Lessons from the Reli­gious Lay­men's Move­ment in Scan­di­navia *

The Diplomatic Insight - - SCANDINAVIA -

At a Sem­i­nar or­ga­nized by the Diplo­matic In­sight and the Pak­istan-Nor­way As­so­ci­a­tion (PANA) in July this year, I had the op­por­tu­nity to speak about the Scan­di­na­vian Lay­men's Move­ment, with the sev­eral Re­vival and Re­newal Move­ments, from the late 1700s and the 1800s. I drew a line from the reli­gious move­ments in Europe and the New World be­fore the Amer­i­can In­de­pen­dence and the French Rev­o­lu­tion, at the be­gin­ning of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion in Eng­land and the rest of the UK. Nor­way be­came in­de­pen­dent from four hun­dred years as part of Den­mark in 1814 but had to en­ter into a union with Swe­den, since it was on the win­ning side of the Napoleonic Wars (and Den­mark­was on the loos­ing side and had to cede land). This was a time of rad­i­cal and demo­cratic think­ing, with up­ris­ings against colo­nial pow­ers, na­tional pow­ers, the up­per classes and author­ity in gen­eral ei­ther it was “granted by King or God”. The time of suc­cumb­ing blindly to author­ity was wan­ing, as it had grad­u­ally been from the time of the Ref­or­ma­tion in the Church (1517), the in­ven­tion of book print­ing and the in­tro­duc­tion of wide­spread and even univer­sal pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion. The ex­plor­ers also played a role in shat­ter­ing es­tab­lished rule. Not all of this was good, but much of it was. In Scan­di­navia as else­where in Europe, the lay­men's move­ment paved the way for the demo­cratic winds in pol­i­tics, with im­proved hu­man rights and work­ers rights, and even the so­cial­ist move­ment and the labour move­ment that came later. In Amer­ica, there are sim­i­lar lines, which also in­clude the Civil Rights Move­ment. In­ter­est­ingly, it was the lay­men who be­gan preach­ing to the ne­groes in Amer­ica, or theAfrican-Amer­i­cans, as the term is to­day. Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824) was the first Norwegian lay­man who or­ga­nized or­di­nary peo­ple to hold prayer meet­ings in their homes. At the time, many peo­ple had lost faith in the state church, but not in God. The church was of­ten seen as rep­re­sent­ing the es­tab­lish­ment and elite, with univer­sity ed­u­cated pas­tors and bish­ops. Hauge em­pha­sized prac­ti­cal help to the poor in way of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ad­vice, for ex­am­ple, to es­tab­lish print­ing presses, mills and textile in­dus­tries. The move­ment he es­tab­lished was not against the state church, but it gave em­pha­sis to sim­ple Chris­tian morals: mod­esty, hon­esty and hard work. To­day, we would say it was a low­brow type of Protes­tant Chris­tian­ity. Hauge him­self was im­pris­oned many times be­cause it was not per­mit­ted for lay­men to hold reli­gious meet­ings un­less per­mit­ted un­less un­der the lead­er­ship of the parish pas­tor; this law was only lifted in 1842. “Hau­gian­ism” has lived on in the Norwegian minds and thoughts, and it also trav­eled with the­many Norwegian em­i­grant­ing to Amer­ica. When I grew up, we thought of “Hau­gian­ism” as old-fash­ioned and out­dated. To­day, mod­ern busi­ness schools give Hauge at­ten­tion not only as a reli­gious leader but also as a so­cial and eco­nomic leader and en­tre­pre­neur. In neigh­bour­ing Swe­den, the main leader of the early lay­men's move­ment was Lars Levi Laes­ta­dius (18001861). He was a gov­ern­ment pas­tor him­self, hail­ing from the re­mote north of the coun­try and also work­ing there in ar­eas with Sami and Lap­pish peo­ple, the in­dige­nous peo­ple of Scan­di­navia, liv­ing in the north of the coun­tries as no­madic or semi-no­madic rein­deer herds­men. Laes­ta­dius em­pha­sized sim­i­lar moral and reli­gious ideas asHauge, and he seems to have been stricter in as­pects, em­pha­siz­ing re­pen­tance and sim­plic­ity in daily life. The “Laes­tae­di­an­ism” is till this day the largest lay­men's move­ment in Scan­di­navia, with more fol­low­ing in the north. The lay­men's move­ment had pietis­tic el­e­ments, but few preach­ers were dark and joy­less. They were also in­flu­enced by the Wes­leyan her­itage in the UK, which em­pha­sized a more pos­i­tive and lighter the­ol­ogy, giv­ing peo­ple strength to live in a hard and un­just world, with long work­ing hours, poverty, de­cease, and large fam­i­lies. It is not pos­si­ble to talk about the lay­men's move­ment in Scan­di­navia with­out men­tion­ing the Swedish poet, the­olo­gian and hymn writer Karolina Wil­helmina Sandell-

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