In Defense of Norwegians

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : March 4, 2005

I am often critical of the Scandinavian heritage of Minnesota, because it has created a repressed atmosphere of passive agression.  And so, I often poke fun of my Minnesota, since this odd repression can get in the way of the messiness of authentic Christianity.  However, today I was rebuked (a bit) by an interview I read in Christianity Today with Eugene Peterson.  In his interview, he relays the following:

In church last Sunday, there was a couple in front of us with two
bratty kids. Two pews behind us there was another couple with their two
bratty kids making a lot of noise. This is mostly an older
congregation. So these people are set in their ways. Their kids have
been gone a long time. And so it wasn’t a very nice service; it was
just not very good worship. But afterwards I saw half a dozen of these
elderly people come up and put their arms around the mother, touch the
kids, sympathize with her. They could have been irritated.

Now why do people go to a church like that when they
can go to a church that has a nursery, is air conditioned, and all the
rest? Well, because they’re Lutherans. They don’t mind being miserable!
Norwegian Lutherans!

And this same church recently welcomed a young woman
with a baby and a three-year-old boy. The children were baptized a few
weeks ago. But there was no man with her. She’s never married; each of
the kids has a different father. She shows up at church and wants her
children baptized. She’s a Christian and wants to follow in the
Christian way. So a couple from the church acted as godparents. Now
there are three or four couples in the church who every Sunday try to
get together with her.

Now, where is the "joy" in that church? These are
dour Norwegians! But there’s a lot of joy. There’s an abundant life
going, but it’s not abundant in the way a non-Christian would think. I
think there’s a lot more going on in churches like this; they’re just
totally anticultural. They’re full of joy and faithfulness and
obedience and care. But you sure wouldn’t know it by reading the
literature of church growth, would you?


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