anarchy?

The political conventions have come and gone and they were good. I was born and raised Democrat and Baptist, so the DNC’s moving political rhetoric bathed in ol school preacher cadence was fun. I felt moved and misty by Michelle Obama’s speech, captivated by Bill Clinton’s folksy delivery, and carried to new hope for the future by President Obama’s words. Of course there were also highlights of the RNC, like Ann Romney’s “I love you women!” and Clint Eastwood’s conversation with that empty chair. Theatrical!

Politics. It’s all smoke ‘n mirrors.

I have voted since I was able to vote and I will vote again. However, this afternoon my thoughts center on questions like “does any of this #*%! really matter?” And what about those folk I know who don’t vote because they say they are Christian and anarchist. You know, the people who don’t want government in their personal lives telling them what to do, how to do it, and how much money to contribute to it. I was once a member of an emergent type church that was filled with people who identified as anarchist, and I just didn’t get it. Worth noting, that church was 95% white, middle class, and under age 30.

Anarchism? Christian anarchy? I’m sure there are many nuances but the most basic definition of anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful. They oppose authority and hierarchical organization of any kind and advocate stateless societies based on equality and volunteerism. And then a Christian nuance from Nicolas Berdyaev (1874-1948), “the religious truth of anarchism consists in this, that power over man is bound up with sin and evil… the kingdom of God is freedom and the absence of such power, the kingdom of God is anarchy.”

Revelife.com offers passages in support of Christian anarchy: My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). We are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). To seek rule by man is to reject the rule of God (1 Samuel 8). Honest people are too busy making an honest living to accept political power, so only the corruptible will accept political power (Judges 9:7-15). You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you (Mark 10:42-43a).

Personally I only know one person of color who identifies as anarchist, which leads me to my final thought for now. Basic human nature leans toward and wallows in hierarchy of some sort. Government occasionally frightens me, but anarchists do too. The historical record reminds me that it was Christians and their church, supported by the law of the land, who found it useful and lucrative to dominate and control women, and enslave people of color. When people resisted and movement happened in the form of civil rights for people of color and women, laws were forced to change. But many Christians and their churches continued their own pecking order saying it was God’s law not man’s that they were following. And according to some of them, God’s pecking order placed women and people of color at the bottom. Some of the most sexist and racist people I know call themselves Christian… not necessarily anarchist, but certainly Christian. A lawless and equal state of existence in time always finds somebody or some group to dominate in order to lift up itself. It’s what unchecked humans do.

So, while Christian anarchy sounds radical and romantic, I’m not feeling it. I like a system of checks and balances because human nature can’t be trusted. Look at the historical record. I’m just sayin’.

 

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care