Jim Davies has pointed me to a post of his entitled “Christian Anarchist": An Oxymoron? To which I answer, it depends.
The word anarchist has so many meanings – and here I mean even within what would be described as the “libertarian movement” (talk about an oxymoron). One could describe the range from left to right. On the left, no hierarchies are acceptable; on the right, voluntary hierarchies are acceptable.
(As an aside: what of the involuntary hierarchy of parents to children? Perhaps one reason libertarians as libertarians have no consistent answers when it comes to this relationship.)
Davies believes that the term “Christian Anarchist” is an oxymoron. As he offers “…there are too many flat contradictions between the two world-views.”
Let’s examine his reasons for this:
The Bible presents an unmistakable hierarchy of authority, which we mortals are expected to obey. (Emphasis in original)
This is the first of five reasons offered, in many ways capturing the meat of Davies’ argument in four of the five reasons. So I will spend the most time here.
I will first get the “expected to obey” part out of the way. Yes, Christians are expected to obey God; however, what is the punishment for disobedience? It is a punishment that non-believers would find irrelevant – that punishment is hell (or separation from God for eternity or whatever description you want to give this).
What is this concern to a non-believer? None, of course. In other words, while man is expected to obey God, failure to do so comes with no “aggression” as defined by libertarians.
Now…the “hierarchy of authority” thing. This, potentially, is a real “tell”; an insight into Davies’ entire libertarian worldview. Is it not acceptable for one who rejects involuntary authority relationships (fundamentally true for all anarchists) to at the same time accept voluntary authority relationships? If this is unacceptable, then what good is anarchism if one cannot choose voluntarily to be subordinate to another?
Davies, where are you on this? Because you either embrace the position that anarchists will aggress to stop others from voluntarily subordinating to others or you must embrace that an anarchist can also be a Christian. I don’t care which you embrace, but I see no third option.
Or maybe you just threaten to withhold the term “anarchist” from people such as this. To that, I say, it doesn’t really matter what you think. Because if you aren’t threatening such as these with force, then your view on the applicability of the term doesn’t really matter either way.
In any case, any worldview that disallows all hierarchies is a doomed worldview. Let’s hope this is not Davies’ worldview.
On to the second reason:
Christianity--and religion generally--demands that adherents worship; that is, that they humble themselves before a super-being, whether invisible or made of stone.
My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists? Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the non-aggressive behavior of believing anarchists?
Anarchism is logically derived from the most primitive of premises: that I exist, and that my life is mine--premises so basic, they are axiomatic.
My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists? Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the beliefs of believing anarchists? Is it not acceptable for an anarchist to give his life to God? What do you care where and how another anarchist spends his life – as long as he isn’t aggressing against you? What kind of anarchists are you? The bomb-throwing kind?
The two have opposing ethical standards. … The highest standard of virtue in Christianity is "to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13) and its entire emphasis is on service to others, a sacrifice of self. In contrast, the anarchist's basis for ethics is his own wellbeing; whatever serves the interests of his own life is good--and what damages those interests is bad.
Before getting to my primary objection, consider the statement from Davies: “…whatever serves the interests of his own life is good--and what damages those interests is bad.” Let’s hope it is implicit in this statement is some concept of “consistent with the non-aggression principle.” Else, Davies really is the bomb-throwing kind of anarchist.
My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists? Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the non-aggressive actions of believing anarchists? Is it not acceptable for an anarchist to give his life in service – even defense – of another?
Now, I know what you all are thinking about now – why is bionic being so repetitive? Well, I think to make a point: it seems clear that Davies is on the far left side of the spectrum when it comes to anarchism – and anyone who voluntarily accepts hierarchical relationships or acts in service to another by definition cannot be an anarchist. Again, his views are neither here nor there to me – except that he will never find liberty on that road.
Now, for his final reason:
Christians actively support the institution of government as directed in Romans 13, noted above. This happens now, and it has happened for 20 centuries.
This must be taken apart: first, for the “20 centuries” part. I think Christians in the first three or four of those centuries would strongly disagree with Davies.
Now for the Romans 13 part. Davies has a point: many Christian today both support this interpretation of Romans 13 and support government. They are, of course, wrong – hence a big reason why I am critical of much of what passes for Christianity today.
Augustine was perhaps the first to offer such an interpretation of Romans 13. Gerard Casey does a good job of taking this position apart – suggesting that there are far too many irregularities in the translation of this passage and far too many counter-examples in the Bible to take this one (wrongly translated) passage as authoritative. I will not repeat Casey’s arguments here.
Returning to Davies:
“…can one with intellectual consistency embrace both individual freedom and Christianity?”
I don’t believe one can, with intellectual consistency, embrace both individual freedom (as defined by many libertarian anarchists, especially on the left) and liberty. As I mentioned previously: I have written dozens - maybe hundreds - of posts that have brought me to this view, but I have never really summarized these. The best I have seen do this is offered by Hoppe and Ajamian (and these should be read in this order).
For reasons both theoretical and practical therefore, there's no melding of freedom and religion, and "Christian Anarchist" is, unfortunately, a nonexistent species, a hopeless oxymoron. If you, dear Reader, presently have a foot in both camps, it's decision time; pick one thing or the other.
Or else what? Are you suggesting that an anarchist cannot be religious – more specifically, Christian? What if this is how an anarchist chooses to exercise his freedom? We know the answer; we know where this road ends – the same place all left-libertarian / left-anarchist roads end: with a bullet in the head.
Davies insists that man must give up religion for anarchy to prevail. Setting aside the delectable multiple interpretations of this phrase (depending on your definition of the terms), what Davies is admitting is that he holds no hope for his version of anarchist philosophy to prevail. Religion has always and everywhere existed in man – and always will. Anyone aiming for liberty that does not recognize this and incorporate it into his worldview is wasting his energy.
Religion even exists in Davies own approach to reaching his anarchist world. Davies offers (in the comments): "The way to bring about a zero-government society is, rather, to persuade everyone not to work for government.” When I ask “How,” he replies: “It's really quite easy; find one person willing to learn, and teach him. Provide a libertarian education. Then get him to do the same, and do it once a year.”
Religious conversion. This is Davies’ plan. As offered by ATL in the same comment thread:
Given that we currently live under a massive state apparatus, if more and more good people check out of politics (voting, campaigning, running for office, etc.), aren't we just relegating the tools of the state to people that will be more and more likely to destroy liberty and increase tyranny?
Yes. The only people (if any) that will be convinced to leave government are the ones with some sense of a moral compass; “moral” as is basically understood in the Gospel – in other words, those who generally hold to a Christian ethic. Those without this moral compass will gladly fill the void.
This presents a real problem for Davies.