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can a catholic/christian be an anarchist?

0 votes
asked Apr 29, 2016 by anonymous
i don't get the point of these type of  "to be, or not to be" questions.

people label themselves, and then other people agree with or dispute the labels. and?
ba@, i catch your drift but i can't help but sensing a case of 'half-right' here, since people have a strong tendency to label others too particularly when they don't like them.
i'm with you on that, ba@.

despite the fact that i do engage in those questions at times.

af, not sure i follow you with "half-right"? though i definitely agree with the last part of your sentence.
funky@, i just see/hear people label others whether or not the latter desire that label. very, if not most, often as a pejorative. but yes, even a lighthearted, playful, use of 'right/wrong' perpetuates the engagement of that type of thinking...
af - agreed.

4 Answers

+1 vote
yes. to name two, dorothy day & leo tolstoy

most anarchists reject religion, as classical european anarchism developed in a time of science-ism, when rationality and science were seen as the answer to humanity's ills (and anarchism was supposed to be eminently rational). the Church (of whatever christian denomination) is of course a common example of political corruption (among other things), and so there were plenty of practical reasons to be anti-Church. the reason to be against God (or god[s]) could be either because people acting in the name of g/God will always have (or develop) a kind of self-righteousness that is antithetical to what folks see as anarchy, and/or because the idea of a g/God outside of ourselves seems inherently hierarchical, teaches people to submit to earthly forces. But there are religious folks, including some christians, who believe that we are all god, or all have god inside us, and so their practice is one that refers to doing as they think right, sometimes in strong conflict with what is expected of them, in a way that at least looks like what anyone would call anarchist resistance.

also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism_and_religion
answered Apr 29, 2016 by dot (50,790 points)
+5 votes

i do not think someone that has religious faith - the unquestioning belief in a higher power - can have an authentic desire for anarchy in their own life. i simply can't see it.

i think it is possible that they could hold some views that might be considered anarchistic.

moralism, which is foundational to any religion i am aware of (and surely of all forms of christianity), is an ideology that i do not think can be reconciled with anarchy. at least any anarchy i am interested in.

so my answer is no.

answered Apr 29, 2016 by funkyanarchy (10,260 points)
it's interesting. i answered the way that i did for a variety of reasons (although i have stated elsewhere my undying hatred of christianity) because i'm in the mood to agree that anarchy is what one does, not what one is. if christians challenge the church, challenge the state, challenge each other and themselves in the name of allowing/forming a world that i would enjoy, then isn't it a judgment of their thoughts to call them not anarchist? doesn't that go against the idea that anarchy is an action, not an ideology? obviously this is pretty impossible to argue in the abstract, since it's so easy to distrust christian tendencies as being inherently oppressive/moralistic, etc. and any individual we choose as an example for argument will be prone to the inconsistencies that we all have.

there is my argument for my answer. consider my yes an acknowledgement of the awesome (in the original sense of the word) human capacity for paradox. :)

i do not discount your point, dot. i don't even really disagree with it, particular as worded in this comment above.

i definitely agree that "anarchist" is most useful as a descriptor (adjective), rather than an identity (noun/label). not your words, i know, but i think the idea is the same, or at least very similar. so perhaps my answer is not directly addressing the question, as it is worded. 

and like i said, i think it is possible they could act - or even think - in anarchist ways. but a desire for an overall life of anarchy (as i desire it)? hard to imagine.

"if christians challenge the church, challenge the state, challenge each other and themselves... "

if they are not challenging their belief/faith, then... again, hard to imagine.

but i guess a key point is this: intent cannot be ignored. anyone can act in ways that are (or appear to be) anarchistic. from capitalists to fascists to religionists of all stripes, folks do in fact behave, in some situations, in anarchistic ways. but where does that behavior come from, and what are they really trying to accomplish? in the case of a religious person, i suspect they would often be doing so out of moralism, or charity, or some other laws/rules that come out of their faith. just as with a capitalist, i would be highly suspicious of their motives.

the fact is i may have real affinity with their anarchistic behavior, and even to some extent with the person themselves. but ultimately, my affinity with them as an individual would be influenced hugely by what i see as their overall objectives and motivations. and i find it quite difficult to envision a truly religious individual truly desiring the kind of anarchistic world that i desire.

bottom line: i don't really give a shit who calls themselves anarchist. i will choose to associate with those i find it most enjoyable to associate with. that is unlikely to be anyone that identifies with christianity (or any other religious dogma). but that doesn't mean i won't appreciate what some religionist does in some situations; or even, in some cases, choose to associate with them in some meaningful way. i try my best not to be dogmatic. but no doubt i sometimes fail at that.

if i look at the original question as it is worded, and i leave aside all the nuance that dot and i have been dancing around, and i take the terms "anarchist" and "christian" as identities/nouns (as i think the question intends them), my response would be:

a christian, as i understand it, is one who faithfully accepts jesus christ as their lord and savior.

an anarchist, as i understand it, is one who - at a bare minimum - rejects all forms of institutional hierarchy and authority.

there is a definitional - and to me, irreconcilable - disconnect there.

not a nuanced response, but i think it does directly address the question.
Part of the problem with your answer as I see it is that you have a very different understanding of Christianity and religion in general than many Christians and certainly many or most Christian anarchists.

Moralism is not the foundation of all religions. Antinomianism (that is, the rejection of moral law) is present in most religions. Certainly Christianity (eg. The Ranters, Brethren of the Free Spirit), Islam (there have historically been many antinomian dervish orders), Judaism, and I think Buddhism and Taoism too.

Many Christians do not accept Jesus as their lord and savior, or even as a historically existing enitity (Unitarians for instance, or many Quakers). Christians don't even necessarily believe in God (eg death of god theology).

Some christian anarchists certainly look something like what you have described. The Catholic Worker Movement has often more or less accepted the authority of Catholic church hierarchy, but not always.

ac,yes, there are little known and irrelevant schisms w/in christianity, but the question indicated catholicism in particular and by implication 'mainstream' christians. i, for one, have *never* interacted with a christian who didn't believe in god/higher power and maybe once or twice simply saw jesus as a man rather than savior/son of god.

however, i have about as much interest in theological minutiae as i do trying to keep up with the plethora of gender i.d. tags: not much. (good thing i don't live in the bay area i guess). and it seems to me that these debates and contemporary 'radical' christianities have the so-called secular state to thank for being tolerated and perhaps even their very existence. 

af said much of what i would.

i can appreciate your (ac) knowledge of the "radical" fringe cases, but their existence doesn't change my perspective. 

and to this:

"... you have a very different understanding of Christianity and religion in general than many Christians and certainly many or most Christian anarchists."

absolutely. in fact i would say my understanding is different from every christian. that is kind of the focal point.

edit: 

i understand the actual definition of "christian" to be: 

one who accepts the teachings of jesus christ

does that not require placing the christ figure (whether savior, god, or plain old human being) as a higher power?

+3 votes
I'm giving my original answer-turned-comment a re-makeover.

No. I don't see how a Catholic/Christian can be an anarchist. They may have some anarchic views I guess, and even do some anarchic stuff, but it seems to me that there must some presumed separation between 'this world' and 'the beyond' for this to jibe. Anarchy only fits for us mortals, of course, in the *former*, lesser world and then, only to a degree by decree, and in the *latter* only for Gawd prior to creation.

(I say this as one who uses the word 'anarchy' in the sense of movement, flux, process, becoming rather than a future 'state' of being.)

According to the mythology, Gawd is Bawss of both worlds, so the parameters of anarchy are set in stone tablets for us to follow, and following doesn't seem all that anarchic to me, especially when the choices are pared (or is that paired?) down to yes/no's like; follow or roast for eternity. IMO, fear simply isn't fertile ground for lives to flower forth in joy, beauty, and gratitude for this immediate moment. Fear promotes more misery.

Also, it seems to me that religion has always been a cohort of the State by way of normalizing hierarchical, dominating relationships while at the same time providing salve to cope with the very shitty circumstances it provides apologia for...AKA, morality. In sum: a state of consciousness in favor of, and protecting, the State of enforced conditions.

How one reconciles the flux and uncertainties of anarchy with a cosmic pyramid-scheme of lawn-order seems to involve some spectacular hermeneutical gymnastics in order to not anger the Queso Grande...but I'm all ears.

edit for clarity
answered Apr 30, 2016 by AmorFati (7,780 points)
edited May 1, 2016 by AmorFati
"the Queso Grande"

that alone deserves an upvote!
thanks funky@! glad you enjoyed it.
–3 votes
No.
answered Aug 13, 2016 by Syrphant (570 points)
say more about that.
To say that one is a "Christian" is to say that -- at the very, very least -- one litterally believes that a god-man with power over the life and death of all humans is alive today, watching us, and will reward those who follow his instructions.

Some people strain very hard to stretch this out, make it all allegory and symbolism. I used to do that. It can be very useful if membership in this club is required for full participation in a local community (or for avoiding persecution!) So we tend to say, "I'm a Christian, I just don't believe that Jesus litterally existed and litterally was resurrected, and litterally watches over us and intervenes in our lives....etc. etc."  At some point, you have to say, "....so I guess I'm not really a Christian after all."

It is as if I were to say "I'm a Communist, I just have my own interpretation of the idea of the commune, and understand it as a metaphor for the individual...."

The words then have no meaning, and might as well be dropped from usage.  Sure, I was raised Christian, and I have definitely absorbed many Christian values, and I have a profound respect for the Bible as an amazing work of philosophy full of many truths and much good advice.  To say I'm a Christian today would be to rob that club of its name.

Why are anarchism and christianity mutually exclusive beliefs? Anarchism has many diverse strains, but all anarchist thought must ultimately lead to a whole-hearted condemnation of the right of any being to enjoy arbitrary power over the life-and-death (much less access to good and bad afterlife!) of any other being.
By the way, my very concise answer "No" was made with a wink to AmorFati who teased me about spilling words.

To avoid any further misunderstanding by AmorFati or others: I make statements as propositions to be challenged; I do not aim to recruit anyone to a new-age sect or anything. I believe what I'm saying, but I recognize the imperfections of my senses and faculties. I'll happily change my mind if I discover I'm wrong about something.

For example, I don't know if there are any anarchist strains that would not agree with the last sentence of my answer above. Is it possible that some anarchists would recognize the right of one being to enjoy arbitrary power over the life and death of another being? If so, that would blow away my answer.

"To say that one is a "Christian" is to say that -- at the very, very least -- one litterally believes that a god-man with power over the life and death of all humans is alive today, watching us, and will reward those who follow his instructions." 

True. 

"Some people strain very hard to stretch this out, make it all allegory and symbolism. I used to do that. It can be very useful if membership in this club is required for full participation in a local community (or for avoiding persecution!) So we tend to say, "I'm a Christian, I just don't believe that Jesus litterally existed and litterally was resurrected, and litterally watches over us and intervenes in our lives....etc. etc."  At some point, you have to say, "....so I guess I'm not really a Christian after all.""

Most don't but some do. You don't need to believe this is all symbolism to be christian and anarchist.

"The words then have no meaning, and might as well be dropped from usage.  Sure, I was raised Christian, and I have definitely absorbed many Christian values, and I have a profound respect for the Bible as an amazing work of philosophy full of many truths and much good advice.  To say I'm a Christian today would be to rob that club of its name."

There is different interpretations within Christianity, nevertheless, together they all identify as Christians.

"Why are anarchism and christianity mutually exclusive beliefs? Anarchism has many diverse strains, but all anarchist thought must ultimately lead to a whole-hearted condemnation of the right of any being to enjoy arbitrary power over the life-and-death (much less access to good and bad afterlife!) of any other being."

God's existence does not make Christianity inconsistent with anarchism. Anarchism is based on organization of society without a state and with voluntary institutions. This is "human" organization, God is irrelevant at this point. God simply doesn't interfere in the way rulers do. So, yes, you can be a Christian and advocate for anarchism. 

so a ruler that is not human is ok with your anarchism? it's all about the species? wow.

Zer0: "God simply doesn't interfere in the way rulers do."

but what about all those outcomes of sporting events?

Anarchism is a way to organize society. It is irrelevant with your religious beliefs.

funkyanarchy,

"so a ruler that is not human is ok with your anarchism? it's all about the species? wow."

Did you know that anarchism is about human organization? lol.

Did you know people in stateless societies can still hold religious beliefs?

Your humiliation attempt failed. 

Anarchism is not merely the state of Statelessness. A putatively anarchist religion must abjure all hierarchies, which buts extreme limits on the sorts of ideas that can be present in an anarchist's religion and how they can relate to those ideas.

As to Christians in specific, I have an answer to this which I'll post up eventually, but which goes like this "Sometimes, rarely, a Christian can be an anarchist."
zer0, i believe you said that god is not human, and so it is ok for an anarchist to have a god. a believer in god clearly has a relationship with a non-human, and you say that makes it irrelevant to being an anarchist. so would you allow a wild animal or a cyborg to dominate you (or you dominate them), and say that is ok for an anarchist?

i call bullshit.
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