Christian radicalism

Christian radicalism

Christian radicalism (radical Christianity or radical discipleship) encompasses a number of different movements and actions in practical theology.[1] It entails a radical re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship through personal reflection and action.[2]


Radical re-orientation and reflection

Radical is derived from the Latin word radix meaning "root", referring to the need for perpetual re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship. One way Christians achieve this is to revisit the Sermon on the Mount or the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels.[3][4] Alternatively this re-orientation may comprise of Christians re-examining their roots or discovering an anti-imperialist heritage within their own traditions, such as Methodists studying John Wesley, Baptists remembering the Anabaptists or Catholics finding Francis of Assisi.[2] Christian radicals, such as Ched Myers, Lee Camp and Shane Claiborne, believe mainstream Christianity has moved away from its origins, namely the core teachings and practices of Jesus such as turning the other cheek and rejecting materialism.[5]

Personal action

Radical discipleship calls Christians to follow the will of God through personal action and example.[6] This may encompass theological ideas and actions that are perceived to be subversive or extreme, and therefore unacceptable to either the Church or State. The methods by which radical Christians attempt to transform the social order can vary widely, from constructive activism to destructive fanaticism, as Christopher Rowland explains:

Christian radicalism has had its roots in the Bible. Both those committed to violence, and those who resorted to peaceful means to bring about change, have appealed to the Bible, albeit using different hermeneutical strategies. We cannot understand Christian history without recognising the interweaving of destructive fanaticism and constructive activism, and, what is more, the knee-jerk reaction to radicalism, of whatever hue, from the wielders of power, whether secular or ecclesiastical.[7]

Examples of nonviolent radicalism include Gerrard Winstanley, William Blake and Gustavo Gutiérrez, whilst examples of violent radicalism include the Münster Rebellion and Thomas Müntzer.[7]

Nonviolence versus violence

Tom O'Golo declares that religious fundamentalists that use violence to further their cause contravene the root truth of all faiths:

A genuine fundamentalist is also a radical, someone who tries to get the root of the matter. A major weakness with many or perhaps most radicals is not that they don't dig, but that they don't dig deep enough. Consequently many fundamentalists end up defending or acting upon beliefs which are not really at the heart of their doctrine. For example any religious fundamentalist who harms others in the pursuit of his or her radicalism is strictly out of order as no true religion ever encounters anything but love, tolerance and understanding. 'Thou shalt not kill' is at the heart of all genuine faiths, certainly the three based upon Abraham and God. That trio comprehensively condemns intentional harm to others (and to the self as well) for what ever reason. Dying to protect one's faith is acceptable; killing to promote it isn't. Arguably, it is blasphemous to say that God needs an earthly army to fight Its battles, or perform Its revenge. God is quite capable of fighting Its own battles.

Jesus was a fundamentalist radical: One who refined and prioritised the ten commandments to the principle two: Loving one another, and loving God.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Dancer, Anthony (2005). William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 16–18. 
  2. ^ a b Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books. pp. 7–8. "Radical Discipleship" 
  3. ^ Chia, Roland (2006). Radical Discipleship: Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount. Wipf & Stock Publishers. 
  4. ^ Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books. p. 13. "As the earliest Gospel, it has stood at the center of critical efforts to reconstruct the life of Jesus" 
  5. ^ Camp, Lee C. (2003). Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Brazos Press. pp. 19–30. "Radical Discipleship" 
  6. ^ Camp, Lee C. (2003). Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Brazos Press. p. 133. "The gospel is not merely a belief system...The gospel calls us to participate in the kingdom of heaven, to embody the will of God on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so." 
  7. ^ a b Rowland, Christopher (2007). Timmerman, Hutsebaut, Mels, Nonneman and Van Herck. ed. Faith-based Radicalism: Christianity, Islam and Judaism Between Constructive Activism And Destructive Fanaticism. Peter Lang. pp. 115–129. ISBN 9052010501. "Radical Christian Writings" 
  8. ^ O'Golo, Tom (2011). Christ? No! Jesus? Yes!: A radical reappraisal of a very important life. p. 105. 

Further reading

19th century

20th century

21st century

  • Dan McKanan (2002) Identifying the Image of God: Radical Christians and Nonviolent Power in the Antebellum United States
  • Andrew Bradstock and Christopher Rowland (2002) Radical Christian Writings: A Reader
  • Wes Howard-Brook and Sharon H. Ringe (2002) The New Testament: Introducing the Way of Discipleship
  • Lee C. Camp (2003) Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World
  • Joerg Rieger and John Vincent (2004) Methodist and Radical: Rejuvenating a Tradition
  • Wes Howard-Brook (2004) Becoming Children of God: John's Radical Gospel and Radical Discipleship
  • Shane Claiborne (2006) The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
  • David Augsburger (2006) Dissident Discipleship
  • Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. (2006) The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus' Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted
  • Daniel M. Keeran (2006-9) Radical Christianity: Peace and Justice in the New Testament; Christian Terrorism: lay down your life.... take up your cross
  • Roland Chia (2006) Radical Discipleship: Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount
  • Andrew W. McThenia Jr. (2007) Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer: Honoring William Stringfellow
  • Robert Rix (2007) William Blake and the Cultures of Radical Christianity
  • Richard A. Horsley (2008) In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
  • Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (2008) Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
  • John Stott (2010) The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling
  • Z. Holler (2010) Jesus' Radical Message: Subversive Sermons for Today's Seekers
  • David Platt (2010) Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream
  • Zdero, Rad (2004). The Global House Church Movement. Pasadena: William Carey Library Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87808-374-9. 
  • Zdero, Rad (2007). NEXUS: The World House Church Movement Reader. Pasadena: William Carey Library Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87808-342-8. 
  • Zdero, Rad (2011). Letters to the House Church Movement: Real Letters, Real People, Real Issues. Xulon Press. ISBN 978-1-61379-022-9. 

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