ACROSS most of Europe, a majority of people declare some loose attachment to Christianity, while a much smaller percentage actively follow that faith. As a result, churches and their adherents have some influence over European affairs. People expect them to react when the continent is faced with great moral challenges, such as the recent, desperate influx of migrants by sea and land. Ghastly as they have been, the human consequences of that influx would surely have been worse still without the efforts of churches and religious charities to help destitute newcomers. Across Germany, nearly 400 churches have provided shelter for migrants who fear deportation.
But what else should Europe’s Christians do or say? In almost every European country there exist hard-line political movements whose declared aim is to protect the continent’s Christian heritage against alien influences. Religious leaders generally regard these parties as embarrassments or worse.
Even when you move a bit closer to the respectable mainstream, there are as many shades of opinion in European Christianity as there are denominations. That emerged in the glorious diversity of a gathering earlier this week in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, hosted by Dutch and Greek think-tanks (and at which your blogger co-chaired a session), where views ranged from the radical to the traditional. Broadly, their task was to look at Europe’s economic and refugee crisis from a Christian point of view.