Christian anarchism

Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that claims anarchism is inherent in Christianity and the Gospels.[1][2] It is grounded in the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus, and thus rejects the idea that human governments have ultimate authority over human societies. Christian anarchists denounce the state as they claim it is violent, deceitful and, when glorified, idolatrous.[3][4] Christian anarchists hold that the proper relationship between God and people is the "Reign of God" in which human relationships would be characterized by divided authority, servant leadership, and universal compassion rather than the hierarchical, authoritarian structures normally attributed to religion.[5]

More than any other Bible source, the Sermon on the Mount is used as the basis for Christian anarchism.[6] Most Christian anarchists are pacifists and reject the use of violence, such as war.[3] Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You is often regarded as a key text for modern Christian anarchism.[3][7]


Old Testament

Jacques Ellul, a French philosopher and Christian anarchist, notes that the final verse of the Book of Judges (Judges 21:25) states that there was no king in Israel and that "everyone did as they saw fit".[8][9][10] Subsequently, as recorded in the first Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8) the people of Israel wanted a king "so as to be like other nations".[11][12] God declared that the people had rejected him as their king. He warned that a human king would lead to militarism, conscription and taxation, and that their pleas for mercy from the king's demands would go unanswered. Samuel passed on God's warning to the Israelites but they still demanded a king, and Saul became their ruler.[13][14] Much of the subsequent Old Testament chronicles the Israelites trying to live with this decision.[15]

New Testament

More than any other Bible source, the Sermon on the Mount is used as the basis for Christian anarchism.[6] Alexandre Christoyannopoulos explains that the Sermon perfectly illustrates Jesus's central teaching of love and forgiveness. Christian anarchists claim that the state, founded on violence, contravenes the Sermon and Jesus' call to love our enemies.[6]

The gospels tell of Jesus's temptation in the desert. For the final temptation, Jesus is taken up to a high mountain by Satan and told that if he bows down to Satan he will give him all the kingdoms of the world.[16] Christian anarchists use this as evidence that all Earthly kingdoms and governments are ruled by Satan, otherwise they would not be Satan's to give.[17] Jesus refuses the temptation, choosing to serve God instead, implying that Jesus is aware of the corrupting nature of Earthly power.[18]

Christian eschatology and various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the state and political power as the Beast in the Book of Revelation.[19][20]

Whether or not Christianity is compatible with anarchism is a point of contention, as some hold that one cannot consistently be a Christian and anarchist simultaneously. Critics include Christians and anarchists as well as those who reject both categories. For example, anarcho-syndicalists often cite the phrase "no gods, no masters" and Christians often cite Romans 13 (see State authority below). Others, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Frank Seaver Billings, criticize Christianity and anarchism by arguing that they are the same thing.[21][22]

Early Church

Several of the Church Fathers' writings suggest anarchism as God's ideal.[23] The first Christians opposed the primacy of the State: "We must obey God as ruler rather than men" (Acts 4:19, 5:29, 1 Corinthians 6:1-6); "Stripping the governments and the authorities bare, he exhibited them in open public as conquered, leading them in a triumphal procession by means of it." (Colossians 2:15). Also some early Christian communities appear to have practised anarchist communism, such as the Jerusalem group described in Acts, who shared their money and labor equally and fairly among the members.[24] Christian anarchists, such as Keven Craig, insist that these communities were centred on true love and care for one another rather than liturgy. They also allege that the reason the early Christians were persecuted was not because they worshipped Jesus Christ, but because they refused to worship human idols claiming divine status (see Imperial cult). Given that they refused to worship the Roman Emperor they refused to swear any oath of allegiance to the Empire.[23]

Thomas Merton in his introduction to a translation of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers describes the early monastics as "Truly in certain sense 'anarchists,' and it will do no harm to think of them as such."[25]

Conversion of the Roman Empire

For Christian anarchists the moment which epitomises the degeneration of Christianity is the conversion of Emperor Constantine after his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312.[26] Following this event Christianity was legalised under the Edict of Milan in 313, hastening the Church's transformation from a humble bottom-up sect to an authoritarian top-down organization. Christian anarchists point out that this marked the beginning of the "Constantinian shift", in which Christianity gradually came to be identified with the will of the ruling elite, becoming the State church of the Roman Empire, and in some cases (such as the Crusades, Inquisition and Wars of Religion) a religious justification for violence.[26]

Middle Ages

Following Constantine's conversion, Alexandre Christoyannopoulos recounts that Christian pacifism and anarchism were submerged for nearly a millennium until the emergence of thinkers such as Francis of Assisi and Petr Chelčický.[27] Francis of Assisi (c.1181–1226) was an ascetic preacher, pacifist and nature lover. As the son of a wealthy family cloth merchant he led a privileged life and fought as a soldier, but radically changed his beliefs and practices after a spiritual awakening. Francis became a pacifist and eschewed material goods, attempting to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.[28] Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was heavily influenced by Francis of Assisi.[29] Petr Chelčický's (c.1390–c.1460) work, specifically The Net of Faith, influenced Leo Tolstoy and is referenced in his book The Kingdom of God Is Within You.[30]

Peasant revolts in the post-reformation era

Woodcut from a Diggers document by William Everard.

Various libertarian socialist authors have identified the written work of English Protestant social reformer Gerrard Winstanley and the social activism of his group, the Diggers, as anticipating this line of thought.[31][32] For anarchist historian George Woodcock "Although (Pierre Joseph) Proudhon was the first writer to call himself an anarchist, at least two predecessors outlined systems that contain all the basic elements of anarchism. The first was Gerrard Winstanley (1609c. 1660), a linen draper who led the small movement of the Diggers during the Commonwealth. Winstanley and his followers protested in the name of a radical Christianity against the economic distress that followed the Civil War and against the inequality that the grandees of the New Model Army seemed intent on preserving.

In 1649–1650 the Diggers squatted on stretches of common land in southern England and attempted to set up communities based on work on the land and the sharing of goods. The communities failed following a crackdown by the English authorities, but a series of pamphlets by Winstanley survived, of which The New Law of Righteousness (1649) was the most important. Advocating a rational Christianity, Winstanley equated Christ with “the universal liberty” and declared the universally corrupting nature of authority. He saw “an equal privilege to share in the blessing of liberty” and detected an intimate link between the institution of property and the lack of freedom."[33] For Murray Bookchin "In the modern world, anarchism first appeared as a movement of the peasantry and yeomanry against declining feudal institutions. In Germany its foremost spokesman during the Peasant Wars was Thomas Müntzer; in England, Gerrard Winstanley, a leading participant in the Digger movement. The concepts held by Müntzer and Winstanley were superbly attuned to the needs of their time — a historical period when the majority of the population lived in the countryside and when the most militant revolutionary forces came from an agrarian world. It would be painfully academic to argue whether Müntzer and Winstanley could have achieved their ideals. What is of real importance is that they spoke to their time; their anarchist concepts followed naturally from the rural society that furnished the bands of the peasant armies in Germany and the New Model in England."[34]

Modern era

Adin Ballou
Adin Ballou (1803–1890) was founder of the Hopedale Community in Massachusetts, and a prominent 19th century exponent of pacifism, socialism and abolitionism. Through his long career as a Universalist (and then Unitarian) minister, he tirelessly sought social reform through his radical Christian and socialist views. Although he rejected anarchism both as a label and as a theory, he was extremely critical of "human government".[35] Tolstoy was heavily influenced by his writings.
William B. Greene
William B. Greene (1819–1878), an individualist anarchist based in the United States, was a Unitarian minister, and the originator of a Christian Mutualism, which he considered a new dispensation, beyond God’s covenant with Abraham. His 1850 Mutual Banking begins with a discussion (drawn from the work of Pierre Leroux) of the Christian rite of communion as a model for a society based in equality, and ends with a prophetic invocation of the new Mutualist dispensation. His better-known scheme for mutual banking, and his criticisms of usury should be understood in this specifically religious context. Unlike his contemporaries among the nonresistants, Greene was not a pacifist, and served as a Union Army colonel in the American Civil War.
Leo Tolstoy wrote extensively about Christian pacifism and anarchism.
Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) wrote extensively on his anarchist principles, which he arrived at via his Christian faith, in his books The Kingdom of God is Within You, What I Believe (aka My Religion), The Law of Love and the Law of Violence, and Christianity and Patriotism which criticised government and the Church in general. The Kingdom of God Is Within You is regarded as a key Christian anarchist text.[7] Tolstoy sought to separate Russian Orthodox Christianity — which was merged with the state — from what he believed was the true message of Jesus as contained in the Gospels, specifically in the Sermon on the Mount.[36] Tolstoy takes the viewpoint that all governments who wage war, and churches who in turn support those governments, are an affront to the Christian principles of nonviolence and nonresistance. Although Tolstoy never actually used the term "Christian anarchism" in The Kingdom of God Is Within You, reviews of this book following its publication in 1894 appear to have coined the term.[37][38] He called for a society based on compassion, nonviolent principles and freedom. Tolstoy was a pacifist and a vegetarian. His vision for an equitable society was an anarchist version of Georgism, which he mentions specifically in his novel Resurrection.
David Lipscomb
David Lipscomb (18311917) was a minister, author and member in the American Restoration Movement. He wrote a strong condemnation of civil authority called Civil Government: Its Origin, Mission, and Destiny, and the Christian's Relation to It (1889) and co-founded Lipscomb University.
Charles Erskine Scott Wood
Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852–1944) was the author of a satirical bestseller, Heavenly Discourse, which portrayed God and Jesus as anarchists opposed to churches, governments, war, and capitalism.
Thomas J. Hagerty
Thomas J. Hagerty (c.1862–?) was a Catholic priest from New Mexico, USA, and one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Hagerty is credited with writing the IWW Preamble, assisting in the composition of the Industrial Union Manifesto and drawing up the first chart of industrial organization. He was ordained in 1892 but his formal association with the church ended when he was suspended by his archbishop for urging miners in Colorado to revolt during his tour of mining camps in 1903. Hagerty is not commonly regarded as a Christian anarchist in the Tolstoyan tradition but rather an anarcho-syndicalist. Christian anarchists like Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy have been members of the Industrial Workers of the World and found common cause with the axiom "an injury to one is an injury to all."
Nikolai Berdyaev
Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948), the Orthodox Christian philosopher has been called the philosopher of freedom and is known as a Christian existentialist. Known for writing "the Kingdom of God is anarchy" he believed that freedom ultimately comes from God, in direct opposition to atheist anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin, who saw God as the (symbolic) enslaver of humanity.
Peter Maurin
Peter Maurin (1877–1949) was a French social activist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Maurin's vision to transform the social order consisted of establishing urban houses of hospitality to care for the destitute; rural farming communities to teach city dwellers agrarianism and encourage a movement back-to-the-land; and roundtable discussions in community centres to clarify thought and initiate action.[39]
Léonce Crenier
Léonce Crenier (1888–1963) first rejected religion, becoming an anarcho-communist when he moved to Paris from rural France in 1911. In 1913 he visited his sister in Portugal where he stayed for several years. During this period he suffered a debilitating and agonising illness. Receiving the attentions of a particularly caring nurse, he survived, despite the gloomy predictions of the doctors. Converting to Catholicism, he became a monk. He is particularly known for his concept of Precarity, and was influential on Dorothy Day.
Cartoon by Art Young, first published in The Masses in 1917 and later reprinted in Ammon Hennacy's autobiography.[40]
Ammon Hennacy
Ammon Hennacy (1893–1970) wrote extensively on his work with the Catholic Workers, the IWW, and at the Joe Hill House of Hospitality. He was an Irish American Christian anarchist, draft dodger, vegetarian, and tax resister. He also tried to reduce his tax liability by taking up a lifestyle of simple living. His autobiography The Book of Ammon originally released as The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist, describes his work in nonviolent, anarchist, social action, and provides insight into the lives of Christian anarchists in the United States of the 20th century. His other book is The One-Man Revolution in America.
Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day (1897–1980) was a journalist turned social activist. She was a member of the IWW and devout member of the Roman Catholic Church. She became known for her social justice campaigns in defense of the poor, forsaken, hungry and homeless. Alongside Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933, espousing nonviolence, and hospitality for the impoverished and downtrodden. Dorothy Day was declared Servant of God when a cause for sainthood was opened for her by Pope John Paul II. Among books she authored was her autobiography The Long Loneliness.
Jacques Ellul
Jacques Ellul (1912–1994) was a French thinker, sociologist, theologian and Christian anarchist. He wrote several books against the "technological society", and some about Christianity and politics, like Anarchy and Christianity. Similar to the theology of one of his main influences, Karl Barth, Ellul's works and ideas are considered dialectic.[41]
Philip Berrigan
Philip Berrigan (1923–2002) was an internationally renowned peace activist and Roman Catholic priest. He and his brother Daniel Berrigan were on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for illegal nonviolent actions against war.
Ivan Illich
Ivan Illich (1926–2002) was a libertarian-socialist social thinker, with roots in the Catholic Church, who wrote critiques of technology, energy use and compulsory education. In 1961 Illich founded the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) at Cuernavaca in Mexico, in order to "counterfoil" the Vatican's participation in the "modern development" of the so-called Third World. Illich's books Energy and Equity and Tools for Conviviality are considered classics for social ecologists interested in appropriate technology, while his book Deschooling Society is still revered by activists seeking alternatives to compulsory schooling. Ivan's views on Jesus as an anarchist are highlighted in a speech he made at a chapel in Chicago.[42]
Vernard Eller
Vernard Eller (1927–2007) was a minister in the Church of the Brethren and author of Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers.[43]

Anarchist biblical views and practices

Church authority

With some notable exceptions, such as the Catholic Worker Movement, many Christian anarchists are critical of Church dogma and rituals. Christian anarchists tend to wish that Christians were less preoccupied with performing rituals and preaching dogmatic theology, and more with following Jesus' teaching and practices.[44] Jacques Ellul and Dave Andrews claim that Jesus did not intend to be the founder of an institutional religion, while Michael Elliot believes one of Jesus' intentions was to bypass human intermediaries and do away with priests.[45][46][47]

Pacifism and nonviolence

The Deserter (1916) by Boardman Robinson.

Christian anarchists, such as Leo Tolstoy, Ammon Hennacy, Jacques Ellul, and Dave Andrews, follow Jesus' call to not resist evil but turn the other cheek. They argue that this teaching can only imply a condemnation of the state, as the police and army hold a monopoly over the legitimate use of force.[3] They believe freedom will only be guided by the grace of God if they show compassion to others and turn the other cheek when confronted with violence. Christian anarchists believe violence begets violence and the ends never justify the means.[48]

Many Christian anarchists practice the principles of nonviolence, nonresistance, and turning the other cheek. To illustrate how nonresistance works in practice, Alexandre Christoyannopoulos offers the following Christian anarchist response to terrorism:

The path shown by Jesus is a difficult one that can only be trod by true martyrs. A "martyr," etymologically, is he who makes himself a witness to his faith. And it is the ultimate testimony to one’s faith to be ready to put it to practice even when one’s very life is threatened. But the life to be sacrificed, it should be noted, is not the enemy’s life, but the martyr’s own life — killing others is not a testimony of love, but of anger, fear, or hatred. For Tolstoy, therefore, a true martyr to Jesus’ message would neither punish nor resist (or at least not use violence to resist), but would strive to act from love, however hard, whatever the likelihood of being crucified. He would patiently learn to forgive and turn the other cheek, even at the risk of death. Such would be the only way to eventually win the hearts and minds of the other camp and open up the possibilities for reconciliation in the "war on terror."[49]

Simple living

Main article: Simple living

Christian anarchists, such as Ammon Hennacy, Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, often advocate voluntary poverty. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as withdrawing support for government by reducing taxable income or following Jesus' teachings.[50] Jesus appears to teach voluntary poverty when he told his disciples, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25) and "You cannot serve both God and Mammon" (Luke 16:13).[51]

State authority

The most common challenge for anarchist theologians is interpreting Paul's Epistle to the Romans 13:1–7, in which Paul demanded obedience to governing authorities and described them as God's servants exacting punishment on wrongdoers.[52][53] Romans 13:1–7 holds the most explicit reference to the state in the New Testament but other parallel texts include Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.[54][55][56][57]

Blessed are the Peacemakers (1917) by George Bellows

Established theologians, such as C.E.B. Cranfield, have interpreted Romans 13:1–7 to mean the Church should support the state, as God has sanctified the state to be his main tool to preserve social order.[58][59] In the case of the state being involved in a "just war", theologians also argue that it's permissible for Christians to serve the state and wield the sword.[52][60] Christian anarchists do not share this interpretation of Romans 13 but still recognize it as "a very embarrassing passage."[61][62]

Christian anarchists and pacifists, such as David Lipscomb, Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller, do not attempt to overthrow the state given Romans 13 and Jesus' command to turn the other cheek.[61][63] However, Lipscomb still describes the state as an evil power executing wrath and vengeance.[64] As wrath and vengeance are contrary to the Christian values of kindness and forgiveness, Lipscomb and Ellul neither support, nor participate in, the state.[61][65] Eller articulates this position by restating the passage this way:

Be clear, any of those human [authorities] are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with...the Roman Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can't fight an Empire without becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in God's hands where they belong.[66]

Christians who interpret Romans 13 as advocating support for governing authorities are left with the difficulty of how to act under tyrants or dictators.[59] Ernst Käsemann, in his Commentary on Romans, challenged the mainstream Christian interpretation of the passage in light of German Lutheran Churches using this passage to justify the Holocaust.[67]

Paul's letter to Roman Christians declares "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong." However Christian anarchists point out an inconsistency if this text were to be taken literally and in isolation as Jesus and Paul were both executed by the governing authorities or "rulers" even though they did "right."[59]

There are also Christians anarchists, such as Tolstoy and Hennacy, who do not see the need to integrate Paul's teachings into their subversive way of life. Tolstoy believed Paul was instrumental in the church's "deviation" from Jesus' teaching and practices, whilst Hennacy believed "Paul spoiled the message of Christ" (see Jesuism).[68][69] Hennacy and Ciaron O'Reilly, in contrast to Eller, advocate nonviolent civil disobedience to confront state oppression.[70]

Swearing of oaths

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37) Jesus tells his followers to not swear oaths in the name of God or Man. Tolstoy, Adin Ballou and Petr Chelčický understand this to mean that Christians should never bind themselves to any oath as they may not be able to fulfil the will of God if they are bound to the will of a fellow-man. Tolstoy takes the view that all oaths are evil, but especially an oath of allegiance.[71]


Some Christian anarchists resist taxes in the belief that their government is engaged in immoral, unethical or destructive activities such as war, and paying taxes inevitably funds these activities, whilst others submit to taxation.[72][73] Adin Ballou wrote that if the act of resisting taxes requires physical force to withhold what a government tries to take, then it is important to submit to taxation. Ammon Hennacy, who, like Ballou also believed in nonresistance, eased his conscience by simply living below the income tax threshold.[74]

Tax supporters cite "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21) and Paul's letter to Roman Christians (Romans 13:6-7).[75] However, Christian anarchists do not interpret Matthew 22:21 as advocating support for taxes but as further advice to free oneself from material attachment. For example, Dorothy Day said if we were to give everything to God there will be nothing left for Caesar,[76] and Jacques Ellul believed the passage showed that Caesar may have rights over fiat money but not things that are made by God, as he explained:[72]

"Render unto Caesar..." in no way divides the exercise of authority into two realms....They were said in response to another matter: the payment of taxes, and the coin. The mark on the coin is that of Caesar; it is the mark of his property. Therefore give Caesar this money; it is his. It is not a question of legitimizing taxes! It means that Caesar, having created money, is its master. That's all. Let us not forget that money, for Jesus, is the domain of Mammon, a satanic domain![77]


Vegetarianism in the Christian tradition has a long history commencing in the first centuries of Church with the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers who abandoned the "world of men" for intimacy with the God of Jesus Christ. Vegetarianism amongst hermits and Christian monastics in the Eastern Christian and Roman Catholic traditions remains common to this day as a means of simplifying one's life, and as a practice of asceticism. Leo Tolstoy, Ammon Hennacy, and Théodore Monod extended their belief in nonviolence and compassion to all living beings through vegetarianism.[78][79][80][81]

Present-day Christian anarchist groups

Brotherhood Church

The Brotherhood Church is a Christian anarchist and pacifist community. The Brotherhood Church can be traced back to 1887 when a Congregationalist minister called John Bruce Wallace started a magazine called "The Brotherhood" in Limavady, Northern Ireland. An intentional community with Quaker origins has been located at Stapleton, near Pontefract, Yorkshire, since 1921.[82][83]

Catholic Worker Movement

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Workers.

Established by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in the early 1930s, the Catholic Worker Movement is a Christian movement dedicated to nonviolence, personalism and voluntary poverty.[84] Over 130 Catholic Worker communities exist in the United States where "houses of hospitality" care for the homeless. The Joe Hill House of hospitality (which closed in 1968) in Salt Lake City, Utah featured an enormous twelve feet by fifteen foot mural of Jesus Christ and Joe Hill. Present-day Catholic Workers include Ciaron O'Reilly, an Irish-Australian civil rights and anti-war activist.[85]

Anne Klejment, professor of history at University of St. Thomas, wrote of the Catholic Worker Movement:

The Catholic Worker considered itself a Christian anarchist movement. All authority came from God; and the state, having by choice distanced itself from Christian perfectionism, forfeited its ultimate authority over the citizen...Catholic Worker anarchism followed Christ as a model of nonviolent revolutionary behavior...He respected individual conscience. But he also preached a prophetic message, difficult for many of his contemporaries to embrace.[86]

The Catholic Worker Movement has consistently protested against war and violence for over seven decades. Many of the leading figures in the movement have been both anarchists and pacifists, as Ammon Hennacy explains:

Christian Anarchism is based upon the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees when Jesus said that he without sin should be the first to cast the stone, and upon the Sermon on the Mount which advises the return of good for evil and the turning of the other cheek. Therefore, when we take any part in government by voting for legislative, judicial, and executive officials, we make these men our arm by which we cast a stone and deny the Sermon on the Mount.

The dictionary definition of a Christian is one who follows Christ; kind, kindly, Christ-like. Anarchism is voluntary cooperation for good, with the right of secession. A Christian anarchist is therefore one who turns the other cheek, overturns the tables of the moneychangers, and does not need a cop to tell him how to behave. A Christian anarchist does not depend upon bullets or ballots to achieve his ideal; he achieves that ideal daily by the One-Man Revolution with which he faces a decadent, confused, and dying world.[87]

Maurin and Day were both baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church and believed in the institution, thus showing it is possible to be a Christian anarchist and still choose to remain within a church. After her death, Day was proposed for sainthood by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983. Pope John Paul II granted the Archdiocese of New York permission to open Day's cause for sainthood in March 2000, calling her a Servant of God.

Online communities

Numerous Christian anarchist websites, social networking sites, forums, electronic mailing lists and blogs have emerged on the internet over the last few years. These include: The Libertarian Christian Institute, started by Norman Horn, A Pinch of Salt, a 1980s Christian anarchist magazine, revived in 2006 by Keith Hebden as a blog and bi-annual magazine;[88][89] Vine & Fig Tree founded by Kevin Craig in 1982;[88][90] Jesus Radicals founded by Mennonites Nekeisha and Andy Alexis-Baker in 2000 and currently organized by Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, Joanna Shenk, and Mark Van Steenwyk [88][91] Lost Religion of Jesus created by Adam Clark in 2005;[88][92] Christian Anarchists created by Jason Barr in 2006;[88][93] The Mormon Worker, a blog and newspaper, founded in 2007 by William Van Wagenen to promote Mormonism, anarchism and pacifism;[88][94][95] Academics and Students Interested in Religious Anarchism (ASIRA) founded by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos in 2008;[88][96] Christian Anarchists Meeting Prayerfully to Understand Scripture (C.A.M.P.U.S.) founded in Utah by Shawn McCraney.[97][98]


Critics of Christian anarchism include both Christians and anarchists. Christians often cite Romans 13 as evidence that the State should be obeyed,[99] while secular anarchists do not believe in any authority including God as per the slogan "no gods, no masters".[100] Christian anarchists often believe Romans 13 is taken out of context,[101] emphasizing that Revelation 13 and Isaiah 13, among other passages, are needed to fully understand Romans 13 text.[102]

See also


  1. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 2–4. Locating Christian anarchism…In political theology…In political thought
  2. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Nathan J. Jun; Shane Wahl, eds. New Perspectives on Anarchism. Lexington Books. p. 149. ISBN 978-0739132401. Christian anarchism 'is not an attempt to synthesise two systems of thought' that are hopelessly incompatible; rather, it is 'a realisation that the premise of anarchism is inherent in Christianity and the message of the Gospels'.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (March 2010). "A Christian Anarchist Critique of Violence: From Turning the Other Cheek to a Rejection of the State" (PDF). Political Studies Association.
  4. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 254. The state as idolatry
  5. Van Steenwyk, Mark (2013). The UNkingdom of God. Downers Grove IL USA: IVP Books. ISBN 0830836551.
  6. 1 2 3 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 43–80. The Sermon on the Mount: A Manifesto for Christian Anarchism
  7. 1 2 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 19 and 208. Leo Tolstoy
  8. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 84–88. Old Testament
  9. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. pp. 47–48. Retrieved 2014-05-11. Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, and Samson were more prophets than kings. They had no permanent power. A significant phrase at the end of the book of Judges (21:25) is that at that time there was no king in Israel; people did what was right in their own eyes.
  10. - Passage Lookup: Judges 21:25: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
  11. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p. 48. ISBN 9780802804952. Retrieved 2014-05-11. Samuel was now judge. But the assembled people told him that they had now had enough of this political system. They wanted a king so as to be like other nations.
  12. "1 Samuel 8 (New International Version)". Bible Gateway. HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Retrieved 2014-05-12. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, 'You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.'
  13. "1 Samuel 9 (New International Version)". Bible Gateway. HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Retrieved 2014-05-11. Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 'About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.'
  14. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p. 48. ISBN 9780802804952. Retrieved 2014-05-11. He who was chosen to be king thus came on the scene, namely, Saul [...].
  15. Vernard Eller (1987). Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers. Wm. B. Eerdmans. God and Samuel accept (and honor) Israel's (bad) decision as accomplished fact and proceed to live with it rather than try to reverse it.
  16. - Passage Lookup: Matthew 4: 8-10
  17. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 57–58.
  18. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 94. Jesus' third temptation in the wilderness
  19. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 123–126. Revelation
  20. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 71–74. The first beast comes up from the sea...It is given 'all authority and power over every tribe, every people, every tongue, and every nation' (13:7). All who dwell on earth worship it. Political power could hardly, I think, be more expressly described, for it is this power which has authority, which controls military force, and which compels adoration (i.e., absolute obedience).
  21. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1895). "58". Der Antichrist. There is a perfect likeness between Christian and anarchist: their object, their instinct, points only toward destruction…The Christian and the anarchist: both are decadents; both are incapable of any act that is not disintegrating, poisonous, degenerating, blood-sucking; both have an instinct of mortal hatred of everything that stands up, and is great, and has durability, and promises life a future…
  22. Frank S. Billings (1894). How Shall the Rich Escape?. Arena Publishing. p. 209. Taking the gospels as our only possible authority, it cannot be denied that Jesusism and anarchism are almost identical
  23. 1 2 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 243–246. Early Christians
  24. Hinson, E. Glenn. The Early Church: Origins to the Dawn of the Middle Ages, (1996) pp 42–3
  25. Merton, Thomas. "Wisdom of the Desert." Abbey of Gethsemani Inc. 1960. p.5
  26. 1 2 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). New Perspectives on Anarchism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. pp. 149–168. Christian Anarchism: A Revolutionary Reading of the Bible
  27. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 246. Christian pacifism - let alone Christian anarchism - was submerged for nearly a millennium
  28. "Francis of Assisi." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  29. Coy, Patrick G. (1988). A Revolution of the heart: essays on the Catholic worker. Temple University Press. pp. 19–22. The influence of Francis of Assisi in Maurin's life was considerable.
  30. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 38. Peter Chelčický
  31. "It was in these conditions of class struggle that, among a whole cluster of radical groups such as the Fifth Monarchy Men, the Levellers and the Ranters, there emerged perhaps the first real proto-anarchists, the Diggers, who like the classical 19th century anarchists identified political and economic power and who believed that a social, rather than political revolution was necessary for the establishment of justice. Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers' leader, made an identification with the word of God and the principle of reason, an equivalent philosophy to that found in Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You. In fact, it seems likely Tolstoy took much of his own inspiration from Winstanley "Marlow. "Anarchism and Christianity"
  32. "While the ideal commonwealth conceived by James Harrington tried to combine the existence of a powerful state with respect for the political rights of the citizens, Thomas Hobbes and Gerrard Winstanley, for opposite reasons, denied the possibility of power being shared between the state and the people...Before defining the government of a true Commonwealth Winstanley denounces the kingly government based on property and like Proudhon he believes that “property is theft”. Marie Louise Berneri ""Utopias of the English Revolution"
  33. George Woodcock "Anarchism". The Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  34. Lewis Herber. (Murray Bookchin) "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought". (2009-04-27). Retrieved on 2011-12-28.
  35. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 39. Adin Ballou
  36. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos (2006). "Tolstoy the Peculiar Christian Anarchist".
  37. William Thomas Stead (ed.). The review of reviews, Volume 9, 1894, p.306.
  38. Mather & Crowther (ed.). The Speaker, Volume 9, 1894, p.254.
  39. Coy, Patrick G. (1988). A Revolution of the heart: essays on the Catholic worker. Temple University Press. pp. 16–23. Peter Maurin
  40. Hennacy, Ammon (1970). The Book of Ammon. Hennacy. p. 332.
  41. James A. Fowler (2000). "A Synopsis and Analysis of the Thought and Writings of Jacques Ellul". Christ in You Ministries.
  42. Ivan Illich (1988). "The Educational enterprise in the Light of the Gospel". Chicago. Jesus was an anarchist savior
  43. Vernard Eller (1987). Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers. Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  44. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 167–175. Deceptive Dogmas...Sanctimonious self-righteousness
  45. Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. p. 26. The immediate reality, however, is that the revelation of Jesus ought not to give rise to a religion. All religion leads to war, but the Word of God is not a religion, and it is the most serious of all betrayals to have made of it a religion.
  46. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 175–177. Institutional religion
  47. Elliot, Michael C. (1990). Freedom, Justice and Christian Counter-Culture. London: SCM Press. p. 164. Jesus asserted that each person could have direct and personal access to the truth, and each become in effect his or her own authority
  48. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. p. 52. The cycle of violence
  49. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (April 2008). "Turning the Other Cheek to Terrorism: Reflections on the Contemporary Significance of Leo Tolstoy's Exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount". Cambridge University Press. pp. 41–42.
  50. Dorothy Day (February 1945). "More About Holy Poverty. Which Is Voluntary Poverty.". The Catholic Worker. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  51. Cornell, Tom; Ellsberg, Robert (1995). A Penny a Copy: Readings from the Catholic Worker. Orbis Books. p. 198. At its deepest level voluntary poverty is a way of seeing the world and the things of the world.… The Gospels are quite clear: the rich man is told to sell all he has and give to the poor, for it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. And we are clearly instructed that 'you can not serve God and Mammon'.
  52. 1 2 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 181–182. Paul's letter to Roman Christians, chapter 13
  53. - Passage Lookup: Romans 13:1–7
  54. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 191–192. Similar passages in the New Testament
  55. - Passage Lookup: Titus 3:1
  56. - Passage Lookup: Hebrews 13:17
  57. - Passage Lookup: 1 Peter 2:13-17
  58. C.E.B. Cranfield (1985). The Christian's Political Responsibility According to the New Testament. pp. 177–184. We have to serve the state for the sake of men's eternal salvation
  59. 1 2 3 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2009). Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 106–144. Responding to the State: Christian Anarchists on Romans 13, Rendering to Caesar, and Civil Disobedience
  60. BBC. "Just War - introduction".
  61. 1 2 3 Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 86–87. The Interpretation of Romans 13:1-2
  62. Boyd, Greg. "Does Following Jesus Rule Out Serving in the Military if a War is Just?".
  63. Eller, Vernard (1987). Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 239. Voluntary self-subordination
  64. Lipscomb, David (2006). On Civil Government. Doulos Christou Press. p. 72. Human government, the embodied effort of man to rule the world without God, ruled over by 'the prince of this world,' the devil. Its mission is to execute wrath and vengeance here on earth. Human government bears the same relation to hell as the church bears to heaven
  65. Lipscomb, David (2006). On Civil Government. Doulos Christou Press. p. 69. This higher power is a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil. The Christian has been clearly forbidden to take vengeance or execute wrath, but he is to live peaceably with all men, to do good for evil. Then a Christian cannot be an officer or executor of this higher power
  66. Christian Anarchy (Eller) 1
  67. Käsemann, Ernst, Commentary on Romans, (1980)
  68. Tolstoy, Leo (1882). Church and State. This deviation begins from the times of the Apostles and especially from that hankerer after mastership Paul
  69. Hennacy, Ammon (1970). The Book of Ammon. Hennacy. p. 475. Paul and the Churches
  70. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 199–201. For (non-violent) civil disobedience
  71. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 67–69. Swear not at all
  72. 1 2 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 192–197. Jesus' advice on taxes
  73. "Anarchists and War Tax Resistance". National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.
  74. “Ammon Hennacy” in Gross, David M. (ed.) We Won’t Pay: A Tax Resistance Reader (2008) ISBN 1-4348-9825-3 pp. 385-393
  75. - Passage Lookup: Romans 13:6–7
  76. Dear, John (2007). The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life's Great Answers. Doubleday. p. 190.
  77. Ellul, Jacques: Anarchism and Christianity, p.20
  78. Miller, Robin Feuer (2010). Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy. Cambridge University. p. 52. Tolstoy's famous embrace of vegetarianism was triggered in large part by his intensifying philosophy of non-violence
  79. "'Thou shalt not kill' does not apply to murder of one's own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai."  Leo Tolstoy
  80. Hennacy, Ammon (1970). The Book of Ammon. Hennacy. p. 125. I had been vegetarian since 1910
  81. Geological Society of London (2007). Four centuries of geological travel. Monod became a vegetarian and an ardent pacifist
  82. Alfred G. Higgins (1982). A History of the Brotherhood Church. p. 52.
  83. "The Brotherhood Church history".
  84. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 24 and 260. The Catholic Worker movement
  85. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 28–29. Ciaron O'Reilly
  86. Klejment, Anne; Patrick Coy (1988). A Revolution of the heart: essays on the Catholic worker. Temple University Press. pp. 293–294.
  87. Hennacy, Ammon (1970). The Book of Ammon. Hennacy. p. 0.
  88. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 264 and 265. Online communities
  89. Keith Hebden (2006). "A Pinch of Salt".
  90. Kevin Craig (1982). "Vine & Fig Tree". Around 1977 I had been captivated by the prophet Micah's visualization of every man beating swords into plowshares and dwelling safely under his vine & fig tree. I formed a publishing organization called "Vine & Fig Tree," which finally received tax-exempt status in 1982.
  91. Nekeisha and Andy Alexis-Baker (2000). "Jesus Radicals".
  92. Adam Clark (2005). "Lost Religion of Jesus". Yahoo Groups!.
  93. Jason Barr (2006). "Christian Anarchists". Facebook.
  94. William Van Wagenen (2007). "The Mormon Worker blog".
  95. William Van Wagenen (2007). "The Mormon Worker newspaper".
  96. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos (2008). "Academics and Students Interested in Religious Anarchism (ASIRA)". Anarchist Studies Network.
  97. McCraney, Shawn. "C.A.M.P.U.S. – Christian Anarchists Meeting to Prayerfully Understand Scripture". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  98. McCraney, Shawn (2010) [2010]. If /Then: If my kingdom were of this world then my servants would fight: A believer’s refusal to join popular Christian culture. [Kindle edition]. New York: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. ASIN B00Y5IBDZY.
  99. Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2011). "Was Jesus an anarchist?". BBC. The two passages that are most frequently brought up as 'clear evidence'…to respect civil authorities and to honour secular governments as those whom God has placed in authority…are Romans 13 and 'render unto Caesar'.
  100. Alexis-Baker, Nekeisha (October 2006). "Embracing God and Rejecting Masters: On Christianity, Anarchism and the State". The Utopian. 5. The anarchist position on God can be summed up in the popular slogan, 'No God and no masters'. […] If God is indeed a tyrant as Bakunin asserts then the abolition of God and religion are necessary parts of what it means to be anarchist.
  101. Craig, Kevin. "ROMANS 13: The Most Disastrously Misinterpreted Scripture in the History of the Human Race".
  102. ""UNLUCKY 13" ROMANS 13, REVELATION 13, and ISAIAH 13...and why the State does not want you to read them together.".

Further reading

19th century

20th century

21st century

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