Confronting Our Ataxophobia (An Advent Reflection)

Patterns-In-Chaos-2008_Kerrie-WarrenI had a recent conversation with a Christian who said they admired what I was doing through my justice work.  I became intrigued by something the person said about why they didn’t get more involved in justice work. In my recent book, In Search of Jesus the Anarchist, I wrote about several fears which I believe explained why so many U.S. Christians were not doing the necessary justice work to enact Christ’s blessed Kingdom. I noted that fear of freedom, fear of being in the outgroup, and fear of oppressive punishment were just three dreads that kept Christians from engaging in meaningful missional activity. Nevertheless, during this conversation, I heard another significant fear that I had never considered.

This person, who would fall into several categories of being marginalized and oppressed, admitted that one of the main reasons why they did not get involved in justice work was for fear of the chaos that might ensue if the common people did rise up to oppose the unjust systems and imperialistic governments of this world. This person said something to the effect that if the masses really did start to fight back, the possibility of chaos would dramatically increase. And this person said they feared chaos more than anything else in life. So, I looked up the term fear of chaos, and lo and behold there is a word for it: Ataxophobia. Ataxophobia is the fear of disorder or chaos. It is a dreadful sense of loss of control.

I reflected on the possibility that this sense of fear over the loss of control, loss of psychological stability, or even the loss of a minimal sense of economic predictability may be a driving emotional reason why tens of millions of oppressed people in the United States continue to allow themselves to be under the thumb of their oppressors—the capitalist class (the 1%).

Ataxophobia is endemic in the petite bourgeoisie or the so-called middle class, who fear losing anything that might remove their false sense of security. And it is a false sense of security when examined with honest critical thinking because the capitalist system itself is filled with needless cycles of economic uncertainty and periods of economic busts which create chaos for so many. These economic busts are caused by the greedy overproduction inherent in the capitalistic system which throws countless people into unemployment, bankruptcy, family disruption, and homelessness.

Yet, it is possible and has been shown historically in other societies, that an economic reorganization of society based on meeting people’s needs rather than on free-market profiteering would remove, over time, the economic instability inherent with capitalism. However, since the capitalist class will not give up their power voluntarily, there will be a necessary struggle to rid our world of the instability and contradictions of neo-liberal capitalism and replace it with a more stable and equal economic system based on meeting people’s needs. The struggle that I am talking about is the revolutionary activity of the common people (the working class) in regaining what has been taken from them by the capitalist class. And, yes, this struggle will be messy and maybe even chaotic for a period.

The Christian season of Advent is upon us. It is a season of preparation and anticipation for the incarnation of Christ. The appearance of Jesus created quite a lot of chaos and disorder, and Jesus even admitted that he had purposefully come to disrupt the status quo: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Mt 10:34-36, NIV).

Thus, Advent can also become a spiritual time for us to realize, prepare for, and re-engage in Christian revolutionary activity which, unfortunately, might bring about a period of great suffering—where there even may be an increase in chaos and disorder. Nevertheless, this chaos will not come about because of Christian revolutionaries or our allies, but because the capitalist class refuses to correct the grave injustices of the evil systems which they have wrought upon our world. The season of Advent can be a wakeup call out of our false sense of security and re-energize us for the struggle ahead.

In the Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent, we read, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory” (Mark 13:24-26). This scary an chaotic future event is to be brought about by the work of God through the revolutionary people of God in enacting the Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It is Good News because when the “Son of Man” comes humanity will enter into the future “millennial” age of peace, prosperity, and equality for all.

It should be stated, however, but without equivocation, that as Christians engage in revolutionary activity, the Christian revolutionary is not desirous of chaos or disorder. Only a person with severe psychological disorder invites unnecessary chaos or pain into their own life or the lives of others.  This chaos really is brought upon us by the evil “rulers and powers” of this “dark world” (Eph 6:12).

Yet, my sense is that to be a growing spiritual person, to be a Christian, is to engage in the subversive, revolutionary work of Jesus to enact the Christ’s Kingdom, which is counter to the capitalistic governments (kingdoms) of this world.  To live out the Christian life is to overcome the fears of life in order to complete the missio Dei—the Mission of God—to bring in an eternal age of peace, prosperity, and equality for all.

The hope, joy, peace, and love of the Advent season is cause for celebration, yet it should be experienced in the context of our current suffering and the fallenness of our world. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). With the first advent of Christ, we recognize that, despite our hope and personal peace, there is still chaos and suffering in the world and all of creation is in a “groaning” phase of evolution.

But it is in Christ that we can enjoy a deep experience of hope, joy, peace, and love which can cast out the fear of the responsibility of our freedom, minimize the fear of being outside the in-group of the petite-bourgeoisie, destroy the fear of authoritarian oppression, and even overcome the fear of the chaos that must inevitably result as we enact Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

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Zoe, Agape, Kairos: A Material Spirituality (Reflection)

dance editThe material world is, and the spiritual world is. As we live in the here and now of the material, temporal realm, we, nevertheless, integrate our spiritual, eternal lives in the here and now as well. Spiritual people do not separate the natural from the supernatural; they never negate the physical to validate the metaphysical.

Yet, the body is barren without the breath of the spirit (pneuma), as the spirit is formless without the body (soma). Beauty cannot exist without both as the body is lifeless without the soul, and the soul cannot be beheld without the body.

The relational perichoretic of the Trinity brings this notion to the really real—the supranatural. The Father is the creator of biological life (bios) and gives second-birth by the spiritual life (zoe). The incarnated Child takes physical love (eros) and elevates it through the self-sacrificial Cross (agape). The Mother Spirit labors to effect the movement of evolution (chronos) and moves to effect needed revolutions at just the right time (kairos).

Thus, matter/intellect and spirit/emotion are always working together, as positive theses and anti-theses, to generate new syntheses that create the possibility of an eschatologically free, equal, just and beautiful world: The City (polis) of God.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

Toward A [Christian] Anarchist Position on Anti-Imperialism

anti-imperialismAs a Christian and an anarchist, I condemn without commentary the immoral U.S. government’s bombing of the Syrian airbase on April 7, 2017 (and all the illegal bombings it has carried out all over the world especially over the past 16 years). I am encouraged by many like-minded folks from various Pittsburgh-based progressive and leftist groups which have cried out against U.S. militarism and imperialism this past week.

Unfortunately, long before the recent U.S. strike against the Syrian airbase, the Syria situation had been the locus of significant debate and division within the radical left socialist movement in Pittsburgh. Accusations have been hurled at each side of this divide about who is an actual anti-imperialist. Though it is an important debate, the divisions have, sadly, weakened the anti-war/anti-imperialist movement in Pittsburgh at a time when we desperately need to work together.

Nevertheless, the positions of these two sides of revolutionary socialists, though having some valid arguments (opposition to the demonization of post-colonial leaders, opposition to regime change, solidarity with foreign liberatory groups, and opposition to brutal dictatorships), they fall short of an anarchist anti-imperialist position. This does not mean, of course, that anarchists cannot struggle alongside these revolutionary socialists. Anarchists can consider both sides comrades as we struggle against capitalism, militarism, and imperialism, but only as long as we anarchists are fully aware of their statist orientations and goals.

I am in strong relationships with three other spiritually oriented Pittsburgh-based anarchist activists. We have been working as mediators between these two sides in order to bring solidarity (but not uniformity) to the anti-imperialist struggle. Yet, I also believe, as anarchists we must be able to stand on our own convictions, and not simply choose sides in the debate among the revolutionary socialists. As a Christian anarchist, I believe there is an anarchist perspective on anti-imperialism which needs to be articulated as a means to share this perspective with those who have anarchist leanings as well as with the revolutionary socialists we often work with.

Here are a few points to consider for anarchists going forward especially as it applies to the Syrian flashpoint.

  1. [Christian] anarchists are by nature anti-imperialist. We always oppose any outside powers which seek to impose their will on the people in a particular place. We also oppose all hierarchical (oppressive) nation-states. Thus, as we oppose imperialism, we also oppose nationalism. Lucien van der Walt, a South African anarchist, said, “Anarchists stand in solidarity with struggles against imperialism on principle, but seek to reshape national liberation movements into social liberation movements.”[i]
  1. Therefore, we should identify and support truly anarchist or revolutionary non-statist socialist groups in a particular place and not join in on the demonizing of the oppressive State-Ruler at the time. Demonizing a particular State-Ruler and supporting regime change suggests that there is “good” State-Rule or “good” State-Rulers (Mk 10:18). This process will require that anarchists identify and confirm that the liberatory group we are in solidarity within a particular land is indeed a revolutionary group (and not a tool of one of the imperialist powers or the nationalist movement in that country).
  1. From an anti-war/anti-imperialist [Christian] anarchist perspective, the means by which anarchist social movements create revolution should be militantly non-violent. “We do not fight with the weapons of this world ….” (2 Cor 10:4). My personal belief is that using violence against humans is simply falling into the same oppressive behaviors of the oppressors. (Nonetheless, once an anarchist group has established itself in communality, it inheres the right to protect itself against violent imperialists and nationalists.)
  1. Additionally, as anti-war/anti-imperialist [Christian] anarchists, we understand that the revolutionary struggle must be one that results in a non-hierarchical organizational system lest we fall back into nationalism, which inevitably leads to imperialism. Jesus, our anarchist example, said, “You know that the rulers of this world like to oppress the people. It can’t be that with you. You must follow another way. Instead, the greatest among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26).
  1. [Christian] anarchists, therefore, should only functionally, not formally, associate with statist revolutionary socialist groups. But we don’t need to call out specific groups for having a deficient imperialistic theory, and we remain in solidaristic dialogue as we struggle together against U.S. imperialism. However, our anarchist movement will only grow as we do not get sucked into our various allies’ statist ideologies and debates.[ii]

I hope these reflections encourage meaningful and respectful dialogue among those who sincerely struggle for the liberation of all people. Finally, I hope that all who are opposed to U.S. militarism, imperialism, and capitalism can band together towards the enlightenment and empowerment of the oppressed masses who unwittingly support the immoral U.S. government’s actions around the world.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

Notes

[i] Lucien van der Walt, “Towards a history of anarchist anti-imperialism: In this struggle, only the workers and peasants will go all the way to the end.” March 3, 2005. Downloaded from https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/lucien-van-der-walt-towards-a-history-of-anarchist-anti-imperialism

[ii] See Lawrence Jarach, “Anti-Imperialism: Just Another Statist Ideology” in Anarchy Magazine, issue #65, 2008. Downloaded from http://anarchy101.org/397/how-does-anti-imperialism-relate-to-anarchist-thought.