Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Charles Pierce picks up on this:

Norway is distancing itself from its Christian past. The Storting -- the country's Parliament -- will amend the constitution so that the state no longer has an official religion, ending the 1,000-year tradition of the Church of Norway.
And you will notice it makes international news.  Which is fine (although the Church of Norway is Evangelical Lutheran, not evangelical Lutheran.  The distinction is an important one, but expecting newspaper reporters to get it is, unfortunately, expecting a bit much. Sadly.)  What's more interesting, however, is that this didn't make international news:

Religious extremism – for some years this has been synonymous with radical Islam. At least in Europe. Several terrorist attacks over the past decade, from the Al Qaeda network and others, have made it easy to conclude that there is a war going on between Muslims and Christians, that Islam is a violent religion, and that Muslims, due to the lack of modernity and secularization, easily becomes fanatics, fundamentalists and extremists. When terrorism occurs, what first comes to mind is that this must be an act of radical Islam.

We saw this with brutal and revealing clarity in the hours immediately after the bomb in Oslo and the massacre at Ut√łya July 22nd. One expected to find a Muslim behind this terrible misdeed. Norwegian Muslims told later of harassment and suspicious attitudes towards them. It was not easy being a Muslim in Norway July 22nd. The hidden attitudes of ordinary Norwegians became visible, and those attitudes were about prejudice and stereotypes. It was not our finest hour.

After July 22nd, no one can think like this. Extremism and violence nurtured – at least to some extent – by religion and religious identity, is by no means connected solely with Islam. July 22nd makes this evident. From the history of the Christian church, however, we know that this is not a novelty. From the Crusades in medieval times, via the Inquisition, and later the Wars of Religion in the 17th Century, the Christian church has its fare share of unpleasant elements. Violent extremism is by no means more connected with Islam than with Christianity.
That is the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, the  Rt Rev Helga Haugland Byfuglien.  An interestingly nuanced and intelligent view of ecclesiology, history, and religious belief.  Far too nuanced and intelligent to gain any attention, apparently (at least outside of Norway).  Although maybe if she'd been connected with a U.S. Presidential candidate, her statements might have gotten more attention.  Because really, what she says here isn't that far from what Jeremiah Wright got in trouble for saying:  we are responsible for what we do.

And my comment is not an earth shattering observation (certainly nothing on the order of the release of a new comic-book movie, or statements by stars of that movie about comic-book movies), but just in keeping with something I've noticed before:  if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead.

Maybe the mainline Christian churches around the world should be more outrageous, so they'll get more notice.  Or maybe the public face of Christianity is too bland and boring, and they need to spice it up with more outrageous and controversial claims.  You know, so the reality starts to conform with the misconceptions.


  1. Small 'e' or capital 'E' makes a difference in the US, too. The Episcopal Church here is in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but we are not in communion with the evangelical Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which I expect would completely confuse the media.

    And don't remind me of the much-ado-about nothing media frenzy that ended with Obama breaking off the relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

  2. Mimi--

    My UCC heritage includes the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Nothing small "e" about them at all.

    And Rick for the win!

  3. Windhorse9:46 PM

    Far too nuanced and intelligent to gain any attention, apparently (at least outside of Norway).

    If the meek or "well-mannered" are going to inherit the earth, as Christ declared, it is unlikely to be televised.

  4. I had an online fight with a few Pagans last year about the practice of human sacrifice in Paganism, specifically concentrating on the Odinic form of it and it's practice of killing nine people every so often as well as its practice of murdering a slave girl whenever one of the gang leaders died. Though other forms of Paganism would have also fit into the argument. Things got pretty exciting. They didn't like my speculation that things got better for the candidates for sacrifice when Christianity came in. I can't remember if the story of the King Aun came into it or not. It's been my experience that Pagans and the like don't care to consider the moral consequences of their history to the extent that mainline protestant clergy are willing to do that.

    By the way, discussing human sacrifice in Pagan RELIGION is forbidden among the "rational community".

    It's no accident that mainline protestant churches have been disappeared in the media, as well as liberal Catholicism and Judaism. Those are uncomfortably close to putting some of the gospels into practice and that is anathema to those with power. It's the "christian" churches who are closer to a Roman state religion than they are to the teachings of Jesus that are the only acceptable expression of religion to eutrophic capitalism and its various imperial regimes and corporations. The gospel of Jesus is to be suppressed by the powerful and rich in each and every age because it is incompatible with that.

    Careful of Charlie, he's often pretty good but he's got a streak in him that I'd watch out for.

  5. The Thought Criminal, I think a good many of us, perhaps all of us, have a streak in us that others will do well to watch out for. I know I do.

  6. Issue of religion is getting more and more important today. Read more about main views and thoughts concerning churches and question of it's modernization.

  7. churches is a public thing. that's why religion and belief are two different phenomenons.