Upon receiving Drew Sumrall’s book “An Essay Toward Universal Revolution” last July, I began browsing through it. To me, it is a small book with big ideas, infused with authenticity, bold vision and compassion. I decided to jot down the page numbers of each of the ten chapters in front of the book since there was no contents page, so that I can refer to the page numbers easily in future when looking for the specific chapters I want to read. On page 2, Drew wrote about the “manifesto of egalitarianism”, and I learnt from the footnote that it refers to the book called “The communist manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which sounds interesting.
In Chapter 2, Drew defined egalitarianism as a world in which there is no “other”. That resonates with me, as I have also come to understand it as referring to the view of everyone being equal and is included in the community, regardless of differences in our social identities, gender, social status, and so on. As he put it:
“For egalitarians there is no ‘us’ proper, therefore there is no ‘other’ created by us; for in order for another to be ‘other’ there must first be ‘us’ who has created ‘them’ – for egalitarians this is not. This is why egalitarianism is a universal body of truth: particularity is passed over.”
(From Chapter 2)
In Chapter 4, I learnt a bit more about the idea of ‘negation of negation’ of Christianity, which I understand to be about the move from ‘kenosis’ to inclusion of the excluded. As he put it:
“Indeed, for just as Christ emerged as a peasant-god emptied of all divine content, what is now resurrected is Spirit: an emancipatory egalitarian collective which fully cancels any organic-hierarchal social link.
The ‘negation of negation’ of Christianity is thus the move from kenosis – the Incarnation of God in the form of a lowly outcast excluded from society proper – to a collective of excluded outcasts.
To put in another way, the Christian ‘negation of negation’ is the move from society’s excluded (content) to a society of the excluded (form).”
(From Chapter 4)
In Chapter 6, I learnt that the “the only true freedom is Christian atheism”. I will need to chew on this thought in the meantime as I think it is meant to convey a paradoxical truth concerning atheism and christianity in a deep way.
Chapter 7 ends with a theorem that says “egalitarians must go to the oppressed, join them, and share in their struggle”. I agree with the need for empathy and solidarity because we are all co-sufferers sharing the same plight in this discriminatory societal system of the world, and Jesus also shares in our struggles, hence he was able to sympathise and empathise with us since he was tested in all points, according to Hebrews 4.
Chapter 8 ends with a theorem that says “Egalitarianism is nonviolent or is not”. This is true as Jesus came to bring a new world of love, peace and nonviolence, as demonstrated in his act of forgiveness at the cross, which runs contrary to the Roman empire – a symbol of the world system – that is characterised by hatred, scapegoating and violence.
In Chapter 9, Drew touched on an interesting interpretation of Ephesians 6, which refers to wrestling against the principalities and powers in terms of the power structure and hierarchy that is predominant in many societies. As he put it:
“Translated into today’s language: Insurrectionary struggle is not against concrete, corrupted individuals, but against those in power in general, against their authority, against the capitalist global order and the ideological mystification sustaining it.”
(From Chapter 9)
A footnote to the above refers to Slavoj Zizek’s article “The only church that illuminates is a burning church“.
Last but not least, Chapter 10 mentions that egalitarians are to be in the world, but not of it, as Jesus has taught his disciples. I learnt that Drew emphasised “the Church is not to be ‘counter-culture’, for to be counter-culture’ is to be a cog in capitalistic ‘culture’ – i.e. to be ‘culture’ as such. Therefore, to be ‘in the world, but not of it’ does not mean to join a certain coterie who are collectively nothing more than another capitalist consumer subcategory that is ‘moral’, ‘ethical’, etc, but to be against the entire capitalist system of oppression.” He also added that “Christianity is not ‘counter-culture’, but culture without ‘culture’, that is, without the exploitation of the labor force, unnecessary consumption, and so on and so forth…” I think that is very well explained and articulated, and I remember he mentioned in his video messages too about how we can live in the world system or empire as though it does not exist, which I understand as refering to living in a way such that we are being egalitarian rather than sectarian in every aspect of our lives.
All in all, it is a prophetic and profound book that merits delving into and meditating on the gems of insights that Drew garnered from various philosophers, such as Karl Marx, Lenin, Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, and so on. Reading this book to me is like entering into a higher dimension of thinking that challenges the status quo of the unjust and inhuman capitalistic, hierarchical system of the world.