Christian Anarchism

Anarchism is the only biblical way to engage the American political system – or any political system for that matter – because it is the only political philosophy that rejects aggressive violence, force, and coercion.

Michael Maharrey

MICHAEL MAHARREY

Tenth Amendment Center

Before we consider any political system, we must answer a fundamental question: Who has the right to rule you?

From the Judeo-Christian perspective, God is sovereign. But he chooses not to exercise absolute power over humanity. For instance, God chose to grant humankind dominion over the earth. In His sovereign capacity, He delegated limited authority and power to humankind.

Broadly speaking, God grants us the autonomy to choose whether we will submit to his authority – at least while we remain on earth. We can reject his rule and govern ourselves.

Anarchism literally means “without ruler,” and it implies this idea of self-rule.

Through early human history, rulers were thought to hold their positions by divine right or sheer force of will. In other words, everyone assumed kings had an inherent, God-given right to rule. Their authority was unquestionable. They stood above the “common” man.

Robert Filmer was an English political theorist. In his best-known work, Patriarcha (1680), he defended this “divine right of kings.”

“Men are not born free, and therefore could never have the liberty to choose either governors or forms of government. Princes have the powers absolute and by divine right; for slaves could never have the right of compact or consent. Adam was an absolute monarch, and so are all princes ever since.”

In his First Treatise of Government, John Locke demolishes this idea. He built his argument on the principle of equality – no person naturally stands above others. We all have an equal right to direct our own lives.

“Man has a natural freedom, notwithstanding all our author [Filmer] confidently says to the contrary, since all that share in the same common nature, faculties, and powers, are in nature equal, and ought to partake in the same common rights and privileges, till the manifest appointment of God, who is ‘Lord over all blessed forever,’ can be produced to show any particular person’s supremacy; or a man’s own consent subjects him to a superior.”

No person inherently has the right to rule over another. Because God does not force his sovereign will upon humanity, no person has the right to force his or her will on other people. Locke alludes to this idea in A Letter Concerning Toleration.

“If, like the Captain of our salvation, they sincerely desired the good of souls, they would tread in the steps and follow the perfect example of that Prince of Peace, who sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into His Church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force, but prepared with the Gospel of peace and with the exemplary holiness of their conversation.”

No person inherently has the right to rule over another. Because God does not force his sovereign will upon humanity, no person has the right to force his or her will on other people.

Locke draws these ideas out to their logical conclusion in his Second Treatise of Government. If all people possess an equal right to self-ownership and self-direction, government can only exist for their mutual benefit and by their consent.

“Men being, as has been said, by nature all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subject to the political power of another, without his own consent.”

Following Locke’s logic, a legitimate government must be voluntary. But the world’s political systems are anything but. They establish and maintain themselves by violence, force, and coercion.

I am not arguing that “government” in the abstract is unbiblical. I’m arguing that “the state” is biblically immoral and unjust because it demands involuntary submission under the threat of violence.

Economist Murray Rothbard defines “the state” this way:

“The State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion.”

The state exists through force and violence. This is antithetical to the teachings of Christ.

Theologian William Stringfellow describes the state much like Rothbard, writing that it “claims and exercises exclusive practical control of coercive capabilities, or violence, within a nation.”

As Stringfellow puts it, the state is the preeminent principality, and it exposes the moral authority of the demonic with directness and severity.

And that moral authority is death.

“Every sanction or weapon or policy or procedure – including law where law survives distinct from authority – which the State commands against both human beings and against other principalities carries the connotation of death, implicitly threatens death, derives from and symbolizes death … Enumerate the usual prerogatives of the State and it becomes plain that each and every one of them embodies the meaning of death: exile, imprisonment, slavery, conscription, impeachment, regulation of production or sales or prices or wages or competition or credit; confiscation, surveillance, execution, war. Whenever the authority of the State is exercised as such ways as these, the moral basis of that authority remains the same: death. That is the final sanction of the State and it is the only one.”

Christians who claim allegiance to a Kingdom founded by “the Prince of Peace” should reject the kingdoms of this world and their violence. Yes, they exist. Yes, we have to live within them and to some degree “submit” to them. But this does not mean Christians have to support governments, advocate for governments, accept governments as some kind of moral good, or even obey every government edict and pronouncement.

Ultimately, God gives two Great Commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t love your neighbor by wielding the moral authority of death to force him to bend to your will. That is the essence of politics. As such, Christians should reject the political process and the world’s governmental systems as a means of directing society.

Michael Maharrey

MICHAEL MAHARREY

Tenth Amendment Center

Michael Maharrey serves as the national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center and the managing editor of the SchiffGold website.

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