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Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel [Hardcover]

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2010
Christian anarchism has been around for at least as long as secular anarchism. The existing literature cites Leo Tolstoy as its most famous (sometimes even as the only) proponent, but there are many others, such as Jacques Ellul, Vernard Eller, Dave Andrews or the people associated with the Catholic Worker movement. Both individually and collectively, these Christian anarchists offer a compelling critique of the state, the church and the economy based on numerous passages from the New Testament. Yet despite the relevance and growth of this literature, no generic study bringing together these different thinkers or reflecting on their contribution has been published to date, because such work involves meticulous searching, compiling and structuring of countless different texts and sources, not all of which are easily accessed. This book, however, provides precisely such a study, and thereby presents Christian anarchism to both the wider public and the wider academic community.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Imprint Academic (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184540193X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845401931
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 15.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,627,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos grew up in Belgium but lives in the UK almost continuously since 1997. He joined Canterbury's University of Kent to study economics (BA), then international relations and European studies (MA), and eventually politics and religion (PhD). He has taught at the University of Kent and at Canterbury Christ Church University since 2005, and since September 2010, he is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Loughborough University. He has published on Tolstoy's political thought, on Christian anarchism and on religious anarchism more generally. For more details including a full list of publications (many of which can be accessed online), see http://www.christoyannopoulos.com.

Product Description

Review

Dr Christoyannopoulos has produced a superb discussion of Christian anarchism from Tolstoy to the present day. He combines a wide scope and meticulous scholarship with impressive analytical ability. He also writes clearly and well not always the case in this area. This book is required reading for those interested in alternative conceptions of politics. --Professor David McLellan, Author, "Karl Marx: A Biography". --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Christian anarchism has been around for at least as long as "secular" anarchism. The existing literature cites Leo Tolstoy as its most famous (sometimes even as the only) proponent, but there are many others, such as Jacques Ellul, Vernard Eller, Dave Andrews or the people associated with the Catholic Worker movement. Both individually and collectively, these Christian anarchists offer a compelling critique of the state, the church and the economy based on numerous passages from the New Testament.

Yet despite the relevance and growth of this literature, no generic study bringing together these different thinkers or reflecting on their contribution has been published to date, because such work involves meticulous searching, compiling and structuring of countless different texts and sources, not all of which are easily accessed. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, however, provides precisely such a study, and thereby presents Christian anarchism to both the wider public and the wider academic community.

Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent where he received his PhD in Politics and Government in 2008.

"Dr Christoyannopoulos has produced a superb discussion of Christian anarchism from Tolstoy to the present day. He combines a wide scope and meticulous scholarship with impressive analytical ability. He also writes clearly and well - not always the case in this area. This book is required reading for those interested in alternative conceptions of politics."
Professor David McLellan, author /Karl Marx: A Biography/

"Alexandre Chistoyannopoulos's engaging and intelligent study of Christian
anarchism directly confronts the perception that these two traditions of thought are incompatible. At the heart of this scholarly discussion is the work of Tolstoy but the analysis is enriched by an examination of a much wider range of writers and movements. Anyone interested in the vital issues of non-violence, the limits of political obligation, resistance, compassion and justice will find this book enormously illuminating."
Dr Ruth Kinna, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Loughborough University, editor of /Anarchist Studies/


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In this well researched and thoughtful book, Dr Christoyannopoulos spells out the basis of a profoundly Christian form of anarchism, explains how it can be applied in practical terms, and then introduces the reader to a number of key individuals and communities which have tried to do just that.

The depth of research into the writings of key thinkers such as Tolstoy, Ellul, Yoder, Andrew and others brings alive a subject which has provided, and will yet provide plenty of fuel for many contentious discussions.

One of the key principles of Christian anarchism is pacifism, and the author spends a good deal of time outlining the reasoning and theology behind this concept and other important ideas. He looks in depth at the Sermon on the Mount, which he describes as a manifesto for a `Christian anarchist society'.

But rather than base his discussion solely upon the Sermon on the Mount, Dr Christoyannopoulos doesn't shrink from other parts of the Bible - including considering the Old Testament, particularly in the light of 1 Samuel 8, and proffering the Mosaic system as `a form of anarchy'.

The thrust of the whole of the first part of the book, is to present Christianity as an alternative way of thinking/living to the way of the state, which `derives its power and authority from Satan'. It presents Jesus as a critic of the state, and understands aspects of his life such as the `Clearing of the Temple', as forms of direct action against the state.

Throughout the author draws heavily on the writings of Tolstoy, who is certainly the most influential of the avowedly Christian anarchist writers, and is in some ways the spiritual father of many of its later advocates.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read 3 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
Christoyannopoulos simply and clearly chronicles the theology of Christian anarchism by drawing on notable advocates over the last two millennia. He affirms that the foundation of Christian anarchism is a rejection of violence. In following Jesus' nonviolent message these adherents withdrew their support for civil government, as all states retain power by using, or threatening to use, force.

Christoyannopoulos explains that even though "Christian anarchism" is a relatively modern term, the early church (such as the Church Fathers) had anarchist ideals by following Jesus' pacifist teachings rather than the militaristic empire of the day. However after Christianity became the official state religion in the 4th century, the church transgressed from a humble bottom-up sect to an authoritarian top-down organisation. Christoyannopoulos notes that Christian pacifism and anarchism were then submerged for nearly a millennium until the Middle Ages. He then cites the emergence of various pacifist/anarchist Christians such as Francis of Assisi, Peter Chelcicky and Leo Tolstoy.

A few minor criticisms. Firstly the conclusion is titled "The Prophetic Role of Christian Anarchism" and includes the section "Christian anarchists as prophets". The term "prophet" does not sit comfortably with me. I much prefer the preceding chapter "Examples of Christian Anarchist Witness". I would call myself a witness, not a prophet, due to Revelations and a belief that humanity has been blessed with all the prophets it needs.

Secondly, the book currently retails for 40. Fortunately I was kindly given this book as a gift, but I do not know how many people (especially impoverished Christian anarchists like myself!) are put off by the cost.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A political commentary on which gospel? 9 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent exposition of Tolstoyan Chritianity and non- violence, but I was surprised to find the exploration of the gospel only extends to the Canonical, i.e. the scriptures the orthodox church foisted on its 'followers' as a mechanism of social and political control in the Middle Ages. There is no reference to the Nag Hammadi find, the contents of which have been available to scholars and the general public since the 1970's. This is a shame, because exploration of the Nag Hammadi scriptures (or even only the Gospel of Thomas) would yield a fascinating insight into early Christian Gnostic practice, which in my opinion is essentially anarchistic in nature (for example, the Thomasonian saying "The Kingdom is within you" is a gnostic call to eschew intercessors, bishops, priests and overseers, and find God within yourself). Otherwise, well worth a read.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read 5 Aug 2010
By Adam Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Christoyannopoulos simply and clearly chronicles the theology of Christian anarchism by drawing on notable advocates over the last two millennia. He affirms that the foundation of Christian anarchism is a rejection of violence. In following Jesus' nonviolent message these adherents withdrew their support for civil government, as all states retain power by using, or threatening to use, force.

Christoyannopoulos explains that even though "Christian anarchism" is a relatively modern term, the early church (such as the Church Fathers) had anarchist ideals by following Jesus' pacifist teachings rather than the militaristic empire of the day. However after Christianity became the official state religion in the 4th century, the church transgressed from a humble bottom-up sect to an authoritarian top-down organisation. Christoyannopoulos notes that Christian pacifism and anarchism were then submerged for nearly a millennium until the Middle Ages. He then cites the emergence of various pacifist/anarchist Christians such as Francis of Assisi, Peter Chelcicky and Leo Tolstoy.

A few minor criticisms. Firstly the conclusion is titled "The Prophetic Role of Christian Anarchism" and includes the section "Christian anarchists as prophets". The term "prophet" does not sit comfortably with me. I much prefer the preceding chapter "Examples of Christian Anarchist Witness". I would call myself a witness, not a prophet, due to Revelations and a belief that humanity has been blessed with all the prophets it needs.

Secondly, the book currently retails for $80. Fortunately I was kindly given this book as a gift, but I do not know how many people (especially impoverished Christian anarchists like myself!) are put off by the cost. My local library even turned down my purchase suggestion as it was outside their budget! I realize this is an academic piece of literature and the publisher has forecast a low printing volume, but if it were a quarter/half the price it would be far more accessible. However even with these criticisms, it is still amongst the best books I've ever read (what price do you put on truth and enlightenment?) and in my opinion on a par with Gandhi's autobiography. If need be beg, borrow (but don't steal) a copy!

UPDATE: I now own a copy of both the hardcover and paperback. The much cheaper paperback version has the same main text as the hardcover and is "abridged" solely because it has lighter footnotes. Any long key footnotes from the hardcover are incorporated in the main text of the paperback within square brackets, so you are not losing out. I actually prefer the paperback as the binding is better quality.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reference/Gateway For Years of Reading 4 July 2011
By Michael J. Wild - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Christoyannopoulos has created an amazing work. It is certainly the most accessible and engaging doctoral thesis I have ever read. He has a gift for the written word.

Beyond that however is the stunningly rich mother lode of references he provides. I ordered the paperback version several weeks ago and it is now chock full, page after page, of margin notes, underscoring and highlighting. I will be hunting for the hardback version now for the sake of its more extensive notes and references left out of this paperback version.

The author has opened doors for years of reading and study for this old geezer who recently retired into the bible belt and has undertaken bible study with a local church in a determination to more fully understand the language of the surrounding culture and its thought processes. My personal politics have evolved over a lifetime to embrace anarchism and though a lifelong admirer of Jesus as a moral/political thinker I am staunchly agnostic. This book is a wellspring for me in providing a structure upon which I will be able to fashion my engagement and responses to the religious people who now surround me.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Overview Of The World Of Christian Anarchy 16 Sep 2010
By Dave Andrews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is an example of the very best that the academic tradition has to offer. It explores the subject of Christian Anarchy very systematically, very thoroughly and very thoughtfully. It brings the largely unknown world of Christian Anarchy to light in such a way that people who know nothing about it can get a great guided tour of its subterranean terrain and those of us who inhabit the territory have the chance to see new insights and hear old ideas anew in the company of our tour guide, the very remarkable Alexandre Christoyannopoulos. It is meticulously researched and carefully written. It is obviously a labour of love. I recommend it unreservedly. Dave Andrews author of Christi-Anarchy
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Illuminating 15 Aug 2011
By Michael Strawser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I cannot praise this book enough. Christoyannopoulos has put together an astoundingly well-researched work that does exactly what it sets out to do: guide the reader through every corner of Christian Anarchism.

Ordering the Abridged Edition, I was a little worried that I would be held back from important information. However, Christoyannopoulos notes at the start of the book that the only content that has been eliminated are some of the footnotes - it was his doctoral thesis, after all. Thus, I don't regret buying the Abridged Edition at all.

I've noticed some talk about the binding of the book. Again, I wouldn't be too concerned. I've really studied this book - it's been bent, highlighted, and written in, and it's holding up just fine.

This book is a wonderful assest to both Christian political thought and anarchist thought. Followers of Christ will discover the merits of Christian Anarchism and anarchists' basis in a very unique (and in my opinion, correct) reading of Biblical texts. Secular anarchists will see how the teaching of Christ can assist in attaining their goal - specifically in relation to 'breaking the cycle of violence' and methods of subversion that expose injustice without stooping to the lows of coercion and violence.

I admire how Christoyannopoulos took small subjects - for example, how Christ's teaching at the Sermon on the Mount is the fulfillment of the Old Law - and seamlessly weaved together what every major (and often times, minor) relevant thinker has to say about the subject (in the case I mentioned, he cited 6 different thinkers in a 3 1/2 page section).

The views presented in this book are challenging at times - but they offer a great deal of hope in such a lost world. A new way is offered: one of radical commitment and faith in God.

As I said before, this book deserves a great deal of praise. I cannot recommend it enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thorough and readable 14 Mar 2013
By Keith Hebden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Alex is a thorough researcher and a readable author. This book is broad enough to not be partisan but goes into the right amount of depth to give the reader the opportunity to generate their own questions. Alex's study of Christian anarchism does what should have been done years ago and has opened up a whole field of radical writing. As such it will do for Christian anarchism some of what Gutierrez's Liberation theology did for, er, liberation theology! The religious stream of the Anarchist Studies Network, which Alex helps organise has become one of the largest and most popular areas of anarchist study and this book has begun that new tradition that brings both academics and activists together. [...]
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