Rock! Paper! Scissors! Tools for anarchist + Christian thought and action
What's in a Name?: Introducing Rock! Paper! Scissors!
By: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
After a simple creative process that involved suggesting all the ideas we could think of (Soapbox Sermons? Rad Rag? The UnBeliever?), Jesus Radicals co-organizers settled on Rock! Paper! Scissors! as the title of our new web journal. How the name of a decision-making hand game has become the heading for this project needs some explanation. What does this win-or-lose act of play have to do with A toolbox for anarchist + Christian thought? What does it say about our plans to shift from our current, past-its-prime blog format to a periodic collection of ideas, focused on particular topics and brought together by various editors? While the game positions its three elements — the closed fist (rock), the flat, face-down palm (paper) and the sideways, “v” sign (scissors) — as being in competition with one another, with rock defeating scissors and paper defeating rock, we envision each of these symbols as being in harmony, politically speaking. Justice. Change. The unmaking of old patterns. The building of different worlds. These ambitions require rock and fist, written word and open palms, the cutting apart and sideways patterns of peace. We bring to each tactic the distinct perspectives of countercultural, liberationist, intersectionality-minded Christ-followers who remain intrigued and inspired by the wisdom, resistance, and possibilities of anarchism. I offer the thoughts below to provide a fuller picture of the path we hope this journal will take.
Rock! I am of the mind that every great movement against oppression requires, in some form or another, the need to smash things. Walls must come down. Destructive machines must halt. Locks on cages must break. Fetters must tear apart. It isn’t a matter of whether such damage happens, because happen it will. But it is also essential to carefully discern when and how and if such smashing should — and should not — occur. What are the strongholds that need a closed fist, figuratively and literally? How do we decide this in each context and who must be the deciders? Such smashing must be intentional and strategic, like overturning tables in a temple, harming neither human nor other animal. What kind of self-work, humility, and accountability must be cultivated for such undertakings?
As a Christian peacemaker committed to nonviolence, I am of the mind that limited, tactical, and appropriately contained smashing actions are among the options before us. And I am still against the deploying of closed fists against persons if that action is be faithful. Somehow even our smashing must not destroy the Spirit in others and the possibility of opponents turning around and joining the fold. This was the radical way of the Rock, the Cornerstone, on whom many of us strive to stand and against whom exploitative systems and those who cling to them ultimately fall. Thoughtful, careful considerations about what needs to be torn down and the appropriate, just, self-conscious, Christ-like ways to do it will be welcome in our issues.
Paper! Although rock can be powerful in some instances, the open, facedown palm that supersedes it is a helpful reminder that its effectiveness is also limited. Sometimes smashing things is more useful for stroking our egos than it is for birthing transformation. Sometimes it just leaves big messes that people with fewer social advantages have to clean up. Hence there remains a need for a multiplicity of tactics for the variety of circumstances that are, in these new days of old shit coming at us faster than we can Tweet. The written and spoken word is one of those profound complementary instruments at our disposal. At the very least, it helps communicate what the smashing is all about.
In the circles of which I am a part, many of the people who came to radical politics did so through the disruptive ideas, questions, proposals, and reflections of critical thinkers, preachers, practitioners, theologians, experimenters and dreamers who envisioned and embodied life in the alternative. Books unmasking domination. Blog posts critiquing civilization. Essays identifying the powers. Radio shows criticizing the structures. Fiction depicting not-yet-but-might-be societies. Commentaries providing new interpretations. Each of these things set us on a path that we had not anticipated causing the scope of our thoughts and the shape of our ethics to shift. Even the Bible surprised us with texts we hadn’t considered before that challenged order as we had known it: 1 Samuel 8:1-22; Judges 9:1-15; Ecclesiastes 3:18-21; Matthew 5:1-15; Luke 1:46-55; John 18:36-37; Acts 2, to name a few.
Paper calls to mind the words and readings that were and remain so influential in re-shaping how we engage the world and helped so many of us hold together Christianity and anarchism in the first place. We hope what we publish in this web journal — be it book reviews or essays; poetry or songs; audio or video or photos — will help expand our imaginations. We hope your contributions in conversation with our guest editors will help discern how God is and might be moving in various corners of our beautiful and breaking world, what the Body is to be about, what the shape of our small roles might look like, and how the kin/g/dom of rightness and justice might be on earth as it is in heaven.
Scissors! Although scissors are the weakest of the tools in the hand game, in the framework of this journal, they undergird the others. Whether we carry rock or paper or both, what is crucial is the ability to think incisively about the times we are in and who we are to be individually and collectively. How we analyze a situation — whether we see it as personal and/or systemic; whether think about identities within the matrix of power; whether we have hope that God is indeed making a new world that we are called to participate in building — these and other issues matter for how we approach any topic or situation. How we think about the problems and the possibilities before us determines what we will and won’t do about them.
Said differently, scissors allude to the need to carefully engage the world around us with our whole selves and with the guidance of God’s Spirit. It forces us to evaluate what we believe and why we believe it and to be deliberate in how we communicate it to others. It forces us to determine whether something is true or a social construct and for what purpose. It asks questions like what is the character of the sideways peace that we are seeking? And whose voices are we listening to and learning from as we strive in the way of Jesus Christ toward it? A starter list affirms that intersectionality is prized. Contributions by people of color are essential. LGBTQ voices have a space. Extending liberation to other animals is non-negotiable. Sound biblical exegesis and interpretation, solid political analysis, emotional intelligence and intercultural competence, thoughtful prayers — we need it all in this project to come correct. Not because we want to be elitist or make useless hurdles, but because thinking is a dangerous, re-shaping business and we have no choice but to do it as well as we can.
So what is in the nameRock! Paper! Scissors! tools for anarchist + Christian thought? A lot it seems. Come out, come out wherever you are — authors, illustrators, poets, essayists, Christians, anarchists, cojourners — and play!
Nekeisha Alayna Alexisis co-founder and co-organizer of Jesus Radicals. She is also an occasional writer and speaker with wide-ranging interests related to human and other animal liberation, and our intersecting oppressions. Explore her random and rambling mindstate at criticalanimal.tumblr.com and everydayoppression.tumblr.com