An Anarchist Apology, Part 3

Question 3: How do you reconcile your Anarchy and your Christianity?

Short Answer: I believe that my Anarchy grows out of my relationship with and knowledge of God.

Long Answer: Christians and Anarchists tend to believe that their belief systems are incompatible with each other, so much so that Jacques Ellul felt that he had to write a whole book on the subject. When I tell Christians that I’m an Anarchist, one of the most common responses I get is the question of how I reconcile my Anarchy with Romans 13, as well as other passages. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, and that I will be addressing in this post (and the next few), but it has by no means only been addressed by me. I encourage you to investigate what others have said. Ellul would be a good place to start. Most of the other people I cited in my last post would be good next steps after that.

My first argument is that the Bible, in both Testaments, teaches that God is above Man, and that men do not have the right to set themselves up over other men. God is King, Lord over all, and so no one else has the right to be over anything else unless given that right by God. In the Bible, God gives that right out far less often than men usurp it. In the Bible, those who push for authority and power to be centralized with humans tend to be rejecting God.

For example, in the Old Testament, God refrained from actually setting up any human governments until thousands of years into human history. He gave Adam, Noah and Abraham rules to live by, but He did not directly set up rulers — centralization of power in a human — until later. When He did establish a way of government for Israel, He did it through choosing leaders and then raising them to power Himself, often against His leaders’ wills. Other people saw that it was because God called them to power, and chose to follow them. This is true for Moses, and it is true for the Israelite judges.

In the book of Judges, no judge is described taking the mantle of power upon himself on his own initiative. The judges are chosen by God and raised to power by Him organically: people choose to follow the judges because they see that God has chosen them, whether they realize it completely or not. This model, which was the first government that God set up, cannot be defined as any political system other than Anarchy. Some will counter that it is Theocracy, but what I have recounted in Judges does not look anything like other systems we describe as Theocracy today, such as Iran or  Afghanistan in the ’90s.

I’ll end this portion of this response (which looks like it will be a four-parter) with some brief examples, with links to greater context. God raised up Othniel to deliver Israel and His Spirit came upon him and he judged Israel. Ehud was raised up by God and the people of Israel responded when he called them, claiming that God had raised him up. (Killing the enemy king probably did a bit to confirm that in their minds.) Barak was called by God to be a judge, was reluctant, and called Israel to him. When some of Israel didn’t come to him when he called, instead of punishing them, the only recourse he seems to have had or taken was to curse and shame them. Living in an Anarchist society, Barak didn’t have the right to punish draft dodgers like a king would have. Gideon had to be assured so many times that God really did want him to lead Israel against the Midianites that he makes Cincinnatus look like Octavian in comparison. He also sent out messengers to call, not command, Israelites to come and fight under him. Jephthah was asked to lead Israel by elders from Gilead. Samson was, well, the ultimate lone wolf of a judge, who fought God’s calling from the beginning of his life almost to the end. He commanded nobody.

Next time, I’ll continue working through ways I believe that Anarchy is compatible with the teaching of the Bible.

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  1. Even if the so-called “judges” were divinely and therefore anarchically (arbitrary from the human perspective, unlawful, etc.) appointed, it still seems that this is a hierarchy. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your use of anarchy as more political than say onto-theological, but it even if judges are anarchically appointed it still seems that they *are judges*. They judge. They are in a position to judge–that is a position above other positions (those to-be-judged).

    This is further evidenced by Israel’s staunch isolationism throughout the o.t.–i.e., the punishment of interracial marriages, the constant threat/punishment of exile, etc. I find it hard to believe that an anarchist community can prefer its existence above that of another community’s–what is it that makes *this* community above *that* one if not a hierarchy (an arche)?

    Now–don’t get me wrong, I consider myself both an anarchist and a Christian, but I’m having a hard time seeing the o.t., particularly the book of Judges, as anarchic. Perhaps you are going to deal with this in a future post, but it seems that Christ is the one who destroys the arche of the o.t. by the new, the law with the spirit, the threat of exile with the destruction of all borders (no Jew, Greek, male, female, et al), the god-of-law (the god-above–father-god) with the god-on-the-cross (the god-alongside–brother-god). I just found it odd (and not terribly applicable, but perhaps I am misunderstanding) to argue for a Christian Anarchy from Judges rather than from the NT *against* Judges. That being said, I have been enjoying the posts and look forward to what you will post next.

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