At 200ProofLiberals, Jess Flanigan cites a famous passage of Tolstoy’s to suggest that Christians ought to be anarchists. I don’t think anyone should be either a Christian or an anarchist, much less their conjunction, but let that go. It’s worth asking what would have happened had the early Christians followed Tolstoy’s advice.
I think the answer is that Christianity would likely have gone extinct. Between its anti-Christian pagan antagonists and the Islamic empires that arose in the wake of pagan Rome, anarchist Christians would likely have been wiped out, or turned into a tiny, inconsequential minority. Subtract Constantine and his successors from history (the real Constantine, not Keanu Reaves), and there’s little reason to think that Europe would have gone Christian. It would likely have gone pagan or Muslim or some combination of the two. In that case, Jess Flanigan’s Irish ancestors might never have heard of Christianity except as a predecessor sect of Islam. The Irish would most likely have been Muslims, as would have been their American generations. And Tolstoy or his equivalent would have had a hell of a time arguing that Muslims should be anarchists.
There are Christians in the contemporary world who, whether or not they’re anarchists, live under conditions of anarchy–or at least live without the protections of a State. Consider the Palestinians of Bethlehem, encroached on all sides by the Israeli occupation, and awaiting imminent annexation by Israel. In 2002, the armed anarchist resistance to the Israeli Occupation was essentially wiped out by the Israeli military as it took cover in the Church of the Nativity.* For the last eighteen years, Palestinians (whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) have survived under conditions of constant subjugation by a Jewish State. That’s Christian anarchism for you. If that’s the martyrdom that Flanigan wishes on her co-religionists, fine. But I’d suggest taking a good, hard look at Christian life in the West Bank before making any hasty recommendations.
As I said, I’m neither a Christian nor an anarchist, so Christians should take my advice with a grain of salt. But if I were giving advice, I’d tell the Christians of the world to hold off on becoming anarchists until the non-Christians of the world do so. Better to side with the State than yet again to be fed to the lions.
*Michael Huemer argues that anarchist guerilla warfare “has proved surprisingly effective at expelling foreign invaders” (Problem of Political Authority, pp. xxiii, pp. 289-91), citing the examples of Vietnam, Ireland, Algeria, and Afghanistan. I don’t think the Vietnamese or Afghan examples prove what Huemer takes them to prove, but in any case, what about Kashmir, Tibet, or Palestine? What, for that matter, about Native Americans in the US, or the Uighurs in China? The examples he cites are not, Huemer says, isolated episodes, but then, neither are the examples he doesn’t cite. A handful of highly contestable examples doesn’t dispose of the issue.