Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.
Galatians 3 (The Message)
I identify as a Christian, as a communist, as anti-violence, and as an anarchist. Which I know confuses the mess out of people (partly why I like to identify as such).
But these are words. Markers. They help to frame, but don’t quite place. What does it mean to be a Christian (and particularly a White, male, straight) Christian in the United States? Both Cornel West and George W Bush are Christians. What does it mean to be a socialist – as one tends to think of Che, Mao and Castro, of violent unions and Soviet propaganda or super-duper unions and guys on Macs talking about revolution in coffee shops? And how does that jibe with they typical understanding of anarchism – whether that be Sex Pistols fans burning stuff down, wearing handkerchief masks and beating down cops in the most popular imagination, or people who really like Ron Paul and Austrian Economics who insist that taxation is coercive theft and government is slavery.
Briefly, I believe in following Jesus Christ as my Lord and his counter-intutive ways of loving my neighbor as myself and seeing the Supreme Creator God in every person and interaction. This definition isn’t necessarily the same type that Billy Graham or Pat Robertson would use, but it fits in within the history of Christianity.
I also come from a tradition that states that Christianity is a central identity – that “once saved, always saved.” I suppose maybe that is true, but I see salvation as being something that is never complete, never full (of course, we mean different things when we speak of “salvation.” But Christians have generally meant different things by these terms throughout Christian histories and traditions): salvation as following Jesus and acting according to his Spirit as mediated in the world. It’s “captivating every thought and principality” and so there is never a point of completion, never a destination. Always a journey. (This idea isn’t unique, of course. Just rather foreign to some sections of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.)
Socialism and anarchy appear paradoxical. But, in short, socialism and anarchy combine to be the sharing of resources and wealth and political agency of each person – from what each has to what each needs (socialism) but without centralized power (anarchism). Generally, when people hear these terms, they also imagine a kind of netherworld destination. With these two, it is a place, a no-place, a Utopia. Rainbows and ponies and all that razzle-dazzle (not that there’s anything wrong with rainbows and ponies!) where all problems are forever solved and everyone drinks free milk pumped by brawny hands and sits on down pillows and 4000 count thread sheets sewed by delicate fingers.
But I can’t subscribe to that. There will be no such future state, because that is not who we are – we are not wired like that and there will always be someone to take advantage and oppress. Rather, I think of anarchy and socialism as trends, as direction, as practice. Not a future destination– but a way of equality and solidarity and mutuality where no one group or person is marginalized or oppressed for another, where all are represented and the underrepresented are finally represented.
It is for this that I cannot separate my Christianity from my praxis, my anarchism from my praxis, my socialism from my praxis – they must be more than words. They must be doings. Faith without deeds is dead, said the Apostle James, brother to Jesus.
Just as integrally, I cannot separate any of these from feminism and womanism and mujerism, from anti-racism and post-colonialism, or from anti-ageism and anti-ableism and all intersectional forms of justice and equality and talking back to the colonizers and oppressors.
It is feminism and anti-racism and anti-ableist agency that teach us how to recognize all people as fully human and respect places, identities, and the things that the privileged and powerful see as abnormal, as oddities, as less-than. These movements also teach us to identify and deconstruct the systems of power and violence that keep people in the margins and that deny access to integral resources and support. White men cannot quite comprehend the oppression and violence that black women face on a daily level through just the lenses of pacifism or anarchy or socialism because none of those strains are neutral. They come about through prisms, and for white men, they come through the perspective of white men. So we must learn to adopt and sync to other views as well; for though we White men can never lose our perspectives, we are foolish to merely retain ours as if it were the ONE TRUE objective perspective. There is no such thing.
Some would-be radicals will say that all of this is extra excess and nonsense. That all you really need is communism or anarchy or Christianity and the rest just naturally fall into place. But each identification has troubling aspects. Each identity must be subjugated to questioning and interrogation for its participation in White, Male, Cis-, Class, and Hetero-Supremacy.
When I teach or tutor or write or become involved in community efforts or parent, I consider that I am not the only shaper, that my experience is not universal; I am not the only person influenced and influencing this world. I can’t teach without desiring to empower my students and trying to meet each of them as not just students, but as equals, as human beings, as complex and wonderful people. I can’t father without believing fully that my daughter is a full and equal human being who is now a little girl and that I want to make the world somewhat better for her while helping her carve out a good path in this hostile world – hostile to women’s bodies and experiences and minds.
That is why I am not satisfied with just anti-violence or just Christianity or just anarchism or just socialism.
And so I listen to the marginalized and oppressed voices and I practice and I meditate and listen some more.
It sounds like something Jesus would do, bear with others. And so I try to act in accord.