Christian Archy: Its Major Tenets
As I see it, there are three.
1. In the first place, the Gospel is concerned with the kingdom of Christ and only with the kingdom of Christ. This kingdom cannot, therefore, be equated with any human archy, be that archy left wing or right wing, liberal or conservative, revolutionary or anti-revolutionary, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. The Archy of Christ is intent on reconciling adversaries instead of creating them. Politically, Christian Archy rejects the partisan power contest. At its heart lies the cross and the self-givingness of love. All worldly archys are therefore antithetical to the Archy of Christ, including “good” archys that rely upon an unfounded confidence in the moral competency of humans and that seek to impose their “right” upon people they believe to be “wrong.” Again, I know I am oversimplifying, but these characteristics are precisely found, for example, in the first chapter of Eller’s Christian Anarchy.
2. The second and no less astonishing feature of Christian Archy is the contention that the ultimate victory of Christ’s Archy will take place without any assistance or support from the efforts of human archys of any kind, including those of Christendom, whether of the Christian Right or the Christian Left (see Eller, Christian Anarchy, chapter 2). Eller maintains that human efforts to establish the kingdom of God have absolutely no biblical or theological foundations. Christ’s Archy has nothing whatsoever to do with “holy causes, programs, and ideologies that will effect the social reformation of society” (Christian Anarchy, p. 25). Absolutely nothing! Politics, argues Eller, is one such false messiah, though any movement or ideology that takes the place of the cross belongs under the same rubric and merits the same appraisal. This tendency to supplant the cross of Christ with human solutions (including “holy” ones) and to anoint them with near-divine status is called “arky faith” by Eller. (“Arky” is Eller’s preferred spelling of “archy.”) Arky faith is present whenever one attempts to use piety to force its version of “justice” into place as the solution to “injustice.” Writes Eller (Christian Anarchy, p. 27):
I am convinced that there are many Christians (of both the left and right) who, as individuals, are quite modest, humble, and of realistic self-image – but who, then, proceed to satisfy their lust for power, their delusions of grandeur, and their sense of self-righteousness through the holy arkys with which they identify. Asserting their “just cause” becomes a psychological disguise for asserting themselves; thus they find Christian justification for the sense of power to which all of us are tempted.
This does not mean, continues Eller, that human archys do not exist or are irrelevant. It is simply to insist that Christ’s Archy is not of this world – which means that, as Christians, it is unnecessary to fight the archys, compete with them, or recognize any merit on their part. In fact, Christian Archy is completely indifferent to human archys, whether they be communist, pacifist, liberal, democratic, libertarian, revolutionary, etc. What matters is that the church be the church, refusing to sacralized earthly archys and even itself. God does not need our worldly systems (dogmatics, philosophy, science, politics) or even our “centers for cultural transformation” to bring about societal reformation. Jesus alone suffices.
3. Precisely because the church has abandoned its apolitical message, a third and final dimension to Christian Archy must be mentioned, namely that no worldly archy has any actual power or ultimate significance (see Eller, Christian Anarchy, chapter 3). “Christianity started out as a completely anarchic ekklesia and then drifted into churchly arkydom,” writes Eller (p. 52). By “churchly arkydom” he means any worldly archy that replaces Christian Archy or that vies for our attention, examples being Christian feminism, liberation theology, and social revolution. In Christ’s kingdom, archys based on gender, class, and social standing are completely irrelevant. Christians are called upon to rely exclusively on the Holy Spirit, who “gives hope where all is despair, the strength to endure in the midst of disaster, perspicacity not to fall victim to seduction, the ability to subvert in turn all the powers that are involved” (Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, p. 190). With reference specifically to churchly archys, Eller notes that an ekklesia “is still a totally anarchic concept; no hint of arkydom is involved” (Christian Anarchy, p. 50). In the church, therefore, there are no human actors who function as special, anointed agents capable either of representing God to men of representing men to God, nor can any single individual speak entirely for God as pater familias (pope, patriarch, priest, bishop, pastor, etc.). Is this perspective anticlerical? Decidedly not, if by this is meant that ecclesiastical leaders should think of themselves self-sufficient and able to disregard their fellow Christians. Decidedly so, if by this is meant the conviction that all the brothers and sisters are able to admonish and teach one another in the Lord, being one Body and one Bread and of one mind.
And so, in Christ, the archys of the world are definitively desacralized, eliminated, and vanquished. This is the essential upshot (as I see it) of Christian Archy, which implies a radical reconstitution of what is truly sacral in God’s eyes.
NEXT: Working Out the Implications of Christian Archy.
Read Part 1: Christian Archy: Introduction.
October 15, 2008
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.