Anarchism, Anti-Capitalism, Liberation Theology, Radical Commentary, Scripture

st. paul armed with a black bandana and a chant

 

img_3593-1

“There is a perfect likeness between the Christian and the anarchist: their object, their instinct, points, only toward destruction.” (The Antichrist, Nietzsche, 168)

My first major protest was against the G20, which was hosted in Pittsburgh during the fall of 2009. My friends and I borrowed my hall mate’s car and drove from Philly at 5am. We specifically went to this protest because it was not permitted by the city. It was truly an anarchist march. My group dressed in black, but had colorful bandanas just in case we separated. Standing in the park, waiting for the protest to begin, several reporters came and asked us why we opposed the G20. Our talking points were:

  • it was undemocratic for a few people to decide the fate for whole populations,
  • it was hierarchical in that only the powerful ones have a voice, and
  • the poor and the Earth are the ones who will suffer the most out of these deals.

I carried a black flag for the duration of the protest. Sound cannons and smoke bombs were used to hinder us. Eventually, my group left the protest once the riot police started shooting rubber bullets. I believe Paul would’ve been there with us, wearing all black, waving a black flag, and chanting “The people united will never be defeated!”


Perhaps a battlesquare for our situation would pin statists (those who support the State) against anarchists (anti-hierarchical, anti-oppression, anti-State), but this is hard to comprehend when their narratives run completely opposite. As well, it would be difficult to have any kind of reconciliation or compromise to bring together the statist and the anarchist. This would turn into a perverse version of socialism, where little states would own capital. Thus, it would have to be something beyond the battle square and not the two combing of the narratives.

Here Paul helps us: For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another (Galatians 5:13, NRSV).

Paul uses the oppressive form of slavery to conceptualize freedom. This version of Paul’s freedom has resonance with the anarchist form of reciprocal freedom. In the States, we have a rhetoric of negative freedom, a freedom-from being told to do something. This is why talk-radio can spew such racist, sexist, and oppressive rhetoric. Colloquially, the quote “Don’t tread on me” sums up the States’ version of freedom. Then, there’s positive freedom, freedom-to do what one wants. While Paul may seem closer to this idea, it still holds in utmost regard the autonomous individual. This is reflected in “My body, choice.” Finally, and most importantly, is reciprocal freedom, freedom-with others. I am not free unless you are free. This is not about self-policing one’s language and actions, but through listening, caring, and becoming a slave to one another.

The opening quote from Nietzsche is absolutely essential: Christianity and anarchism’s end goal is destruction. This destruction though is about changing the-world-as-it-is and not its obliteration. Capitalists and corporations are the ones already destroying the Earth through their horrible business practices. Paul wants to see change in the world through reciprocal love and compassion.

One of my favorite anarcho-folk-punk bands, Wingnut Dishwasher’s Union, spells this form of freedom as slavery to one another in their song “My idea of fun.

live as you make it up cause we’re enough
you’ll never go without cause we’re enough
we’ll buy a house cause we’re enough
we’ll grow some food cause we’re enough

We’re slaves to one another in love and not because we have an ethical duty to do so. At the G20 protest, reciprocal freedom abounded. Protestors gave a hand to those who had fallen behind. Anarchist medics aided those with smoke in their eyes. I saw God’s realm on those Pittsburgh streets and I believe Paul would’ve stood hand-in-hand with us pronouncing Another World is Possible.

Standard
Advent, Beliefs, Christainity, Scripture

birth narratives overview: theological, political, historical (part one)

This will be a two part series. The first post will concern the New Testament writers who are not Luke or Matthew because they actually have birth narratives. Paul, Mark, and John are the other writers who even mention that Jesus was born or at least has a particular town that he was from. Since the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are sandwiched in the Christian Testament timeline then these writers will give us insight to what communities of believers thought before and after 80-90CE. 

7th century Sinai Nativity Icon

During the Advent season, I read the birth narratives at least twenty times. I read them in preparation for Sunday School and re-read them to be clued into something new. This is me attempting to read with fresh eyes, which is a struggle for me. Instead,  I come back time and again to these glorious texts using a political and historical approach. In other words, I read them as historical theological documents influenced by the community of the writer. In the next post, much more of the political and theological interpretation will spill forth, but for now here are the other writers of the New Testament on Jesus’ birth.

St. Paul

The earliest writer in the Christian Testament was St. Paul. His canonical writings date from the late 40s to early 60s CE. Paul’s letters were believed to be holy script by the early 100s. In his letters, he was not correcting the early church’s assumption about the historical Jesus, but theologically explained Jesus’ relation with God. In addition, Paul demonstrated that it doesn’t matter whether you are Gentile or Jew, God’s redeeming all through Jesus. In Paul’s earliest letter to the Galatians, he had to confront some confusion as to whether Jesus was a historical figure or a god who floated down from the heavens. St. Paul responds Jesus was “born of a woman”(4:4). In other words, St. Paul believed that Jesus was born a historical person, lived in a particular time, and had a body.

Mark

The first Gospel written was Mark. This Gospel begins with Jesus’ adult ministry and makes no mention of Bethlehem. For Mark, Jesus was from Nazareth only (1.9;1.24; 10.47; 14.67; 16.6). Mark believed that Jesus was a historical person, since he was a child of Mary (6:3). No virgin birth, no census, no wise persons, just an adult Jesus who told parables, overran the Temple, and killed by the State.

John

John’s Gospel written around 90 CE was the last canonical Gospel to be written (many other Gospels were written after). It breaks with the Synoptic Gospels in many aspects. Bypassing the fact that all the major events in Jesus life do not occur (Baptism, Last Supper, Parables); John clearly denies that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In John 7:40-44, it reads

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’ So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

This text pointedly shows that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem instead Galilee. Usually, the author of John explains theologically why s/he wrote such things, but not this time. Scholars believe that John had access to the Synoptic Gospels while writing the text, yet s/he blatantly ignores the Bethlehem birth narratives. My best guess is that Johannine community had divisions among themselves as to where Jesus was born and no one knew it for certain.

Nativity Scene Icon

These Christian Testament writers had no affiliation with the birth narratives. They either left them out or ignored them. The Christian Tradition still holds onto the Matthean and Lukan birth narratives and celebrate them every year by acting them out in churches, displaying nativity scenes and reading them aloud in church. For the next post we will closely look at those narratives and learn of their political, social, and historical situations.

Standard