article published in Catapult

My article, “Anarchism and Hope“, has just been published in Catapult Magazine, a bi-weekly online publication that’s been creating themed issues for over 5 years with a goal of creating community around holistic Christian faith practice. The current issue theme is “Hope and Cynicism“, and was inspired by the Cynicism and Hope conference at which I presented in early November.

I will probably be writing more for the magazine in the future, and if so I’ll mention it here as well.

A thought about anarchism and Christianity

I’ve been accused before of being “too anarchist, and not Christian enough” by some folks… and “too Christian, and not anarchist enough” by others. I’m not sure there’s much I can say to the latter, other than to reiterate that I believe the most radical act one can commit is that of dedicating one’s self to following Jesus and truly trying to manifest with one’s own life and in one’s community the truth Jesus (who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen) embodied and continues to inspire. It is precisely because I follow Jesus that I believe radical things, things about the world and about human nature, which includes things that force me to abandon certain ideas some (but certainly not all) of my fellow radicals hold, particularly relating to the nature of romantic/sexual relationships – and I actually believe my ideas on the matter are more radical, though that’s a subject for a whole different post.

To the former I often have to say something like this: why do you seek out the speck in my eye, and ignore the plank in your own? I view anarchism substantially the same way as I do most any other political ideology, whether it be Democratic, Republican, Socialist, Green, and so on (probably excluding ideas like fascism and monarchism, though I don’t think too many people seriously entertain such ideas today, not counting the Republican fascisti, who by no means represent all Republicans). That is to say, I seek to understand the foundations for the ideology, its expressions and nuances, and its implications alongside a view of the world that seeks to see things in relation to the Bible, shaped by the history of interpretation within the church and the traditions of the church. It’s the same way I try to view culture, economics, philosophy, history, and every other aspect of my life.

I think there are two major reasons why the “too anarchist; not Christian enough crowd” has a difficult time with my anarchism. The first is that anarchism is pretty much off the table as an option in mainstream society, especially “polite Christian society”. For many reasons, the average person probably uncritically holds to several misconceptions about anarchy. This may be through no fault of her/his own, but the misperceptions tend to reinforce a notion of anarchism as being so “out there” as to be untenable for a “reasonable person”. The anarchist is so radically other as to certainly be dangerous, and quite possible morally deviant. The second is that anarchy is mistakenly believed to go against Biblical principles of obedience to authority, which is perhaps more than anything else due to our mis-reading of the Bible through the lens of over 1500 years of Constantinian Christendom. I have written about this mis-reading before and will continue to do so, hopefully in a more systematic fashion at some point, but suffice it to say for now I believe this understanding is highly mistaken.

So, dear reader, what would you say? Am I not Christian enough? Not anarchist enough? Truth to tell, if you asked me I’d probably say I am enough of neither.

Raising the dead

“Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works.” — Robert Farrar Capon

Quote courtesy of the fine people at Boar’s Head Tavern

New look!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’re an old reader, I’ve made some substantial changes to the site look – most notably the template change and banner image.

I’ve also added several more links to the sidebar, including splitting the media section into blog and site categories and expanding several sections, particularly the equality links, consumer culture, politik sites, creation care, adding a few resistance and corporate watch sites, and starting new sections on peace, justice, and economics. The peace section consists largely of sites related to conscientious objection though I plan to add more general anti-war links. Justice mainly has to do with critiques of the prison system, though I intend to add critical links for other aspects of the “criminal justice” system as well. Economics has a lot of links to Z sub-pages with a few other odds and ends, though hopefully I’ll be able to expand it also – including links that provide more rounded criticism of capitalism and even discussion of some positive aspects of it.

I will hopefully also add links about alternative education, deschooling, and related topics in the future, as well as any other topic that seems important to discuss. Eventually I hope to have a pretty nice compilation of links on various topics related to public and social issues, as well as resources to help discuss these matters in relation to faith and discipleship.

I hope you find the linked resources as helpful and stimulating as I am!

Ellul works available for download

If you check the Ellul page, you will see instructions on how to access and share the files containing a number of works by French sociologist and theologian Jacques Ellul. These works are not currently in print and there are no plans to put them back into print, though if I find out there are plans to put them back into print I will remove them from the site – I believe these writings are very important to help Christians understand the world we live in and some of the developments that have led to our current cultural and political situations, so we must find ways to keep them available if they’re not in print.

Of course, several of Ellul’s works are still in print, and I urge you to look them up as well. I especially recommend The Technological Society and Anarchy and Christianity.

Green consumerism? A short video

N.T. Wright on academic vs. ministerial postings

I can identify with this an awful lot – Wright really speaks to my heart on this one. I have the exact same dilemma.

Trevin Wax: Why is it that you have never pursued exclusively an academic post? Why have you chosen to remain so connected to the local church?

N.T. Wright: It’s a good question. When I was at seminary in my early twenties, one of my teachers said to me, “You’re going to have to decide. Either you’re going to be an academic or you’re going to be a pastor. You can’t be both.” I remember thinking, Rats! I want to be both! Why are you telling me I can’t do these two things?And so I have kind of oscillated to and always wanted to do both.

It’s partly that I’m an extrovert and that I like being with people. If you shut me up in a library with nothing else around for weeks on end, I’d go mad! I have to sort of go out… and…

When I’ve had sabbatical time when I’ve really had the whole of sort of three months to organize entirely as I want, I could stay in the library or at the desk all the time, but by the middle of the day, I’ll find myself wandering downtown and going and sitting in a café with a notebook just to get the buzz of some people. So I’m a people person. I like being with people. So I like being a teacher, and so on.

For me, actually, being a bishop in a bishopric where there’s an academic tradition (going back to people like Lightfoot and Westcott and so on) gives me this fascinating, challenging, but open invitation to say, “We want you to be a scholar. We want you to go on doing this. But do it as a bishop!” And looking back to the earlier centuries of the church, most of the great teachers were also bishops and vice versa. It’s only fairly recently that the church has had this great divide.

Of course, that means that there’s lots of stuff that I can’t do. I don’t do much book-reviewing, for instance, which ordinary scholars do quite a bit. I’ve just had to say to myself, I haven’t got time to do that. And I miss that. I should be doing that, but I’m not. So, it’s a choice.

In terms of personality type… I don’t know if you know the Eneogram and that sort of thing, but on the Eneogram, I’m a number 7. One of the images for number 7 is the butterfly – the little creature that hops from plant to plant because it’s so fascinated by this one, and then it’s so excited by that one, and then it really likes that one too. And that’s very much who I am.

From Trevin Wax’s interview with Wright.