By Gordon L. Heath
As I noted in my previous blog on immigration,1 Europe faces unique problems related to the mass movement of people – especially (but not exclusively) the arrival of Muslims into historically Christian lands. The danger is that, in their fear and flailing around for some hope and security, Christians will look to the wrong allies for assistance. The age-old adage “the enemy of your enemy is your friend” can be true in some cases. However, Christians in Europe alarmed about the rise of Islam and the concomitant demise of a national or European Christian culture had best be careful, for the “enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.”
It is clear that the recent growth of extremist right wing political movements in Europe is due to, among other things, issues and fears related to the arrival of Muslims. The expressed desire among some to the extreme right is to garner political support against their arrival in order to preserve the “Christian” identity of their nation. At first glance, these movements may look like an ally against the decay of Christian identity and a bulwark to defend the church against threats.
But before getting too excited about looking to extreme right wing parties for help, Christians in Europe should consider two things.
First, while the extreme right may speak out against the arrival of waves of Muslims into their Christian nation, they share with radical Islam a troubling conviction. Both hate Jews, and have a violent history of anti-Semitism.2 This anti-Semitism alone should cause pause to any Christian looking to the extreme right for an ally. Yet, there is another serious concern.
Second, fear can mistakenly lead Christians to look to someone who appears to guarantee safety. Some recent work I did on Baptists and war illustrates this point.3 The palpable fear of communism among German Baptists (and Germans in general) in the 1930s meant Hitler’s ardent anti-communism seemed to make him the right man for the times. And, in a unique and sad twist of their view of providence, it was believed by many that God had raised up Hitler for the task. As Bernard Green notes “What they had earnestly prayed for seemed to be coming to pass….Was Hitler a man sent from God? He was certainly received as such with enthusiasm and won fervent loyalty from many German Baptists.”4 We know the rest of the story.
The current situation in Europe may be alarming for Christians, and I make no pretense at knowing the ideal way forward. But what I do know for certain is that Christians had best be careful about who they make allies with, for the “enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.”
2. See George Michael, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (University Press of Kansas, 2006). They share other similarities as well. See http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-similarities-between-right-wing-extremists-and-islamists-a-832294.html
3. Gordon L. Heath, “Engaging War and Empire: 400 Years of Baptist Attitudes and Actions,” In ‘Step Into Your Place’: The First World War and Baptist Life & Thought, edited by Larry Kreitzer (Oxford: Regent’s Park College, 2014), 158-88. There is a rapidly growing body of scholarship on the churches in Nazi Germany. For instance, see Barnett, Victoria. For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Doris Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Robert P. Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000); Kevin P. Spicer, Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008).
4. Bernard Green, European Baptists and the Third Reich (Didcot: Baptist Historical Society, 2009, 24.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of McMaster Divinity College or the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.*