Ammon Hennacy

Christian Anarchist shows how the many disparate elements from Hennacy’s family and cultural background–from Quakerism to the Baptist tradition to socialism, to dietary reform to a kind of spirit of independent yeomanry—informed his engagement with a world he was determined to change. Marling evokes Ammon Hennacy’s iconoclastic yet reverent life very faithfully. Will be an important contribution to the literature of the twentieth-century U.S. radicalism.” –James Fisher, co-editor, The Catholic Studies Reader 

“Thought-provoking and rich, Christian Anarchist offers a close look at a deeply challenging and inspiring figure in US history, locating Hennacy in a squarely American context and providing an angle on a Catholic and otherwise religious and radical leftism that has often been overlooked in US intellectual and political history. Beautiful and profound, Marling presents a stark challenge to the definitions of radicalism, activism, and Catholicism.” –

John Seitz, Fordham University 

“Ammon Hennacy’s lifetime of uncompromising commitment to Christian pacifist anarchism is long overdue for the rich examination Marling provides. Marling uncovers the leftist icon’s unsettled personal life, humanizing Hennacy’s Sisyphean search for real-life heroes and occasional mythmaking. Hennacy’s praxis of speaking truth and embodying his ideals are highlighted by Marling, who illuminates an extraordinary life that few dared to, or could, equal.” –Brian D. Haley, author of Ammon Hennacy and the Hopi Traditionalist Movement: Roots of the Counterculture’s Favorite Indians

Ammon Hennacy was arrested over thirty times for opposing US entry in World War 1. Later, when he refused to pay taxes that support war, he lost his wife and daughters, and then his job. For protesting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was hounded by the IRS and driven to migrant labor in the fields of the West. He had a romance with Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker, who called him a “prophet and a peasant.” He helped the homeless on the Bowery, founded the Joe Hill House of Hospitality in Salt Lake City, and protested the US development of nuclear missiles, becoming in the process one of the most celebrated anarchists of the twentieth century. To our era, when so much “protest” happens on social media, his actual sacrifices seem unworldly.

Ammon Hennacy was a forerunner of contemporary progressive thought, and he remains a beacon for challenges that confront the world and especially the US today. In this exceptional biography, William Marling tells the story of this fascinating figure, who remains particularly important for the Catholic Left. In addition to establishing Hennacy as an exemplar of vegetarianism, ecology, and pacificism, Marling illuminates a broader history of political ideas now largely lost: the late nineteenth-century utopian movements, the grassroots socialist movements before World War I, and the antinuclear protests of the 1960s. A nuanced study of when religion and anarchist theory overlap, Christian Anarchist shows how Hennacy’s life at the heart of radical libertarian and anarchist interventions in American politics not only galvanized the public then, but offers us new insight for today.

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