Finland’s courageous pro-life Interior Minister has been the target of a massive wave of vituperation and condemnation after her July 6 speech criticizing the country’s abortion law. Many of the reactions have been hysterical, going so far as accusing her of wishing to impose sharia law for suggesting that believers might consider whether to obey God’s Word when local laws conflict with it. Not only did the Church of Finland bishops immediately abandon her, but the vice chairman of her own party suggested she should be replaced (she is national chairman of the Christian Democrats).
Some of her cabinet colleagues have also attacked her. In his comments, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (Social Democrat Party) even equated the Bible with Mein Kampf. “The conviction leading to [civil disobedience] can only be based on universal ethical human norms," he wrote, "not on directives handed from above, as in the case of the Bible, Koran, or Mein Kampf..” Mr. Tuomioja did not reveal the source of his "universal ethical norms."
Dr. Räsänen obviously touched a nerve among those who are terrified by the very thought that there might really be a God, or that the babies whose slaughter they promote so urgently might be made in His image. The Enemy has thoroughly convinced the vast majority in Scandinavia that there is no God (and no Devil, for that matter), but that they can be gods, deciding for themselves what is Good and what is Evil. Of course, they simply follow the mob surreptitiously directed by the Evil One … and pour out Hell’s fury on anyone who dares invoke God’s Word.
But Päivi Räsänen has withstood the assault with grace and calmness. Now even some major journalists are taking a closer look. The Editor-in-Chief of Finland’s second most widely read paper weighed in yesterday (17 July). He writes, “I wanted to explore what Räsänen had said, and obtained the speech. I was surprised. I realized that those attacking Räsänen simply had not read her speech.”
“The speech is ten pages of well-argued text, and good questions,” Editor Lauri Kontro continued. “The speech is structured, logical and authentic.”
He notes that Räsänen deals with values and lives, “Why does the animal protection law protect animals better than human welfare law [protects] people? Doctors in Finland cannot for reasons of conscience refuse to perform abortions; those [in other European countries] can refuse. Finland and Sweden are the exceptions. Why?”
On 16 July another large Finnish paper published a column by a noted journalist and commenter on theology, Heikki Ahonen, noting that the Church of Finland bishops were obviously frightened that Räsänen’s remarks would cost them members – and thus money.
Ahonen writes that the bishops should have said that the Lutheran Church agrees with Räsänen. He cites the Augsburg Confession’s Article XVI: “… it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws. The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)”
“This idea can be found in the Bible,” Ahonen concludes, “and this is the official doctrine of the Church.”
What Ahonen does not say, of course, is that although this is still the official doctrine of CoF on paper, the bishops have abandoned it. This is precisely the reason Confessional Lutherans recently formed the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese (ELMD).
Reflecting on these developments, Rev. Esko Murto, an STM graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary now serving a Helsinki congregation of the ELMD, offers the following thoughts:
It seems the CoF bishops panicked not necessarily out of theological conviction, but because they were afraid of losing more members. Two years back Päivi Räsänen made a comment in a nationally broadcast talk show, claiming that she considered homosexual behavior to be sinful. That resulted with over 40.000 people leaving the CoF. Some journalist has calculated that her comments have cost CoF over €11.000.000 (US$14 million) in lost tax money.
However, after the first uproar, I've been glad to see voices of reason emerging. The thing is, of course, that Räsänen never openly encouraged anyone to break the law - she simply said that we must weigh our actions with that possibility in mind. This was turned to mean that Räsänen is trying to impose some kind of a Christian sharia law into Finland, which of course was utter nonsense. After a while, some reporters and even liberal-leaning clergy got around to actually reading what she had said in the first place. Now there are other kinds of columns appearing – claiming that the media uproar was unfair and based on misunderstanding and misrepresenting. Many of these people don't necessarily share Räsänen's views, but they realize the witch-hunt some of their colleagues launched was simply absurd.
Foto: Jacob Corzine
Still, it remains to be seen whether this will go down as another case where classical Christian views were once again labeled as inhuman and absurd, or whether the overstatements and hysteria will actually backfire, leading people to ponder a bit about religious freedom and how it should be extended to Christians as well!
I'm afraid that while there might be some short-term sobriety on the horizon, the long-term trend is clear and becoming clearer still. There is less and less room for any kind of religion in the public square, even less for conservative Lutheranism.
And the sad thing with CoF bishops is of course that this would have been a perfect occasion for them to proclaim the truth to the large public but they (not surprisingly) just concentrated on saving their hides.
- Sources (in Finnish):
- Lauri Kontro, 17 July 2013: http://www.maaseuduntulevaisuus.fi/mielipiteet/punkti/r.43330
- Heikki Ahonen, 16 July 2013: