Christian Anarchism and Denominational Identity

Added on by Keegan Osinski.
My friend and classmate, Kaitlyn, asked a great question on my last Christian anarchism post. She said, "I am curious if being a Christian Anarchist has led you to belong to a specific congregation or denomination?

This is a great question, and there definitely are some Christian denominations that are more anarchist-friendly, and even make anarchist principles part of their doctrine.

I grew up going to evangelical, nondenominational churches, and only in the last few years have I been involved with and attending Nazarene churches. Neither of these traditions are very sympathetic toward anarchism. You  might think a nondenominational, non-hierarchical church could be, but the conservative and sometimes fundamentalist theology in such churches is not generally conducive to an anarchist agenda. And as far as the Church of the Nazarene, theology and political sentiments can vary widely from congregation to congregation--so much so that I bet that two Nazarenes from different areas and churches could switch places on a Sunday morning and not realize that they were still in a Nazarene church (but this is probably a topic for another time).

Now, as I mentioned, there are certain denominations in which an anarchist would feel quite at home--the Mennonite and Anabaptist churches come immediately to mind, as well as Society of Friends (or Quakers). I think the biggest draw is that these are peace churches--denominations committed to pacifism and related Christlike ethics. You could also find Catholic Worker communities, which aren't exactly a denomination, but  more a radical movement within Catholicism. I admire people from each of these traditions, and much of their beliefs resonate with me deeply.

However, I'm of the opinion that your church is kind of like your family--you don't get to choose your family; you become part of it through the accident of your birth. And while there are certainly times when you  might consciously search out and "choose" a church, that has not been my experience.

I don't feel that I chose the Church of the Nazarene. I was, in some ways, accidentally born here. Accidentally embraced by and wrapped up in these people whom I just happened to have class with, be taught by, and live down the street from. And although there are many parts of the Church of the Nazarene that I don't necessarily agree with (and sometimes downright refuse to live by), these people are my family, and I just don't feel like I am able to choose a different one. Even one that might better fit my theological and political beliefs.

So to answer your question, Kaitlyn, no. Not really. Perhaps if my anarchist beliefs had developed in a vacuum, free from pre-existing denominational affiliations, my answer would be different. But as it stands, I remain in the Nazarene denomination more in spite of my anarchism than because of it.