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October 22, 2011


Eric H Janzen

@ Brian: "I'm trying to find a way hold to the Jesus ethic of nonviolence without collapsing into a Christian anarchism. It's tricky."

That statement describes my situation so well that I had to quote it.


Brian Zahnd

Thank you, Ron.

I like a lot of the Radical Orthodoxy stuff...though how it applies in an American context is a bit of a challenge.

A strong commitment to the Sermon on the Mount in the context of a church hosted by a military superpower tends to push one toward the Anabaptist position...or so it seems.

I'm trying to find a way hold to the Jesus ethic of nonviolence without collapsing into a Christian anarchism. It's tricky.

I think I'm with Stanley Hauerwas when he says (only half joking), "I'm a high church Mennonite."


Ron Dart


Many thanks for the good question. I have a great deal of affinity with much of the work of the Radical Orthodox—their Platonic Anglicanism is deeply rooted and grounded in some of the best thinking in theology and philosophy in the Christian Tradition.

There is a depth and breadth in the Radical Orthodox that is rare in our contemporary ethos, and the RO come as rigorous critics of both modernity and postmodernity. You might be interested to know that some within the RO movement (and there are differences and distinctions within the tribe) are indebted to the
well known Canadian George Grant (who Brad is doing his PH.D. thesis on in Bangor/Wales). I do prefer, though, Rowan Williams to the RO (although many within the RO clan were students of Williams). I have some serious questions about Phillip Blond’s ‘Red Tory’. Blond is, in some ways, the political voice of RO, and he has both pilfered and distorted the language of Red Tory (an indigenous Canadian political term). So, a Sic et Non to RO, more praise for Williams and serious questions about Blond. I hope this, in brief, is of some help.


Eric H Janzen

Great article Ron. History is so much richer and complex than we usually think. I suppose the early Anabaptists were struggling with the question that I have struggled with (surprise I am from the Anabaptist tradition!); What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world? And how do you respond/react when what you see in the Church is more a reflection of World values/system than a reflection of Jesus and his Kingdom? I recognize in myself the spiritual anarchist who is always ready to resist the System that Jesus overcame. The problem with the anarchist lens is, of course, that it leads to myopic cynicism instead of genuine prophetic critique. After what seems like endless centuries of perceived failings in the Church (and not just Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox, but all of the streams) the Anabaptist tendency to separation from the System(s) is, at least, understandable. However, I have a problem caused by none other than yourself (ha!). In a conversation we had once, you made the point: Love never opts out. God's Love is a call to a higher Way, as we all ought to know, and that Love never quits, never reaches a point of saying 'I've done enough and now I can opt out.' I suspect that the London Reformers held a deep view of Love in this same way. Despite the overwhelming odds that failure would be the result of their efforts to reform the System, they were committed to a Love that would not opt out.

I have to confess that ignorance of this 'No option to opt out' principal would make my life a lot simpler. I think for folks like me, closet anarchists who tend towards cynicism, the challenge is what can we do? It seems like the leaders who hold the position to be reformers are the ones most eager to toe the line and keep the status quo in place. As such, I suppose, they are not genuine leaders, but they have the ears of the people. Where are the reformers of our age? Are they out there and I just don't know? I Love Jesus. I actually love the Church as well, as much as she makes me angry and confused. God gave me a soft spot for the Church some years ago. For all her problems, she is the Bride after all. Thus, though I want to withdraw to a Hermit's cave somewhere atop a mountain, I can't. I can't opt out even while I live with the tension of not wanting to opt in.

Long ramble ... apologies.

eric h janzen

Brian Zahnd


This may not be the place to ask this question, but here goes anyway. What's your take on Radical Orthodoxy; John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, etc.?


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