Political Salvation: Thoughts on Barack Obama, Political Hopes, and Christian Anarchism

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 3, 2007

Apparently, an art student in Chicago is causing a stir. The student–David Cordero–sculpted Barack Obama with Jesus-sash and blue halo. In the ABC report Cordero says:

“All of this is a response to what I’ve been witnessing and hearing, this idea that Barack is sort of a potential savior that might come and absolve the country of all its sins,” Cordero said. “In a lot of ways it’s about caution in assigning all these inflated expectations on one individual, and expecting them to change something that many hands have shaped.”

Amen. I could go off on a Christian Anarchist tirade, but you already know what I’d say. Instead, let me be oh-so postmodern and ask a question: As Christians, where should we place our political hopes?

Speaking of Christian Anarchism: I’ve been pondering the off-putting nature of the phrase “Christian Anarchy.” No matter what my intentions are, the word “anarchy” always leaves an unintended first impression. So, let me know which of these alternative phrases is better:

I am a _____________.

  1. Christarchist (instead of saying I’m an “an” Archist…which negates the rule of anyone, I’m saying I recognize Christ alone as King)
  2. Kingdom Realist (playing off of Christian Realism but rejecting Niebuhr’s assumptions).
  3. Post-governmentist or Post-Statist (the idea that in light of Christ, the state, along with its coercive powers, has no claim)
  4. Theopolitician (playing off of the title of William Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination)

Other suggestions? Which do you like best? And don’t give me “why not just call yourself a CHRISTIAN”–that option is off the table!

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4 Responses to “Political Salvation: Thoughts on Barack Obama, Political Hopes, and Christian Anarchism”

  1. James Kingsley on April 3rd, 2007 4:08 pm

    How about:

    “I’m Mark, and I don’t think politics is all its cracked up to be - though I do think Jesus makes a pretty good king.”

    i’m not trying to be cheeky, i’m just not a fan of labels. is a sentence that is tied to one person in particular (in this example “Mark” ) really that hard to wrap our heads around? i would think its open enough to lead to more conversation and at the least its a clever way of putting the personal back into the political (rather than letting politics dictate the personal)….

    great question though - i went by “christian anarchist” for a long time until i got really really tired of explaining what that meant. now i just explain myself from the get-go.

  2. markvans on April 3rd, 2007 5:59 pm

    Fair enough. That is probably the best approach. I think there are times when using categories (not exactly the same things as labels) are good, but labels inherently mark something off and limit them.

  3. James Kingsley on April 3rd, 2007 8:18 pm

    true, categories can be very helpful indeed. the thing is, anarchism is probably the closest category to the ideas/ideology we might be trying to convey….in which case, “christian anarachist” just may be the most helpful (after all the explaining, of course) after all….

  4. JoshE on April 3rd, 2007 10:01 pm

    out of the options listed i believe that “Christarchist” is the best. It makes it very clear that your position is based on Christ, and it invokes the idea of anarchism but avoids that uncomfortable hollow ring that the word “Anarchist” (no matter if it is prefaced with “Christian”) leaves in people’s ears. it is the most clear.
    in general i agree with James Kingsley’s last point that with a careful “prep” of your subject “christian Anarchist might just be the best term. if that is your approach then Christarchist is probably the best introduction to your explanation.
    i find it hard to imagine that people will be very turned off if you begin your explanation with a term/label that claims Christ as your Lord and Master.

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