For me, 2012 has been the Year of Christian Anarchism. Prior to about April this year, I had no idea Christian anarchism was even a thing--and I have a feeling many of you are unaware of it too. I don't blame you, though. The idea isn't exactly mainstream evangelical rhetoric, although once you read into it, you may be surprised at how biblically sound it really is. It's often treated as a joke--like when those dear, sweet phone bank callers ring me during dinner, and I answer, "Sorry, I'm not registered to vote--I'm an anarchist." I don't think they realize I'm serious.
So now I'm on my own personal crusade to, if not convince people to become Christian anarchists, educate them about the viewpoint, and at least defend its validity.
Let me start with three things Christian anarchism is not:
- Christian anarchism is not violent. Many people equate anarchism with graffiti and molotov cocktails. And while there may be a kernel of truth within that stereotype, most anarchists--and certainly Christian anarchists--are not proponents of violence. Christian anarchism is a branch of anarcho-pacifism, and a big reason why Christian anarchists do not approve of or take part in the state is because of its predilection for violence through war, capital punishment, and various kinds of police action.
- Christian anarchism is not about chaos. The idea of an-archy, or "no ruler," may imply a worship of chaos and fierce, every-man-for-himself individualism, however Christian anarchists do submit to the "authority" of God. The twist here is that God's power is manifested in love, as seen in the life of Jesus Christ.
- Christian anarchism is not disrespectful. Just because Christian anarchists do not wish to participate in the business of the state does not mean they are bent on its total destruction. Part of Christian anarchism is the understanding that the Kingdom of God--that "kingdom" based on love and care for the poor and the stranger--is simply different than the kingdom of this world. It is underpinned by the belief that following the way of Jesus calls Christians to be different--not to overtake or force the state into something it's not, but to live a life in a community that is altogether different.
In the name of parallelism, I should really balance this with three things that Christian anarchism is, but really, I don't think I could do it justice in such little space. And trust me, were I to write out all my thoughts on the subject, you'd still be reading this blog post well after the elections were over.
Instead, let me just get a little personal.
And since it's not really my style to mandate what all people should do, I submit to you three reasons why I choose not to vote:
- I am a pacifist. No matter which candidate you vote for (with the exception of Jill Stein. Maybe. Kind of.) you are voting for war. You are voting for the expansion of and the enslavement to the military-industrial complex. And not only that, but the government thrives on the disenfranchisement of women, people of color, the poor, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, and the environment--discrimination and oppression are types of violence.
- I refuse to believe that my vote is my voice. As I mentioned in my review of Electing Not to Vote, my voice is so much bigger than a "Yes" or a "No," or a check on a ballot. And I will not be limited in the ways I use it. The election process is itself coercive, tricking people into taking part in this nationalistic ritual, and holding it up as this shining privilege--when in reality there is no choice being made except the choices already deemed acceptable to be chosen (and if you still think "The American People" are in charge of this "democracy," ask yourself why only TWO of the FIVE presidential candidates are included in the nationally aired debates). Additionally, withdrawing my vote challenges me to think of more imaginative ways for me to live out my very political faith. Instead of "voting" for a government to feed the poor, I can go break bread with the homeless in my town on my own--no need for the state to do the dirty work that I'm called to.
- My life is not dictated by the government. No matter who is elected, I will continue to live my life in the way of Jesus. I will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and love my enemies, regardless of who is in office, and were they to make doing such things illegal, I would continue to do them. The authority to which I submit is not the state, but the Church--the people to whom I am inexorably linked in the body and blood of Eucharist. And I'd rather spend my time and energy participating in the Table than in the voting booth.
Obviously, there is much more to be said. I can't cover all the ins and outs and challenges and rebuttals here, but if you are interested in learning more, check out the Jesus Radicals website or download Mark van Steenwyk's That Holy Anarchist--a really good, quick-read primer on Christian Anarchism, its biblical basis, and its historical background.
You can also leave a comment or shoot me an firstname.lastname@example.org-- or tweet--@keegzzz. I'd love to chat!