Can a Christian Be an Anarchist?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself lately. I’ve done a lot of thinking, not to mention praying, on this subject. Here are some thoughts…

Consider this hypothetical situation:

1) There is a tyrannical despot ruling over a country.

2) God “raptures” all believers (no, I don’t believe in “the rapture”…but it is useful for this imaginary situation).

3) Unbelievers rebel against the government and slowly anarchy emerges. Private road systems form. People begin offering their services…post offices, crime protection, etc…

4) God brings Christians back to the world and sets them in this anarchic society.

In this situation, from what I have read, I don’t believe it would be unbiblical for Christians to live in this type of anarchy. They can still respect the authorities, be it a judge, the owner of a road, or someone else. I don’t see that this would be wrong for a Christian. And in this way, a Christian would be an anarchist.

But obviously, this situation isn’t likely. But I think this hypothetical scenario shows that it wouldn’t be wrong for Christians to live under anarchy. It becomes problematic when we think about the transition to a stateless society. We aren’t going to be raptured away from the world while this happens. If a Christian would be happy to live under anarchy, the real question is, how do we get to that? And what is the Christian’s role–if any–in the abolishing of the state?

I think this is the real tension for the Christian anarchist. How are we to obey Romans 13 and yet promote the idea of a stateless society? And I don’t think the answer is going to be as clear as the answers to some of our questions. After all, the Bible doesn’t say, “When your government requires a 25% income tax, you may revolt.” I think it is obvious that Christians are not required to submit to Hitler, or some government as atrocious as he was. For me, the problem is this: The Bible tells us to respect the governing authorities. But yet if I stay silent on some issues, I am betraying the God that I live for. If I stay silent on the issue of murder, I’m denying through my actions, the Creator of life. Most Christians would agree that it is permissible and actually required that they disobey a government which tells them to do that which God forbids them to do or keeps them from doing that which God has expressly commanded them to do. But I also feel that we ought to be an example to the world, a people who refuses to deny the sanctity of life and other fundamental beliefs. Right now the government allows us to speak somewhat freely. And we should be taking advantage of that. And if the government forbade any sort of free speech, we ought to do it anyways. What kind of followers of God would we be if we sat silently by while a government murdered people?

So theoretically I see no problem with a Christian believing that an anarchic society would be workable and would be possible for them to live under. Practically, it is another matter. It doesn’t seem that Christians should be involved in outright rebellion against the state (like breaking a ridiculous law and videotaping the cop accosting you for the purpose of publicity and ridiculing the state). Despite what we think of the government, God commands Christians to respect the authorities. Where we draw the line and say, “no, I can no longer submit to this…” well, that’s a different matter. Depending on our circumstances and knowledge of the Bible I think we’ll draw different lines. We may have different issues that trigger this. Perhaps it will be abortion. Perhaps for others it will be the draft. And the Bible doesn’t speak on these specific issues. We must be comparing our lives to the Scriptures and guided by the Holy Spirit through prayer we must constantly be striving to live according to the will of God. That is what really matters, in the end.

2 Comments

  1. Here’s my two cents again. 🙂 While I don’t think that it would be wrong for a Christian to live IN an anarchist society, I do not think that anarchy is something to be sought out by Christians. There is a difference between living in an anarchist society and being an anarchist. I do not think that anarchy is biblical, at least that is my understanding.

  2. I’m not a Christian, not even a “believer,” so when I read Romans 13, I have no presumption of truth or divinity in the words, and can maybe read it more “coldly” than some I’ve known. When I got to what seems like the crucial part, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor,” it reminded me of the old preface, “With all due respect…” I’ve always loved that, because you can follow it with anything you think is “due.” What if the person to whom you’re speaking is not worthy of respect? Then “With all due respect, you are a moron” is perfectly appropriate.

    So, what are “all their dues” when speaking of a political leader? How can anything which is not acquired by first use, creation, or voluntary trade be someone’s “due?” Do I owe dues to someone just because they say so? What if they claim “divine right of kings” or similar nonsense? I give it to them because God told them they have a right to it? Nothing which is acquired by initiation or threatened initiation of violence, or fraud, is anyone’s due. That pretty well excludes every person making any claim to be part of a “government.”

    A strict Christian friend is fond of quoting the old “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” line to justify taxes. What is “that which is Caesar’s?” Nothing that Caesar acquires by threatened or actual violence or fraud is rightfully his. I owe Caesar nothing that I do not voluntarily, under no threats whatsoever, agree to give as gift or in trade.

    So, unless Christianity sanctifies violence for those calling themselves “government,” and by asking the questions of what is “due,” at least in those passages, it surely does not, I say the only Christian way to live is in anarchy.

    Peace! 🙂

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