Society & Politics

A Dash of Cold Water for Christian Anarchism


John G. Stackhouse Jr.

As John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” There are, however, plenty of men and women who are dissatisfied with the island of which they find themselves a part—and so they should be. The societies in which we find ourselves are all at least a little bit fallen. What role should we play, then, as part of these fallen islands? In this article for Geez Magazine’s “Worship and Anarchy” issue, John Stackhouse writes against the option of anarchism.

Stackhouse begins by identifying the appeal of the anarchist position including the “raging frustration” one feels at the injustice of the system, and the “sense of righteousness” one garners from actually taking a position of opposition to that system. Indeed, there’s much about the story of Jesus—as he takes a small handful of disciples and begins a revolutionary movement—that might lead one to anarchism.

In response to this appealing situation, Stackhouse responds with his characteristic dose of cold-water-realism arguing that (a) “We aren’t Jesus” and (b) “living just like Jesus doesn’t get done what Jesus wants done.” As such, our different situation and our different calling require us to act differently. Stackhouse then moves on to look at different exemplars put forward by proponents of Christian anarchism, placing them in their wider historical context and weighing up the difference they made. As an alternative Stackhouse argues that instead of distancing ourselves from the system, we should work towards redeeming the system—getting our hands dirty in the very midst of it.

Are there any situations which you think might justify Christian anarchism?

What political lessons should we take from the life of Jesus?

Source: Geez Magazine

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