Friday, May 25, 2012

Anarchy in May: Eller on the Just Society (Pt. 3)

The following is part of the Anarchy in May series which examines Christian anarchism and quotes prominent Christian anarchist thinkers. For a more detailed introduction and a table of contents, please see Anarchy in May: Brief Introduction and Contents.
In the final analysis, Eller believes that all human attempts for a truly classless, and therefore truly equitable, society necessarily fail. As is so often the case when humans set their own goals to be acheived by their own ends, the very attempt to make the classless society exacerbates class tensions within society. The same is true when the question of a peaceful society is raise: every human attempt to construct a peaceful society is undertaken by resistance, coercion, or outright warfare. The end is undermined by the means. Marxism and feminism are by no means the only examples that Eller could have mustered. Another obvious example would have been the global attempts by racial minorities for liberation through racial solidarity. The list could of course go on.

For Eller, there is an alternative way in Jesus, a way that doesn't embrace contradictory means toward the final end:

We have seen that the liberationist methodology (here called “Marxism) is essentially a manipulation of those archai 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 “archae theory,” Christianity comes at the class problem through a radically anarchistic approach. It will simply deny that these “archai 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 treated as individuals rather than being glommed into “solidarities” and manipulated in the interest of any class struggle.

…A person 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 be used as a pawn in any class struggle. Even if 99 percent of all salves display a particular character, that does not dictate that he must. His individuality always takes precedence over his so-called class status.

…The apostle Paul, on the other hand, tells about the one society that has succeeded in true classlessness…“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.”

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 that you’re a “woman.” We don’t care…You were bough with a price precisely that you might be given to 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 ‘under privileged,’ then turning people loose to fight themselves into a higher class or else get an entire class privileged above the opposition.”

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