Christian anarchism

Some Christian communities have believed that there is only one source of authority to which they are ultimately answerable, and that is the authority of God as embodied in Jesus. Historically, some Christians felt therefore that earthly authority such as government, or indeed the established church, does not and should not have power over them.

This is equivalent to mainstream Anarchism, with a basis of spiritual justification. Its adherents quote the teachings of Jesus, some of which were critical of the existing establishment.

Table of contents
1 The Fall of Rome
2 The Reformation
3 Leo Tolstoy
4 External link

The Fall of Rome

There are anarchical traces in much of the history of Christianity. For example, Gibbons felt that Christianity contributed, perhaps passively, to the fall of the Roman Empire:

"As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear
without surprise or scandal that the introduction... of Christianity, had some
influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire." [1]

He goes on to suggest that military expansionism gave way to devotion and piety, and religious conflict replaced military conquest.

A Washington State University paper states that the Roman Emperor codified, and accommodated to the radical teachings of Jesus:

...the foundational Christian texts are not only anti-Roman ... but
consistently dismissive of human, worldly authority.
If Christianity were going to work as a religion in a state ruled by a
monarch that demanded worship and absolute authority, it would
have to be changed. To this end, Constantine convened a group of
Christian bishops at Nicea in 325; there, the basic orthodoxy of
Christianity was instantiated in what came to be called the Nicene
creed[1], the basic statement of belief for orthodox Christianity.[1]

Christianity became the official language of the Empire in c390. Within a century Rome was overrun,and the barbarians were in charge.

The Reformation

A further example is found in the Reformation idea that the individual believer could have a direct relationship with God. The earlier notion that salvation had to be earned through a range of good works and practices, interpreted and prescribed by the Church, was left behind. Instead, the concept of grace was seen to produce salvation for genuine believers who accept and follow God's revealed word. A simple interpretation of scripture seriously threatened the centuries of established Church power, wealth and authority.

The Anabaptist Protestant sect was seen as anarchic in 15th Century Germany, at the time of the Reformation. Some of its adherents lived in communal settlements and vowed to overthrow the established Government. This led led to extensive military action at the time.

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy is notable for having written extensively on his anarchist principles, which he arrived at via his Christian faith. Notably his books The Gospel in Brief and The Kingdom of God is Within You expounded a philosophy very similar to that of his contemporary Mikhail Bakunin, with critique of the state, industrial capitalism, exploitation of the peasants and proletariat, a strong denouncement of the clergy and the Church in general, and a call for a society based on non-violent principles.




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