Saturday, 14 September 2013

Swedishness and Religion

The Church of Sweden are having their general elections tomorrow and for once it is a big deal in Sweden due to the increased debate concerning the nationalistic party Sverigedemokraterna (SD) about what Swedishness is. In one of Jimmy Åkesson's speeches, he touches on the subject of being Swedish and being a Christian. Freely translated here is the extract from the linked article concerning the church.

Jimmy Åkesson, leader
of Sverigedemokraterna (SD)
  "Åkesson goes on to talk about the church elections, and that Sweden is a Christian country.
- No other movement has affected our country's traditions as much as Christianity says Åkesson, who believes that it is impossible to separate the Christians from the Swedish culture.
Akesson says he wants to defend freedom of religion, but that one does not have to be a Christian or believer.
- But you have to respect our Christian heritage and to be prepared to nurture it for the future.
Åkesson talks about a distinctive Swedish church, partly because it is the only church that preaches in Swedish.
- Swedish Church is Swedish for its cemeteries, baptismal fonts and the embellishments in most cases are designed by Finnish Swedish material, he says, and also mentions that hymns in the Swedish church is typically Swedish.
Akesson says the church has "unfortunately" in recent years become less and less Swedish and less Christian, and it worries him.
- It is because socialism and liberalism have turned their increasingly aggressive claws on the church says Akesson.
He picks up when bishop Eva Brunne in connection with the opening of parliament in 2010, delivered a sermon against racism and xenophobia, which got SD to march out in the middle of sermon.
- You can tell that cultural radicalism trinity, feminism, cultural Marxism and multiculturalism are increasingly replacing the Holy Trinity.
He takes up the church dedicated to hiding refugees, arguing that the church actively supports the "Islamization of Sweden."
- Sweden Friends, I think it is obvious that something must be done and that it is we who have to do it, said Åkesson, and concerning the church election in three weeks[read tomorrow]:
- Let us start the process with replacing the call to prayer with "En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt" [Popular Swedish Hymn]
Akesson says that the result in the church elections can have an important strategic role for the upcoming election year, and urges everyone to vote in it.
As I was translating the above text I felt how the anger burned inside me. When was Christianity ever based on the cemeteries and the decoration?  When has the language of what the sermon is preached in have anything to do with the church being Swedish? I want to thank Stefan Klint, a priest in the Swedish Church, who wrote an open letter to Jimmy. Below is the freely translated version:

Stefan Klint, priest in the Swedish C
Hi Jimmie Åkesson. I have read your summer speech in Sölvesborg from last Saturday. You stressed the fact that Sweden is a Christian country. You seem to say that to separate the Swedish from the Christians or the Christians from the Swedish is as impossible as trying to pick eggs out of a cake.
But let me mention a few typical Christian phenomena that are the same regardless of where we are: Baptism, communion, the Bible, the Message of Love, Christmas, Easter, Jesus, God.
Or some typical Swedish things that are not necessarily related to the Christian to do: maternity, childcare and healthcare for all, Freedom to Roam [see link], midsummer and to be moderately religious.
When you say you want to safeguard religious freedom, but that people have to respect our country's Christian heritage , I suspect that you want to use the church for your own political purpose, a purpose that for me is completely different from the Christian heritage that you are talking about.
You preach a doctrine where people are judged not as individuals, but as belonging to a particular group that you have determined have certain characteristics: Swedes, Somalis, immigrants, Muslims or Christians. It is a dangerous doctrine that is fueling fears of people for what is different, and raising walls between people instead of tearing them down.
For you ​​the Christian heritage consists of a distinctive Swedish church. You talk about church buildings that are made of indigenous materials and design or ornamentation in a way that is unique to our country. For you it is important that the hymns we sing are typically Swedish and the priests preach in the Swedish language.
Influences from all over the world
But the Christian heritage we have received from a Jewish man and his disciples from the Middle East, Africa and Southern Europe, conveyed to us by the British, German and probably Russian and Greek missionaries. Our Swedish churches built after Asian and Southern European models. Psalms in our Swedish hymn book are authored by Danes, French, British, German, Peruvian, South Africans, Stockholmians and västgötar [Västetgötland is a province in Sweden where, among other cities, Gothenburg lies] .
And if my Swedish parish received refugees from Syria, I would preach the Christian message of love in Arabic if I could. Or, in sign-language if my congregation consisted mainly of deaf people. It is the message and not the language that matters. It is the worldwide fellowship of brothers and sisters, the universal church for the confession, which is the church context and subject, not a particular national origin.
You worry that the Swedish Church in recent years has become much less Swedish and mush less Christian. If you mean that the church has become less anxious and more open to cultural and religious diversity of Swedish society , then the church has become more and not less Christian. You argue that socialism and liberalism in recent decades have their claws deeper and deeper into the church. If you mean that the church raises its voice to demand for justice and solidarity  for the weak and vulnerable individuals, or that the Church takes a stand for freedom of every person to realize their dreams and their calling regardless of ethnicity or sexuality , then the church has not become less but more Christian .
Jesus included immigrants
You are angry that the church engages in hiding refugees and call it supporting the Islamization of Sweden . If you had lived in Bible times, Jimmy, I guess you just as eagerly had accused Jesus to support Samaritanism or heathen-iring of traditional Jewish society, considering how Jesus included immigrants and non-Jews in their business. I'm guessing you would want to use your influence in the Egyptian parliament to prevent refugees like Mary and Joseph with their newborn baby from seeking asylum in your country to escape Herod's reign of terror. What if your political agenda had succeeded . We would neither had Christianity or blue and yellow flags with crosses on up here, nor the eggs or cake to link to your own likeness.
And you're still angry that Bishop Eva Brunne in connection with the opening of parliament in 2010 delivered a sermon against racism and xenophobia , which got you and your comrades to march out of the church . But do not forget that it was your own decision Jimmy . It was you who felt the message. But you don't need to take it personally. Bishops, priests and pastors preach about humanity and against xenophobia every Sunday. To do otherwise would be to fail the mission as a preacher of the Christian message in the Swedish society in the 2000s.
Now you hope that your party will have increased influence in the upcoming church elections . The truth is that the legacy that the Church manages badly suits your political agenda. Take this as a piece of good advice: look elsewhere for a set of values ​​that can support your political ideology. If you allow the Christian gospel within, the walls that you build will be torn down from the inside.

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