The last couple of days I have been busy, partly with a big evangelistic event and partly with following the Swedish elections. The result was dramatic: the xenophobic and racist Sweden Democrats party doubled their support and became our third biggest party, and since neither the progressive nor the conservative coalitions have majority because of the Sweden Democrats, our new prime minister Stefan Löfven has a lot of headaches in trying to figure out how to govern without relying on the racists.
Sweden is obviously not immune to the sad trend that has characterised European politics the last 20 years: xenophobic, racist and fascist parties are entering European parliaments and gain a lot of influence. There is basically no European parliament left without a party that wants to cut immigration drastically and that point out minorities like Muslims, Roma or Jews as a national problem. Some parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are clearly neo-Nazi and uses the same rhetoric that Hitler used 80 years ago against ethnic, religious and social minorities.
Naturally, many Europeans are worried that history will repeat itself, and countless theories and ideas concerning how we will stop the rise of racism and fascism have been discussed. They often contradict each other: some say we should ignore them, others that we should debate against them; some say we should be more generous towards immigrants, others that we should kick out more immigrants. What way is the correct one? How should we as Christians respond?
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about waging spiritual warfare against arguments and theoretical strongholds that are hostile towards Christ: “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
Thus, arguments and debates are needed, and the goal is to “demolish strongholds” and that people’s thoughts will be obedient to Christ. Obviously, Christ wants us to treat immigrants as natives and love them as ourselves (Lev 19:33-34). Thus, it’s not just about facts and statistics, but about the heart and how we view people. I would probably have a strong case, economically speaking, if I pointed to the cost of caring for people with severe disabilities, and proposed that we should deport them to a refugee camp in Jordan. But most people would think that is inhumane. Why then, is that the reasoning that we hear about Syrians?
Paul talks about the change in heart when it comes to how we view people in Philippians as well: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:3-5). This is extremely radical: do not look to your own interest, but to others. Value others above yourselves. In the world, the most altruistic statements I sometimes hear is that we should look at both our own and others interests, and value others on the same level as ourselves. But with Paul’s attitude, egoism, nationalism and racism becomes totally impossible.
Many people who support the racist parties are workers who, in a continent that is still struggling with the economy, are facing many economic challenges and fear unemployment, welfare cuts and decreased social safety. Instead of then blaiming the rich and the capitalists, they point at an even weaker group – the immigrants – and claim that if we get rid of them we would have more money left. But in most cases, it’s not immigrants from other European countries or the US that are described as the problem, but non-Western people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This is why I view this as racism rather than “just” xenophobia, somehow many of these parties view non-Western people as an economic burden while Westerners are allowed to stay and work.
This is of course caused by lack of compassion, altruism and also humanitarian passion and a hunger for economic equality. The fears of the working class should be taken seriously, and I think it’s horrible how the rich gain so much money while the poor gain so little. And at the same time, most people in Europe are rich. The country that receives most refugees is Pakistan, and the country that receives most per capita is Jordan. Europe (and other Western parts of the world) can and should receive much more immigrants in order to save lives and bring security to families struck by conflict and persecutions.
We could do a much deeper analysis about what the Bible says both concerning changing people’s opinions and how we should show hospitality and love immigrants, but with this brief exegesis we can conclude that the mission of a Christian is indeed to debate against thoughts that are hostile to the Kingdom of God, in order to promote an altruistic attitude that makes nationalism and racism impossible. So do talk to people you know are hostile to immigrants, love them and show them the beauty of valuing others above yourselves. This, I think, is a key to defeating the rise of European fascism.