Breaking a window is violence?

Hitting someone with a club is violence. Funding projects that destroy local economies and ecosystems is violence. Displacing millions of people in order to ravage the countryside to extract resources and build useless consumer products is violence. Denying refugees right of return and bombing their villages when they defy the injustice is violence. Creating social structures that systematically stifle free expression and the ability to peacefully promote legitimate alternative points of view is violence. Maintaining an economic order in which the only way to hold off collapse is perpetual growth at the expense of a finite resource base, which cannibalizes itself in order to produce growth that is mostly based on the creation of new debt to finance paying off the old debt, while blaming people who bought into the system because they believed what it promised them for its failure is violence.

Breaking a window is a symbol of the shattered illusions of people who are sick and tired, and don’t want to take it anymore. Breaking a window is a message to the monsters whose livelihood depends on murder, displacement, and ecocide that the game is up and the ones who got us into this mess have forfeited their moral authority to be the ones who define a “new world order”. Breaking a window is liberation, a sign of life, not violence that destroys it.

Whether or not it’s tactically a good idea in circumstances such as the G-20 demonstrations is another matter entirely.

In response to this blog.


The opposite of “liberal”

The opposite of “liberal” is not “conservative”. It’s “authoritarian”.

Likewise, the opposite of “conservative” is “radical”.

Continued opposition of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in the public discourse is likely a carryover from 19th century British politics, where the major parties were the Liberal and Conservative parties, but what we call political “liberalism” and “conservatism” in the common parlance today are both rooted in classic liberalism. “Liberal” comes from the Latin liber, which means “free”, which is the term that came to distinguish modern philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Jefferson.

In that sense, anarchism can potentially be seen as a “liberal” philosophy.

Think on that before you denounce someone as too “liberal” or “conservative”.


Romans 13:4 and irony

Romans 13 is often invoked (usually somewhat unthinkingly) as an objection to my ideas about Christian political engagement. The argument goes, as best as I can reproduce it here very simply, that Paul says we should submit to authority, the government is here for our own good, and we owe them certain things by virtue of the simple fact that they exist.

Each of these are highly questionable points, though I am not now going to systematically examine them or the passage in full. For now let me just examine two points of irony, one involving how the text is often invoked (at least in the United States), and one having to do with the text itself.

The first point of irony is that Americans who invoke Romans 13 as God’s blessing on the US government are justifying the results of a revolution approximately 230 years ago, while using the passage to delegitimate the principle of revolution. The same people who invoke Romans 13 generally (though not always) tend to be the sort of people who see the US as a blessed nation and some kind of agent of God’s work in the world. This is mildly ironic.

The second, more serious for our general purpose here, is that Paul himself makes reference to Roman propaganda in such a way as to cast the pallor of irony against all his seeming exhortations of the state as God’s servant and agents of good. Nero’s teacher, Seneca, wrote a letter to Nero called On Clemency (De Clementia) in which he says Nero can claim for himself the statement “with me the sword is hidden, nay, is sheathed.” Paul specifically refers to the ruler’s wielding of the sword – it certainly is not sheathed! This subversion of Roman proclamations of the Caesar as a ruler of peace casts irony on the passage as a whole, as one can imagine the ancient Roman Christian reader nodding along with the passage in realization that this is exactly how the establishment presents itself, though all know it is at least stretching the truth. Paul’s subtle twisting of the official party line undermines, not reinforces, the legitimacy of the governing authorities.

Reading these statements as irony makes perfect sense if one reads Romans 13 as a continuation of the line of argument found at the end of Romans 12, not as its own independent section, thus making the injunction to “be subject to the governing authorities” an example of how to love one’s enemy, not as an independent command without reference to literary context. Indeed, given the demonstrably subversive nature of Paul’s Gospel, it could hardly be otherwise. This is not the only time Paul’s letters make subversive reference to Roman propaganda (for one particularly potent example, see Colossians 1:15-20).

I’ve had a more comprehensive treatment of Romans 13 brewing in the back of my head for some time, but haven’t had time to put it together. Hopefully this post will help me consolidate my thinking and move me towards making the effort. My contention is that Romans 13 fits exactly within the Christarchy framework, and not at all into a collaborationist/correlationist system. I shall make this argument more fully in the future. Until then… Shalom!

Notes from my Cornerstone seminar

I promised these over a week ago when I was still in Chicago, and haven’t yet got around to it – so here they are, the notes from my seminar, “Sacred Anarchy: The Image of God and Political (Dis)Order”, given on Saturday at Cornerstone.

Sacred Anarchy: The Image of God and Political (Dis)Order

The section on Genesis doesn’t have much in it, because I’ve done that part so many times at different sessions that I pretty much have it memorized, but if you’re not familiar with my reading of Genesis you might want to download my zine which is in the post immediately below this one.

Cornerstone seminar

The Cornerstone seminar went really well. The title of my session was “Sacred Anarchy: The Image of God and Political (Dis)Order”. I focused on Wink’s formulation of the Myth of Redemptive Violence, focused on Genesis as subversive to the Myth, and then took a trip through modern political philosophy to demonstrate how the modern state and most of our current modes of social, political, and economic discourse are based on the Myth. Then I presented an introduction to anarchism and discussed the anti-imperial proclamation of Jesus in the first century AD, with a call to the church to hear the Gospel as the news that Christ’s coming is the beginning of God’s return to his people, bringing the kingdom and God’s reign of peace and justice through the breaking of cosmic systems of evil, injustice, sin both systemic and individual, and through the healing of hearts and of creation, and that the inbreaking of this reign of peace and justice must inevitably be at odds with systems that are based on the Myth of Redemptive Violence. My hope is that the church will begin to catch more fully the radical nature of Christ and his Way, and seek to live accordingly.

I revised my zine for the session, and I’ve uploaded it to this site. Links in past posts to the old version have been replaced with links to the new version. Also, I’m going to upload the notes from my seminar as well as my notes from the “Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination” seminar from last November. Look for them in a post in the near future.

Here’s the link to the new version of the zine: Radical Hope: Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination

“What anarchism is not”

I must tell you, first of all, what anarchism is not. It is not bombs, disorder, or chaos. It is not robbery or murder. It is not a war of each against all. It is not a return to barbarianism or to the wild state of man. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that. — Alexander Berkman

Speaking engagements and new zine

I have a couple of confirmed speaking engagements coming up and another possible one.

“Jesus and the Anarchists”
Saturday, March 22
7 pm
ASC Infoshop
600 SE 2nd St. (upstairs from Penny Lane Coffeehouse)
Evansville, Indiana

“Sacred Anarchy: The Image of God and Political (Dis)Order”
Cornerstone Festival
Underground/Alternative Subcultures tent
Date and time not yet finalized (festival is June 30-July 5)

And I might do a session at the national Food Not Bombs gathering in Nashville, Tennessee.

In addition to speaking engagements, I’ve also written a zine based on my session from the Cynicism and Hope conference in Evanston, Illinois last November, as distilled through my article from Catapult Magazine later that month. If you download it here you may freely reproduce it without royalty as long as you either give it away or sell it at cost. If you wish to reproduce it for any other reason, or to sell it above cost to help support a collective, event, or other worthy cause, contact me and I’ll work with you. I also plan to have copies available when I do talks and the like. It is a 16-page pamphlet with two pages printed on each sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper, landscape orientation. I recommend printing on both sides of the paper both to save trees and space. I hope it’s helpful for you!

Radical Hope: Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination

In other news, I did a nearly four-hour interview with Matt Dellinger of the New Yorker about I-69 and resistance for a book he’s working on. It won’t likely be out for quite some time, a couple of years at least, but if I’m still blogging at that point I’ll mention when it comes out.