in their theological works.

Fast-forward to today, we are products of our culture and environment. This is inescapable. There is no such thing as a pure Christianity. We choose what ideas, actions, and people to pursue and trust.

I answer that, There is no contradiction between anarchism and Christianity. Christianity is moldable and changeable as much as anarchism. It is possible for them to fit well together. With an extremely joyous and resounding Yes! I commend Christians to be open to other possibilities of political, economic, and social allegiances. The Gospel of Christ is formable, shakeable, and able to participate in most ideologies. Anarchism is an important ideology because it subverts the status quo, battles Empires, and casts down leadership for the sake of consensus. In association with Christianity, which for its early history, did all of these same things as well as practiced non-violence. Thus, Christianity and anarchism is not a contradiction, but a beautiful partnership.

Reply to Objection 1. Paul’s theological and ethical advice in Romans 13 may have been a standard for the church in Rome; although, we do not know this for certain. Yet, Paul did not follow his own teaching! Paul and his friends called Jesus king (Acts 17:7), which mocks political and religious authorities. As well, Paul faced much adversity for preaching the Gospel, which is anti-Roman Empire and was tortured for it (2nd Corinthians 11:23-29). Hence, Paul believe it was far more important to stand for one’s beliefs in another world than to blindly obey the Roman Empire.

Reply to Objection 2. Before kings ruled Israel and Judah, there were judges. From 1200-1000 BCE, judges fought for justice in the land. They were the ones who killed or stopped other tribe’s military and political leaders. When confronted with the idea of a king to rule over all the tribes in Israel a theopoetic exclamation emerged with the “Parable of the Trees” (Judges 9:8-15).* The “Parable of the Trees” demonstrates the multi-vocal nature of Scripture. The Hebrews did not always have kings. They were sometimes not happy when they did have a king. Before Israel’s first king Saul, God proclaimed that God did not want them to have one (1 Samuel 8). Thus, social and political hierarchy cannot be placed on God or Scripture as tradition.

My Kin-dom Is Not of This World

*Those unfamiliar with Thomas Aquinas’ style in the Summa Theologica, this post may seem odd. New Advent has the full Summa for those wanting to further investigate.

** It is one of two parables in Hebrew Bible, the other told to David by the prophet Nathan (2nd Samuel 12:1-6) concerning the rape of Bathsheba. Resistance in Scripture always finds creative means.

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Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity, Philosophy

anarchism and its discontents

The other week I came across my copy of Paul Tillich’s book Dynamics of Faith and decided to misread the title, thinking of it not as relating personality and faith, as Tillich did, but comparing it to expressions of faith. Dynamic represents the overarching ideology of a particular movement, denomination, political party, etc. For example, I have an anarchist dynamic, this includes my thoughts about the government, other humans, distributive justice, and so on. The expression of the dynamic is how I go about embodying my ideology. Therefore, my anarchist dynamic has influenced my expression to read about radical politics, protest unjust systems, boycott particular corporations, to garden, have vegan potlucks etc.

In the past month, I have been to two radical conferences, both in NYC. The first being the Left Forum. There was a wide variety of radical thought, including the Maoists, Marxist, Labor Organizers, and Anarchists. We gathered around a common cause: to help create a better and more sustainable world.

Then this past weekend, I attended the NYC Anarchist Book Fair. I met some great people, who were very passionate about issues of race, gender, political prisoners, and many other issues. With such a concentration of anarchists, I noticed specific patterns of dress, rhetoric, and style. Many of them wore darker clothing, mostly black, dark blue, and/or blood red. I was wearing a black t-shirt, blue dickies pants, and black Chuck Taylors. I fit right in. I, too, was able to fit in right away with my rhetoric of injustices happening in the world.

Maybe this is not a problem, since it happens in all social groups. Most charismatic Christians dress nicely to attend church, they too have a rhetoric of “Have you been saved or washed by the blood?” Many charismatics at least in the US support the political-economic structures in place and usually vote for the more conservative candidates.

Yet for Anarchists, I want it to be different. I picked up two different pamphlets from the book fair this past weekend and they described the genesis of anarchism in the Enlightenment. I am fine with this historical situatedness, since one of the early tenants was that rationality was part of human nature. Thus if all people are rational then all should want to desire freedom for all, and an end to oppression. This was an early idea of anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

All of this is very good, but we must push back. I say that we must adopt a more fluid idea of human nature, similar to Marx’s idea of human nature that differed according to our active participation in the production of labor. According to his historical materialist process of history, human nature in feudalism looks different from capitalism, one is more alienated from their “species-being” in capitalism. Marx’s theme of alienation penetrated all of this thought, even to human nature.

If we were able to see human nature more fluid then anarchism too would change. It would be more of a contextual, local, and allow for more freedom in different countries, or even in the same city! The Dynamic of Anarchism in West Philly may be expressed as free food for all, community gardens, more after school programs, chalk poetry, making other spaces open to the public for events, possibly even having anarchists who identify as Christian to write liturgy for their churches. We must push beyond the expressions that we normally act in and create with others a better world. Hopefully, this will include wearing more colorful clothing.

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Anarchism, Anti-Capitalism, Patriachy, Spiritual

the revolutionary act of ash wednesday and lent

I have been reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the past week now. It was not intended to be my Lenten book, but it has become such. The first few chapters relate to this Christian season in several ways. I would call it a Liberation Theology text for the non-theological, since it speaks in non-bibical langauge in the same ways that the South American liberation theologians were using the Exodus story and the narrative of Jesus.

The first chapter speaks of a revolution, where the oppressed and the oppressors both are liberated. Paulo Freire writes “As oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized” (42). Freire sets out to have both oppressed and oppressor humanized. This means that a revolution must have the oppressed not be over the oppressors, but everyone come out as equals. Slavoj Zizek has spoken some on Haiti, using a post-colonial context, writing, “it was perhaps even more of an event than the French Revolution itself. It was the first time that an enslaved population rebelled not as a way of returning to their pre-colonial “roots”, but on behalf of universal principles of freedom and equality.” While the French revolution promoted equality for all people who were not slaves, it was the Haitian Revolution who made both slaves and free all under the banner of equality and freedom. It’s as if they took the words of Freire to heart 170 years earlier.

This brings me to a theo-political understanding of the imparting of ashes. 40 days before Easter Sunday, catholic Christians attend a service in which to re-member, both in embodying the church, but also a time for self-reflection, remembering our short comings. As an Episcopalian, we like to kneel for Eucharist and for ashes, and this time I knelt recognizing my faults, but also kneeling in solitary with the rest of the persons in church. We were at that moment all on an equal plain. We are all part of familia dei, Family of God. In other words, the politics of Ash Wednesday show us that if any political system should be prescribed that it should be one of anarchism. That we need no human leaders since we are all on this equal plain. Yet, the problem is that as U.S. citizens we live in a psycho-spiritual context where to feel secure that we must have an authority figure, e.g. President, patriarch, etc. in our lives to give us structure. In Zizekian/Lacian lingo, we are searching for the “subject-suppose-to-know.” We are looking for the one who knows all the answers so that we can elect them to office or believe that they know best and follow whatever they may say. Speaking of the 2008 financial crisis, Jacques Lacan’s son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller says in an interview

“The financial universe is an architecture made of fictions and its keystone is what Lacan called a “subject supposed to know”, to know why and how. Who plays this part? The concert of authorities, from where sometimes a voice is detached, Alan Greenspan, for example, in his time. The financial players base their behavior on this. The fictional and hyper-reflexive unit holds by the “belief” in the authorities, i.e. through the transference to the subject supposed to know. If this subject falters, there is a crisis, a falling apart of the foundations, which of course involves effects of panic. “

The presidential candidates want to be this kind of subject, knowing what is best for the financial and political realm. Yet if we are Christians who wear our “faith on our foreheads” recognizing our failings, how can we not help to see that there is no one who is “suppose to know” that it takes us a community of self-reflecting people who now more than ever need the dialectic and each other to create a more just world.

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