Monday, April 11, 2016

Banzai, Norway!

Stave Church, Borgund, Norway
late 12th century
Well, hot-friggin DAMN!

One of the world’s once-official state churches has gone and recognized same-sex marriage.  Norway has not merely issued an expression of tolerance for civil marriages; it has invited same-sex couples into the church, where they will bring them before the altar, wave some crosses in the air signifying God’s blessing at them, and call them hitched before God and everybody.  Holy Homo Secks You Wells,  Batman, that I should have lived long enough to see this!

I know, I know.  Too little, too late, you say.  It’s happening in a country where religion is on its last legs, you say.  Who cares, you say.

You’ve got a point.  It’s not like this was happening in Alabama or Poland, where the church still warns you that putting chocolate bits in your oatmeal can lead to eternal damnation.  It’s happening in Norway, where a mere 20% of the population even admit they still believe in God.  And only 5% of the population ever goes to church.  There are more than four times the number of people living in Ouagadougou as there are people who go to church in Norway.

So why the big deal?  It's not even the official church anymore, like it was from 1536 when it joined with other Lutherans in thumbing their noses at Rome, right up to 2012, when the nominal head of the church was the king.  OK, it's still the national church, the "folks' church" recognized by the state as the religious home to the Norwegian people.  But it's not a world player.  Not like they've got a pope for Bernie Sanders to visit and talk about climate change with.  Why should it matter what they do in Norway?

Glad you asked.

For years we have allowed the religious right to claim it speaks for God.  We have confused religion with belief, doctrine with spirituality, morality with silks and satins, groveled around on the floor when this kinder-than-most pope throws some crumbs to the gays and the women under the table.  We have not fought back against slimebags like Ted Cruz working to persuade the dim-witted among us that he will do God’s work like only the candy man can.

What this small move in a small snow-bound country far away is all about, besides granting dignity to its members who happen to be gay, I mean, is demonstrating to the world that it is possible to be Christian and to live in full confidence and dignity that you are god-worthy, acknowledged and embraced by your religious community.  Not an outcast to be pushed away from the communion rail to make room for corrupt politicians, rapists and murderers who manage to hide their sins while you ask others only to accept your god-given sexuality.

Conservatives like to stress tradition.  We’ve always had male-female marriage, they tell you.  Wrong to change.  Black kids next to white kids on the school bench, maybe, if you insist, women in the voting booth, maybe, if you insist.  But gays at the altar rail?  Why do you insist on slapping the face of God?

The world is a bit less messed-up today than it was yesterday.

Norwegian Christians?  You’re a lovely bunch of people.

OK, so you’re following the values of the larger modern society, the values of humanism, not the medieval ones of your founder Luther, who thought Jewish homes should be burned to the ground.  You pick and choose your official church’s values.

I'm sitting here wanting to throw both arms in the air and give you a rousing Japanese "Banzai!"

One of those things, like wanting always to take my shoes off in the house, that come from twenty-four years of living in Japan.

Won't embarrass you.  (Or myself.)  Won't actually do it.

Oh hell, why not?

"Banzai" - "May you live ten thousand years."

photo credit
banzai guy

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