“Anarchy” is from the Greek anarchos, from an– “no” and archos “ruler.” Anarchism, fundamentally, is a basic opposition to any concentration of power that imposes a will upon a human being, to any kind of rulership. We see this every day in our lives- from bosses or teachers, to governmental rules, to controlling relationships. Any time you have to do something or someone will impose consequences on you, you are being ruled. There are many different forms of anarchism, but the basic just of it is opposing the concentration of power that imposes rule on someone.
There are a few things anarchism is not. (A) Anarchism is not (necessarily) violent. Most of us think of violence when we think of anarchism, but since anarchism includes not imposing your rule on someone else, it should (theoretically) be more peaceful. Many anarchists try to use violence to bring down those in power, but I believe they are just trying to use violence to bring more power to themselves, so I reject this kind of anarchism. (B) Anarchism is not chaos. We often think that if there is no central power chaos will ensue. Many anarchists strive for an ordered and peaceful way to live, just without any source of power trying to enforce that order. Anarchism is a move from a hierarchy-based authority to decentralized authority marked by consensus decision making. It is a new order, not the lack of order.
Now, I am not actually an anarchist. I do not believe that our government can dissolve and an utopian anarchist society can begin. We are simply too greedy and too power hungry to make this work. Anarchism is a theoretical idea to me, more than a possible reality. I do not think we can create an anarchist society with no state, no organization, no hierarchy, and no authorities that is actually livable and practicable.
I much prefer the term “Christarchy” to anarchy. Christarchy is the combination of the words “Christ” and “anarchy”. The “an” in “anarchy” means “no”, but I do believe in a ruler, and that ruler is Christ, so the term “Christarchy” means much more sense. Christ is the ruler of all things. I am not an anarchist, but I do strive to be a Christarchist- someone fully under the rule of Christ.
The biggest outcomes of being a Christarchist in my life are resisting my impulses to collect power and instead trust that God is in control. My attempts to collect power is an attempt to gain control because I doubt that God is in control. In trusting God is in control, I also seek a society where power is shared, where no one is oppressed and everyone is seen as equal. Where we don’t try to power over each other but instead interact with each other in voluntary submission to one another. Letting go of power and submitting ourselves to others requires the power of Christ- and therefore is something I think the Church can attempt to do much more than the larger society.
Being a Christarchist also means a profound change in the ways I view politics. I used to put my hope in the government in making changes towards bringing about the kingdom of God, but I now see that that is false. Christ is the divine ruler, and my hope lies in Him, not in my government. The government may make some good and some bad decisions, but the kingdom of God can only come through Christ. I believe that Christ will use the Church to do his good work on earth. I have given up lobbying government, believing in politicians, and even in voting, and instead have put my belief in the ultimate rule of Christ. My hope is in Christ, through the Church, not in our government. The government will continue, and I will submit to it, but I will also subvert it. (Hopefully more about this in later posts.)
I think if the American Church embraces Christ as their true ruler, we will begin to step out of the American empire, (and yes, I believe that we are living under an empire, much like the early Church lived under the Roman empire) and we will begin building an alternate society, a new way, as a witness within the American empire that another way is possible. This is my biggest hope. That the Church can move out from the middle of the empire, to the margins where it belongs, and where it can once again become a prophetic witness to Christ and his kingdom. I think Christarchist ideas can help us get there. They can help us see that the empires of this world stand in opposition to the kingdom of God. Government policies, economic systems, and prevailing social and cultural values can be critiqued by the kingdom of God. If we take ourselves out from the rule of the world and put ourselves under the rule of Christ (Christarchy), we can begin seeing both the good and the bad, the beauty and depravity, of the worldly empires. We cannot see this as clearly when we are living under them and giving them authority in our lives.
If we rule out violent anarchism, there remains pacifist, antinationalist, anticapitalist, moral, and antidemocratic anarchism (i.e., that which is hostile to the falsified democracy of bourgeois states). There remains the anarchism which acts by means of persuasion, by the creation of small groups and networks, denouncing falsehood and oppression, aiming at a true overturning of authorities of all kinds as people at the bottom speak and organize themselves. -Jacques Ellul “Anarchy and Christianity”
Now, I did an awful job at explaining Christarchy, so I leave you with some resources of people who really get it.
Anarchism, Christianity, and Prophetic Imagination by Jason Barr
Books on Christian Anarchy:
Finally, I leave you with the “?” at the end of the title of this blog post. I leave it there because I haven’t gotten this think all figured out. I sway, I change my mind, I second guess myself, I don’t know how it all works yet, I find myself contradicting other things i believe. The question mark means I’m not sure yet. I think I’m on to something, but I’m not fully there. So comment, question, and maybe we can just find some truth together.