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.