Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The United Order, Anarchy, and Quakers

I was recently engaged in an IM discussion with a friend (who happens to be a Quaker) about the affiliations of certain "Christian" religions with particular philosophical and political ideologies. The Quakers, I found out from reading an excellent Wikipedia article, are closely affiliated with "anarchistic"-type systems (the real anarchism - not "punk," nihilistic, or other "rebellion" anarchisms). It's quite surprising how many tenets the Quakers have in common with the Mormons. They focus on a living Christ, as opposed to a crucified Christ. They believe that true Christianity was restored following a long apostasy. They believe in continuing revelation. They are creedless. And, early on, they referred to themselves (the membership) as "saints" (now, the terminology has switched to "friends," I believe).

I followed the "Wikipedia" link to "anarchism" and was fascinated by the very strong parallels to Mormonism's own "United Order" (on which the Wiki article leaves much to be desired). Anarchism rejects "involuntary authority including social hierarchy and coercive power." (Wiki article) Also, its ideas are "based upon voluntary cooperation and mutual aid." It's interesting, because "anarchy" has taken on a somewhat negative connotation; but, as properly understood, anarchism is actually a relatively valid (if imperfect) ideology. As shown in the Wiki article, anarchism comes in many different forms and systems. So it seems viable that the United Order really can fall within the definition of "anarchism." Perhaps it's a healthy mix of anarchism and communitarianism.

Like many (most?) people, I'm uncomfortable with the severely limited labels in American politics (liberal, conservative, independent). While most people probably associate with one more than another, they are too broad and constantly change in meaning. Conservative hardly is a term that espouses shrinking government anymore (depending, of course, on which conservative you ask). But, in a few years, that could change too. I know, while "liberal" seems to fit my political views better than "conservative" does, the label is a very imperfect one as far as my own views go. I like using "communitarian" to describe my position, but even that term is fairly broad (there are communitarians within both major American parties - just different emphases among them). So, maybe I'm a communitarian-anarchist-liberal-sometimes conservative-United Orderist-intermittently libertarian-Democrat?
Anyway, back to the United Order, anarchism, and communitarianism...


Blogger Jason Work said...

I find the Quakers fascinating, and the discussion of the true definition of "anarchy" is interesting as well. It reminds me of the story-arc "Change or Die" in Warren Ellis' graphic novel "Stormwatch." This great hero from decades ago has been in self-imposed seclusion for 50 years contemplating how to solve the problems of our world.
He finally returns to society with a plan to eliminate all of our current governmental structures. His theory is "Think for yourself and question authority." Of course, the governments of the world go all out to stop him because they fear losing their power. Excellent story.

Anyway, concerning your analysis of the United Order, wouldn't it be separated from anarchism by being part of a theocratic monarchy?

5/11/2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger Izdatyel said...

Hmm. I'm not sure that the United Order is part of a theocratic monarchy. It's part of a theocratic something, but is monarchy really the right word?

Even if it were, my understanding is that the United Order is only the United Order when everything is voluntary. If participation, consecration, and recognition of leadership are all voluntary, and there is no instituted government complex (to which it's automatically assumed you have submitted by the "social contract" construct - even though no one really asked you), then I'm not sure why it can't be within the relatively broad framework of "anarchism".

I guess this might be a good time to bring up Nibley's article "From Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift." If by theocratic monarchy, you mean a society led by Christ; I don't think it would be a monarchy of the type that would contradict anarchism. If Christ is a "leader," to be followed according to each person's will, and is not a "manager" or "executive" who dictates and requires compliance, then I think such a monarchy (if it is a monarchy) could be an anarchistic one.

5/12/2005 11:41 PM  

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