Recently, an American priest (probably of the creationist type), Marty McLain, from Georgia, US, visited three Nordic countries in search of his quest for god. He summarized his experience very simply, by using a monosyllable word: WOW!!!
Marty McLain’s starting point are his beliefs: “I believe in creation, I believe in the fall, I believe in the garden of Eden, I believe in restauration, I believe in hell, I believe in revelation”, he states clearly. He also believes we are all born with a sin nature!!! There is no room in his mind for questioning the word belief, which, demonstrably, is something that should be avoided. Admitting that one “believes” in something is neither honourable nor smart and, certainly, not rational. But he has convinced himself that there are some things which should never be questioned. He probably grew up in a (particular version of) Christian environment, so he became Christian, and has convinced himself that this is the best thing in the world, and never questions his beliefs. He believes in everything that his holy book quotes (but does not believe, I’m sure, in the writings of someone else’s holy book). So he came to the Nordic countries assuming that people here also act similarly. Wrong. And when he found out that people don’t care about his beliefs he said WOW!!! And then he said: WOW!!! And then again WOW!!! That’s all he could say.
The Finnish television YLE made a little documentary on McLain’s visit here:
For a shorter version click here.
I’ll summarize some points.
McLain: Do you believe in god?Responder A: No. Responder B: No. Responder C: No. Etc….Responder M: Of course I do.McLain: Are you a Christian?Responder M: No, I’m a Muslim?McLain: Muslim? WOW!!!
And he keeps asking and asking. Sometimes he gets an answer of the form
Responder X: Yes, I believe.McLain: Are you from here?
Responder X: No, I’m from the Baltic countries. I’m a Catholic.
He visits Leif Jansson, a humanist, from Jönköping, who tells McLain that Jönköping is the bible belt of Sweden with 13-15% active Christians, as compared to 3% in other areas of Sweden. McLain asks him about the origins of life. He doesn’t get the answer he likes, so he, unashamedly, states: “I believe that evolution is by faith, because it has not been proven and because there was nobody there to witness it.” McLain is a person of “faith”, so, clearly, there is no room for questioning anything. Leif also states his beliefs (he should know better not to do so—to avoid this word—but anyway): “I believe in science, in humanity, in human rights; I don’t need a god, to put it bluntly”. And McLain gives his favourite reply: WOW!!!
Finally, he finds a Swede who gives him the response he wants.
McLain: Do you believe in god?Responder H: Eeeeh, yea.McLain: Are you a Christian?Responder H: Eh, yea.McLain: It’s good to see someone here. I knew it would be at McDonald’s. I knew that if I came to McDonald’s I’d find someone who believes in god.
(Interesting fact: Sweden has the largest number of McDonalds per capita in Europe and, perhaps, outside the US.)
He goes to Copenhagen and meets with priests (dressed in some funny clothes). He is stunned to realize that the Danish church performs same-sex marriages. He can't comprehend this. To him, this is alien. “I believe same sex attraction is a sin”, he says.
He then meets with people from the newest religion in Sweden: the church of kopimism. They tell him they believe in filesharing, that this is a religious act. “And what about eternity?” And they tell him that they believe that by uploading their brains they can live forever. “So, are you Christian?”, McLain insists. Reply: “No”. He can’t understand that the Swedish government recognizes anything that has a belief system (and fulfils certain other criteria) as a religion. To him, apparently, religion is something that must be “old”. And, yes, kopimism is an official religion in Sweden.
At some point McLain is challenged by someone who asks him if he has a gun. McLain replies he owns a shotgun. Would he use it if there was a burglar? Sure he would, he says, in order to protect his family. And what about turning the other cheek, he is asked. Well, that’s personal, McLain says; when it comes to family, he will shoot. No surprises here. From my experience in Texas, those who have bibles also have guns (and vice versa). Guns in the US are used for everything, including protecting them from the satan. Again, McLain believes in all these things and does not occur to him (or did not occur to him prior to his visit to Nordic countries) that his beliefs are quite conditional and dependent on the fact that he lives in Georgia, US and that his family told him to be a Christian (perhaps indirectly, by the usual means of child indoctrination/abuse).
One hilarious incident is when he visits the Pitäjänmäki church in Helsinki and attends a religious service performed in heavy metal music.
move like lunatics.
move like lunatics.
Too bad that McLain did not come to Uppsala where he would find the religion he was looking for. Uppsala has some weird churches, all of them, apparently, “imported” from the US (Livets Ord, Pingstkyrkan, Mormons, Jehova’s witnesses, etc.) Too bad he didn't realize that there Swedes who find religious signs in fish, just like there are Americans who find religious signs on toasted bread. And just as there are religious killings in the US and elsewhere, so there are in Sweden too. So, McLain, would have found something he likes here.
People in the Nordic countries are, mostly, secular. Nevertheless, they keep the churches for decorative purposes. Actually, many of them have no clue what their churches are for and, for some mysterious reason, some of them keep going to them and perform certain church rituals. McLain finds out that people go to church to get married, etc., but, at the same time, they don't think much about religion. It's just a ritual. Like going to IKEA. (From the point of view of the church, I guess, just like IKEA, it's business.)