Amos House is an ecumenical church without walls in Nashville, TN that is rooted in the Catholic Worker tradition. We are currently a scattered-site community meaning that instead of having one common house, we live in different houses across the city (though many of us live in the Nashville Greenlands community). We are students and teachers, gardeners and urbanites, activists and contemplatives, urban monastics, and Christian anarchists* (see below). We spend our days in tent cities, maximum security prisons, community gardens, non-profits, public squares, and local schools and universities. We advocate for the rights of workers and tenants, affordable and accessible housing, food security, care for the earth, restorative justice, the abolition of debt and prisons, and other issues of justice. We are a living experiment in what church could look like without steeples and walls and without paid clergy.
We seek to be a prophetic presence in the Nashville community that brings attention to social ills and speaks the truth of suffering love to the powers that be. We adhere to the principles of non-violence and seek to creatively resist acts of physical and structural violence. Our community is named after the prophet Amos who confronted the wealthy and complacent for ignoring the suffering of the poor and oppressed, who demanded social justice of God’s people, and who exposed the emptiness of religion and ritual apart from sacrificial living and mercy.
Among the practices that we see as essential to our worship as a community are communal prayer, sharing the Eucharist and declaring that all are welcome at Christ’s table, washing the feet of our brothers and sisters, sharing meals and fellowship, and the un-domestication of Scripture through reading it in the margins of society and on our streets. Furthermore, we believe that a life of contemplation and prayer is essential for rooting our actions and our speech in the teachings of Christ and the spirit of God alive in all of us.
The Jesus Radicals website is a helpful resource in understanding Christian anarchism. They articulates the discussion like this: “Without claiming that anarchism is Christian or that one has to be an anarchist to be Christian, we claim that if Christians are to engage with the world, the best available option is anarchism because it opens up space for Christians to engage without selling out their primary allegiances and core commitments, especially to peacemaking and nonviolence. Yet violence is not the only issue at stake in politics. All governments operate on a model of ruling over people. But the Gospels claim that Christians should model Jesus’ suffering servanthood. These are fundamentally incompatible outlooks. Anarchism, at its best, is a commitment to systematically critiquing all structures that place one person or group in a position to dominate others or creation. So anarchism, as a political philosophy holds some promise for Christians because the two share a commitment to critiquing the power structures and working towards a more level playing field.” (http://www.jesusradicals.com/anarchism/)
In the end, Jesus’ kingdom (the one we seek to inhabit here on earth) is upside down and antithetical to the kingdoms of this world. For those of us who claim to follow him, chances are that we might look extreme or maybe even radical (which simply means getting to the “root” of things).
If you’re interested in learning more about Christian anarchism, a helpful place to start is Tripp York’s recent book, Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. Some key figures in the Christian anarchist tradition include Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, Will Campbell, Jacques Ellul, and David Lipscomb, founder of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.