Wednesday 28 November 2012

Death sentence for peace action?

Sixteen years in prison is not enough? Sister Megan Rice and her friends, all peace activists, already face 16 years in prison if convicted for a nonviolent peace action. Sister Megan, Greg Boertje-Obed, and Michael Walli went to Oak Ridge, Tennesse, to say NO to nuclear holocaust. Instead of dropping charges, the US Attorney General and the Department of Justice are considering two additional charges against this 82-year-old nun and two U.S. veterans, both sabotage charges. One carries 20 years and the other 30 years in prison. With the new charges, the defendants would face a maximum of 65 years in prison. This is the equivalent of a death sentence.

Megan, Greg, and Michael called their action "Transform Now Plowshares," and brought nothing more dangerous than flashlights, binoculars, bolt cutters, bread, flowers, a Bible, and household hammers to Oak Ridge. They hammered on the walls of a storage facility to symbolize the disarming and abolition of nuclear weapons. The real danger to society is not this nun and two veterans, but instead the facility they want to transform. This unconstitutional facility holds enough weapons grade uranium to make more than 10,000 nuclear weapons, far more than what scientists say is needed to destroy life on earth.

Please join in this petition to the Attorney General of the United States asking him to refuse to authorize additional charges: 16 years in prison for revealing the criminality and insecurity of nuclear weapons production smacks of killing the messenger for the failings of the king.

For more see here.
To contribute to this work for nuclear disarmament, click here.
To sign the petition: here.

More on the case: Woe to the empire of blood, part II and part III.

Monday 15 October 2012

Throw the money changers out of the temple

Statement read by Christianity Uncut and Occupy London women activists: St Paul’s Cathedral, 14 October 2012:

We do not wish to distress you Only to appeal to you.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We stand here as Occupiers, as women, Queers, disabled, grandmas, young, old, as women of all faiths and none in solidarity with all other groups who are marginalised by economic injustice.

Even when times are good women, along with our children, are usually those who suffer the most. In times of economic crisis our inequality is amplified but we refuse to be victims.

We will not be silent.

One year ago tomorrow, Occupy arrived on your doorstep and pitched our tents in the tradition of St Paul.

We offered you an opportunity to live out our shared truth: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

In the fight for economic justice Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but you invited them in

And instead evicted us.

Your collusion with the City of London Corporation led to our violent eviction on your doorstep.

You testified against us which acted to uphold injustice and inequality that is growing by the day.

St Paul’s Cathedral you must stand up and be counted at this great trial of history.

But you have denied us twice already.

Once when you closed your doors on us and watched on as praying Christians were dragged from the steps of St Paul’s and twice when you failed to act when we were gone.

Today we offer you a third chance. The resurrected Jesus spoke first to a woman.

He said, go to my brothers and tell them the truth. We come to you and we say, The truth is an urgent call for radical action in the Way of Christ.

There is no time left to procrastinate

This is what democracy looks like

Come and join us.
The site of Christianity Uncut
And more here and here.
The ladies participating in this action will not likely be drawing the attention and approval of Amnesty International, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the official human rights crowd.

Saturday 29 September 2012


Some readers will know that I've just been appointed as half-time parish priest and half time "Seeking Justice" Adviser for Mansfield and district Anglican Churches. Well, a new job needs  a new website.

Part of my new role will be helping people find out what skills they have or need for grass roots activism and their own liberation theology. So here's the website.

I'll still be contributing regularly to this blog, however, on more explicitly anarchic themes. Phew!

Love, peace, and anarchy,


Friday 21 September 2012

Confessions of an American anarchist: why I'm not voting in the US presidential election

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. –Emma Goldman

I had the t-shirts, the posters, the buttons. I chanted “Yes, We Can” and watched the videos. I believed in his hope. As a brand new Bachelor of History and Political Science, I wanted things to change and believed they were changing. I cast my absentee ballot, and I was there in Grant Park the night he was elected.

But the minute the crowd started chanting, “Yes, we did!” I was uneasy. What did we do? Contribute to his campaign (over $650 million)? Put signs in our front yards or slap stickers on our cars? Check a square, connect an arrow, punch a hole, press a button? Attend a rally? “Yes, we can” was supposed to be the rally cry for all Americans to work together—both parties—after the election on the incredibly difficult issues we faced as a nation. The message “yes, we did” implied that our work was done. Go to it, Mr. President. Fix it for us.

I wasn’t just disheartened by the crowd and the din. Almost a year after the election, I read an in-depth article about predator drones in Pakistan. His administration turned to impersonal, anonymous tactics that killed innocent people. The war wasn’t ending. He was bailing out corporate executives who lined their pockets with Americans’ money at Christmas time.

It started to seep in that this guy couldn’t do it. He could give inspiring speeches about hope and change, but he couldn’t end wars. He couldn’t fix the economy. If it seems like I’m heaping unfair blame upon his head, I’m not. The Republican candidate couldn’t do it either. Third party candidates couldn’t do it.  No man or woman could.

I haven’t voted since 2008, not even in two pretty huge elections in Wisconsin. It’s not political apathy; it’s the opposite. I care too much about the world to leave it in the hands of two squabbling political parties who waste more money and breath on bickering and stalemating and generally ignoring the welfare of all citizens.

But I still believe in “Yes, we can.” In fact, I believe it now more than ever, which is why I’m not voting.

My big breakthrough came with the spring. In 2010 I lived in Chicago. I often angrily stewed that the city neglected my neighborhood because it didn’t contain the right demographic or the larger-than-life attractions that allure downtown visitors. When I walked down my boulevard and spied trash accumulating beneath trees and in gutters, I muttered curses under my breath about the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

But one day, it dawned on me. Why am I depending on the city to clean up my neighborhood? My neighborhood. What kind of effort would it really take for me to get up some Saturday morning to stuff a plastic bag with the abandoned rubbish? What would it take to invite a neighbor or two to do it with me? I had given up my power and responsibility for my neighborhood to a corrupt city government.

The biggest, most positive changes we’ve seen in this world result when people organize, mobilize, and work for and demand change. Not politicians, not world leaders, not businessmen/women, not the GOP or Dems. People—of all faiths and creeds and nationalities and genders and races and walks of life. The Labor Movement. The Civil Rights Movement. India’s fight for independence. The end of Apartheid.

Governments in almost every case have been the cause of pain and strife. They have organized hate and crime through wars, promoted racism and prejudice through unjust laws and courts, abused power to reward special interests, institutionalized poverty and created dependency on corporations.

Four years ago I elected someone I thought might stop the cycle. I learned that “electoral success… pacifies.” Suffrage has merely been granted to our forebears to pacify them continuously. Many men who fought in the Revolutionary War were ineligible to vote in the new Republic’s first elections (only property owners had the right). Black men and women built this country for 246 years without ever getting to choose who wrote the laws that enslaved them. Women of all races worked side-by-side with their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to build this country and then gave them up to war when asked to do so, but they waited 143 years for the right to choose policy makers. Even after winning suffrage, many black Americans faced prejudice at the polls that prevented their rightful vote. So while I appreciate the people in the past who fought for my suffrage, I also acknowledge how ridiculous it is that anyone ever had to fight for suffrage, to beg for the government to throw them a bone.

Yes, I appreciate the men and women who fought for my right to vote. They fought for a right to choose who ruled because they believed their vote could make a difference. I've learned enough to know that my vote won’t make any difference. My vote instead endorses a system that has allowed obstructions to liberty; a system that gives me only two choices and two parties, neither of which I agree with, neither of which is actually doing anything to promote the well-being of the average American; a government that constantly violates the human rights it helped to craft, around the world and within its own borders; a government that will only continue to covet power, whether run by the left or the right, at mine and my neighbors’ expenses; a government that will continue to wage wars in the name of lofty ideological goals that it constantly contradicts; a government that will always only pay lip service (if any service at all) to correcting and acknowledging the historical evils it has inflicted for the past 236 years.

No, I won’t be voting in 2012, nor will I likely vote in 2014, 2016, 2018…. My time, energy, and money could be spent in such better ways, working for and enacting change that I actually CAN believe in, change that will have a far greater impact than hours spent lined up at the polls. I still believe we can “heal this nation” and “repair this world.” I just know there are better ways to do it than casting a ballot for a politician who will always disappoint. My time spent on November 6 is better spent in my neighborhood, in my community, working with my neighbors to love one another. 

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Essays in Anarchism and Religion

Call for manuscripts

Essays in Anarchism and Religion

A book to be edited by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos and Matthew Adams
and submitted to an open access academic publisher

Call for Contributors
Anarchism and religion have long had an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, many anarchists insist that religion is fundamentally incompatible with anarchism, recalling that anarchism calls for ‘no gods, no masters’, pointing to the many cases of collaboration between religious and political elites in oppressing and deluding the masses, arguing that religious belief is superstitious, and so on. On the other hand, some religious/spiritual anarchists insist that their religious/spiritual tradition cannot but lead to a rejection of the state, care for the downtrodden, and quest for a more just society – despite, indeed sometimes because of, the acceptance of a god as ‘master.’

A number of recent publications both in religious and anarchist studies have focused on religious anarchism, but consideration of their compatibility in the first place has been rarer. The aim of this edited book is to explore critically and frankly the relationship and tensions between these two notions. The collection will build on the successful stream exploring the topic convened for the Anarchist Studies Network Conference held at Loughborough University in September 2012. Authors of papers presented at the stream are invited to submit their manuscripts, but the call is also open to authors who did not attend the conference, yet wish to submit a manuscript for consideration.

Proposals are encouraged from sceptical as well as sympathetic perspectives, the aim being to foster critical discussion. In line with the panel themes at the conference, areas of focus could include: anarchist encounters with religion, anarchist Biblical studies, anarchist theology, anarchism/religion parallels, religious and anarchist philosophers/philosophy, and spiritual anarchism.

Questions that may be addressed include (but are not necessarily restricted to):
1.      Is rejection of religion (and/or spirituality) a sine qua non of anarchism?
2.      What do we mean by ‘religion’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘anarchism’ when considering their relation?
3.      What is unacceptable to anarchism about religion/spirituality, and to religion/spirituality about anarchism?
4.      Are some religious/spiritual traditions inherently more compatible with anarchism than others?
5.      Why do religious institutions tend to move away from the often radical intentions of their original prophets and founders? How does this compare to non-religious institutions?
6.      What explains differences in the reception of religious/spiritual anarchism across different contexts?
7.      To what extent can religious/spiritual anarchists’ deification of religious/spiritual notions (such as ‘God’) be compared to non-religious anarchists’ deification of secular notions (such as freedom or equality)?
8.      What role do (and can) religious/spiritual anarchists play in the wider anarchist movement, and in their wider religious/spiritual tradition?
9.      What can religion/spirituality and anarchism learn from one another’s history and ideas?
10.  Is religious/spiritual anarchism really anarchist? Is it really religious/spiritual?

Peer-Review/Publishing Details

All manuscripts will be rigorously peer-reviewed. Authors are asked to name three experts in the specific area covered  by their papers that might act as potential peer-reviewers, though the editors reserve the right to approach any expert.

Having made initial enquiries with Open Books Publishers, the intention is to submit the completed collection to OBP for peer-review (meaning that the whole book will be peer-reviewed on top of the earlier, individual, review of separate chapters).

Authors are therefore asked to adopt the referencing style preferred by OBP, which is available here. Manuscripts should not exceed 8000 words (excluding footnotes, but please restrict discursive footnotes to a minimum). Shorter manuscripts are welcome. To avoid formatting incompatibilities, please submit your manuscript in a .DOC format – other formats will be returned.

Should OBP accept the completed manuscript, authors may wish to note that they are keen for authors to addadditional digital material to their website, such as additional papers, primary texts, images or other primary resources. Authors should feel free to suggest such additional resources when submitting their manuscript for consideration.

The deadline for receipt of manuscripts is 31 December 2012. Please email your manuscript to Alexandre Christoyannopoulos at a.christoyannopoulos [at] gmail.comAny enquiries should also be sent to that address.

Friday 7 September 2012

The state as a fear machine

Keith's conclusion from several papers presented at the Anarchist Studies Network Conference given here earlier:
What I took away of most value from all of this was the idea that anarchism is not about freedom at all, since personal autonomy is really an illusion, but rather it is about a particular freedom: freedom from fear.

It is food for thought indeed. The occupation actions of main squares in especially heavily authoritarian states like Tunisia and Egypt were about the conquest of fear. We could witness the millions defying the curfew which had been in place for such a long time in Egypt. This was (and is) the anarchist side of revolution in these countries, and perhaps with most of the following similar actions elsewhere.
As it goes with action, it also had the element of overcoming fear of relating to others you would not have related to without the action. Has it all calmed down now and are we witnessing the quietness of the grave, or the silence just before the outbreak of a new and bigger storm? We shall see.

"The state" was founded on fear. Franz Oppenheimer wrote it in Der Staat: the mechanism we call "state" originates in nomadic tribes vandalizing or threatening to vandalize sedentary farmers. Mob rule, literally. We will protect you from anyone running over your harvest with the hordes on horses but it comes at a price...
It is an interesting thought - the state as a neolithic (probably late neolithic) invention. I presented it in my last examination to become a political scientist - Oppenheimer is a mostly forgotten libertarian socialist who is also the brain behind the original kibbutzim-idea (which must not be associated with the founding of a state).

But reading Debt by David Graeber in between conference hours I hear that the thought is much older than from the early 20th century: Ibn Khaldun - founder of the disciplines of sociology and social anthroplogy, and also a mystic - wrote it earlier, in the 14th century A.D.
I know earlier on Czech sociologist Ernest Gellner stressed the importance of Ibn Khaldun's thought and the anarchist consequences of it.

The state as a mechanism based on fear - fear of "the others" who are coming to destroy your livelihood, fear of "chaos". If the state is based on fear which has to be shielded off at the cost of the fearful themselves then it is really sure: anarchism is about overcoming fear.
A fascinating new look at the old -ism.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Reflections on #AnarchistStudies Conference

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear (1 John 4: 18)
The Anarchist Studies Network held their second conference this week. Although I had to miss all the afternoon sessions it was great to be a part of the event and to know that there are so many activists and academics interested in working out the implications of anarchist thought in new contexts.

I decided to stick with the Religious Anarchism stream throughout, partly because of a lack of time to explore the others. I'm glad I did though as it was interesting to see trends emerge and stick throughout. The most obvious is the almost ubiquitous references to Mikhail Bakunin in almost every paper in this stream.

Bakunin was yet another Russian prince turned anarchist, but unlike Kropotkin, the 'gentle anarchist' Bakunin was most likely to be found in the thick of the action of protest and resistance in varoius places around Europe. Both found themselves locked up at one time or another for their actions and views.

Bakunin begin academic life as a theologian but is most famous for coining the phrase, "No Gods, No Masters" that has become something of an anarchist credo. Despite this antipathy to religion it seemed the overwhelming view of contributors to the Religious Anarchism stream that Bakunin had much in common with religious anarchist perspectives. I know!

There was a real mix of content and style at the conference - some very carefully referenced or nuanced, others a little more like apologetics than anything else, but there was a real openness to scruting from all the contributors I saw and a desire to learn from one another.

What I took away of most value from all of this was the idea that anarchism is not about freedom at all, since personal autonomy is really an illusion, but rather it is about a particular freedom: freedom from fear.

It is freedom from fear that allows us to choose the constraints, socially, lingusitically, philosophically, in which we choose to live our lives in relation to the rest of material and spiritual reality.

So the words I want to reflect on as my walking prayer this week:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.(1 John 4: 18).

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Allegiance to the Queen and the Rejection of God

Eddie Izzard: A True British Queen to be proud of? 
I was gently challenged over lunch at the Anarchist conference to share my thoughts on how I can, without crossing my fingers, affirm an oath of allegiance to the Queen, "her heirs and successors" and continue to write, think, and act on anarchist ideas. 

So here goes. 

I first swore allegiance to the Queen on my ordination as deacon in the Church of England. However, every time an Anglican priest is given a new license, in other words appointed to a new role, the oath is renewed. I can only assume that the Queen doesn't think we really mean it. Ahem, perish the thought! 

This evening I'll be licensed as "Pioneer Associate Minister" at St Mark's Mansfield, and as Deanery Adviser on Seeking Justice. At the service at which this formally happens I will renew my oath. 

Before I first did this I was given advice by plenty of lefty Anglican priests: "cross your fingers," "think of a different Queen. Ru Paul? Eddie Izzard?" "Don't take it too seriously". None of these ideas struck me as satisfactory. I need to either not do it, or do it with some sort of theological integrity. 

Turning to the Jewish Tradition
There's plenty in the Old Testament that gives a view or ten on the place of the monarchy. From the hyperbole surrounding Solomon's reign to the brilliant satire against rulers in the book of judges. But the text that I chose that spoke to me most of my dilemma was Samuel's mediation between Israel and God on their desire to have a king "like other nations" (1 Sam. 8-9). 

Until this time the Bible describes Israel more as a confederacy of tribes. Occasionally a military leader, or Judge, will come forward but mostly, as described in the closing words of the book of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 21: 25). 

But as Samuel, the final 'Judge' reaches the end of his life the people get twitchy. A small people-group surrounded by Super-Powers they longed for some political security. 

Samuel Does not Want to Choose a King
Samuel is clear. If the people ask for a King they are, in effect, rejecting God as their King. Choosing Monarch is making a choice for idolatry. Samuel is dismayed at the idea. 

However, God is more easily persuaded. Sometimes it's easier to back down on your own behalf than for someone else, or perhaps it's just that God is an anarchist and refuses to stand in the way of human consensus. 

Give them what they want, says God, and give it them 'good and hard': "Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." (1 Sam. 8: 9). 

In Britain there is an established Church and a Constitutional monarchy. Both are idols and both represent a rejection of God as King. But God, I believe, is an anarchist, and blesses whatever is offered. For most of us what is offered is done so with the best of intentions and God longs to bless. 

So, following Samuel's example, and listening to God's desire to bless whatever the people of God offer. I will be renewing that hideous oath this evening. I choose to do so and no one is coercing me to do so. I would rather not make the choice and pray for a day when there is no monarchy so vain as to ask for my allegiance, and I'm sure that day will come. 

Meanwhile, we all need pay heed to Samuel's warning: 

‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but theLord will not answer you in that day.’
(1 Samuel 8: 11-18).

Saturday 1 September 2012

Human rights as the only real source of power

In 1998 I undertook the travel to the university of Haifa to give my first Conference Lecture. In the story I give a link to you can read how by the grace of God I still was able to give my lecture in spite of all kinds of odds, and it was an unforgettable experience to see a pretty young lady from Slovenia writing down notes about Louis A. Bähler, someone not at all known in the Netherlands itself. (This is the lecture she and others were attending and taking notes about). "Count your blessings", a professor said to me when I told this. Well, I was invited to come along when in Slovenia but have not been there yet, and now it is all a memory. Just like the rest of the story from 1998 - someone with whom I shared a student flat around there asked me how it felt after doing this first lecture. Giving a speech in public is different, I can say, I had experience with that. One of the differences is that the conference will still be going on but you did your thing and... - I said that I felt like an animal triste. Fortunately she did not need further explanation which I will not be giving here either.

The feeling came over me last week when I completed my text for a presentation at the Anarchist Studies Network Conference in Loughborough, next week, more precise the ASIRA-part of it (as I would like to call it). "Is that all there is?" after all. I suppose so. And then there will the pressure to speak loud and clear on a subject you do not quite understand (it is no use talking about a subject you understand) in a language which is not your mother tongue and finish within twenty minutes. Great. Call me animal triste any time now.

A part of my presentation is meant to be about a Dutch Christian anarchist I only came to study after his death in 2006. He lived above the place where I worked about fifteen years ago, I only spoke to him when he moved out. His written legacy amounts to a eulogy of Human Rights which will prevail above Evil and Statism and power that cannot be real power. Thinking of Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo/Serbia, Syria probably and the PussyRiot hype I do not particularly feel comfortable about the idea.

I am giving here my first and last personal notes for the conference on this Christian anarchist, Ernst Stern, and maybe you can understand my Conference Blues In Advance. I will probably have to skip these bits because of lack of time anyway.

As a political scientist I grew up in my studies with a simple and effective definition of power as "coercive influence". Since power is the central theme in political science it may be helpful to have a definition, even though defining may be anathema as being undialectical.

I must say I have difficulty with the idea of power of another Dutch Christian anarchist I turn to now, Ernst Stern. He was a theologian and I only realized he was a Christian anarchist when he died at the age of 80 in 2006. Amazingly, then I had to conclude that he was responsible for copying my first “political” article as an activist in the review he edited, Militia Christi, journal of radical or pacifist ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church. I remember my mixed feelings of the time: proud and at the same time dismissive because the paper had to be associated with the Church and I did not like that. The idea or the discovery of Christian anarchism for me was far away still - it was 1970 to be exact. Stern calls himself an anarchist, he should as a minister be considered as a Christian but the word Christian-anarchist seems unknown to him.
I have not read an assessment by him of the bombing of Serbia, Afghanistan or Iraq in the name of human rights as we have witnessed in the recent past. Detaining Chief Geronimo was already excused by the white invaders of North America with the story that he kept on beating his wife. Both Stern’s estimate of the legitimacy of power and the liberatory force of human rights can be seen as very optimistic and maybe he was - and optimism, I read with Ursula LeGuin is the most important quality of anarchists.

Which brings me to my personal final note - the article that Stern copied in Militia Christi, his review, in 1970. In it I wrote that we should forget about the apologists who applauded the genocidal quick kill against Biafra. I have not forgotten the names of these apologists though, but I know that from the media-administered public memory the genocide and the call for a quick mass murder have been banned and properly removed. I cannot ask Stern any more if this state of affairs for him is reason to remain optimistic. I know I still am, otherwise I would not have given this introduction.

What is in between I will try to squeeze in at the ASN Conference.
See some of you next week, or else God willing back on this site...

Monday 20 August 2012

Yeah, votez - ne l'oubliez pas s.v.p.

L'anarchisme chrétien has arrived - it has not got a subject or person index so it has to be swallowed whole to permit an opinion. You decide what should get my priority - two huge biographies of the most (in)famous anarchists in NL of the last one hundred years and more; L'état by Bernard Charbonneau which has also arrived and which Jacques Ellul called the only analysis of the state worth mentioning; - and several other things, including writing my own biography of an outstanding Dutch (christian) anarchist of the past century.
Alright, I know your answer.


Always a bit odd to read about websites in a book. Especially this one, apparently from Québec - not mentioning the very inspiring movement against the deconstruction of education in that part of the world at all. An English blog is entertained by Ursus arctos horribilis as well.
The only anarchist blog I encountered lately which calls the reader to vote...

Jusqu'à toute à l'heure...

Friday 17 August 2012

Pussy Riot and the Kingdom of God

London Protests in Solidarity: courtesy of Indymedia
When Leo Tolstoi was finally excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church he was applauded in the streets by masses of disaffected Christians who recognised the prophetic voice in his dissent.

Today the band Pussy Riot have been found guilty of "hooliganism" by a Moscow Court for their Prayer of Protest in the Cathedral denouncing the cosy relationship between Church and State.

Perhaps they could tour the UK, their message would certainly ring as true here as it does in Russia.

Tolstoi, renounced the Church long before it renounced him so his excommunication was an odd and impotent gesture on the part of the Church. He believed, wrote, and lived as though the Kingdom of God was not above, ahead of us, or inside us, but rather "among" us.

The established church will always crucify dissenters eventually, it's almost an inescapable fate for those who have chosen the way of compromise. I say that as a Priest in the Church of England who sits uncomfortably with a vocation that calls - for now at least - for creative compromise. I suspect that, one day, the decision as to whether or not I am licensed will be taken out of my hands. But enough about me!

Pussy Riot are likely to face a prison sentence and there is a global sense of injustice at this, and not just from activists. Like Toltstoi before them, and Jesus the Nazarene Agitator, and the prophets before him, Pussy Riot have discovered the deliciously liberating force of a well aimed heresy. 

Thursday 16 August 2012

Assange and the Farce of British Justice

Today, according to Ecuadorian officials, the UK government has threatened to remove Julian Assange from their embassy by force. Julian Assange stands accused -but not charged - of rape and sexual assault in Sweden. He is also charged - but in secret and without evidence or trial - of crimes against the state in the USA.

The USA want Julian Assange and their client kings in Sweden and the UK are willing to lose face to hand him over. Just as they were willing to lose credibility over the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, the sort of atrocities committed by UK and US troops in Iraq, revealed by Assange's Wikileaks may still be going on around the world. Indeed Barack Obama continues to fund armed drones to assassinate civilians in other countries without trial or evidence. 

In medieval Britain, if someone was accused of a crime they could seek sanctuary in particular churches and often were given the opportunity to forfeit any rights and citizenship in order to be exiled from the country.

The Church was an appropriate place for this right of exit from the excesses of the realm: it was seen as a place of citizenship elsewhere - citizenship in heaven - so it was beyond the jurisdiction of any ruler.

Since the "Wars of Religions" the honour given to ideas of God have been transferred to the state. Naturally this means that the role of offering sanctuary and asylum now falls with Embassies rather than Churches.

Julian Assange, after being under house-arrest for nearly two years, which followed voluntarily remaining in Sweden to help police with their investigations, is now in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

British government officials have offered assurances that, were Assange to be extradited to Sweden, he would not be then passed on the USA, without due process. Ahem! But how can we trust a government or even a judiciary who have pursued one man with such enthusiasm despite the fact that he has never even been charged with anything, let alone found guilty.

Now, the UK government have threatened to force their way into the Ecuadorian embassy in order to arrest a man who has not been charged with any crime. And yet they still claim there is no political motivation for hounding him? Who are they kidding?

Our government took us to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq based on the lies and promises of the US government. Now they are chasing the leader of the only news agency worthy of the name because freedom of speech and information threatens the licentious violence of governments and corporations.

Today the UK government has shown its full hand. There is little pretence of either justice or goodness in the actions of a government who would rather risk the integrity of every embassy in Britain to secure the arrest of a man of peace than allow justice to be seen to be done. 

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Woe to the empire of blood - 3

A history of the Ploughshares Movement

A transcript of the words from soft-spoken Megan Rice in part One:

Your assistance is much appreciated. You have the mission of spreading the truth. The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.

Which has only escalated in the last seventy years. I was aware of it before it was even made, because I was 82, when I was nine years old I was aware that a huge secret thing happening three minutes from where I lived in Manhattan. The man next door was a physicist and a mathematician, his name was Dr. [Seeley Katt?]. Next door, as near as that door is, to our apartment. We knew he was doing something secret in his work. He couldn’t even tell his wife what he was doing, nor his daughter. To me, that the first message that here must be something very evil happening, because how could a husband keep something secret from his wife or children, or vice versa. This secrecy has predominated this industry. This is why the whole country and whole world has not stopped it, it’s gone on for seventy years.

We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than 7.2 trillion dollars. Which has gone into that which is only to be transformed and regretted.

Reconciliation is available. Relying on all people of good will, creation, god’s life, we are all sacred and we will together respond and keep our planet sacred, alive, whole and healthy by transforming this into sustainable alternatives — which exist. To create better jobs! a cleaner environment! and a future for the seventh generation.

When asked if it was easier to get onto the property than she thought it would be…

Far easier! We were led, miraculously. (pause) But it was difficult. But we had to — we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that’s our obligation.

How’s it feel to be free again today?

More empowered to continue with the great people of humanity and all creatures in transforming this into life-sustaining and enhancing alternatives.

The video ends with Mike exclaiming from the midst of a group hug:

Nuclear weapons will be eradicated as antichrist scourge from the earth soon! Isaiah will be vindicated, weapons will be destroyed, warmaking will be abolished!


- Site of Transformplowshares.

Woe to the empire of blood - 2


“Come let us go up

to the mountain of God

to the house where God lives.

That God may teach us God’s ways

That we may walk in God’s paths….

For God will bring justice among the nations and bring peace between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not lift swords against nations. No longer will they learn to make war.

Come, let us walk in the light of God.” Isaiah 2

Brothers and sisters, powers that be, we come to you today as friends, in love. We, like many of you, are people of faith, inspired by many who have gone before us, people like the prophets, Isaiah and Micah, Jesus as well as Gandhi, and the countless who call us ‘to beat swords into plowshares’. May we now transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace.

We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war. Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building.

A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all.

We begin together by preparing our minds and hearts for this transformation. And so we bring gifts to symbolize this transformation, instruments that serve life, peace and harmony, truth and healing to this nuclear weapons plant and everywhere.

We bring our life-symbols: blood, for healing and pouring out our lives in service and love. Our very humanity depends on lives given, not taken. But blood also reminds us of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons.

-our hammers, to begin the transforming work of deconstructing war machines, creating new jobs which address real problems, eliminate poverty, heal and foster the fullness of life for all.

We bring our truth-symbols: candles, for light transforms fear and secrecy into authentic security;

-flowers, the White Rose of forgiveness, acceptance of friendship and genuine reconciliation.

-the crime tape and an Indictment, which point out truth and end lies which have blinded and dulled the very conscience of nations, and serve the interests of justice for healing global relationships.

-a Bible, to remind ourselves to become sources of wisdom and to inspire our acts of conscience as we carry on.

Lastly we bring food, symbolized by this bread, strengthening us as we build this new world where people do not feel compelled to build nuclear weapons in order to feed their families. So may we break and share this bread together in joy and genuine friendship as we work together, empowered by our Creating God


Michael Walli Greg Boertje-Obed Megan Rice shcj


Woe to the empire of blood

Sr. Megan Rice upon temporary release after she was jailed, making headlines for intruding on the US storage of weapons of mass destruction material in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

I know sr. Megan [she pronounces her name as "Meegan"] from the Nevada Desert Experience/Pace e Bene/Catholic Worker, Las Vegas, NV, where I had my home away from home the last couple of years. She moved out about a year ago and I thoughtthat would be about the last we would see from our beloved activist nun (she was witness to our marriage ceremonial in Las Vegas, in the chapel belonging to Pace e Bene).

How wrong can you be in expectations...
On July 28th Megan and two others passed the fence about this "facility" (oh, these filthy euphemisms) and - well, here is the story:

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares they hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF), splashed human blood and left four spray painted tags on the recent construction which read: Woe to the empire of blood; The fruit of justice is peace; Work for peace not for war; and Plowshares please Isaiah.

Under the cover of darkness they intermittently passed beyond four fences in a walk for over two hours through the fatal force zone. “We feel it was a miracle; we were led directly to where we wanted to go” said Greg.

After navigating through the complex they came to a long, white, windowless building marked HEUMF. “It was built like a fortress”, Greg said describing the four guard towers.

Unimpeded by security, they attached two banners to pillars of the building. “Transform Now Plowshares” read the first with a green and black icon showing part bomb part flower. A second stated “Swords into Plowshares Spears into Pruning Hooks–Isaiah”. In addition, between the pillars they strung red crime tape.

When confronted by a guard they read aloud their statement. “He was on his walkie-talkie but he heard it” Megan confirmed. Before receiving orders to halt they had opportunity to offer guards bread, and display a bible, candles and white roses. Though initially forced to endure a kneeling posture for an extended period, guards responded to complaint and allowed the activists to stand off and on. Meanwhile they continued singing.

At this time they have been interviewed by the DOE investigative unit and have conditional charges of two felony counts for vandalism and trespass. They spoke to supporters from Blount County Jail at 12:30 pm saying they had not been processed yet. All four are scheduled for arraignment in Blount County Court on Monday.
“We’re still opposing the filthy rotten system” Michael said. “Jesus has no nukes in heaven and no torture in heaven.”


Thursday 28 June 2012

Last Chance to register for Anarchist Conference

One last reminder to please remember that registration for the conference has to be completed by the end of June.

You will find a very preliminary conference schedule on the website, but please note that there will definitely be some changes to our programme. In particular, I might have to swap what is currently the second of our seven panels with one later in the conference, because of specific timetabling requests.

For details, see and follow the links to registration.

Monday 25 June 2012

Fr John Dear SJ

Fr John Dear, Jesuit priest and well known "voice for peace" in early September. Full details here.

Speaking Schedule

Friday 24th August – Monday 27th August
Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham. Visit
Monday 3rd September       Grimshaw Room, Birmingham Cathedral, St. Chad’s
7pm                                  Queensway, B4 6EU
Contact: Fr. Gerard Murray:
Tuesday 4th September                St John’s Church, Standishgate, Wigan, WN1 1NX
7pm                                  Contact: Margaret McSherry:
Wednesday 5th September   Temple Hall, York St. John's, Lord Mayor's Walk,
7pm                                  York, YO31 7EX 
Contact: Barbara Hungin:
Thursday 6th September       St Joseph’s Church, Paxton Terrace, Millfield,
7pm                                  Sunderland, SR4 6HP 
Contact: Fr. Michael McCoy:
Friday 7th September           St Benedict’s Church, Aberford Road, Garforth,
7pm                                  LS25 1PX 
  Contact: Fr. Simon Lodge:
Monday 10th September       London Catholic Worker, Mattison Road, N4 IBG 
7pm                                  Contact: Fr. Martin Newell:

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Martyrs and Villeins: the Extradition of Julian Assange

William T. Cavanaugh is a US-based theologian who has done some important work on the privatisation of faith, the politics and economics of the Eucharist and related areas. In one paper he reflects on the relationship between the state, the martyr, and the Eucharist.

Cavanaugh's ideas may help us understand the current de-legitimising and persecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. We are reminded to re-member the martyrs and not let them become empire's villeins.

Martyrs and the Eucharist
The Eucharist, a ritual meal in Christian tradition, sees bread and wine as 'being to us' the body and blood of Jesus. It re-members his execution at the hands of the Roman Empire and her co-conspirators. The Jesus movement went viral soon after his martyrdom with subversive claims that God and brought him back from the dead as a sign against his executors.

For Cavanaugh, those who are persecuted for the sake of justice now are following the way of Jesus - taking up their cross of execution - and demonstrating what the Eucharist re-members.

"The eucharist is the central act in this communal remembrance of martyrdom, because the eucharist is first the remembrance of Jesus' death at the hands of the powers." 

Cavanaugh claims that, because state-executions of political activists creates public martyrs, the first task of the state is to deligimitise the activist. Only then can she or he be got rid of. Cavanaugh writes that "A martyr is a public witness who makes the truth visible in her or his own body." This was true of Jesus as it was of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who he writes about.

Romero and The Eucharistic Sacrifice
Romero, an outspoken critic of the elites of El Salvador was shot while celebrating the Eucharist - where bread and wine are shared to represent our membership and participation in the Body of Christ. we "stand in the line of fire" he claims, when we share bread and wine together we also call to mind all those who were witnesses to the shadow world of state and corporate elites and paid the price of disappearance, torture, or execution.

Cavanaugh sums up, simply, the way the state deals with the knotty problem of martyrdom:

"Finally, the state-controlled media referred to people killed, not as martyrs, but as subversives, communists, terrorists, criminals, and delinquents. The intent of these strategies was to inflict suffering and death on those who would challenge the status quo while simultaneously preventing the revelatory nature of that
suffering from coming to light. " (p. 180)
Before you make a martyr, make a villein. This observation brings us neatly to the case of Julian Assange.

Assange the Villein-martyr 
Catholic Workers and Veterans for Peace (UK) vigil for Asange
Julian Assange is the founder and spokesperson of the news agency 'Wikileaks'. Unlike other news agencies (Associated Press, for example) Wikileaks staff have developed an extremely secure means of whistle-blowing - insiders releasing information on the immorality or illegality of their operators.

Thanks to Assange the video "collateral damage" in which US soldiers wantonly gunned down civilians, journalists and even children. They also leaked huge amounts of damaging information about US foreign policy matters that related to all kinds of regimes.

Julian Assange is due to be extradited to Sweden next week, not on charges of espionage, but on investigation of rape and another sexual offence. These relate to allegations from two incidents in Sweden involving to different women who both went to the police and were encouraged to press charges.

No charges have ever been pressed against Assange and no evidence put forward beyond witness statements. Nonetheless the UK judicial service have agreed to a European Arrest Warrant. Assange and his supporters fear that extradition to Sweden will not lead to charges of rape and sexual assault but to a quick extradition to the USA to face charges of spying.

I was at one of the appeal hearings last summer and sat through the details of the case. Despite the huge impact of Assange's work, few activists gathered outside the court. Before you make a martyr, make a villein.

Over the last two years I've lost count of the number of people and agencies Assange has public fallen out with: a publisher, newspapers, former colleagues, have all taken a chunk out of this strange, charismatic figure.

The work done by Wikileaks has suffered massively as a result. Perhaps if the news agency had been a little more anarchic it would have moved slowly but with greater resilience. With so much depending on Assange it is easy for the US to decapitate and thus immobilize the organisation.

Reclaiming the Subversive Messenger
Assange dared to do something few in contemporary news media engage in - he reported the unreportable. For this he is being personally slandered from every possible angle in preparation for his imminent disappearance.

What is to be done then? Anyone who cares about the future of press freedom, but particularly activists in Sweden, need to work hard to expose the Swedish governments hideous capitulation to US interests. We all need to continue to support the work of Wikileaks and emerging groups like Openleaks that take a similar, but crucially more manageable approach.

If we want to challenge the demonisation of Assange we need to keep the focus on the aims of Wikileaks:  the self-destruction of secret systems of power-elites and the return of a truly Free Press. As Mark's Jesus aptly puts it:

"For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light." (Mark 4:22; NRSV). 

Saturday 26 May 2012

Atzmon, Anti-Semitism and Political Faith

After a heated exchange with a friend yesterday, I thought I might brave the water of reflecting on what 'Anti-Semitism' might mean. But particularly what it means for Christians who read the Bible as a social and economic, as much as spiritual text.

The argument we were having revolved around 0 Books and their association with Gilad Atzmon, Israeli vet, jazz singer, pro-Palestinian, and writer.

Atzmon has claimed that he cannot be anti-semitic because he is not against Jewish people but against Jewish religion.

There can be no doubt that Atzmon is against Jewish religion, although he associates Extremism with the whole, in much the same way Richard Dawkins does to Christianity. It's easy to criticize the fundamentalists but not helpful to characterize them as representative of the whole.

The second flaw in Atzmon's logic is his paring apart of religion and identity. For an atheist Jew, like Atzmon, perhaps they are separate. But for Jewish people who hold to their traditions religion and self are not distinct from one another. "I am a Jew" is far more apt than "I am Jewish".

To consider Judaism corrupting is to be anti-semitic. One cannot, as Atzmon does, draw distinctions between racism and cultural prejudices. There is only the human race, after all. We are one. The belief that we are separate races is a statist distinction, a product of modern Europe.

But to criticise violence and injustice that has been carried out in the name of Judaism. This is an ancient prophetic tradition. We might put Noam Chomsky in this category. Chomsky, a Jew, brought up by a Rabbinic dad in an Orthodox tradition, knows how to be a clear voice in favour of a Just Judaism. But this is not Atzmon's way, it seems. Atzmon writes off Judaism wholesale.

The argument, mentioned at the top of this entry, started because I've signed a contract with 0 Books, who have published a book by Atzmon as well. 0 Books publish hundreds of books, they are no strangers to controversial content but they don't normally publish anti-semitic authors. This isn't an excuse but it does mean punishing a relatively small and mostly well-meaning publishing house for finding itself stuck between a rock and a hard place seems somewhat unhelpful.

The book I've written looks into the socio-political reality Jesus' faced. Sensibly I sent the first draft to a few trusted friends. One of whom I chose deliberately because of her deep affection for Judaism (and because I knew she'd do a great job).

What I discovered, from her notes and underlining, was how much anti-semitism (there I said it) had crept into my Christian theology! I was horrified. Some was from my Evangelical past but much had slipped in because of sloppy writing about Jesus challenging those in power in his day. I hope I've corrected the text but perhaps I need to take a little longer to correct my language.

And that's the point really, by way of parable, that we who read the Bible politically must be vigilant against anti-Semitic language when really we mean to be anti-Imperialism or anti-collaborationist. And by the same token, be wary of the collaborator in us.

Sunday 20 May 2012

No Gods! No Masters! Looking ahead to an amazing conference...

I am even more excited about the Anarchist Studies Network conference in September now that I've seen the list of papers being presented and discussed - and this is just the ASIRA group. There are dozens of others going on simultaneously.

It will be possible to book places as of later this week.

Adams, Matthew“As harmless as the rats and crows”: Religion and Spirituality in Herbert Read’s Anarchism
Bernhauser, Siegfried and Wörishofer, BirgitThe divine order and anarchy
Cassano, JayJewish mysticism and Anarchism, a question of compatibility
Cudenec, PaulThe sacred soul of anarchy
de Raaij, AndréPower to be free through obedience
Diskin, DannyTheology, Resistance, and the Mistranslation of Scripture
Fiscella, AnthonyAutonomous Religious Movements
Fitch, RichardWithout Dogma, but with Eloquence and Irony: Anarchism, Religion, and Scepticism
Flintoft, SamThe Egalitarian God: Exploring the Anarchist Implications of Don Cupitt's Theology
Garcia-Guirao, PedroOld Stereotypes and New Conceptions: Representations of Religion in Contemporary Spanish Anarchist Film (1995-2011)
Hebden, KeithIf I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your religion: Understanding the Atheisms of Anarchism with Simone Weil and Emma Goldman
Kennedy, KarenThe Anarchist Turn and the Ideas of the Free Spirit and the Anarchist Turn
Lagalisse, EricaAnarchism as Pantheism: Exploring the “Occult” History of the Radical Enlightenment
McHenry, Mark An Anarchist Critique of Isaiah's Revolution - Developing the Anarchist Hermeneutic in Mainstream Biblical Studies
Meggitt, JustinAnarchism, anachronism and the historical Jesus
Morris, BrianWas Berdyaev an anarchist?
Podmore, SimonAnti-theism & the Self Before God-Kierkegaard & Proudhon on the Freedom of Offence
Rossbach, StefanReligious experience and community formation
Stott, PaulWhen Malatesta Met Mohammed: The Response of Anarchists to the Rise of Islamism
Strandberg, HugoHardening one’s heart: On the relation of anarchism and religious belief