God is an Anarchist
Written by Darrell Anderson.
To the typical Christian the term Christian anarchy is an oxymoron, a strange contradiction of words. Many Christians are taught to obey the statist rulers and authority. Indeed, Christians often are taught that the Bible demands obedience to political rulers. Yet, Christian anarchy is an interesting topic deserving more attention.
Further reflection, however, produces a conundrum, a contradiction, or paradox. The Bible teaches that all humans are created with a free will. Each individual is free to choose. Naturally, hardly any individual will argue that free will means absolutely no boundaries. Yet, to teach submission to political rulers even when that standing is fiat and subjective implies a loss of free will.
Further confusing this issue is an incorrect definition of the word anarchy. Many people interpret anarchy as chaos and bomb throwing, but the correct and most straightforward definition is “without rulers.”
Is the term Christian anarchy a sensible term? I believe so.
A Christian is an individual who follows the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Some people will be quick to add that a Christian is an individual who publicly declares Jesus to be Lord and Savior and that Jesus is the Son of God, and that Jesus was God manifested in the flesh. However, for the narrow focus of this discussion, I will stick to the simpler definition.
According to the Bible Jesus of Nazareth taught liberty of action. He wanted all people to be free from bondage — all bondage. During his time Jesus publicly declared the Mosaic Law to be in effect. The entire Mosaic Law can be summarized as, “Thou shalt not steal.” Jesus declared that all teachings could be summarized into, “Love God and love your neighbor.” Those two teachings can be merged into one simple principle: do not trespass.
In other words, by affirming the Mosaic Law Jesus had declared that property rights were important. Jesus taught that everybody is a creature of free will, that every individual is free to choose, but nobody can violate the boundaries of other people.
The simple meaning of those teachings is that God expects everybody to be self-governing and to be responsible for their actions. This is the essence then of Christianity. Everybody is free to choose, but do not trespass. This fundamental teaching is expressed when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray — forgive us our trespasses.
However, notice that this simple summary seems to be no different from the straightforward definition of anarchy. Anarchy means no rulers, and the foundational principle is non-aggression. Therefore, the phrase Christian anarchy is not an oxymoron, but instead is actually a redundancy.
If there is a distinction between anarchy and Christian anarchy, the focus is on the word Christian. Using the previous definitions, a Christian anarchist is an anarchist who follows the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus not only taught that his followers are creatures who are free to choose, but also must not return evil for evil.
From a pragmatic perspective, there is no difference between an anarchist and a Christian anarchist. Both people believe in non-aggression — not trespassing, self-government, and self-responsibility. At the foundational level an anarchist lives within known boundaries and chooses not to cross those boundaries. The Christian anarchist believes likewise. However, the Christian anarchist also attempts to live at a higher level of consciousness and being. The anarchist is free to do likewise, but the Christian anarchist specifically follows the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The anarchist can follow the teachings of nobody or anybody. Yet, because they both believe in the same fundamental principle with respect to other humans, both would be able to happily live next door to one another. Both people respect the other individual’s right to choose freely, voluntarily restricted by the boundary of not trespassing.
Both types of anarchists believe in using persuasion and cooperation, and not force and coercion. Basic anarchist theory allows for some people to believe that force and coercion may be used in self-defense or while enforcing restitution. This force and coercion need not be violent, however, instead using local customs and legal principles to protect property boundaries. However, some anarchists believe force and coercion never may be used. Both arguments have merit.
An anarchist might choose to use persuasion in the hopes of changing people. Similarly, many Christians believe in evangelism (although, unfortunately, that evangelism rarely includes a rejection of statism — creating a tension between the desire to use persuasion and the desire to use force and coercion).
The Christian anarchist, however, if such an individual is to live truly according to the principles attributed to Jesus, must strive for a higher calling and deeper meaning. Jesus asks his followers to forgive trespassers. To forgive a trespass first requires acknowledging that a trespass occurred. If a trespass occurred then a boundary was violated and a wrong committed. The Christian anarchist is not forbidden from seeking restitution — the Mosaic Law and reciprocal relationships expect restoration of trespasses.
By asking followers to forgive, the Christian anarchist is asked to go one step further than what is expected under the simple principle of not trespassing. What is the purpose for this extra step? Perhaps one purpose is to prevent emotional bondage.
As with the traditional anarchist, the Christian anarchist rejects the idea of bondage, as well as humans ruling other humans. Yet, bondage is a subtle enemy and often not easily recognized.
For example, debt is bondage. An individual who plays in the world of credit, debt, and borrowing endorses bondage. That bondage certainly can be voluntary, but the resulting relationships are still one of master-slave.
Often bondage is visible. The philosophy of statism — whether in the nature of dictatorship, communism, socialism, fascism, democracy, or constitutionalism — is filled with force and coercion. Bondage is the very essence of statist thinking — the willingness to live by the political means rather than the economic means.
Physically rejecting statism is impractical and almost impossible for many people. Yet, statism as a philosophy and doctrine is directly opposed not only to the concepts of anarchy, but Christianity as well. Because trespassing violates knowable boundaries, arguably an anarchist is entitled to resist in self-defense. However, the subtle distinction between an anarchist and a Christian anarchist is that the latter should not resist but merely ignore statism.
At first glance this distinction appears to be an absurdity. How does the Christian anarchist ignore statism? Ignore a property tax notice and the statists will be more than happy and willing to steal your home under the color of law. How then is the Christian anarchist to ignore statism?
Although physically ignoring or avoiding statism often is possible, the general effort is not physical but mental. Jesus provided an example. When challenged about paying the temple tax, the conversation between Jesus and Peter indicates that Jesus did not pay the tax. Yet, Jesus displayed no emotion, resistance or stress over the issue, nor did he avoid the confrontation. However, notice that according to the story Jesus paid the tax only to avoid “offending” anyone, not because he thought he had any duty to pay. In other words, Jesus paid the bribe and moved on with his life. Jesus refused to allow the controversy to become enslaving. The story implies that Jesus did not freak out and pay the tax every time some rabbi hollered, yet concurrently, Jesus paid when that option provided the path of least resistance.
To allow any emotional response to such a “trivial” issue would have been bondage and enslavement. Jesus rejected those options. Jesus refused to allow such events to interfere with his mission or purpose.
Likewise with Caesar’s tax. Jesus ignored the issue because the issue was of secondary importance to him. Indeed, Jesus’ response was, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Such an answer demonstrated where Jesus maintained his focus. He would not allow adversaries to entrap him.
The Christian anarchist then, avoids anything that distracts from living a moral life. Anything else creates opportunities for bondage. The Christian anarchist does not fight statism. The Christian anarchist ignores statism to every extent possible. An anarchist does not willingly offer statists any legitimacy, nor should the Christian anarchist do so — because statism violates the fundamental rule of not trespassing.
In those events when ignoring statism is physically impossible, the Christian anarchist opts for the least resistive path, not because statism is correct, but to make statists go away. The statist has zero legitimacy, zero standing, and both God and the Christian anarchist know this. Yet, the Christian anarchist does not fight statism because fighting usually is emotional — and such emotions tend to enslave.
The Christian anarchist realizes and accepts that each individual is self-governing and self-responsible. The Christian anarchist might offer arguments of persuasion, but will not use force and coercion to change anybody. The Christian anarchist has no responsibility or duty to legitimize the actions of other people, including statist tinhorns. The Christian anarchist avoids being enjoined by statism, thereby reducing any false pretenses statists might have to enforce their fiat laws and to regulate behavior. The Christian anarchist avoids all aspects of statism, including taxes; but pays taxes or obtains political permits when those actions offer the least path of resistance and best secures a quiet and peaceable life. The Christian anarchist realizes taxation is theft, but will not allow such processes to enslave through emotional entrapment.
Whereas the traditional anarchist might justify passively resisting statists (or perhaps actively in the act of self-defense), the Christian anarchist exercises caution such that resistance does not lead to emotional bondage. If the effort of resisting becomes enslaving then the Christian anarchist has failed to understand the teachings of Jesus.
God not only gave each individual the power of free will, but also a wide range of emotions. People can use those emotions to enrich and fulfill their lives, and to strengthen relationships with other people and God, but they also easily can enslave themselves.
The distinction then between a traditional anarchist and a Christian anarchist is the latter will not allow the actions of any individual to create bondage. Paul of Tarsus, for example, often found himself in prison. Although admitting that his body was imprisoned, Paul refused to allow his mind or spirit to be imprisoned. The Christian anarchist will avoid paying taxes and willfully supporting statism, but pays if that choice is the wiser decision to make. The Christian anarchist’s attitude is, “Here is your illegitimate bribe. Now go away and leave me alone to live a quiet and peaceable life.”
The Christian anarchist pays the bribe not as an act of obedience or conformity, but as an act of voluntary choice — an act of quiet passive acceptance. Passive acceptance is not a purposeful affirmative act that provides the trespasser legitimacy. Passive acceptance merely acknowledges that the situation is not controllable. The Christian anarchist pays the bribe not to provide statists legitimacy but merely to continue living a quiet and peaceable life. The Christian anarchist will not be emotionally enslaved by the coercive actions of other people. The Christian anarchist is truly a creature of free will.
Christian anarchy is not a resistive, rebellious, or violent anarchy. Christian anarchy is not civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is an affirmative act of publicly and purposely disobeying a known fiat statute. Christian anarchy does not care what the statists’ fiat laws declare. The Christian anarchist goes with the flow and rolls with the punches. A Christian anarchist rejects rule by other people but to affirmatively counter such attempts with positive resistance or rebellion could create internal bondage.
Statism has no legitimacy. Positive acts of resistance tend to publicly acknowledge the statists’ existence. Something that is illegitimate should be ignored, not acknowledged.
The Christian anarchist realizes that he or she lives in a world that is not totally knowable. The Christian anarchist realizes that he or she cannot control all situations, but the Christian anarchist does not respond to evil with evil, violence with violence. Although a Christian anarchist possesses the full right to restitution, the Christian anarchist seeks restitution in a quiet and peaceable manner. Whether or not the Christian anarchist receives restitution, the Christian anarchist refuses to be held in bondage to the trespasser by forgiving the trespasser.
In other words, the Christian anarchist is a “PT,” a Perpetual Traveler, a Permanent Tourist, or somebody just Passing Through. This too is what the stories about Jesus teach — to be in the world but not of the world.
In summary the term Christian anarchist is not an oxymoron but a redundancy. The Bible reveals that the only government God wants and encourages is self-government. In other words — anarchy.