Non-Domination is an Article of my Faith

February 8, 2013Aiden Enns

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Editors Note: Article originally posted at the Canadian Mennonite 

We should not dominate each other. I really believe this. It is one of the most meaningful affirmations of the Christian faith I have. Can those among us who are strong be confident enough in our faith to follow the one who made himself weak for the sake of others? Does not the seed of evil lie in the moment we compromise the freedom of another person?

For example, I’m naïve enough to think we don’t need bosses. The owner-employee relationship is destined for a double bondage: the owner succumbs to the endless pursuit of wealth and power, while the worker is bound to a life of subservience.

Of course, there are benign capitalists who seek only a comfortable life for themselves and their grateful workers. I call those capitalists noble; yet they are nonetheless willing participants in a workplace arrangement that is inherently dehumanizing.

I exaggerate to make a point: workplaces, families, marriages, church groups, businesses and community organizations would be best served with the assumption that we should not dominate one over the other.

Eight years ago, I set out to establish a magazine that would fulfill as many ideals as possible. We would print on pages that came from paper people discarded; we would refuse to take money for advertising in order to challenge the consumer culture; we would be recognized for excellence within church circles and in the wider community.

In addition, we aim to have women’s voices as prominent as men’s, and welcome voices from minority groups. Like a worker co-op, we aim to own our own business. Crucially, we are accountable to each other, with no boss or chief executive officer, and all receive the same rate of pay. So far, we enjoy modest success in most of these areas.

Still, there are power imbalances, and these need to be addressed. For example, I’m older, more experienced, and have a personality biased towards idealism and persuasion that I blame on my evangelical Mennonite roots. This is an unavoidable problem, especially when working alongside younger or less-experienced workers. A group needs tools to negotiate this terrain.

It takes more than kind hearts to accommodate for power imbalances. It also takes an egalitarian structure, a clear decision-making protocol—we seek consensus—and a grievance policy with teeth. In our case, we are accountable to a board of directors, which I consider a relatively benign ownership structure, seeing as we are incorporated as a non-profit entity.

When we structure domination into our relationships—whether it’s the headship of a husband over a wife, a manager over a clerk, a police officer over citizens—we give up too much of the very thing that makes us human: our freedom.

Of course, the naysayers will claim it’s in our nature to dominate. On the one hand, I agree: the patterns of domination are everywhere. Sometimes the best we can do is strive for a restrained police
service, a more rehabilitative quarantine for violent offenders, and so on. But I see this as a necessary compromise, an interim ethic.

On the other hand, I say with Christ, there is another way, the way of gentleness and high regard for the other. Our nature can be transformed by a way of love, hope and peace. This is a path worth pursuing, even though it makes us vulnerable to assailants.

With the juice of freedom in our veins, we already taste here and now the salvation that always eludes those who dominate. For this reason, I call myself a Christian anarchist.

  • rdhudgens

    “With the juice of freedom in our veins . . . ” : ) Thanks Aiden.

  • Andy in Germany

    I can see what you mean. I work in a small carpenters shop in south Germany, where the Boss is the boss and we employees are told what to do, most of the time. I can understand the imbalance.

    But on the other hand, the boss is a Master Carpenter and I am an apprentice. He’s been a carpenter almost as long as I’ve been alive and knows more about wood, how to work it and how not to work it than I ever will. Perhaps more inportantly, he’s passing on thet knowledge to me, which in Germany means I will eventually become a cabinet maker. The ‘Dominance’ I experience is good for me: without it I will never be able to achieve my goal.

    Another important difference, or ‘freedom’ if you like, is that at the end of the day I can go home and forget everything that is happening at work. I don’t need to worry if the job is running a bit late or something hasn’t worked out: it’s covered by the company and I’ll still get paid (not much as an apprentice, but paid nonetheless), whereas the boss will still be working late into the night either sawing or doing paperwork. He has to worry about the bank, if we are making enough to cover the payments for the machines, what projects need to be repeated (and will therefore lose money). I don’t, and that’s my freedom.

    • Peter Haresnape

      An anarchist once told me ‘you can be an authority, but not in authority’. I guess the trick is learning how to honour, utilise and share experience, skill and wisdom without that becoming the basis for a ‘power over’ structure. How do my skills free others to use their skills?

      You last point is quite an interesting one. I thought about it a bit. The freedom you have to go home at the end of the day is your boss’s captivity to the role he has chosen or accepted for himself. The ‘double bondage’ of the owner-employee relationship that Mr Enns speaks about. The boss’s concerns affect you profoundly, because if he fails, the business closes. It’s nice not to have to share those worries but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist; it’s just that your boss is the only one who can do anything about them.

      We have some of the same worries on the team I work on, but they are somewhat more shared and collective, and we can address them together.

    • Michael Christenson II

      I really like Peter’s response. I wish I could reply to both and have them cross linked. But I can’t so you’ll have to suffice with my response.

      The first part of the equation, the apprentice and master builder, can be accomplished without dominance; and should be.

      Quite often the master arrogantly takes that term to heart and becomes destructive of their apprentices. They have no power to do that when the responsibility of teaching and running the business is equally shared.

      The last paragraph speaks towards the second part of the equation. This lack of responsibility is a chain forged by both the master and the apprentice, which chains the master down to a life filled with stresses. They take own the responsibility of not only their life, but of all of those reliant on them.

      I speak from experience. I helped found a co-operative of programmers where we do apprentice. I used to run a business as the boss. The choice to go with a worker owned mode of teaching, learning, and working is precisely to cut the chain. Everyone from the first day apprentice, to the seasoned veteran has equal say and responsibility in the running of the company, in the teaching, in the work, and in learning.

      Domination kills the people working in tiny and large ways. I’m watching the slow death even now of family members in a family business that I married into. I’ve stepped away because I can’t endure it and no one heeds my warnings. What used to be a business geared towards providing a living for each other and any in our community we could afford to, will eventually be a business that lives on it’s own with that as it’s primary goal: it will no longer be a family business – just family owned. It’s already moved significantly in that direction.

      Heed the warning and save your master builder’s life and yours.

  • Aaron Maher

    “We should not dominate each other.” Except for our invisible sky-daddy who will condemn us to an eternity of suffering for not worshiping at his feet, right? But hey, might makes right!

    (“He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”–John 3:18

    “The Lord Jesus … In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God … Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction.”–2 Th.1:7-9)

    “For example, I’m naïve enough to think we don’t need bosses.” You might want to bone up on your collection of Iron Age stories then.

    (“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.” — Ephesians 6:5)

    “Of course, there are benign capitalists who seek only a comfortable life for themselves and their grateful workers.” God doesn’t really seem to give a shit what type of masters we have:

    (“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” — 1 Peter 2:18)

    “…we aim to have women’s voices as prominent as men’s, and welcome voices from minority groups.” Whoa, not so fast!

    (The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man.–1 Cor.11:3

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. — 1 Timothy 2:12)

    “I say with Christ, there is another way, the way of gentleness and high regard for the other.” Errr… umm… uhhh…

    (“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” –Matthew 10:34

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

    “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” — Luke 12:51)

    Aside from this all being just so blatantly a bunch of superstitious nonsense for which there is absolutely no reason to believe, I can think of nothing (aside from capitalism) so responsible for breeding individualism and disregard for other human beings, as the central belief of Christianity: a celestial mob boss uniquely made, and endowed each of us with free will. Hence, we are all responsible for our own circumstances, and deserve whatever may be our lot in life. This is poisonous nonsense, and its time to give it up.

    • markvans

      Troll much? But seriously, not much push back regarding Christianity. The major religions have all tended to be pretty messed up in inspiring imaginative new ways of oppression. But it might be better to ask questions than jump into a screed, since you clearly are assuming too much. If you want a world free from oppression, you might be better served by being allies with those who long for the same thing, rather than jumping to conclusions (like all Christian expressions are the same). You can quote Scripture all you want to show what a Dick God is, but that doesn’t mean honest folks who walk in the Way of Jesus affirm them the way you think. I, for one, do not believe in a Coercive Sky Father who metes out judgment.

      • Aaron Maher

        The metal gymnastics you’re required to do in order to justify this nonsense are staggering. It is sincerely mind boggling to me that you seem to recognize the contradiction, absurdity and injustice ubiquitous throughout the Bible, yet nevertheless choose to cling to the entire thing based on a few choice teachings which you find agreeable.

        You clearly do not need them. You have demonstrated precisely through your choice to ignore such a vast swath of the Bible that you are beyond needing it as a moral code. Yet because you choose to cling to those few vestiges of relative sanity in an otherwise insane book, you give credence to the far greater number of people who still buy into that poisonous garbage hook, line and sinker.

        You will never win the battle to sway such people to your unique (and intellectually dishonest) interpretation of the Bible. Sectarianism is unavoidable within Christianity, never mind as one religion among many. The Bible, as you already seem to recognize, is far too ambiguous and contradictory for there ever to be such a consensus.

        And not only that, but as I have already mentioned, your beliefs directly sustain an utterly poisonous, and demonstrably untrue, interpretation of reality: free will. Until we recognize reality for what it is, rather adhere to ridiculous fantastical delusions, we will never be able to create a truly just society. This is why I will oppose you, and other well-meaning people like you, until this lunacy is disabused from humanity once and for all.

        • John T.


          Your critique of radical christians cherry picking passages that support their own perspectives and ignoring the rest (I critique I agree with) is totally undermined by your own cherry picking and decontextualising verses that you have presented to make your case against the bible.

          While what you have said is true of the Imperial church and its religion, you have relied on the imperial church’s misinterpretation of the bible to critique the bible itself, but the religion of the imperial church cannot be found in the bible – even the most basic doctrines of the trinity and eucharist – the centrepieces of Christendom – are not found in the bible.

          The bible is a consistent, coherent narrative, it is the story of the tribal indigenous Hebrew people, the land and God, it is about corruption and renewal, it is about poverty and power with an intense bias towards the poor and powerless. The contradictions and confusion have come by trying to force the stories into the mainstream paradigms of imperial society and the state – and they just don’t fit.

          Your illusions about the bible are exactly the same as those the imperial church has preached, you have got all your information about the bible from the imperial church just as the blind conformists of mainstream christianity have. You are just as blind to the spirit, historical materialism and bias for the poor and oppressed that is inherent in the bible as the mainstream church is.

          While your own philosophical beliefs seem to be motivating you to enthusiastically and evangelically preach the truth to the infidels, you are locked into the same socialisation (classical conditioning) as the mainstream christians are, not just in your misguided critique of the bible but in your absolutist and condemning dismissal of any spiritual realities and perspectives other than imperial orthodoxy, in particular the perspectives of stateless tribal indigenous communism represented in the bible but also of modern Christian anarchists. – you are thinking inside the box that the imperial state and capitalist economy has given you (hegemony). Tribal indigenous perspective such as presented in the bible is as foreign to western secular humanism as it is to secular humanism’s cultural predecessor – Christendom.

          Open your eyes and look at the bible rather than regurgitating popular myths about it.

          Open your eyes to the spirit inherent in historical materialism – the dynamic force of creation, or what the bible calls Elohiym and Yahway – the nameless existential forces of life.

        • markvans

          The fact that I disagree with you in a completely different way than John T should tell you something: making sweeping generalizations about beliefs is problematic. As an anarchist, I try to challenge people for the ideologies and ideas they actually have, rather than lumping humanity into prescribed groups.
          Personally, I don’t think there is such a “thing” as the Bible. What we have bound in the Bible is a set of contrasting, often conflicting narratives and works of literature. I don’t believe I have to take it as a cohesive whole. I don’t believe that it is free from error or that it is perfect or magical. But I do find it amazingly helpful and beautiful on the whole. As someone committed to the way of Jesus, I try to read it as wisely as I can through the lens of his teachings.
          You keep making assertions about what folks believe yet don’t ask what they actually, you know, believe. You are as bad as an evangelical Christian who lumps all atheists together and assume that they all think like Joseph Stalin.

    • Adam Clark

      Hi Aaron, I am guessing you are an atheist. Nothing wrong with that. This BBC debate between Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Professor Richard Dawkins sums up both sides of the argument pretty well.

      It is our actions, not our beliefs that are important.

  • Melissa Crawford

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    Many other prophetic signs are being confirmed at our e-Revival.

    Everyone receives a prophetic word by my husband James Crawford; if they request one and we have an e-Revival every day! We would love to have you or anybody else’s prophecies shared at God’s revival!

    Times you can call in to share:
    Mon – Fri at 10:45 am & 7 pm (central)
    Sat. at 4 pm (central)
    Sun. at 11 am (central)

    Feel free to call our cell at (318) 655-2297 or email for more information.

    Keep up the good work and God bless you.

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