30 July 2008

Denmark a Christian country - but what if...

Post No 4

Denmark has been a Christian country for at least 1000 years – and that’s official:

Proudly proclaimed in pictures and runes on the larger of the two Jelling stones in southern Jutland, the Danish mainland which connects with Germany and the rest of the continent.

It says: "King Harald ordered this monument made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyre, his mother; that Harald who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian."

This was done by King Harald Bluetooth (935 AD-985 AD), son of King Gorm the Old and Queen Thyra, as far as it can be pinpointed to one specific year it was in 965 AD, and thus roughly four generations after the French missionary - later Saint - Ansgar came to Denmark in 826 AD as an envoy of the catholic bishop of Bremen/Hamburg, but several generations passed before we can say that Christianity was the dominant belief system in the country as a whole and that country may not have been already a coherent Denmark – more likely it was several petty kingdoms at that time.

Catholicism came to an end in Denmark around 1520 with the Reformation of Martin Luther and the country has remained Lutheran-Protestant ever since.

Denmark has an international reputation for being ultra-secular and ultra-permissive and in many ways that is of course true, but did you know that the Lutheran-Protestant church is the official state church, enshrined in the Danish constitution’s para 4 and as such is supported largely.

And that means paid for from the bishops to the local priests and grave-diggers to the upkeep and maintenance of all churches and associated buildings and infrastructure by the state, meaning through taxes – unless you specifically opt out of paying the special church-tax (only about 0.5% of your total taxation) but still you can be as secular as you like but you may unwittingly pay the church tax all your life without knowing it! I opted out of church-tax when I first started paying tax when I was 18 or so.

Para 70 of our constitution guarantees religious freedom for all citizens and specifically prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of religion or race – but did you know that religious freedom does not extend to our monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II (who is a cousin of the Queen of England), for para 6 of the constitution states that the regent MUST be a lutheran-protestant but does not have to be a member of the church!

So, whether he or she wants to or not – no freedom of choice there! I find that quite extraordinary and in a way quite comical.

Christianity is generally seen here as something typically Danish, indeed one of the more extreme members of that already extreme right-wing party the Danish People’s Party (more about that another time!), Soren Krarup, who is both an MP and a theologian and a priest, has stated bluntly that you cannot be truly Danish unless you are a Christian.

I have not yet had the opportunity to debate him in public but I would like to ask him the following:

- How on earth can it be seen to more “truly Danish” to subscribe to a belief-system which grew up around a Jew from Palestine (Jesus-Isa) than embracing a faith which grew up around an Arab from Arabia (of course Muhammad – pbuh/saws)???
- It is interesting to speculate: Suppose that some of the early Muslims had not only spread South and West and East and North locally but travelled much further North than they did – they would have had plenty of time to have arrived in Northern Europe and Denmark say around 700 even if they had walked all the way, that is well over a hundred years, or about 4 generations, before 826 and the Ansgar that I mentioned at the beginning.

Meaning of course that Denmark could well have been a Muslim country for 1300 years or so instead of Christian for 1000 years – with a mosque in every village and the prayers call ringing out 5 times a day!
And not only Denmark of course.....Food for thought for all Islamophobes!!

It is also obvious from the wording of the runic inscription at Jelling that the Danes (and possibly also Denmark as a country) existed before they were "made Christian" by Harald.

So, logically, if you wish to be "truly Danish" you should become a pagan and worship the old gods of the Vikings like Odin-Woden-Wotan (the god of wisdom who also gave his name to Wednesday!) or Thor (thunder / power + Thursday!) or much older fertility gods like Frej-Frey (male) and Freja-Freya (female) who collectively gave their name to Friday.

Some of the early kings and other rulers who accepted Christianity may well have done so out of conviction and sincerity – but most historians believe that they were at least as attracted by the enormous unifying influence that the new faith gave them, an influence which could be, and was, used for welding smaller realms together into larger “proper” kingdoms – in short, to increase
their strategic power and magnify their self-glorification. And that is a very understandable and human thing to do – if you get the opportunity.

Incidentally, for many years, including of course all the time I lived on my sailing yacht VIKING, I always carried around my neck a pendant in the form of a Thors-hammer (which is called Mjolnir and is used by Thor to bash the clouds, so creating thunder and lightning) – they are very popular with Danish men and, if you take them seriously, they signify that you still embrace the old religion
and the old gods as opposed to the new.

They were widely used throughout the Viking age (c800-c1100) when Christianity began making inroads.

Others preferred the cross. Archaeologists have unearthed a mould for casting jewellery, it is a cast made of a single piece of soap-stone (a very soft rock ideally suited for moulds) and has room for casting 3 pieces of jewellery in one operation – 2 of one and 1 of the other!!
I cannot remember whether it is 2 crosses and 1 Thors-hammer or the other way round but what is interesting is that the craftsman and the vendor did not particularly care what the customer believed in, so long as it was good for business – some things never change!

Is this maybe a distant forerunner of the European Union?!!?

Personally, having spent half my life in other countries, I do not feel particularly Danish one way or the other and I am quite content to consider myself a Muslim world citizen - if that makes me in any way less Danish then that is a small price to pay!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Soren Krarup is a jerk. Very few people, and none I know, take him seriously. Relax. Things will change - slowly.