Thank You, Anarchy: Part 3, The Tensions of Change

As I read Nathan Schneider's Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse I kept making notes of the tensions that I felt kept coming up in the movement. I find these tensions educational as they reveal, I think, the tensions we all keep bumping into politically and organizationally as we seek to create a better world. I think one of the reasons we keep stalling out in our efforts at making things better is that we keep getting stuck in the mire of these competing agendas and visions.

So, here's a list of the tensions I observed in reading Thank You, Anarchy. See if any of these sound familiar:

1. Horizontal versus Vertical Organization: How do we distribute power and access in our organizations, society and politics?

2. Process versus Progress: How do we balance good process with making quick, efficient progress? And can process ever just be the end in itself?

3. Class versus Identity Politics: When thinking about class and economics versus identity politics (ethnicity, gender, sex, etc.), which should be the primary lens and lever of change when it comes to oppressive structures and systems? Should be care more about inclusion or economics

4. Smaller versus Larger Government: In the debate between socialists and anarchists, are our social ills best solved by socialism (a larger, more regulating government) or by local communitarianism?

5. Art versus Organizing: Is social change best achieved through artistic and provocative imagination, improvisation, and demonstration or through the toil of grass-roots community organizing?

6. Non-Violence vs Violence: Should social change always be pursued non-violently (toward both people and property) or is non-violence a tactic that can be dropped for other tactics that involve violence and/or destruction of property?

To be sure, these were the tensions of Occupy Wall Street and might not be found in other locations or debates. But I bump into these tensions pretty regularly. And, of course, some of these don't have to be forced into an either/or. 

The relevance of all this for the church is in how I envision the church as being "counter-cultural."

For example, do I think of the local church as an expression of art (a sacramental expression that isn't trying to be "effective" but point our imaginations toward an eschatological future) or as a form of community organizing and networking to deliver tangible material goods to its members?

Another example: Is the church a voting block to help America become more socialist, or is the church supposed to ignore the government and become a local community who meets the needs of its members, from health insurance to housing?

Another: Should the church prioritize poverty or progressive visions of "inclusion"?

And so on.

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