The Anarchy of Christianity

Christian Anarchism 3

In the minds of most Christianity appears as a docile institution wedded to, in America at least, right-wing morality, patriotism, and capitalism.  For the traditional right-wing evangelical this is a thing to be proud of.  For those on the left-wing it is a thing of revulsion.  However, what Christianity is and represents today in America is a far cry from what it was and represented in the first two centuries of its’ existence on earth.

Early Christians chose the Greek term, “Ecclesia” as a name for their community.  The term Ecclesia is latent with democratic meaning.  It signifies the assembly of citizens gathered to direct the affairs of the community.  Furthermore, The early church practiced a form of socialism amongst themselves, to greater and lesser degrees, in which all worked but those with much supplied for those with little.  In addition, this spirit of giving often overflowed the ranks and spilled out to the poor and oppressed in the community.  One early Roman is recorded as saying, “Not only to do they care for their own poor, but they care for ours as well.”

And finally, the early Church worked, prayed, and longed for the end of this “present evil age”, the destruction of the Beast (the state mechanism), and the reign of the Kingdom of God.  Each church in each city saw itself, it’s communal existence and function,  as the prefigurement of the age to come.  Prefigurative politics and the replacement of the state with grassroots, democratic community are two basic tenents of anarchism. Christian Anarchism

Hence, we see that the early church was radically ahead of its’ time.  As we quickly discussed above the church included elements of grassroots participatory democracy, socialism, and anarchism.  Furthermore, the early Church rejected the rule of “religious law” in favor of each member living in obedience to the inner Spirit.  Hence, one early Christian leader said, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Therefore, we can safely affirm that the early Church was libertarian.  Leaders arose and were recognized based on their experience and gifts, but ultimately all believers were equal and were accountable for their own lives.  The early church did not have clergy, and each assembly was governed collectively with all members expected and encouraged to share their gifts and insights during meetings.

The early church came into conflict with three groups during the first two centuries of its existence.  What groups, you may ask?  The immoral gentiles?  Nope.  James tells us that the early assemblies came into conflict with the rich.  “Is it not they [the rich] who throw you in prison, and blaspheme that name by which you are called?”, he wrote.  The early church also came into conflict with the religious establishment of its day- Jew and Gentile.  Christianity boldly declared the futility of gentile superstition and jewish legalism and invited men and women into a community of love grounded in the One True God and in the coming of his kingdom in the person of Jesus, the Messiah.

Finally, the Church came into conflict with the state.  No, they did not throw Molotov Cocktails at cops.  Rather, they lived a prefigurative live that held the welfare of human beings to be more important than the interests of the state.  When commanded to “swear allegiance” to Rome and the Emperor they refused.  They held Jesus to be the only  King and Lord.  The early church refused violence and war.  Members refused to enter the military or use violence against their fellow human beings.  They held the word of truth and the power of the Spirit to be the tools of conversion; not coersion or the sword.

What a difference between then and now.  Today we live in a world far different from the one two thousand years ago.  The state has evolved and globalization is a constant reality.  But the need for a prefigurative community is still needed today.  A community that comes into opposition with the state, with the religious establishment, and with the rich, simply because of its practice of solidarity, community, sharing, and love.  A community that can speak to power and challenge it with the tools of love and peace.  A community that incorporates democracy, socialism, libertarianism, and anarchism.  A community where all are kings and priests and where Jesus is alive and recognized in all, and especially, in the least.

Christian Anarchism 2


About andrewwehrheim

Hello Blogging World. My name is Andrew Wehrheim. I am married to my beautiful wife Katie. We have a wonderful son named Andrew Peter, a.k.a "Buzz". We are in the process of moving from Lancaster, OH to Milwaukee, WI. I am a working class man. I have worked in the grocery industry the past four years. I am drawn to a deeper experience of community and long for a world of justice and love. Word out.
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6 Responses to The Anarchy of Christianity

  1. Great post! I never really noticed that aspect of James’ writing to show that the early churches came into conflict with the rich. Excellent insight.

  2. The context is especially interesting. He exhorts the church not to show favoritism to the rich, which obviously was happening. In short, he was saying, “Why would you show favoritism to the very class that is persecuting you and throwing you in prison.” The Gospel is good news for the poor. The rich are not excluded, but must take a place of equality among the poor. Jesus told one rich young man that if he wanted to join the ranks of the poor disciples he would have to sell all that he owned and distribute it among the poor. In essence, if he wanted the Good News of the Kingdom he would have to become poor first, to enter it. Not trying to set out a universal law here, just trying to bring out some of the essence of the teaching and practice of the early Ecclesias

  3. Pingback: A Message to the Organic Church Movement from One on the Outside | seekingcommunity

  4. Aw, this was an extremely good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a really good article but what can I say I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.|

  5. Ian Johnstone says:

    It is interesting, that around the world in the poorest communities, the gospel takes root and flourishes! Set apart, disenfranchised, from the political and religious status quo, people seem find a sense of community built purely on Jesus. Yet, in our ‘sophisticated’ modern world, we are content to accept a version of the gospel that has been carefully crafted to fit the industrial/religious paradigm, mostly ignoring the core simplicity of the message Jesus brought. Like you, I have struggled with detoxing from first the institution and latterly from the politics of church! I grew tired of ‘annointed’ preachers telling me what to think and how to act, often contrary to the gospel! But, the further I have wandered, the tighter I have felt Jesus’ grip on my hand. I always enjoy reading and considering insightful and, dare I say, Spirit led blogs such as yours! This is an insightful and well thought through piece. Thanks!

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