By: Gregory Williams
Arising, as it does, out of a turn towards anabaptist theology by white American evangelicals, Christian Anarchism has often displayed hostility towards multiple belonging. This can be seen in the precise relationship that many of those engaged in it imagine between radical Christianity and the Anarchist traditions on which it draws. For example, in a series of posts based on the Primer on Christian Anarchism that was, at one point, given annually at the Jesus Radicals conference, Mark van Steenwyk writes:
[F]rom my perspective, it is better to embrace a Christianity that affirms the anarchic trajectory of the Way of Jesus on its own terms than simply to smash together Christianity and Anarchism into some sort of strained mashup. Often, I meet self-described Christian anarchists who have no real way of putting these two things together in any way that makes sense to them. They simply hold one tradition in each hand, ignoring the conflict they feel until, eventually, they let go of one of them.1
My point here is not to attack Mark or hold him to account for something that he wrote almost half a decade ago. God knows that I have changed a lot since 2011, and I’m sure that he has, too. I’m not trying to do intellectual history here as much as genealogy—a symptomology rather than a diagnosis, that seeks to draw out some of the surface level features of a shared condition without essentializing it, in order to render that condition articulable. This quote, whatever its relationship to any particular thinker or to the evolution of Jesus Radicals as an institutional structure, has the virtue of documenting (literally rendering as text) an idea that has been spoken and unspokenly assumed in this space over the course of many years. This assumption is that multiple belonging, “holding one tradition in each hand,” is untenable and ill-advised.
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