It's Unreal

Would it be correct to say that, given his status as Creator and Lord, God's definition of reality (of what is real and what is unreal) is truer than ours? Could we say, even, that it is not for us to decide whether God is for real but for him to decide whether we are?

Therefore, having discovered that God is Primal Anarchist, the first and best around, it should come as no surprise that his is a most anarchical view of the human scene, one not at all inclined to deal with humanity in terms of its arky structures. Regarding this human race of ours, we can be certain he sees its essential reality as residing in the existence of the individual human individuals who are every bit as real as the individual sparrows he watches, the very hairs of whose heads (the humans, of course, not the sparrows) are numbered. That "he careth for [each and every] one of you" (1 Pet. 5:7) is indisputable. That he careth a hoot about--or even recognizeth the reality of--any arky arrangement superior to individual existence is never said.

We will proceed, now, to speak only of the arkys of churchliness, although the argument could apply to any and all secular arkys as well. However, right off the bat it must be insisted that what we are calling God's concept of "individualistic reality" does in no way deny or even threaten the social concept of "church"--as long as "church" be properly defined.

When it is the church with which we are dealing, there is a complicating factor that can always confuse our analysis. I mean to focus on the two major components of the church that come "from below" to constitute its "human" side. The first of these is the ekklesia, the "gathering" of the individual saints (better: the sainted individuals) into community. The second is all the institutional, cultic arky structure of house of worship, priesthood, ritual, organization, polity, and what all.

What dare not be overlooked is that, being the church of God, it also involves a third, transcendent, "from above" component that takes priority over the other two. However, for us now to try to track down, identify, and define this "divine" component and then detail how it relates to and operates within the human two--such an investigation would lead us far from our intended track and undoubtedly bog us down in complete disagreement. So, in the effort simply to set that issue to one side rather than even try to settle it, let us, without prejudice, call that third component "the Holy Spirit in our midst" and move on to our analysis of the human side of the church.

My personal (and I think "biblical") opinion is that this Holy Spirit component relates much more directly to the human ekklesia component than to the human arky-structure component. Whether this be true or not, our one crucial consideration here is to realize that the extraordinary, transcendent quality lent to the church by virtue of its divine component is in no way the same phenomenon as the human extraordinary, self-transcending appearance lent by forming the constituency into ideological power blocs to be manipulated to good effect by "corporate heads." The discussion to follow ignores the divine side of the church, not to deny it, but simply to keep us concentrated on the human phenomena.

As long as the church is defined as ekklesia, i.e., the assembly of the (individual) saints, there is no problem. Here there is not only room for, but even the need for, whatever one cares to posit in the way of fellowship, koinonia, gemeinschaft, bodyhood, community. The only thing these ideas add to "individualistic reality" is "togetherness." And "togetherness" is not a new category, nothing that is transcendent or standing superior to individual existence. It is, instead, a natural form, a function of individual existence. There is no such thing as "community" except when individuals (as individuals) are doing it. As ekklesia (and nothing more than ekklesia), "church" is still a totally anarchic concept; no hint of arkydom involved.

Where the line is crossed into arkydom is the point at which it is assumed that a grouping of individuals can be given the quantitative value of their sum and then treated as a collective solidarity represented by a corporate head.

From our Western culture we have inherited one of the profound nuggets of human wisdom, namely, that "you can't add apples and oranges" (although I don't know what either apples or oranges ever did to get stuck with the particular onus of being unaddable). Actually, of course, apples can be added (on the one pile) and oranges added (on the other); the two can even be added together (as long as what one counts is "fruit"). No, it is only with God's hair-numbered humans that we run into true unaddability. But the one mathematical count God will not "countenance" is to add up, say, fifty-three human ones ("I"s) and get a sum, a new number of, say, "53 and upwards," which is itself larger and more powerful than any of the constituent "I"s or all of them put together. The fact is that God has created human beings to be unaddable: "you can't add individuals and individuals." Any "I" in there (even the tiniest) is itself infinitely larger than the "53" that purports to be their sum. To glom people into a collective (and "glom" is a perfectly good word contributed by Walt Kelly's Pogo and based upon the very widespread Indo-European root meaning "to mash together into a "ball," as in "conglomeration") but to glom people into a collective never works, as the arkys suppose, to human magnification--always to human degradation.

Yet the invariable method of arky power is to glom such human collectives into being and then to anoint special individuals who presume to represent that body, speak for it, act in behalf of it, stand in place of it. Of course, God himself can work like this--as he did in Jesus Christ. Yet this is to slip over into the entirely different sphere of "the third component." The question is whether he has given permission for us to do anything of this sort for ourselves. I wouldn't even deny that humanity has worked itself into a place where it can't operate in any other way. Yet the question remains as to whether God himself ever wills or blesses the maneuver.

Thus, within the Judaic tradition of the Bible, we find the two concepts of "church" standing side by side. The temple signifies the arky, "churchly" one and the synagogue the anarchic, "ekklesial" one. The temple cult, of course, was based entirely upon the arky premise that there are special, anointed agents (priests) who are capable of representing all Israel before God--and that in total disregard of the actual faith-status of any given Israelite and complete ignorance even of what percentage of individual Israelites might at the moment be believing or unbelieving. Such a priest was more than an individual in that he could "represent" the "summated being" of the corporation before God. And he could perform, in behalf of other (lay) individuals, actions of cultic effectiveness before God--actions that no lay individual was capable of performing for himself.

Israel, in such case, obviously is not being considered as an ekklesia, a community of individual existences, but as some sort of arky entity which can be represented to God as a collective solidarity and responded to by God en masse. There is now no reason God even needs an individual hair-count. For his convenience, we gotten ourselves organized so that his salvation can proceed through arky transaction rather than on any person-by-person basis. My question is whether God had any part in that scheme, whether he ever recognizes any reality other than that of individuals--be they sparrows or otherwise.

With the synagogue, these arky presuppositions are not so. A synagogue is nothing more nor less than the place of the ekklesia, the gathering of the faithful. It is the place where--although they do it together (and I would never minimize the significance of that)--it is still each individual doing his own studying and hearing of the word, his own praying, his own worshiping, his own relating to God, his own performing as a member of the body. The rabbi is a teacher and in no sense a priest. He is only one member of the congregation and can no more represent or speak for it than any other one member can. No "official," arky privilege before God claimed or wanted.

Clearly, the course of God's way with Israel--beginning with the prophets--was away from temple arky and toward the anarchic reality of the synagogue. In its turn, Christianity started out as a completely anarchic ekklesia and then drifted into churchly arkydom.

The treatment above might suggest that the issue is one of "sacramentalism" and the sacerdotal powers of a priesthood. Surely, those are involved, but the question is much broader and more profound. It can be put as simply as this: Who is entitled to speak for whom--and by what authority?

I guess pater familias is as much of arky status as I have any claim to. Well, then, does being pater familias mean that I can "speak for" the family? Don't you believe it! The very idea is an impossible one. It implies that, somehow, above and beyond and independence of the various minds of the individual members, the family has a common mind to which I, as pater familias, have access and thus am empowered to speak "for the family." No way. I can speak "for the family" only to the extent that every member gives me both permission to speak for him and the voluntary assent that what I say is indeed an expression of his individual mind as well. If so much as one family member as lowly as Cricket the Cat thinks differently (and when he thinks at all, you can know it will be differently), even thought I am pater familias, I am still hung up in speaking "for the family" without impermissibly overriding his sacred individuality.

The family has no common mind, no higher mind, no singular mind transcending the plural and various minds of its individual members. If there is no single mind, there certainly is no arky figure who can claim to represent the family as a whole in speaking it. No arky entity ever takes precedence over individual existence; no one can speak for another except at the other's permission and instruction.

I haven't any doubt that God recognizes "families" as "individuals in configured relationship with each other." I deny that he grants reality to any idea of "family" which, without reference to the independent mind of each and every constituent member, posits the sort of solidarity that would even make it possible for one special individual to "represent" or "speak for" the whole. Thus, it is precisely "the great realities of our day" (according to arky faith) which turn out to have no real existence in the eyes of our anarchist Father who art in heaven.

We will turn now to specific examples documenting how completely churchly arkydom operates in terms of these abstractions. The easiest and most obvious example would be Roman Catholicism, with its hierarchical polity culminating in one extra-special individual who is presumed to have the power, before God, to represent (stand in place of) and speak for hundreds of millions of actual individuals--and with its sacramental system in which a quite special person, before God, can gain access to grace for a multitude in a way no other member of the group can. The trouble, of course, is that such an example would let Protestants off the hook with a blithe, "But our church isn't that way." So I am choosing, rather, to take our examples from the World Council of Churches and its recent assembly at Vancouver, British Columbia.

We shall give attention to one of the "biggies" from that event. The German theologian, Dorothee Sölle, addressed a plenary session. That much is the truth of what took place, but the significance, the power which the churchly arky (with the aid of the media arky) immediately pumped in was to make it read, "WOMAN Addresses World Council of CHURCHES."

My opinion is that the anarchist God--who recognizes no human reality beyond that of individuals--is fully aware that one human individual named Dorothee Sölle addressed a gathering of so many other human individuals named Variously. He could even give you an as-of-that-moment hair-count for each. But I also am of the opinion that as soon as the situation was projected into terms of abstract entities, God would say we had traded human reality for arky unreality.

Sölle can't represent "woman," "women," or "women in general," because there isn't any such entity. There are in the world only scads of female individuals--with as many minds as there are females. Certainly, there is no one idea upon which the total group would agree--not even (or perhaps least of all) that women are systematically misused by men. There is absolutely no collective solidarity that even would make it possible for Sölle (or any woman, or any group of women) ever to "represent" or "speak for" an entity that doesn't exist. Sölle (or anyone else) can represent only as many individuals as have asked her to represent them and have given their personal approval to what she shall say.

Yes, I know I am talking about what is called "a symbolic event." What I am questioning is whether there exists any reality corresponding to the symbol--and recall what Tillich insisted, that a symbol must "participate in" as well as "signify" the reality for which it stands. So, for a symbol to work, there has to be some reality around somewhere in the mix.

Can God be anything but unhappy, then, after he created people for human individuality, to have their individuality overridden in the interests of glomming them into collective solidarities for purposes of arky power? So, just as "woman" was not present at Vancouver in the person of Dorothee Sölle, neither were any "churches" present in the persona of dignitaries, officers, or delegates. To suggest that, in God's eyes, something significant regarding "women in the church" took place at Vancouver is to take arky abstraction for human reality.

God, of course, knows which actual women, of which actual hair-count, are playing which actual roles in actual churches. He also knows in which cases the woman's presence is contributive to the life of the church and in which destructive. And it is only in relation to this reality that talk, opinion, and evaluation of "women in the church" has any truth value at all. On the level of abstract ideality and symbolic representation, where one can identity reality of neither "women" nor "church," how can it even be said whether the idea of "women in the church" is good, bad, or indifferent? And yet arkydom regularly prefers to operate with what it takes to be the magnified powers of abstract collectives and their representative persona.

God, of course, also knows which actual women are actually being misused by which actual men. He also knows in which cases the actual woman is by no means an innocent party but is doing her full share of misusing others. It is only on this real level that real behavioral changes can effect progress toward real justice. Consequently, it is difficult to imagine what is gained by approaching the problem at the level of arky abstraction, with such propositions as "Women are systematically oppressed by men." What truth value can the statement have if such collective solidarities as "women" and "men" don't even exist? What relevance do such slogans have for, or what help do they afford to, the actual situation in which male individuals and female individuals must relate to each other? Clearly, such a slogan is even of negative value if it be read backwards as a description of reality--thus, for example, inviting an actual woman to decide she is being misused, simply on the basis that she is a member of that female collective which systematically is misused by the male collective. Just that detached from reality can arky abstraction become. The power of such slogans lie, not in their truth value, but solely in the fact that they sound big, sweeping, profound, and important.

With Sölle at Vancouver, then, my guess is that God was listening and interested at an entirely different point from what the churchly audience and media magnifiers were. I doubt whether he even caught the symbolic significance of "women in the church" (since, in any case, he already knows what is the actual status of each woman in church). No, given his overweening concern about what is going on with individuals, it seems likely that his main interest would have been: "What is the state of Sölle's personal relationship with me? Is the specific content of her profession of faith consonant with the membership standard of the WCC she is addressing?"

That standard reads: "[We] confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together [our] common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." And the question regarding Sölle's own theology is a legitimate one, because her writings would indicate that, for her, "God" is that mythic ideal which the race, through its religious creativity, continually is developing in the interests of its own moral and cultural advancement--surely, something quite different from what the WCC statement has in mind. If, then, we are to read Sölle at Vancouver on the arky level of symbolic event, what are we to make of it? If Sölle is representative of women in the church, is her theology also representative of the theology of women in the church?

Be clear; I am not at all suggesting that the WCC should have made Sölle's faith an arky concern, with committee investigations, heresy trials, excommunications, and what all. I mean only to suggest that God on the one hand and churchly arkydom on the other apparently operate on completely different wavelengths regarding what is truly real and central to Christianity. The assembly likes generalized, all-inclusive, large-symboled, arky-powerful, headline grabbing pronouncements about WOMEN in the CHURCH. But God, anarchically disinterested in all that, goes for the loving concern as to what is the state of faith of this daughter of his, this one particular "woman in the church" who is infinitely more real and important to him than all the symbolic abstractions churchly arkydom has ever invented. So as it turns out, what the WCC regards as a "biggie" God doesn't even recognize as being for real. And what God finds most important the WCC scarcely notices.

Let us now turn our attention to the "churches" that supposedly were present at Vancouver to hear Sölle. Although they acted with somewhat more pontifical dignity, there nevertheless was that about them suggestive of a presidential nominating convention. A least the polity of procedure was the same. You've seen it: Some slap-happy pipsqueak in a crazy hat gets hold of the microphone, and then we hear, "Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman! THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK goes for the next President of the United States, Senator Ted Kennedy!" The guy's own conviction convinces all the rest of us that this is for real, that he actually is wielding the representational arky power of THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK to determine the course of the nation and, through it, the world. Very many people undoubtedly give more credence to his weighty words than to those of the Revelator: 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." The politician at least spoke with the votes in his pocket, while John had nary a one.

Once more, let's look at the situation through the eyes of God rather than those of oh-ye-of-arky-faith. God knows, of course, that he has a goodly batch of individuals living in the area; he may even know that there are boundaries setting it off as a state named New York. But that there are a handful of poleticians who, by means of "representation," can speak for and wield the awesome power of some world-shaping, individual-transcending arky-conglomerate known as THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK--well, I doubt whether that has come to his attention. In any case, he surely would have to "come down" in order to see it, as the account tells us he had to do to see the Tower of Babel. We know that his eye is on the sparrow; but whether he can keep it there and at the same time see THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK (which obviously has no head the hairs of which it would even be possible to number and perhaps not even any real existence at all), that is another question.

If that is how it iw with THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK, how is it, say, with THE LUTHERAN CHURCH? No different. It is indubitable, of course, that God keeps track of each and every member of the body of Christ (as he does even of its nonmembers). He may even be aware that some millions of these are called "Lutherans"--no matter what they call each other. But that these millions of Lutherans can then be glommed together into a corporate solidarity called "Lutheranism," from which is squeezed out the power-essence to anoint a representative who can go to Vancouver and be THE LUTHERAN CHURCH--that I somewhat doubt. "My strength is as the strength of tens of millions, because my heart is pure Lutheranism!"

Therefore, though it was called a council of CHURCHES and very much hyped as such, I am skeptical that God saw any of them at Vancouver. What he did see was an ekklesia of individual Christians. And in the anarchist eyes of God that, in any case, is a far greater reality than a council of nonexistent churches.

Note, if you will, that mine has been quite a different critique of the WCC than any seen heretofore. Rather than taking one side or the other, mine would apply to all the voluble critics of WCC just as much as to the WCC itself. My example of the WCC was a quite arbitrary selection, the critique itself being just as relevant to any of the constituent (or even nonconstituent) churches and to both religious and secular organizations generally. My anarchist quarrel pointed no more toward the WCC than toward any other arky. Nonetheless, there would seem no denying that the WCC was an outstanding demonstration of the pomp and circumstance of self-advertised churchly arkydom add its collectivist, power-bloc mentality. I don't even know that the WCC could be any different. My only point is that it represents a way of "seeing" which is totally other than keeping one's eye upon the sparrow.

So, if Christian Anarchy identifies a skepticism regarding everything "arky faith" represents, we here are getting at an essential principle. We are back with Blumhardt: "I am proud to stand before you as a man; and if politics cannot tolerate a human being, then let politics be damned." Human individuals, by all means; political conglomerates, never!

Anarchists--whether divine or human--hold that individuals in ekklesia (i.e., in that setting which best serves and preserves their individuality) represent the highest human reality there is. Thus, whenever any arkydom treats them, rather, as "clods" to be glommed together into "mountains" (which God knows to be "molehills"), this represents a degradation of humanity and not a magnification of it.

Anarchist Kierkegaard saw this principle even earlier and more clearly than Blumhardt did. Now, among us, Kierkegaard (with Ellul) regularly gets accused of promoting an "individualism" that is detrimental to any social concept of "church." However, that accusation is accurate depending entirely upon what one means by "church." "Church" as an ekklesia of individuals, they are all for. "Church" as holy arky, they anarchistically despise.

Kierkegaard could state the matter formally and philosophically:

It is not the individual's relationship to the congregation which determines his relationship to God, but his relationship to God which determines his relationship to the congregation. Ultimately, in addition, there is a supreme relationship in which "the individual" is absolutely higher than the "congregation."... When a person first of all and qualitatively is an "individual," the concept "Christian congregation" [we would say "ekklesia"] is secured as qualitatively different from the "public," "many," [or what we would call "arky collectivity"].

Or again:

In community, the individual is; the individual is dialectically decisive as prius in order to form community; and in community the qualitative individual is essential and can at any instant become higher than "the community," namely, as soon as "the others" fall away from the idea [namely, the constituting commitment of the ekklesia].

Kierkegaard could make it brief and biting: "Nothing, nothing, nothing, no error, no crime is so absolutely repugnant to God as everything which is official [call it "arky"]; and why? because the official is impersonal and therefore the deepest insult which can be offered to a personality."

He could describe "hierarchy" (pronounced "higher archy") in terms of a pyramid:

Man is a "social animal," and what he believes in is the power of union. So man's thought is, "Let us all unite"--if it were possible, all the kingdoms and countries of the earth, with this pyramid-shaped union always rising higher and higher, supporting at its summit a super-king whom one may suppose to be nearest to God, in fact so near to God that God cares about him and takes notice of him. In Christian terms the true state of affairs is exactly the reverse of this. Such a super-king would be the farthest from God, just as the whole pyramid enterprise is utterly repugnant to God. What is despised and rejected by men, one poor rejected fellow, an outcast, this is what in Christian in terms is chosen by God, is nearest to him. He hates the whole business of pyramids.

Or he could capsulize and conclude our treatment by affirming its thesis that arkydom is unreal:

The more the phenomenon, the appearance, expresses that God cannot possibly be there, the nearer he is. So in Christ.... When the appearance expressed that men even denied that he was a man ("See, what a man!"), at that moment God's reality was the nearest it has ever been.... The law for God's farness (and this is the history of Christianity) is therefore that everything that strengthens the appearance makes God distant. At the time when there were no churches, but the handful of Christians gathered as refugees and persecuted people in catacombs, God was nearer to reality. Then came churches, so many churches, such large and splendid churches--and to the same degree God is made distant.

(The above quotations are taken from my book, Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship [Princeton University Press, 1968], pp. 345, 346, 300, 291, and 332 respectively.)

Originally, this chapter ended here, but several months after its writing a new idea demanded to be put in at this spot. Then, a couple of months after that, the Roman Catholic exemplum appeared which will form our capstone. The new idea occurred to me while I was teaching out of Howard Clark Kee's study of the Gospel of Mark, Community of the New Age (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983).

Key's premise (which seems a sound one) is that Mark composed his Gospel specifically as instruction for the particular church community (possibly a collection of house-groups) for which he had responsibility (Kee thinks in rural Syria). Mark's intention, then, was that his readers understand what he portrays as Jesus' leading and counsel of his disciple community (A.D. 30) as being also Jesus' counsel to their Christian community (A.D. 65-70).

Accordingly, one characteristic about which Mark is emphatic is that the Jesus community was--and thus every Christian community ought to be--completely inclusive as to membership. Kee finds Mark's Gospel stressing particularly that women, children, and Gentiles belong in. He then proceeds to observe that Mark's description of "the twelve" defies every effort to make that community reflective of any one socioeconomic class. Some of the twelve, of course, were fishermen; but Mark informs us that the father of fishermen James and John had hired servants--which would seem to disqualify them from the peasant class. Another disciple, Levi, was at least a minor official in the tax office.

My own thought ran on to consider that all we know of the Pauline communities and of early Christianity in general would confirm Mark's picture. The Christian church cannot be interpreted as a phenomenon of a particular social class, it being as "inclusive" on this count as it was regarding women, children, and Gentiles. From this I concluded that early Christianity--just as truly as contemporary Christian social thought--was dedicated to the ideal of "the classless society." Nevertheless, it immediately struck me that those two have completely divergent ideas as to how classlessness is to be achieved.

First, as we proceed to think about "class" and "classlessness," we need to keep aware of what a great range of distinctions may be involved. In our day, people are grouped and defined not simply by socioeconomics, but also by gender, generation, racial and ethnic identity, level of education, language, voting habits, shopping habits, and religious preference, to name a few. We have enough class distinctions to cut a society every which way you choose.

I don't know enough to speak with authority but my impression is that Marxism was the first popular philosophy to base its whole understanding of social history upon the premises of class distinction, class consciousness, and class struggle--all, of course, dedicated to the goal of a classless society. To this extent, as much as all of modern social thought, Christian and secular, is Marxist: "class distinction" (and the conflict that involves) is not only the basic fact about society but also its one hope, its means of salvation, the essential instrument for directing society to its classless goal.

(In the following, this is as much as I mean by "Marxism." It is shorthand for "any philosophy that defines social progress in terms of a class struggle toward classlessness." My use of the word intends no other overtones, is entirely descriptive and no way pejorative.)

Yet all such "Marxisms"--even while being sincerely dedicated to classnessness--see no other possibility of getting there except by taking off 180 degrees in the other direction. Classlessness can be achieved only by first locating the class distinction that is at the root of the difficulty. The "oppressed class" and the "oppressing" must be spotted and publicly identified. Once identified, the consciousness of the oppressed class must be raised--which, of course, inevitably leads to the raising of the class consciousness of the opposite number as well. A deliberate polarizing is taking place in order that the oppressed class might consolidate its power ("solidarity" is the very word, "ideological solidarity")--this in preparation for the struggle, the warfare, which is intended to eventuate in classlessness.

Obviously, the action serves to exacerbate the very class distinction it is out to eliminate--but there is no other way. The "oppressed but righteous class" must gain power over the "wicked and oppressing class" in order then to replace it, destroy it, dominate it, absorb it, or convert it and so leave itself as the one, total, and thus "classless" class. The ideological solidifying and polarizing of the class distinction, with the accompanying intensification of the class, is the only way to classlessness.

Granted, this Marxist theory presents some problems: Are we to "continue in sin that grace may abound"?--play up class antagonism in the interests of classlessness? But I don't know who has come up with any better solution (actually, I do; but I am holding that for a bit). In common practice, of course, the business proceeds according to program through the spotting of the class distinction, the raising of consciousness, the building of ideological solidarity, and the hue and cry of the class struggle--only to hang up on the final step of creating classlessness. For some reason, at that point everything that can go wrong invariably does.

Thus, with the Soviet Union of proto-Marxism, the comrades of the oppressed working classes achieved their solidarity, won their revolution, and even established the bureaucracy which was to be their instrument for creating their classless society. Yet, instead of the workers' classless society becoming the total order of the day, lo and behold, the bureaucracy itself introduced a new class distinction--doing this by itself becoming totalitarian over everyone else. So it went; and so it goes.

Yet ever and always we have to give Marxism another try--because what else is there? If class distinctions are the "given," the only entities we have with which to work; and if the inherent conflict between them is that which must be overcome--then what else besides class warfare can there ever be? All the liberation movements of our day show the pattern. I now use one to illustrate them all.

The clear and laudable goal of the feminist movement is create a society in which the social distinctions between male and female are reduced to adiaphora, matters of no consequence. Not only any hint of inequality but even the distinguishing marks of the two are to be minimized. A true classlessness is to transpire. Yet that classlessness cannot happen by the direct approach of playing down the distinctions; the power of the oppressing class must first be broken. No, the immediate steps must point directly away from the ultimate goal they would serve.

Thus: "Yes, the two genders should be treated without distinction." So, from time immemorial we have had us an English language that enables us to speak by the hour without dropping so much as a hint that two different genders of human beings are involved, that there even exists a distinction known as "gender." Yet that way hardly serves the raising of feminine class consciousness. Therefore, the rule now is to speak (with doubled pronouns and the like) so that the gender distinction is always prominent, to use gendered terminology in preference to the ungendered, to take care in specifying women at least as often as men. The feminist grammar is designed to serve gender awareness, not the classlessness of gender ignorance.

Thus: "Yes, the goal is that gender distinction disappear." However, on the way to that goal, feminine class distinction is necessary--to the point that one theology cannot be taken as serving human beings indiscriminately. There must now be a feminist theology in which women can have their special concept of God, their definition of salvation, their preferred reading of the gospel. Yes, just that far must the commonality of women and men be denied--for the sake of ultimate classlessness!

Thus: "Yes, we look for the day when the distinction between women and men will be seen as insignificant if not nonexistent." Nevertheless, for the sake of the ideological solidarity necessary to get us there, we find it right to posit an absolute moral distinction between the sexes--namely, that it is men who cause wars and that, if given a chance, women would create peace.

Please hear me when I say that I am not lifting up these ambiguities and contradictions as being foolish or senseless. No, under the presupposition that class warfare is the only route to classlessness, these moves are obvious, proper, and necessary.

In undoubted sincerity, the feminists claim that their interest is not simply in liberating themselves but in liberating men as well. Yet what must be recognized is that this has been the standard revolutionary line of every class war ever mounted. However, the question is whether true classlessness ever can be achieved through one class gaining the power to dictate the terms of that classlessness. Even more, can it be called "liberation" for other people to take it upon themselves to liberate you according to their idea of what your liberation should be? It strikes me that "liberation" is one term the person will have to define for himself.

But if "class distinction" and "class struggle" be our chosen means, is it possible that the contradiction ever can be overcome?--that "classlessness" can ever mean anything other than "we are now all of one class, because ours is it"; or "liberation" mean anything other than "you are now liberated, because we are in position to tell you that you are"?

We have not used the term here, yet it must be clear that what we have been calling "Marxism" is but one particular form of "arky faith." It is the faith that the struggle between those arkys called "classes" can be humanly engineered to eventuate in the social salvation called "the classless society."

We now undertake a tracing of biblical history intent to show (1) that the Marxism of "classlessness achieved through class warfare" has proved about as futile an operation as humanity has been foolish enough to try; and (2) that a transition has been made into a Christian Anarchy that can do (and has done) what Marxism never can.

From beginning (almost) to end (almost), the Bible presents a classic portrayal (perhaps the classic portrayal) of class struggle toward classlessness. In our context, remember, "classlessness" is a synonym for "justice." The two classes of which we will speak were, at one and the same time, distinguished religiously, ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically--as well as upon the basis of "the oppressed" and "the oppressors." Throughout, the oppressed are "the Jews" and the oppressors "the Gentiles" (of different varieties). Throughout, also, the patterns of Marxism are obvious.

  • ROUND ONE is the Exodus from Egypt, with the Hebrew slaves as the oppressed class and the Egyptian overlords the Gentile oppressors. There is here no question at all but that the Hebrew slaves' struggle for liberation was an entirely just cause--as is also the case at every point to follow. Our concern has nothing to do with whether revolution is ever justified but solely with whether Marxist strategies ever deliver the goods. Because the Hebrew slaves apparently started with virtually no sense of common identity, a major hurdle in this instance seems to have been the primal need for class consciousness.

    Acts 7:25 is quite specific that Moses intended his original killing of an Egyptian taskmaster as a signal of revolt and that the matter fell through because the Hebrews didn't have enough sense of class solidarity to understand what was going on and see their role in it. Before Moses' next try could succeed there was needed the consciousness raising of "we are the oppressed slave bloc, God's people; and they are the enemy, the oppressing party; and what we are supposed to do is hang together and fight them." The pattern is that of any and all class-warfare before and since.

    Again, right on program, the actual struggle is interpreted as "holy war," God siding entirely with the oppressed class against the oppressing one--God not only approving the revolt but actually aiding in the effort and giving the victory.

    The Hebrews best the Egyptians all right, and that Gentile threat is eliminated. The trouble is that the victory fails to translate into anything that could be called liberation, justice, or classlessness. What we get, rather, is not simply the hardships of the desert but, more importantly, the spiritual chaos of these freedmen wanting nothing so much as to be back in the slavery of Egypt and, in time, the Old Testament dark ages described in Joshua and Judges. All in the world the Exodus accomplished was to set the stage for the next class struggle.
  • ROUND TWO pits oppressed Israel against the Gentile Canaanites (and an assortment of other pagan tribes). Apparently it is in the course of this long-drawn struggle that the class consciousness of "us Jews versus them Gentiles" gets burned into the psyche of Israel as its fundamental sense of identity. Now "holy war" becomes an explicit theological concept and reality. With God's help through kings Saul, David, and climaxing in the reign of Solomon, Israel's holy war is won and the Gentile oppressors driven off the scene. God's people are now being in full control, there is not one thing to prevent their setting up the just and classless society for which they had been fighting. So what happens?

    Well, I suppose simply to keep people from feeling lost in not having any oppression to complain about, King Solomon volunteered to step into the breach, tax them to death, and even subject fellow Jews to slavery. This, of course, led to the warfare of civil strife and the breakup of the kingdom. And whereas Father David had kicked the Canaanites out the front door, Son Solomon sneaked Canaanite religion in again through the back door with his pagan wives and their followings. One King Ahab, you recall, even married a Jezebel and assisted her in establishing Baalism as the religion of the realm. What, according to Marxist theory, by all rights should have been Israel's accomplishment of her just and classless society turned out, instead, to be the period in which the prophets were barely able to stave off the complete paganizing of Israel's faith.
  • ROUND THREE is the domination and oppression of the Israelite kingdoms by the Gentile Assyrian invaders. God's people were not in the best position for fighting this one. Israel, the northern kingdom, was lost for good. The southern kingdom, Judah, was saved through a miracle of God. Yet "saved" is used here, of course, in a very limited sense. Judah did not put her "salvation" to any good use; she simply became a puppet state, Assyrianized to the core.
  • ROUND FOUR of "God's poor" against Gentile oppression is the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. At first glance, this would appear to be the one in which the oppressed class lost it all. However, at God's intervention, the period of exile led to a "return to the land" which Deutero-Isaiah proclaimed as the Jews' best-ever opportunity to be the very people of God, a showpiece that "all flesh should see together," bringing even the Gentiles into God's one truly classless and truly just society.

    Unfortunately, even while being handed the victory in their class struggle, the liberated ones again blew the payoff. Deutero-Isaiah's wonderful vision did not come to pass (at least at that time and in the way he foresaw). Rather than any bringing of the Gentiles into classlessness, in the return to the land under Ezra and Nehemiah, the class consciousness of "pious Jew versus damned Gentile" was raised to the nasty pitch of bigotry, exclusion, and jingoistic nationalism. Both the book of Ruth and that of Jonah probably were written in direct protest against this mean spirit--a spirit perhaps best exemplified in the edict that Jewish men must cast off and cast out their Gentile wives. Here was a classless society, in the sense that the oppressed class had taken over completely and excluded the very presence of any other classes. But it is not too pretty a picture of "classlessness."
  • ROUND FIVE (to be treated in more detail in our next chapter) is the revolt of the Maccabean Jews against the Hellenistic Gentiles, the Seleucids. It is again a case of the revolt succeeding but the results being nothing but the newly freed "oppressed" becoming the next generation of "oppressors."
  • ROUND SIX (to be treated in even greater detail in our next chapter) pits the Zealots, the loyalist freedom fighters of Judaism, against the Gentile Roman Empire. This revolt of the oppressed was undoubtedly the most conspicuous failure of all.
  • THE FINAL ROUND is the attack upon the Jew/Gentile class problem led by one Jesus of Nazareth. Here--and here only--can it be said that anything remotely akin to true classlessness was the result. Regarding this case--and only this case--an apostle could declare: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile,... for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

    "Oh, so the Marxist strategy has worked and will work... if one takes Jesus as its sponsor?"--which is just what many liberationist theologians seem to be saying.

    No, no, no, no! Jesus' success came through anything but the political method of Marxist theory. His was the theological way of Christian Anarchy.

We have seen that the liberationist methodology (here called "Marxism") is essentially a manipulation of those arkys we know as "ideologically constituted classes," aimed at insuring that the innocent classes of the oppressed prevail over the wicked classes of the oppressors. However, rather than through anything resembling "arky theory," Christianity comes at the class problem through a radically anarchistic approach. It will simply deny that these "arkys of class" (women against men, poor against rich, slaves against owners, Jews against Gentiles) have any actual power, significance, or reality. It will achieve its classless community--not by trying forcibly to overcome the class distinctions--but by ignoring them and living above them, by the grace of God simply proceeding to live classlessly. This Christianity manages to do by the expedient of insisting that human beings are always individuals and never ever constituent units of en bloc collectives called "classes." It follows, of course, that these human beings are to be treated as individuals rather than being glommed into "solidarities" and manipulated in the interest of any class struggle.

The Marxist concept of "class solidarity" is an invention, a fiction, a sham and delusion. It is as "unsolid" a phantasm as ever was fantasized. No one's essential identity is, for example, "woman"--this automatically putting her into ideological solidarity with, making her one of a kind with, even making her a "sister" within whatever power bloc has chosen to label itself WOMAN. No, she is who she is, an individual who--not at all "determined" by her gender--will be "woman" as she chooses to define the term; will give herself whatever "solidarity" she picks, rather than being pushed into one sort of class distinction; will make of her gender what she decides to make of it; will be "sister" to the male chauvinist pigs if that is what suits her (men have "sisters," too, you know). She can ignore her classification and live outside any class, if that is what she wants to do.

A person may be under involuntary servitude--but that does not make him, involuntarily, a member of the "slave class"--does not dictate that he must share the slave mentality, be in ideological solidarity with all other slaves, see his master as an oppressing enemy, or let himself he used as a pawn in any class struggle. Even if 99 percent of all slaves display a particular character, that does not that he must. His individuality always takes precedence over his so-called class status.

If he wants to, a man has the right to be poverty stricken without getting roped in with Charles Wesley's "the humble poor [who] believe." And being wealthy does not inevitably put one into solidarity with "the proud rich who disbelieve," either. Because there are only individuals of all sorts who have come below a particular income level in various ways and are meeting that situation in various ways.... And because there are only individuals (quite possibly some of the same people who, ideologically unchanged, had at one time been part of the other class) who have come above a particular income level in various ways and are meeting the situation in various ways.... Therefore, there are no such entities as a bloc of the "proud rich" oppressing the bloc of the "humble poor." The creation of a socioeconomically classless society hardly will be served by fostering class warfare betwe4en imaginary solidarities.

The apostle Paul, on the other hand, tells about the one society that has succeeded in true classlessness. Speaking from out of the midst of it, he says: "From now on we regard no one from a point of view" (2 Cor. 5:16).

We might think of him going on to say: "No, here we try to see you as God sees you. In the eye that is on the sparrow, you are you--and nothing else. If we see that you are a you who needs food, we'll try to get that for you. If we see that you are a you who has more money than you need, we'll try to get it out of you. But here we do not buy the 'human point of view' that insists on identifying people by class. We refuse to see people as 'humble poor' or 'proud rich' and try to set them against each other. That's not the way God sees anybody."

The real Paul, again: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

And as he might continue: "of course, I am not denying that, in our classless society, if we chose to, we could find out whether you are of Jewish extraction or Greek; whether your legal status is that of slave or freeman; whether you are of the oppressed sex or the oppressing. The point is that we don't care. You are a member of the body of Christ; that's all we want or need to know. Pretending that these other classifications have significance will only confuse the truth of who you really are. So please quit telling us you're a 'woman.' We don't care."

Still again, the real Paul: "Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Cor. 7:21-24).

And as he might continue: "You were bought with a price precisely that you might be given the one 'classification' that makes any difference, 'member of the classless body of Christ.' Your one goal in life should be to remain there with God. Yet the surest way of losing that classification is to let the world sucker you into thinking its classifications are important. It, of course, insists on categorizing people, defining some categories as 'privileged' and others as 'underprivileged,' then turning people loose to fight themselves into a higher class or else get an entire class privileged above the opposition.

"So you're as much as a slave, a poor Nicaraguan who would love to be as rich as an American. Of course, if you have a chance of bettering yourself avail, yourself of the opportunity. But do you have any idea how unhappy rich Americans can be? I advise you to pass up the class-warfare game--which so seldom works anyhow. You already are far more free and much better off among us unclassified members of the body of Christ. Indeed, it may well have been an actual slave who first sang: 'I sing because I'm happy;/I sing because I'm free;/For his eye is on the sparrow,/And I know he watches me.'"

One more time, the real Paul: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1).

And as he might continue: "'Freedom' and escaping 'the yoke of slavery'? No, I am not reverting to the lingo of class struggle. I am not speaking of those who, through the exercise of class struggle, have already freed themselves from the domination of the oppressor class and must now maintain a vigilant class consciousness lest the oppressor repossess them. The very opposite: I'm saying that, in Christ's classless society, we have been freed from all this deindividualizing, dehumanizing business of class distinction, class solidarity; and class warfare. Herein lies freedom--definitely not in one class's gaining the ascendancy to where it can impose its 'liberation,' its 'classlessness,' on the others. And yes, we Christians do need to keep vigilant (toward ourselves) that we do not let the world entice us back into the slavery of what it calls its 'struggle for freedom.'"

Finally, in Ephesians 2:4-22, the real Paul properly theologizes the matter: "But God, rich in mercy, for the great love he bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins.... It is not your own doing. It is God's gift, not a reward for work done.... Gcntiles and Jews, he has made the two one, and in his own body of flesh and blood has broken down the enmity which stood like a dividing wall between them ... so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace." That's what I call classlessness!

Of course I realize that if society had to give up thinking in generalities, give up treating people statistically according to class distinctions and social categories, it would come to a complete halt. Scientific analysis (and particularly those of the social sciences) would be rendered impossible. It undoubtedly is correct that even Christians and the church must be able to deal in these terms. Laboring under the human limitations we do, we, frankly, don't possess an "eye of God" capable of watching and comprehending each and every person (let alone sparrow) as an individual.

However, what, by the grace of God, we can do is know that classification is a necessary evil and not the key to the truth about human society. We can know that classification always represents an injustice toward the real individuality of the persons involved. We can resist rather than welcome class thinking--knowing for a fact that we are being the more godly (and thus closer to true classlessness, liberation, community, and justice) whenever we can manage to think and deal in terms of individuality.

Collectivist class thinking is clearly of the arkys--is the means and method of arky power. Just as clearly, the insistence that human beings be considered and treated individualistically represents an anarchical refusal to accept or legitimate anything of arky philosophy or procedure.

Perhaps I also should say once more that the individualism of Christian Anarchy is not in any sense a threat (or even a counter move) to true community. No, the threat to community lies rather in the ideological solidarities of arkydom's class consciousness. What arkydom calls "solidarity" is actually pseudocommunity, the very opposite of true community--and this precisely because it and overrides the God-given "freedom of individuality" upon which true community is premised and in which it consists.

An exemplum will establish the relevance and contemporaneity of the above discussion. As of the time of this writing, Roman Catholicism is approaching a showdown between the church (i.e., the Vatican) and certain of its priests associated with "the theology of liberation." (As to how many and which thinkers are liberation theologians who fall under the church's indictment, I certainly am not in position to judge. The term "liberation theology" is itself umbrella large enough to cover a great variety of thought. In the Catholic case, it will be for the Vatican to decide. In our case here, it will be for readers to judge for themselves.)

A couple of news stories name the Brazilian Franciscan monk Leonardo Boff as "one of the leading exponents of the theology of liberation." He is quoted from a magazine article as saying, "The theologians of liberation want to know why poverty exists, not just poverty as a social fact. In this sense, for a liberation theologian, Marx aids in seeing social sin, and in this sense, I think that Marx is useful to the higher cause of theology."

The same accounts then cite the Vatican theologian Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as attacking "the progressive line that adopts the Marxist notion of 'class war' as historical 'fact' on which to base the 'mission of salvation.'" Boff's fellow Brazilian, a second Vatican theologian Cardinal Angelo Rossi, adds, "We can't accept class war as a concept because it leads to violence, and that is against the gospel." (Rossi's observation is true enough, though we have suggested that the essential error comes not just at the point of violence but at the very first step of taking class distinction as the essential truth of social reality.)

The Pope himself gets into the news story with quotations from a message he had recently sent to an African bishop's conference: "The solidarity [he might have chosen a better word] of the church with the poor, with the victims of unjust laws or unjust social and economic structures goes without saying." (Certainly the record of John Paul's own administration supports his statement. The point at issue with the liberationists has nothing to do with whether the church should not be concerned with justice and help for the poor. It has to do solely with whether class warfare is the gospel way--or even an effective way--of social progress.)

The Pope continues: "[But] the forms in which this solidarity is realized cannot be dictated by an analysis based on class distinctions and class struggle. The church's task is to call all men and women to conversion and reconciliation, without opposing groups, without being 'against' anyone." (Sound familiar?)

Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger raises a matter that points to a succeeding chapter of ours: His basic criticism is that liberation theology injects Marxist social theory into "the fundamental postulates of the gospel." "[It] elevates to theology that which in reality should be a social ethic or social theory. [It] mixes two levels, that which is Christianity and that which is social ethics." Ratzinger calls this an abuse of theology.

I must admit I would never have thought of looking to the Roman Catholic hierarchy for support of my idea of Christian Anarchy. But when they offer it, I certainly am not about to turn it down.

Copyright (c) 1987