This document is
the provocatively titled new book from Australian author and Christian community
leader, Dave Andrews, has fired much discussion both inside and outside the
Christian community. In it he describes in detail his excommunication more than
20 years ago from worldwide Christian mission organisation, Youth With a Mission
(YWAM). This narrative provides the impetus for Andrews's call for a total
deconstruction and reconstruction of what it is to follow Jesus.
From his home in Queensland, Australia, Dave Andrews spoke to Shoot the
Messenger's editor, Paul Mitchell.
IN THE PROLOGUE to Christi-Anarchy you describe in detail the
events surrounding your eventual excommunication from the Christian mission
organisation, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Christians to whom I've spoken have
wondered why it is in the book.
The story's there because that event was the defining moment in my life. It
made me think about issues of faith, values and the way people deal with each
other. What happened to us (Dave's wife, Ange, was involved, ed.) was a
painful awakening to the realisation that Christians can operate in really
damaging and destructive ways. It set me on a path of trying to understand why
Christians operate the way they often do. So the story is integral to the whole
The difficulty is that in Christian circles there is that whole culture of
silence, particularly in evangelical/charismatic circles. We are quick to
criticise people of other traditions and religions but not our own.
So you think some Christians
are reacting to you breaking solidarity within the ranks...
People have said, 'How dare
you name names, that is a terrible thing to do!' The natural instinct is to
close ranks and protect the evangelical constituency. I remind them there is a
great biblical tradition in naming names and that naming names doesn't destroy
people's reputations. It depends on how people who are named respond to being
If they're like Herod and they cut off the head of John the Baptist, then it is
not likely to do their reputation a lot of good. But if they are like David and
they respond to Nathan by acknowledging the issues and dealing with them in a
constructive way, then it might establish their reputation as a man of God for
the rest of history.
Yet people to whom I've spoken
wonder why you've brought it up now after so many years.
I find that incredible that
people can't put that together. I find that strange. Are they serious (laughs)?
I'll just go back again and say that it was the defining moment that made me
realise how Christian individuals and groups can operate. I didn't demonise YWAM
but recognised that that was typical of the way a lot of Christian groups
The reason I've said it now is because, in raising those issues and concerns, it
was better for me to tell my story than for somebody else to have told it. If my
story had have come out later then people would have said, 'See, that was the
reason he wrote Christi-Anarchy'. Whereas for me to be quite up-front and
to say these were the reasons I wrote it and it came out of these experiences
gives the book groundedness in my own struggle.
What was your personal process
of recovery from the experiences you describe?
It almost destroyed my life.
What I haven't said in the book is that I became suicidal because all the
significant people I turned to denounced me, no one else would speak to me, and
the people who had promised to protect me ended up having psychological
breakdowns. One guy was taken away to an asylum.
It was absolutely devastating. I had a pain in my chest for six months after
that and every time I encountered somebody from YWAM for the next year after
that I started shaking. So it was a pretty traumatic experience.
How did I deal with that? In myself it was very difficult because God and 'God
language' had been used to denounce me and destroy my life so it was very hard
to pray or to read the Bible because it was redolent with memories of
oppression. But I still trusted that somehow God was big enough and good enough
to bring me through.
What Ange and I did was try to commit ourselves to a course of action that was
still creative, still constructive. We tried to avoid being reactive and cynical
and bitter and twisted. We committed ourselves wholeheartedly to following
through the kind of things we still believed in, trusting that somehow in the
process we would be healed. Over a period of five or 10 years we experienced
quite a profound level of healing as a result of that.
There is nothing new about the
idea of stripping religiosity from the idea of following Jesus, as Christi-Anarchy
advocates. However, you're saying that Christianity itself needs to be thrown
out. What ramifications does that hold for Christians corporately and
On one level Christi-Anarchy
is a classical evangelical critique of religion. On another level it is a
contemporary critique of evangelicalism. What I am arguing is the more I've
tried to understand why Christians operate the way they do - and there are a
range of reasons why they do - at least one of the reasons is they've got a
profound misunderstanding of who Christ was, what Christ was on about and how
Christ would call them to deal with their lives. Therefore the harder they try
to be good Christians the worse it is for the rest of us who are impacted by
I'm advocating completely deconstructing and reconstructing our understanding of
the faith. I'm advocating that Christ didn't come to establish a new religion
that we call "Christianity", that franchised forgiveness to people on
our territory on our terms so that we could make a tidy profit out of the
process. He came to bring a new way of life that was liberating rather than
domesticating and is more characterised by the notions of
"Christi-Anarchy" rather than by Christianity.
In the book you compare what
you call "Closed Set Christianity" with "Centred Set
Christi-Anarchy". It would be easy to interpret this as a comparison of
evangelical and liberal Christianity.
Oh, that's nonsense (laughs).
Liberals can be as 'closed set' as the evangelicals are, they just draw the
definitions differently. No, that's nonsense. You can have a closed set
perspective whether you are theist or atheist; whether you are evangelical or
What Christi-Anarchy is advocating is a dynamic, interactive relationship
with the person of Christ. That defies the categories of evangelical and
liberal; it is a dynamic process of interacting with a whole range of traditions
in light of the person of Christ and his challenge upon our lives.
There are implicit examples in
the book, but what does "Christi-Anarchy" look like in practise?
It is less about developing a
theological, ideological, liturgical or missiological framework in which I
invest my trust, and it is more about developing an existential and experiential
relationship with Christ through which I feel energised, encouraged and
empowered to critically interact with the whole of my life experience. I
critically reflect on myself and my society in light of the living, loving
Christ that I experience. I do that personally and corporately, so there becomes
a dynamic, interactive process.
IF CHRISTI-ANARCHY was to take
a shape of its own, if people wanted to subscribe to it as a new approach to
following Jesus, would you be happy to lead the movement?
It would be contrary to my
belief to be the leader of that (laughs). Firstly, I don't think it is a
new approach. There have always been people through the centuries who have
related to Christ on those terms. It is using contemporary language to talk
about a way of relating to Christ that has always been a tradition. It may not
have been the dominant tradition, but it has always been an alternate tradition.
It began long before me and will exist long after me. I'm just one of many
people trying to practise it in my life.
If Christi-Anarchy is as I describe it to be the only one who can lead it is
Christ. It is for us to interact with the spirit of Christ and everyone has
their own responsibility to work that out in their own way. Not
individualistically, but collectively interacting with each other to honestly
explore that process in their own lives as authentically as they can.
Rev. Tim Costello,
Melbourne-based social justice campaigner and National President of the
Australian Baptist Union, wrote the book's introduction. He's someone many would
see as following the alternate tradition of which you speak, but within 'the
It really doesn't matter
whether people are inside or outside the institutions. What really matters is
that wherever people are coming from they are authentically working out that
kind of radical spirituality in their lives.
Why then get rid of the
The fundamental issue for me
is that Christ called us to lay down our lives for one another. People as
individuals are often willing to do that, but people as institutions, by
definition, are unwilling to do that. In fact as institutions we are always
prepared to sacrifice individuals for the sake of the institution. That is the
problem with any institutionalised approach.
The kind of radical, non-violent, sacrificial spirituality I'm advocating will
always subvert the institution because it is calling for people to lay down
their lives for one another, rather than sacrifice individuals for the sake of
I mentioned to a woman who has
no association with the church that I would be interviewing you about your book,
Christi-Anarchy, and she said, 'What's that?' I said it is a book about
how we need to put aside much of what Christianity is on about and concentrate
on the person of Jesus and she said that sounds great.
The trouble is Christians have
tried to coopt Christ and make out they've got a monopoly on Christ and that
they can franchise forgiveness in the name of Christ and you have to come to us
on our terms. It is a power play. It's really doing Christ a disservice. What
we've got to do is set Christ free from Christianity and tell people to see
Christ over and above and, if necessary, over and against Christianity.
What role has Marxist theory
had on your ideas of community and what it is to follow Christ?
That's an interesting
question. Marx has really useful insights, but a lot of his insights are based
basically on the Bible, so ultimately, I think, a lot of his insights are
derived insights. Christ was far more radical than Marx was. I don't actually
lean on Marx very heavily. Whatever ideas I've derived from Marx I've traced
back to the biblical narrative, either the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible,
and encountered those issues much more graphically and powerfully in the
How does your vision of
Christi-Anarchy apply across the board, from the Christian banker to the
Christian homeless person; the Christian artist to the Christian tennis pro?
The whole nature of
Christi-Anarchy as a way of relating to Christ recognises that everybody needs
to approach Christ from their direction. Coming to Christ from where I do would
be irksome to most people. It's difficult enough for me (laughs). So I'm
not expecting people to come to Christ the same way that I am; I am expecting
everybody to come to Christ their own way. I hope to enter into an exciting,
creative dialogue with all those people and to encourage them to be as authentic
in their journey as I hope they will encourage me to be in my journey.
I've read all your books now
and I resonate with them. But I always come away from them feeling I don't make
the grade in what it is to follow Jesus. That probably says more about my own
insecurities than what you've written...
Well, I'm not up to it myself.
That's the way I come away from my own stuff (laughs). The whole nature
of Christi-Anarchy as a perspective is that none of us are at the place where
Christ is yet. Therefore all of us have a long journey ahead of us. It's going
to be a slow, long, painful process. At times we are going to be encouraged that
we are making some progress and at other times we're going to be discouraged and
feel like we are not making much progress at all. We will look at other people
and think they are doing it a whole lot better than we are. Maybe they are - and
maybe they're not. But what we've got to do is acknowledge that it is a long,
slow, painful process and that we need to support each other along the way.
here for Mr. Andrew's story of his "excommunication" from YWAM.