When you think about the political spectrum, who could be more opposite from one another than far right, evangelical reactionaries and far left , revolutionary anarchists?
But my experience with both worlds has led me to believe that they actually are more alike than they seem.
First, let me offer some definitions for the words mentioned above.
Political: Not just about, or even primarily about, parties in the government. “Political” is about how we understand power as it relates to public affairs and societal relations.
Evangelical: a subset of Protestant Christians characterized by a belief that all people need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved from their sins and by an imperative to proselytize in anticipation of the literal return of Jesus Christ to earth.
Reactionaries: people whose political stance is one of “returning to” some former state of affairs which upholds the status quo. In other words, opposed to progressive social change and seeking to reverse it.
Revolutionary: people who seek the total upheaval and replacement of existing social and political structures
Anarchists: those who seek to abolish state power and advocate for self-governance and collective control of society, resources, and establishments
We could debate these definitions, but I offer them as a way to ground my next thoughts.
Secondly, what’s my experience with these groups? Well, I grew up in evangelical churches and communities. Not all of them were politically conservative in the caricatured way that we see now in our current political climate, but they certainly had elements of that to varying degrees. These communities placed emphasis on individual responsibility, personal “salvation” by holding certain beliefs about Jesus,
pro-life pro-birth politics, heterosexual monogamous marriage, rigid gender roles, mission work and proselytizing, etc. Were they bad people? Many were kind, generous, caring people. Many were self-righteous, oppressive, problematic people.
As for the anarchists, I probably had my first brush with them while I was an undergraduate. I don’t think my political thought was sufficiently developed at the time to fully comprehend their positions and proposals, but as I look back, I am aware that some of my classmates certainly held anarchist positions. In graduate school, I briefly explored some aspects of anarchism while studying the rhetoric of social protest movements. In recent years, I’ve orbited around anarchist circles via my involvement in various political projects. Were they bad people? Many were kind, deeply concerned with the well-being of others, and dedicated, hard-working people. Many were self-righteous, arrogant, and narrow-minded. So, while I am no expert in either of these groups, I think I’ve had enough interpersonal and philosophical contact with both groups to consider them from a bird’s eye view. From, my perspective, these diametrically opposed groups have one very interesting thing in common.
What do they have in common?
Far right evangelicals believe that the world will not change for the better until Jesus Christ returns. At that point, there will be an apocalyptic event of some sort that leads to a new world–one that is devoid of sin and injustice. All the folks who did not “accept Christ as their lord and savior” will not make it through this apocalyptic event commonly called the rapture.
Far left revolutionaries believe that the world will not change for the better until there is a revolution. At this breaking point, there will be an upheaval of apocalyptic proportions that leads to a new world–new social and political systems that are devoid of oppression and injustice. All the folks who cling to status quo power structures will be wiped out or forced to concede to this new reality by way of revolution.
Both groups of people live with deep-seated conviction and anticipation of these future seismic upheavals. I find it fascinating and peculiar that the motivating narrative at both ends of the spectrum is essentially the same, though the locus of control differs. On the far right, I think this narrative leads to a sort of escapism that divests from here and now (because the world is irreversibly going to shit but Jesus will fix it when he returns). On the far left, I think this narrative leads to an invalidating of social change strategies that are anything short of a revolution. And in both cases, there is a tethering to a future event that may or may not ever happen.
anyone on the internet the two people who read this blog come for me, let me acknowledge that I am absolutely aware that I am generalizing. But I think something can still have value even if it is only generally true and not absolutely or always true. I also want to acknowledge that I personally know people on both ends of the spectrum that ardently work to make the world a better place for those who are suffering in the world as it is. I deeply respect their efforts. And to be clear, I am not advocating solidarity between the far left and the far right. That’s silly. Buuuuut…I think it’s worth examining what they have in common, why, and what the political implications of that might be.