The Violence of Bureaucracy and the Gospel of Peace: A Theological Response to an Academic Problem

In: International Journal of Public Theology
View More View Less
  • 1 Lecturer in Theology, Preaching, and Mission. Cliff College, Calver, Derbyshire, United Kingdom

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Why do academic theologians spend most of their time complying with (and complaining about) bureaucracy? To what extent are the bureaucratic pressures upon theology a form of violence, and how might theology respond? This article engages social anthropologist David Graeber’s creative critique of bureaucracy in The Utopia of Rules (2016) and applies it towards a distinctly theological reading of the bureaucratic problem. Drawing widely on a number of thinkers, including Arendt, Foucault, Webster, Calvin, Hauerwas, Ellul, and others, the article diagnoses the inherent complexity of any theological response to bureaucracy, before offering an alternative mode of revolutionary compliance via the Biblical proclamation of the gospel of peace. If unspoken violence is indeed the heart of the bureaucratic problem, theology might respond with its own imaginatively interruptive language which proclaims how Christ—the Giver of peace armed with a gospel of peace—confronts all totalitarian systems, especially the unacknowledged.