About four years ago I stumbled upon Christian Anarchy. I was in the midst of rebuilding my Faith and found a lot of contradictions with trying to merge my faith with my political voice. The word ‘anarchy’ tends to scare some people, so let me explain a bit more about what this is and why I have come to adopt this way of living.
Christian Anarchists believe in the Kingdom in which Jesus spoke and taught about. We find these teachings in the New Testament in which the Kingdom is described predominantly by the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6), but not to be isolated to those passages alone. In fact, it is my understanding that the entire New Testament is pointing us towards the Kingdom which is antithetical to any other form of “power”. From Jesus we see the apostles writing, preaching, and sharing this Kingdom way of living to all they come into contact with.
One example of how the ‘anarchy’ piece is highlighted in this philosophy is the way Jesus approached (or chose not to approach) the governing structure of His time. For example, in Mark 12:13-17 we read:
13Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?15Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
Christian Anarchists view this passage as Jesus making a public declaration that He is not about the two systems at odds with each other-that of religious legalism nor that of government legislation. What makes this so radical is that the Romans were taxing and oppressing the Jews in extremely harsh ways. The Jews were often forced into “working” off their tax debt through slave-labor, having a child and/or livestock taken in the form of payment, imprisonment, etc. This only perpetuated the cycle of oppression since many were losing the only means they had to earn money (including enough to pay taxes in the first place).
And yet we find Jesus saying, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. This was not what the Jews were expecting from their long awaited Messiah. Instead they were hoping for a Messiah who would take over the Romans in order for the Jews to take their rightful seat of “power over”.
This is only one side of the story, however. Jesus was also renouncing religious legalism when suggesting that Jews would not only pay their taxes, but also handle such currency bearing the face of Caesar and the words “Son of God”. It was considered unlawful and unholy to pay taxes to someone claiming falsely to be God.
And yet we find Jesus saying, to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. In essence, Jesus was pointing out that earthly rulers and money were far from a concern for Him and had no bearing on the Kingdom.
What is going on here? What are we to learn? How does the Kingdom come (as Jesus prayed in Matthew 6)? There are a few points all throughout the Biblical narrative that I am going to try and connect in order to explain the position of Christian Anarchy .
If you remember, back in the book of 1 Samuel, the Israelites were begging for a King. Chapter 8 begins:
8 As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
After a King is appointed, Samuel gives his farewell speech. It can be found in 1 Samuel 12 and I recommend everyone go and read this passage. It is both heartbreaking and beautiful and reflects what a merciful and faithful God we have.
But for the sake of keeping this post less lengthy (ha!), here is the portion that stands out for the Christian Anarchist:
12 “But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request.
-The Israelites asked for a king from a position of fear. We are called out of fear. The opposite of Love is Fear and Christ demonstrated Love to us on the cross and then calls us to take up our own cross–essentially living a life in service to others. Fear of what the Government might do to us is not reason enough to raise up any other king other than Jesus Christ.
-The Lord their God was already their king. Jesus showed us how to live by coming to this earth. He lived always listening and being guided by the Father. He had no other authority other than God and calls us to do the same.
-And yet, the LORD conceded. It is so important that as we read the Old Testament(OT), we understand the difference between concessions and ideals. God’s ideal was to be their one and only King. But out of faithfulness to His people–a people who were still misunderstanding their vocation–God bent down, met them where they were at and gave them a king.
This is not to be confused with God’s ideal. In fact, we see the continued demise of Israel throughout the rest of the OT. Eventually, God withdraws completely, leaving them to their own ways of living. He does, however, promise a Messiah and a few hundred years later, the Messiah is born…
The King had finally come…and yet He came in need–needing to have his diapers changed, needing to be fed, needing to be picked up when he fell as he learned to walk. THIS was how God chose to begin Christ’s inauguration as King.
Throughout the life of Christ, we read about His radical ways of turning religion on it’s head. Instead of putting religious rules above all else, He demonstrated what it meant to put people first. He showed us how to love by serving, feeding, healing, and befriending.
Here’s where it gets even more radical:
Most progressive Christians would agree that social justice is a huge factor in being a Christ-follower. If you follow Patheos, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, Justin Lee of The Gay Christian Network, and many others you will see that all of them (while they may have disagreements) tend to stand up for the rights of the marginalized. And I am right there with them. I think that Jesus calls us into a life of self-sacrificial, other-oriented love for our friends, strangers, and even our enemies. I think the Church needs to be a voice for racial reconciliation, caring for the LGBTQ community, women in leadership and so much more.
The difference, however, that Christian Anarchists desire to point out to the Church is that LOVE is NEVER COERCED. All of these issues are vital to the Kingdom, but the means by which they are solved or accomplished looks nothing like that of a political venue. You cannot force anyone to change their ways and the Kingdom doesn’t invite people in by forcing them to sign a contract first. No, instead we follow in our Leader’s footsteps, by serving, giving, feeding, and befriending those who are in need, those who are different, and those who are feeling unloved.
The secular government, on the other hand, only knows laws and legislation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I see the need for laws and safety, and paved roads, etc. However, I must always be mindful that the world will solve it’s problems by worldly means. And much of the time this includes violence, greed, and “power over”.
What Jesus showed us was how to opt out of the game of “power over”, “one-uping”, and living in the “rat-race” of the secular world. Christ-followers have been called to do the exact opposite. We have been given the vocation of peace-maker, holding a loose grip on money and possessions, turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and coming under others. “Power under” looks like Jesus. It looks like setting our own agenda aside (even if well-intended) and putting the needs of others above our own.
We all have a vision of a better world. It’s not that we don’t share the desire for something better, it’s that we probably disagree on what exactly that is (for me, it’s the Kingdom) and how exactly we get there. Personally, I cannot reconcile how Jesus showed us His way of bringing about the Kingdom and the political sector of bringing about a “better world” (which always seems to step on and/or squander people in some way, shape, or form). The two seem to be headed in different directions.
Okay, so now that we have a bigger picture of the Kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus, the complex questions come into the equation. What about healthcare? What about gay marriage? What about racial profiling and police brutality? Or ISIS? Or war in general? What about all of those things that seem to only have solutions found in the political sector? The answers to each of these questions would require multiple discussions and many more blog posts for me to attempt to explain. It’s tough. Claiming Christian Anarchy does not mean I have all of the answers, but a few points on how we might attempt to find answers are as follows:
-Life is always done better in community. I may not know how to solve the problem of healthcare from a Kingdom perspective, but I trust that God is stirring and bringing vision to others in the Kingdom who will or already do.
-Look for alternative ways to love people. One of the most under talked about efforts among the Christian communities are all of the non-violent peace teams going on right now. Check this link out for just one of many organizations doing real spiritual battle all over the world.
-Learn to see the problems/solutions of the world outside of laws/legislation. Often times we get stuck in seeing things through a narrow lens (particularly because it has been so indoctrinated in us) that we fail to see any other kind of creative solutions. If the solution isn’t “Kingdom”, keep looking for one that is.
I could write so much more on this topic (how Christian Anarchists view jobs/careers, vegetarianism, simple living, and more), but I want to close with this last point. I do value my country, my freedom as an American, and the ways our country has attempted at making all people free (not that they have done an excellent job all the time, but by comparison to so many other nations, we are afforded so much here). Paul talks a lot in his letters about how to use our freedoms to demonstrate Christ’s love to others. What are some ways we can do that in our everyday lives? Don’t waste what you have been given, but also never count it as an entitlement, especially when it comes at the expense of others. We are to respond as missionaries to whatever environment we are in, being grateful for what we have, but using it to further the Kingdom and not our ourselves.
If you have ANY questions, please leave a comment below. I would love for this to be an ongoing dialogue.