Europe: Anti-Semitism and the Gospel – A 21st Century Missiological Conundrum

My recent missions trip to Europe was an eye-opener on many fronts…I noticed, for instance, that while most Americans that I talk with are disinterested in and woefully ignorant of European politics, many Europeans are fascinated by American politics and follow it religiously. Of course, European understanding of American politics is often muddled by the slanted sources of information made available through European news outlets.

I discovered many new and fascinating things about Europe during my trip. But out of all of the striking observations that could be made, none rise to the level of the realization that anti-Semitism is afoot.

In the 1930-1940s, Hitler’s Nazi genocidal policy focused on the undesirable in society: Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, the handicapped, Poles, Slavs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, dissenting clergy…and the list goes on. Today there is a resurgence of these classical anti-Semitic notions in the emergence of a European “neo-Nazi” movement that is frightening. Of particular interest to me, since I came to Europe in part to learn more about missions among east European gypsies, the 21st century version of this ultra-conservative European political movement is focused especially on Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals.

In a recent survey this year, when asked if violence against Jews is rooted in anti-Jewish or anti-Israel sentiment, 40% of Europeans responded that it was the result of anti-Jewish sentiment. In France, 45% of those surveyed held this view, up from 39% in a 2009 survey. 24% of the French population now holds anti-Semitic views, up from 20% in 2009.

This 2012 survey found particularly high levels of anti-Semitism in three nations: Hungary, Spain and Poland. There the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are literally off the charts and demand a serious response from political, civic and religious leaders.
• In Spain, where Jewish civic groups say Spaniards blame their economic woes on the country’s Jews, 72% of the population holds anti-Jewish views, compared with 64% in 2009.
• In Hungary, 63% of the population holds anti-Semitic views, up from 47% in 2009.
• In Poland, 48% show anti-Semitic attitudes, about the same as 2009.

Some European countries actually have recognized political parties that espouse neo-Nazi doctrines and have seated individuals from these parties in their government ruling bodies. For example, in Greece the “Golden Dawn” party has espoused neo-Nazi ideals and has used Nazi symbolism and has praised former Nazi figures. In a 2012 election, Golden Dawn received 7% of the popular vote and has seated 18 members in the Greek parliament.

So, while we Americans are mostly conscious of the economic perils assailing the European continent, there is an even more insidious movement stirring across the pond that should arouse our curiosity.

For missions, the questions are: How does this new move affect the advance of the kingdom of God in post-Christian Europe? What are the implications for missions of this anti-Semitic phenomenom? Is this new movement an opportunity for the spread of the Gospel or an obstacle? How do we pray for Europe? What new missiological strategies must emerge if the Gospel is to once again influence Europe?

Dave Shive, August 2012

2 Replies to “Europe: Anti-Semitism and the Gospel – A 21st Century Missiological Conundrum”

  1. Same old darness seems to ceep back in. The devils in this world will not give up, even though their heads are crushed by our Lord’s heal; and our heals.

    I suppose the bottom line is simply the Gospel in all it’s power and beauty.

    As Paul said: “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with words of ELOQUENT WISDOM, lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 1st Cor. 1:17

    And of course the Gospel must be part of our whole life, and so it’s a seperate incredible truth, that is our life, and means everything to us.

    And we need to pray, which I know I don’t do enough. In fact that may be the enemies greatest line of battle to keep us prayer. Not sure Dave.

    See you Sunday!

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