Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A popular manifesto for Christian anarchism

Eleven years ago my beloved worked at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, Cymru. A colleague of hers, hearing about my specialism, shortened it to Christianarchy, which I thought a word worth keeping in mind.
In early 2000 I started the site, now closing down, with that name. After the grab of the piece of cyberspace I put the word christianarchy into the search engine (the proverbial engine at that time was for the experts only). It gave me the title of this book which I duly ordered.
It is a bit surprising to see that I kept more distance from Christian anarchism at the time of writing than later on - not much later in fact, when I became involved in the monastic rhythm of regular actions in the Spirit.
One for the silly season of summer - a review from early 2000....

An English fellow-reseacher in the field of christian anarchism expressed as his opinion to me not so long ago that the only future for Christianity lies in anarchism - and vice versa. A thesis which caused me to think hard, because it calls to commitment, nay identification with what I am researching. A writer from a most unexpected corner of Christendom nearly makes the choice attractive. Dave Andrews, who wrote Christi-Anarchy, is as far as I can see a reborn Christian, someone like Pat Robertson acts as a point of reference to him (in the negative sense, now, but that is after his new "conversion"). But his third birth looks clear, acceptable and sincere - and so the ingenious name of "Christianarchy" has been saved after being used earlier by an English neonazi whom we shall not mention.

The Australian Andrews is neither theologian nor historian, and his summing up against the fall of Christianity, as the Dutch theologian Heering calls it, sounds mainly emotional: fraud, violence, murder and manslaughter, all in the name of "the great loving anarchist from Nazareth" (as Dutch [and Jewish] christian anarcho-syndicalist S.v.d. Berg called Him). It is not all new, neither is his plea for looking for the anarchist undercurrent that Christianity has known from the beginning: it is so old that it looks new - to quote Peter Maurin. Andrews shows that he knows it is not new, but maybe because of his background he cannot make a choice in favour of Christianity because of the great names which should weigh against the vilains: does not one St. Francis outshine the murderous mob calling themselves Crusaders (certainly the Sultan thought so!); are not Jacques Ellul or Ivan Illich - yea, let us not forget this contemporary of ours! - much more important for the face of Christianity than mass murderer-cum-reborn-Christian Ríos Montt? Andrews makes a choice in favour of the small scale workings in the style of the Catholic Worker Movement, in the spirit of Christ, Whom he consistently treats as an actual historical figure.

Andrews deems the Spirit of Christ to be active in all religions, and he does not think Christianity to be the most important religion - and this humbleness might be called truly Christian indeed. Christian-anarchists of a century ago or later drew the line at Islam and the so-called Nature Religions, Andrews includes these as bearers of the Spirit of Christ, which looks fair enough. I shall forgive his mis-spelling of non-English names (Bartolomé de las Casas, Cesena etc.), his historicizing of Jesus Christ, and the s-word in his subtitle, because Andrews looks like a witness of the Spirit himself, and that is good news. Christian anarchism is a living reality, and now it has got what might be called a popular manifesto. Maybe the aforementioned English colleague is not right, but I am happy anyway that we can study something that is very much alive.

- Dave Andrews, Christi-Anarchy: discovering a radical spirituality of compassion. Oxford: Lion