Before this trip, I imagined an anarchist was someone like the Unabomber who shuns technology and lives alone (turns out that's primitivism). I had no idea that any anarchists would be organized in groups (I thought anarchy equaled chaos which is quite the opposite of organization). We saw evidence of organization in this protest we saw while we were there:
It turns out that Athens is the anarchist capital of the world! This is kind of an ironic statement since one usually associates capitals with governments. In this case, it just means that there are more anarchists congregated in Athens than anywhere else. It was fascinating to walk through this area of Athens (Exarchia) and hear about the growing church plant there.
Exarchia is not a dangerous place to be unless you are a policeman or journalist or a fancy car (they like to burn fancy cars there). Policemen now stay out of Exarchia, which we were told has the lowest murder and theft rate in Europe. It is self-policing. The way "anarchy" was described to us sounds more like libertarianism. (I read that libertarians are to anarchists as nudists are to naked people. They're just middle class and organized so they appear less crazy.) Anarchist groups in Exarchia do organize and "vote" on things - they just want everyone to have a direct say. In this way, it's a bit like the original Athenian democracy with a dose of feminism (since in ancient Athens women could not vote).
It is definitely a colorful and interesting place! Many bookstores and LOTS of self-expression in the form of graffiti. And the anarchist sign is prominent - it's an "A" drawn where it goes outside the circle (outside the establishment).
Notice the parts of the face drawn on the pillars below. This took some talent.
This looks more like graffiti that I could do:
Yes, it was hot in Athens!
Tim, one of the pastors of the church in Exarchia, met with us one morning to describe their work there. He explained that anarchists appreciate transparency. They have found that it's best to be up front that they are Christians and are there to plant a church. The question is how does the gospel challenge the narrative of the culture? And how does the gospel fulfill the narrative of the culture? (Tim Keller). Obviously, as Christians we are never without a ruler, and God calls us to a life of obedience. This challenges anarchism. On the other hand, anarchy rebels against hierarchy - no one is more important than another. This agrees with the gospel. We should value everyone - even the refugee - and be a servant to all.
The pastors in Exarchia live there and are both members of anarchist groups (many of which are peaceful - some are even reading clubs or service clubs).
I asked lots of questions:
(1) Do anarchists send their kids to public school? (I thought they might be into homeschooling). Tim said Yes! The reasoning is that you're not a very good anarchist if you're afraid of your kid being indoctrinated in public school. However, he went on to say that anarchists didn't often have children because they don't often marry. It seems even though anarchists don't like the commitment of marriage, they reason that raising children requires this kind of commitment. So if people want kids, they get married.
(2) Why does Exarchia have more trees? Tim said it's because there are a lot of eco-anarchists.
(3) What do anarchists think of Trump? Tim says they don't like him, but they don't hate him any more than any other politician. They would not have liked Hillary either.
(4) Can Greeks carry guns? Yes, they can! Even concealed weapons.
Terry and Dale worked all week in Athens to do some repair on the building that the Exarchia church has been renting. This involved plaster repair, painting, and rigging something on the roof to keep the cats from pooping on it! Here they are after a long, sweaty day:
The Exarchia church has now purchased a building that they will be renovating and moving into at the end of October. This building will house not only the church but several refugee families along with one staff family. Pastor Tim took us on a tour of the new building. It fits right in with all the graffiti.
After seeing it, I am a little skeptical it will be done on time, but we could all see the potential! I am excited that our church in Knoxville is helping to support this work.
I think if I was to live in Athens, I'd probably live and go to church in Exarchia. Could be because I am about as upset with my government as they are with theirs.