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Sundays With The Anarchist

Written by AriahFine : February 12, 2008

dumpster.jpgWhen I was a Sophomore in high school I had an English teacher who lived in some type of commune downtown; she was weird. Come spring time when the college students finished school and we still had a week left, our teacher mentioned how many good things they found digging through the dumpsters after the students left. “Gross!” I had thought at the time, heartily agreeing with the majority of my peers that I would never go digging through dumpsters even if there where whole bags of clothes with the tags still on them. Little did I know.

Eventually, about 5 years later, I started hanging out with a group of folks called Food Not Bombs, which is an international revolutionary movement “sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty.” I had been looking around for people who were living out the words of Jesus and actually caring for the ‘least of these’ and I found it in a bunch of people that wanted nothing to do with church. I hung out with amazing people in Atlanta, Chicago, and Nashville that were living out what the gospel calls us to do: caring for the least of these, and they did it by dumpstering.

These folks would redeem food from the excess trash of our consumer culture, and make delicious stews, pastas, sandwiches and more, and then we’d go out and have a party, pot-luck style, in the park for anyone and everyone. It was a beautiful snapshot of what the kingdom of God might look like, except one thing, there weren’t many ‘christians.’

In Nashville it was particularly striking. I attended a church on Sunday mornings, and then helped out in some fashion with Food Not Bombs on Sunday afternoons. I would frequently suggest people from the church help out, they instead opted to go out to eat at a restaurant. It was the perfect opportunity to live out the faith we joined together to sing about and talk about in the morning, but unfortunately, in two years I had no takers. I just didn’t understand.

So, I wonder… Who are the Christ Followers? Are they the ones who wake up on Sunday and gather together to sing and talk about Jesus? Or are they the ones that never mention His name or claim to follow, yet their actions fall in line with what He called us to do?

Ariah Fine is a husband and father living in North Minneapolis. He blogs at Trying To Follow and recently wrote his first novel, Giving Up.


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Viewing 16 Comments

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    Beautiful, provoking story, Ariah, thank you for sharing.

    From a Quakerly perspective, I would suggest that those who are participating in the Works of Mercy without recognizing Christ by name are still following their Inner Light. Whether or not this "counts" in the grand scheme of things is up to Christ. Also repeatedly refusing to act mercifully when the opportunity presents is dangerous to those who profess Jesus.

    Just my pocket change. ~Anna
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    It is odd when the Christians, who we are told have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, act in conformity to spirit of the age, but the non-Christians who we are told are ensnared by the spirit of the age, act in conformity to the desires of the Holy Spirit.
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    Ariah...ssshhhhh! You're not supposed to say things like this. It might provoke controversy and make people wonder about what they are really doing on Sundays. :-P
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    great thought provoking post....really think this is the kind of stirring we need to see more of in the Body
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    A little something from Matthew 21:

    28"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

    29" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

    30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

    31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
    "The first," they answered.

    Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

    hmmm...
    Peace
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    Ok. I love where this is going. And I love the post. Thanks Ariah. But now to complicate things...

    It seems to me that there is more to the way of Jesus than ethics. There is also worship. We Christians not only follow in his way, but also worship this bearded God-man. On the one hand we have ethical Jesus-followers who do not recognize the man's claim over their lives, and on the other hand we have folks who recognize Jesus' claim over their lives, but don't follow him.

    Now I'm certainly tempted to say that the former is better than the latter...but I'm not so sure. In my experience it is still a TINY bit easier to woo a Jesus worshiper into embracing the ethics of Jesus than it is to woo an anarchist into worshipping Jesus. And doesn't this, in the big scheme of things, still matter?

    (and of course, the idea is to both follow AND worship Jesus...and let's avoid the whole "who-goes-to-heaven-and-who-goes-to-hell issue for the time being")
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    Mark,

    I think this is strongly related to your "emerging pentecostalism" piece. The connection I see has to do with the Holy Spirit. It seems to me (imho) that the Spirit of God is at work inside and outside "the church." I feel like the story Ariah shared functions much like Jesus' parable that I mentioned above. When we who worship Jesus see the Spirit of God moving those outside the church to do what we ought to be doing, it is a call to repentance.

    When we repent, then it puts us in a position to encounter Jesus in the face of the anarchist, and perhaps in joining in the work of the Spirit that is already happening around us in the world, then we can bring the face of Jesus before the anarchists we may work alongside.

    I'll have to stew on this one some more. Thanks for the push back, Mark. It's challenging.

    Peace
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    One of the basic themes repeated again and again in my "Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination" series is that anarchists and anarchistic communities in a way stand as a witness against the church for maintaining what in many ways is the ethical stance the church SHOULD have had in modernity. I think that's the very least one can say about them, and I do not feel there are adequate grounds for saying more. I am not comfortable with labeling non-Christ-worshiping people who embody Jesus' ethics in many ways "unsaved", but neither does it seem to me they ought to be accorded an uncritical place in the new creation as "saved" people.
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    Indeed, Jason. One of the beefs I have with some of my christian anarchist friends is that some feel deeper kinship with athiest anarchists than they do with Methodists or Lutherans or Evangelicals. In other words, when we set some sort of ethical standards up as the "way of Christ" then we can fall into making Jesus as a poster-boy for that ethical standard and, consequently, cast out of fellowship all Christians who don't adhere to that standard.
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    Then there's that whole tricky thing about "there is no salvation outside the church" that many early Christian theologians adopted (Novatian in particular I believe). What do we do with that?
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    Mark,
    I like your AND conjunction of heart and action. Ariah's story very much reflects the feeling of the good Samaritan. But Jesus also commends Mary for sitting at his feet. Somehow we need to figure out how to be the Mary while doing the Martha. Similarly to Loyola instructing his followers to pray while working. Getting the right balance is a sort of like going through the eye of a needle.
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    I think that Ariah's story strikes at the very heart of what the church has become for most people who attend church. I have a question for Ariah though. You mentioned in your article that you tried to introduce people from church to the work that "Food Not Bombs" was doing, but did you ever attempt to introduce anyone from "Food Not Bombs" to Jesus? I'm just asking because your story doesnt' say if you ever did or not. I understand that those people probably weren't interested in traditional church, but they could have been introduced to the fact that they were living out the life that Christ called us to. Just curious.
    Thanks for the thought provoking story.
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    Thanks for all of the conversation, it's really encouraging to see the conversation that comes out of sharing our stories. Let me address a couple things...

    My point of telling the story was in no way to make a statement, theological or otherwise, about either of the groups (FNB or the church) but rather to raise the question. The question at the end wasn't intended to be rhetorical, but to be an honest one that creates some tension, I don't think it's an either/or.

    To respond to Joel, I do believe I tried to introduce those I interact with to Jesus. I'm not sure I did it in the same way you would, but I feel like I both lived and spoke in a way that attested to Jesus' work in my life and his truths for all people.
    I would be curious though Joel, what you might think a conversation or introduction might look like.
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    There's another nuance to the Mary-Martha dichotomy too that might be worth mentioning - Mary "sitting at the feet" of Jesus is basically the posture a rabbi's student would adopt, a role from which women were generally barred in the first century. So not only do we need to adore Jesus and worship him, but we need to learn from him.

    I can't help but think that's perhaps the way to bring some of these threads together, but it will take a more perceptive mind than mine to do that right now...
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    It would be difficult for me to say specifically how I would introduce the particular group of people to Christ as I was not there. I believe each circumstance presents unique opportunities to do God's work. I don't believe in cookie cutter solutions to issues such as this. So in answer to your question back to me, I would have to answer "I don't know".
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