So argues scholar Alexandre Christoyannopoulos. Could today’s Christians really handle following the sociopolitical implications of Jesus’s teachings? Via New Left Project:
Leo Tolstoy wrote that: “Christianity in its true sense puts an end to the State.” This illustrates the main idea behind Christian anarchism, which is that when it comes to politics, “anarchism” is what follows (or is supposed to follow) from “Christianity”. “Anarchism” here can mean, for example, a denunciation of the state (because through it we are violent, we commit idolatry, and so on), the envisioning of a stateless society, and/or the enacting of an inclusive, bottom-up kind of community life.
There are many scriptures from the New Testament which provide the foundation for such a view. Arguably, all those passages that touch on politics point to facets of anarchism. The most famous must be the Sermon on the Mount, but much of its content is repeated in the many passages in which Jesus, James, Peter or Paul talk of forgiveness, of being servants or of not judging one another – the state does not do that (or rather we don’t do that through it), and if we did it then the state would anyway become redundant.
But, you might ask, if when it comes to politics, an anarchist stance is what Christ’s teaching and example demands from its followers, why are so few Christians also anarchists? There are many elements to this answer. For one, what Jesus asks of us is seen by many as simply too demanding, too ambitious, too utopian. . Indeed, it’s difficult not to agree with Christian anarchists that Jesus’ radical political demands were betrayed by almost all official churches and their theologians as they became more established and institutionalised.
Despite this, however, there are many examples of Christian anarchist political action, including over the past few years. Since 9/11, for instance, Christian anarchists have conducted public “liturgies”, taken part in direct action and joined broader coalitions to denounce the many angles of “War on Terror”, from Afghanistan and Iraq to domestic restrictions on civil liberties. So, for example: they have “turned into ploughshares” US military warplanes passing through Shannon airport; poured blood outside the DSEi Arms Fair; blockaded Northwood and Faslane; read names of war victims outside Downing Street; “exorcised” the MoD; and campaigned in support of wiki-whistleblower Bradley Manning.
But you can find examples of if not anarchism, at least anarchist tendencies right back to the first Christians. The early churches were persecuted at least in part because they were politically subversive, though they were later co-opted by the Roman authorities and turned into instruments of imperial power. In the late Middle Ages, several millenarian movements and protestant sects (such as the Anabaptists, the Mennonites, the Hussites and the Quakers) endeavoured to apply some of the radical political aspects of Jesus’ teachings.
There really are many scriptures from the New Testament which provide the foundation for Christian Anarchism. The most famous must be the Sermon on the Mount, but much of its content is repeated in the many passages in which Jesus, James, Peter or Paul talk of forgiveness, of being servants or of not judging one another – the state does not do that (or rather we don’t do that through it), and if we did it then the state would anyway become redundant. Then there are all the bitter criticisms of the Pharisees as hypocrites in their application of divine law, criticisms that don’t seem that inapplicable to some church authorities today.
As some Christian anarchists point out, perhaps Christians are to blame for not showing the anarchist way as they were called to. The failure of most self-proclaimed Christians to take up their cross and follow Christ might indeed be partly to blame for the turn, by many of those concerned with social, economic and political injustice, to non-religious (and sometimes strongly anti-religious) doctrines of change.