What should we call Christian Anarchism?

8 thoughts on “What should we call Christian Anarchism?”

  1. Thanks for the thoughts and resources Josh. This might extend beyond the scope of this post a bit, but I kind of ran into this Church v. State issue when I made a few comments against Christian support of capital punishment. A few people responded with the Romans 13 passage you cited. I threw in my two cents, but I was wondering if you had any further understanding about what it means for the authorities to be “servants of God” and to “not wield the sword in vain.” Does this legitimize state violence against “evildoers”? I have some deep reservations about declaring State violence as “righteous.”

    1. Whatever we take it to mean, it cannot mean that all Governments serve God’s will and purposes at all times. We know from a myriad of examples that they do not. In fact, not long after Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, the Church experienced violent persecution under Emperor Nero, an infamously bloodthirsty tyrant and brutal executer of Jesus’ followers. By the logic of many American Christians, we should understand Romans 13 to be an endorsement of everyone from Nero to Hitler.

      Paul says that God “establishes” governments, but the word he uses may imply that God uses governments as he finds them. In that case, Paul says, God uses them to punish evil. This doesn’t mean God approves of the State. Throughout the Bible, God uses governments he clearly doesn’t approve of (e.g. Assyria in Isa. 10).

      Second, Romans 13:1-6 must be read in conjunction with the verses that precede it. Here, Paul tells the church in Rome (and us) that we, as followers of Jesus, are to love and serve our enemies and never exact vengeance on them. Rather, judgment is to be left to God. Then, beginning in Romans 13, Paul tells us one of the ways God exacts vengeance on people: he uses governments. So God uses governments, as he finds them, to do the very thing he has just forbidden Kingdom people to do. The passage thus shows not that the State is righteous, but that it does things we, as followers of Jesus, do not (like using violence against wrongdoers).

      Within this understanding, no violence is “righteous,” as followers of Jesus are called to reject it in all its forms. The State plays a role in a fallen world, but it isn’t righteous, and it isn’t the way of the Church.

  2. I read a twitter conversation between Brian Zahnd and a libertarian on Twitter a few months back, where the libertarian argued that Jesus was a libertarian. Zahnd replied that he is actually a monarchist. I like that. It reminds me that I’m not rejecting the idea of nation or authority, but that I have citizenship in a real kingdom, under a real king.

    Good post.

  3. Hey Josh. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and am now actually a doctoral candidate doing political philosophy/theology/biblical studies (my project is all about using Paul to critique seemingly all pervasive forms of economy that pose false universals). Anyway, just wanted to thank you for being an early positive influence, and am so glad that you are trying to spread the word about some amazing thinkers.

    In case you haven’t encountered them, however, I wanted to recommend a few authors. First and foremost is Stanley Hauerwas. One of the most prolific peace theologians of the last few decades. Brilliant work by a brilliant and genuinely nice man. Plus, he’s a total badass. As well, Anabaptist scholar John Howard Yoder is important. A few others that you may find interesting would be William Cavanaugh and D. Steven Long. As far as Empire criticism go, I think capitalism needs to continue to be critiqued for what it is, especially as Economy continues to influence and guide political action.

    Thanks again. And, if you ever want to chat about stuff (perhaps an interesting topic would be the dangers of penal substitutionary atonement theories?) then hit me up!

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