INTOLERANCE AND CONTRADICTION: About a Syrian asylum seeking family's influence on the party program of Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats).
In these days when Europeans are preparing themselves to elect their parliamentarians and populists all over the continent organize themselves within parties proclaiming that they are “safeguarding European cultural values”, not the least the teachings and morals of the Christian Church, I assume it is appropriate to ask: “From whom did we receive these values?” Are Dansk Folkeparti, Sampo Terho, Vlaams Belang, Le Front National, Partij voor de Vrijhed, the British National Party, Lega Nord, Jobbik, Freiheitliches Partei Österreichs and not the least Sverigedemokraterna giving this a serious thought?
Somewhat more than a month ago Joseph of Nazareth was commemorated by the Catholic Church. According to the Bible, this carpenter married "Virgin" Mary, a young lady pregnant with a child whose father probably was considered as unknown by people in her neighborhood. Mary could accordingly have been suspected of being an “adulteress” and thus ran the risk of being stoned to death. Even so, Joseph took her in as a wife and accepted her son as his own. There is thus reason to celebrate Joseph of Nazareth as a brave man who dared to defy an intolerant society.
Joseph seems to have been a good father to his stepson. It is seldom that Joseph of Nazareth is mentioned in the Bible, but aside from his decision to marry a young, pregnant woman and take in her son, he once more took a risky decision while caring for them both. Namely, when a crazed dictator decided to do away with potential rivals by killing them. To secure his power King Herod ordered all newborn male children within "his" kingdom to be killed (though he was in fact only a minion to Roman imperialists). Since the life of newborn Jesus thereby was threatened, Joseph decided to flee to Egypt, with the child and his mother. They left an area that shortly afterwards would be incorporated with the Roman province of Syria.
The newly elected Pope Francis, who last year by Time Magazine was named “Person of the Year”, gave on March 19th a touching speech about fathers' responsibility for their sons, taking Joseph's care and love for his foster son as a shining example. The pope pleaded "I beg you fathers to act like Joseph and be near to your sons. Let them grow and be strong, but above all be close to them, close! They need you! They need your presence, your care and love. Try to be like St. Joseph. Watch over them while they mature in age, wisdom and benevolence." Certainly, the pope could have mentioned that even daughters need their fathers, but nevertheless I find the Pope's speech to be yet another interesting example of his fight against what he has described as “the globalization of indifference." The first trip Jorge Mario Bergoglio did after becoming Pope Francis was to the Italian island of Lampedusa where illegal immigrants are crowded into camps awaiting deportation. Off this island he threw a wreath into the sea as an act of compassion for all those who had drowned in their quest for freedom from persecution and poverty.
Without being overly religious I, like many of my Latin American and Italian friends, respect a pope who through his speech and actions apparently strives to encourage a sense of responsibility and tolerance within an increasingly claustrophobic and cynical European community. Maybe Christianity after all can become a moral force to be reckoned with?
Sverigedemokraterna are according to themselves a “non-confessional party”, but do nevertheless in their party program emphasize that: "Christianity is intimately interwoven with Swedish culture and identity. Few other ideas and institutions have been more important for the formation of the Swedish culture as Christianity and the Swedish Church. The Swedish language, art, literature, philosophy, morals, traditions, architecture, music, etc. are all examples of areas of society that were and still are strongly influenced by our Christian heritage."
May such a position be connected with the story of St. Joseph of Nazareth? Why not? Let us assume that Joseph's asylum seeking family had not been received in Egypt, but instead been deported back to Palestine, something that almost certainly would have meant that the newborn Jesus would have ended up being killed by Herod's armed forces. If that had happened we would not have any Swedish Church at all.
You can of course argue that in Joseph's time there was no Egypt Democrats who stated that their Government would save 119 billion denarii by reducing the number of asylum seeking immigrants (and their relatives) by 90 percent, thus risking to expel a child who, if he was killed, would not have become the man who gave rise to a doctrine that according to Sverigedemokraterna was crucial for the development of "the Swedish language, art, literature, philosophy, morals, traditions, architecture, music, etc."?
In spite of Sveridemokraternas emphasis on “Swedishness”, i.e. the amazing excellence of Swedish customs and morals, and their repeated warnings about foreign forces threatening the Swedes and their magnificent cultural heritage, I cannot help wondering if the Christian heritage they espouse is, in spite of everything, nothing less than an assimilation of extraneous influences and that there may be some truth in the Swedish 19th century author Esaias Tegnér´s opinion that "only barbarism was once patriotic".