I wanted to write about……

an episode that happened when I’d first arrived in Canada, and lived in Quebec. To many of my readers, this will probably seem really odd, but this is also partly what it’s like growing up in a secularised country. I’m not even sure I will publish this…

We were having breakfast out, one weekend, together with a neighbour. He and Gerry were talking about something that had to do with churches, and they guy asked me what denomination I was of.  I got totally perplexed! My first impuls was to say ‘Christian’ … other words went through my head too, when my husband quickly realised my dilemma and filled in for me: «Lutheran».  Yes, that’s it … Church of Sweden is Lutheran.

Before year 2000, it used to be so that if the parents were members, and didn’t actively do anything, a newborn child automatically became a member too.  On New Years Eve 1999 the church was separated from the state. I’d say the majority of the population are still members, because you have to actively leave … fill out a form. A certain percentage of your taxes goes to the church … it may turn out to approximately $20 a year.

Having moved here, to Canada, I learned that the closest/most similar to the Church of Sweden, would be Episcopalian/Anglican. Me, being used to this «automatic membership», I asked Gerry how people here became members of the various churches …. how they went about to ‘apply’. He said ‘you just start to go there’…

Like many other countries in Europe, Sweden became very secularised in the 1900’s some time … I have no idea of the reasons for this, and that’s not what this post is all about.  I only know that it is. Many people can’t even act natural around a person who openly declares he or she goes to church every Sunday … they’d get uneasy, wondering if this person is ‘religious’ so they can’t use profanities in their speech and so on.  In my work place, when we were about to get a new co-worker, rumour had it that she was ‘religious’, so most of the people there were very weary about this new person. If the prime minister of Sweden were to finish off a speech with «God bless Sweden» or something like that, as the American President does, they would probably think he’d lost it completely!  The word ‘religious’ is often used, with the tone of voice you use, when you talk about something highly suspicious. Bear in mind now, I’m only speaking for myself … this is very personal … not the entire country. Many people would refer to themselves as being ‘spiritual’, which seems to be a phenomenon all over the western world. Most churches are more or less empty on Sundays, except 1:st of Advent and Christmas … AND when some big disaster has happened — then they’re filled to the last seat.

Either way, at a very early age, I turned out to be a searcher and the more my mind matured, the more I began to question certain things, with regards to religion. With that came also guilt. Even though I in no way felt shackled to ‘my’ religion it was as if what I’d been taught as a kid in school, was there somewhere … deep within. Took me many years to start to reflect upon the fact how deeply rooted it gets, what we teach our children!  Early, I felt drawn to Judaism, and in my forties I had serious thoughts about converting … talked many times with a Rabbi in Stockholm about how to go about the process, but I guess Life got in the way. It hasn’t happened.

What I wanted to say with all this was really that I don’t feel comfortable with being labelled «Lutheran». I have nothing to do with Luther … it’s all so coincidental — had I been born in some other country, I would have been something else! I have no problems with my faith … that’s always been strong. I could go much deeper into my way of reasoning, but I think I’ll save that for another time.  It’s perhaps merely about wanting to belong to something, and being the perpetual student I am 🙂  … we’ll just see what happens.

24 Replies to “I wanted to write about……”

  1. If one doesn’t settle on something to explain things, then the whole world rests on one’s shoulders. I think that the weight is enough to cause a person to break – and maybe it is necessary to bend. Not for everyone – but for some people.

    As to what one bends towards – yes, there is the question of the accident of one’s birth that can determine what one is raised as.

    1. Thankfully, it was never that way for me… This could have been a whole different story if I’d been brought up in a very religious-minded home, but that wasn’t the case.

  2. It’s normal IMO, to take interest in different faith choices. Mother’s family of course were Lutheran. Way back in time some rellies were Huguenot refugees to England. I think Dad’s family were Presbyterians. Almost all were Protestant.

    I was fascinated by the rituals of Catholicism, but my Baptist folks put their feet firmly down on that juvenile idea, but eventually I joined the Episcopal church…Catholicism w/o the guilt. My girls were christened and when my son was of an age he became a Roman Catholic…although I doubt he ever practiced after. I cast all faith aside in 1963, but read much re Judaism but more Buddhism. If I should ever lose faith in myself I think I might be some kind of vengeful practitioner/follower of a rogue Zen path. I don’t understand Mormonism, but admire their will to survive and their devotion to a family ethic. In my dotage I bow to no one, but see nothing wrong with worshipping a tree.

    1. True … comparative religion, could be an interesting subject. After I’d written that post, I began to think I’m just happy the way it is. Maybe …
      Episcopal is called Anglican here in Canada. Interchangeable with Lutheran .. Church of Sweden, is rather formal and feels almost closer to the Catholic church, when it comes to liturgy.. from my PoV.

  3. In Denmark it is very much like you describe. Today its absolutely a “no-go” to call yourself Christian/ religious. Here we have still not separated the state and the church- even that the Costitution (from 1848) says so!!
    I left church ( its Lutheran) when I became old enough to decide myself- I was 20. It was very difficult to me to feel comfortable with what our religion tells
    I am still searching – but its in what many calls the spiritual direction.

    1. I knew you would understand what I meant 🙂 It IS a little weird, after all, huh?! It’s okay to say something like ‘I’m spiritual’ or so, but not that you’re a Christian?! I never left, but the more I learn about Luther himself, the more I’m leaning towards doing so.

  4. I can relate to what you’re saying about stating “Christian”as opposed to “spiritual”. It feels more acceptable to be “spiritual” because its open ended. But if someone were to straight out ask what religion a person is, it would seem weird to say “I’m spiritual”. And it’s true about being born into a country. It’s automatic as to what you believe in. Even within families. I remember my grandmother saying she wished we were a Jewish family. I agreed with her. But it would be strange to us as well. it’s a big subject and I only talk about religion with people who are not religious! They believe in God, but they don’t condemn you for not believing in what they believe. Besides, who really knows what really happens to us in the end?

    1. I never discuss religion with anyone except my husband. However, for one reason or another, I felt inspired to write this, this morning. This world would look entirely different if there were no religion — only faith. Just think about John Lennon’s song … «Imagine» 🙂
      Nobody knows … that’s for sure — nobody’s come back to tell us. Wouldn’t that be a good inscription on ones tomb stone: «Now I know…» [as my husband jokingly said once]…

  5. Hello Rebby: What an insightful blog!!! I can see the dilemna you faced when asked what ‘faith’ you were. Religion/spirituality to me is a private matter unless the parties agree to speak openly about their ‘faith’. I am fairly ‘loud & proud’ about being Jewish & Aboriginal however I am by NO means the quintessential Jewess nor a shining stereotypical Native person either. I tell people I live a spiritual life with my roots in Judaism & Ojibway culture & let my words, actions & deeds speak for themselves.
    I could have seen you converting to Judaism!!! After all you are my “Rebby’ (Rebbe for Rabbi)…I always looked to you as my Teacer on 360/Multiply…..so i guess you are an ‘honorary Jewess’ in my books! 😉
    Love & ((HUGS)) Sherri-Ellen xo

    1. Thank you, thank you, Sherri Ellen, for this very sweet comment! Faith is a very personal matter to me too, indeed … and the question was one that I’d never have been faced with in my native land … that’s what made me so perplexed!

      I didn’t want to write a blog post about religion as such … it was merely about the concept of being «labelled» this or that. To hear myself being labelled ‘Lutheran’ feels just plain …. wrong.

      1. I respect all faiths/ all spiritual forms of expression in its pure form. Unfortunately so many wars have been fought over ‘religion’ down thru the ages. I can not say my faith is better than anyone else’s. My faith is a part of who I am & I know there are some people who cannot/willnot understand my way of life & I have learned to just pray for them & send them on their way. I have had my share of prejudice & ignorant comments over the years & I understand that those people are scared of anything outside of their comfort zone.
        As we know ‘labelling’ a person can be very limiting. 😉
        Sherri-Ellen

  6. Perhaps it’s understandable as your being a believer.
    Or, at any rate, a searcher.
    That’s quite good enough, although it doesn’t satisfy the sense of communion which I think you are talking about. We all long to belong to —- what? something real, something genuine, something larger and more important than our small selves, at any rate.
    For me, who has been Jewish and Catholic, nothing is large enough, there is always more. There is a whole world, a whole universe, and who knows what’s beyond the universe? So I find my community right here, among other places. It’s kind of with like-minded people, however and whenever I come across them. And I might long for more, but I’m grateful for this, because it is actually enough.

    1. Yes, I do believe … I have a faith, in my own private way. And yes, it would be nice and … comforting? to belong to something. Marx had his points. The best would probably be to just relax and enjoy the journey.

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