A short review of Christian Anarchist: Ammon Hennacy, A life on the Catholic Left by William Marling
William Marling has done us a great service in telling the story of the remarkable Christian pacifist Ammon Hennacy. Hennacy spent time in prison during the First World War for draft refusal. While imprisoned in prolonged solitary confinement, his careful reading of the Bible led him to become an uncompromising Christian Anarchist.
Over the course of his life Hennacy would practice what he called “the one man revolution” (the phrase borrowed from a poem by Robert Frost), where he tried to transform himself to live as close to his ideal as possible.
One does not have to agree with all of Hennacy’s ideas to recognize the importance of his experiment in living a radical life. His example raises many deep questions about the relationship between individual and social transformation.
Marling does a good job of telling the story. The account is occasionally marred by some small factual errors (Linus Pauling did not discover vitamin C, “Civil Disobedience” was not a chapter of Walden) and he occasionally lapses into obscurant academic jargon including the obligatory quotation of Michel Foucault. But these are minor problems and overall I highly recommend this book.
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