Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel

Article excerpt

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary On The Gospel Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2010, 336pp. ISBN 978 1845401931

To many potential readers 'Christian anarchism' may appear to be an oxymoron given that anarchists are often uncomfortable with religion, while many Christians would be suspicious of anything labelled 'anarchist'. A fair-minded reading of this excellent book will do much to dispel these reservations. While this book is ostensibly about what we might term 'Christian anarchism' and will probably be required reading for all who identify themselves as Christian anarchists or radical Christians, it is much more than that. It works on three levels, drawing together nearly all the available modern literature produced by Christian anarchists and fellow travellers while offering a valuable thematic political commentary on the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth (a neglected figure in political science) and presenting a radical theological challenge to the Christian community.

It should be made clear from the outset that Christoyannopoulos does not see Christian anarchism as a synthesis of the two systems of thought and neither does he attempt to synthesise them. Rather, he is interested in exploring the suggestive resonances between the central gospel message and anarchist thought and practice and also the work of a number of writers, notably Leo Tolstoy, who work within or around this anarcho-religious tradition. Christian anarchists differ from their secular counterparts in that while they reject human authority as represented by the State they submit to the authority of God in order to bring about the Kingdom of God in the here and now. Secular anarchists will probably be uncomfortable with this message given that they would want to reject all forms of authority but God is here primarily seen as variously the author of love, a teacher and guide rather than a monarchical figure. More importantly, the engagement is with the teachings of Jesus and not with the dogmas of institutionalised religion.

Christoyannopoulos begins with a nuanced defence of die idea and practice of Christian anarchism before engaging with what is an exhaustive literature review of the main writers associated with Christian anarchism, then shifts to the heart of the matter by exploring the Christian anarchist critique of the state, materialism and the embracing of social justice and non-violence. …

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