A week ago 50 year old managing director Karsten Riise Kristensen complained to the Danish Ministry of Justice that there is an image of the Crucified Christ on the inner sleeve of his Danish passport. As Mr. Kristensen states:
“I have a faith but I’m not a follower of any religion. I don’t believe in religious systems. Actually, I resigned from the Church of Denmark when I was 20 years old, so why should I be forced to carry a symbol of a system that I left?”
And Kristensen is firm in his belief of freedom from religiously infused citizenship apparel. He’s ready to take his complaint all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, should the Ministry of Justice not comply with his demand of erasing Jesus from the passports.
So far, the Ministry isn’t reacting. Neither are the Danes according to a majority in the parliament Folketinget. Jesus stays in the passports.
Let me give you a (very) brief update on the relationship between Danes and Jesus.
Before the Danes met Jesus, they believed in the Norse Gods, a merry fellowship of skull-smashing bearded brutes that told the Danes that if they died on the battlefield they would go directly to Valhalla and spend life in eternity eating meat and drinking mead and engaging in inter-Vikingial skull-smashing until the Last Day of Ragnarock when über Norse God Odin would summon them to fight against the evil skull-smashers of Asgard.
Jesus was born 965 years before the then King of Denmark, Harald Bluetooth, stated that all Danes believed in Jesus and his father, God. His announcement was made through the proper official channels of the time, a rune stone with a brisk statement specifying: “I’m Harald, son of Gorm and Thyra. I won all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian!” on one side and a relief of the Crucified Christ on the other. This stone, named the Jelling Stone after the village where Mr. Bluetooth saw fit to erect it, is also known as the Birth Certificate of Denmark.
The Birth Certificate
Danes were Catholics until 1536 when the then King Christian III decided that all this buying of indulgence and sending tithe to Rome was a load of bollocks, so from now on all Danes were Protestants and the church was a matter of state and Mr. Christian didn’t need the Pope because Chris was fully capable of taking care of his own clergymen, thank you very much.
Then democracy kicked in and in 1849 the Danes made themselves a constitution, the Grundlov. And when they reached the point of deciding their beliefs, their only frame of reference for dealing with these matters was 900 years of some head of state telling them what to believe in. “You are evangelical-Lutheran because I say so!” had been the mantra of the then King Frederik VII.
But the Danes were firm believers in democracy now so they became perky: “No, everybody should have the right to believe in whatever they want – except for you. YOU be evangelical-Lutheran, Mr. F!” and gave that circumstance its own paragraph, §6 to be precise. So it’s a constitutional right of every Dane – except the King or Queen – to make their own kind of peace with whatever kind of deity or lack thereof that they choose.
Today surveys show that only 5-6% of Danes believe in God.
82% of the Danes are members of the Church of Denmark and pay 1% of their combined income in Church Tax. Around 72% of newborn Danes are christened in churches. 42% of all weddings take place in churches. Danish priests are civil servants whose education and wages are paid for by the state.
This peculiarity derives from §4 in the Grundlov. In the concise linguistic tradition of Harald Bluetooth it states that “The evangelical-Lutheran Church is the Danish people’s church and as such supported by the State.” So you see, it’s in the law that a particular church is the Danish one – and everything Danish is good. That’s why a vast majority of Danes believe in not separating church and state and most Danes will tell you that Denmark, even though thoroughly secularised, has Christian values deep in its core and if you dig for that core they will tell you that it means we are compassionate, forgiving and love our neighbours.
So Denmark is full of grace, according to Danes. Let’s elaborate on that. Let’s go to Germany, the home of Martin Luther.
In his famous Theses Luther stipulates that salvation doesn’t come at the price of following rigid rules and regulations but is a gift from God to everyone and the only price you have to pay for eternal happiness is to meet the world with grace.
Unfortunately Danes have entered this bargain like cheap used car dealers and have done everything they can to pay as little grace as possible for the eternal happiness that they put in the marketplace of State-building Solutions. They have fully embraced the concept that the similarly German but much later theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”.
Bonhoeffer was killed by the Nazis a few days before WW2 ended in 1945 for his role in the German Anti-Nazi Resistance. Bonhoeffer was serious about his grace, you see. He thought that grace without repentance, the willingness to change ones behaviour, was cheap. If you discover harmful doings that inflict unhappiness on your neighbour, you should make an effort to stop those harmful doings - practice ”costly grace”, not just feel sorry for him and turn the other cheek.
We’ve already covered the Danes’ attitude towards change, so let’s not go deeper into that now. Let me just give you an example of the fact that when believing gets tough, Danes choose not to believe.
During the last year, Denmark has seen two different but equally high-profile cases of whether or not people should be forced to leave the country.
Back in the late 1990s a Danish woman called Camilla Broe played an active role in arranging the transportation of some 100,000 Ecstasy pills from the Netherlands to Miami, USA. She has confirmed this herself. When the American police confront her with their investigation in 2001 she goes back to Denmark where she was protected under the rules of extradition between Denmark and USA.
But those rules were changed as a part of the new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2007. This means that Camilla Broe can be extradited to USA for trial and, if found guilty, returned to Denmark to serve her sentence. In September 2009 she arrives in Florida, but the trial ends in February 2010 with the charges being statute-barred. By 1st of March she’s back in Denmark pending the ruling of the Miami Prosecutor’s complaint about the first ruling.
During the last 12 years around 17,000 Iraqi citizens have applied for asylum in Denmark. Approx 12,500 have been granted asylum and 4,500 have had their application denied. Of the latter, 4,200 have left the country as of May 2009, but 282 have refused to leave due to the violent situation in the regions of Iraq that they fled from originally. On the 15th of May last year the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs declares that it has signed an agreement with the Iraqi government about forced extradition, and on 16th May, 70 Iraqis seek refuge in the Church of Brorson in Copenhagen.
The night between the 12th and 13th August the police enter the church and start putting the Iraqi families on flights to Iraq.
So far so good.
Camilla Broe hasn’t denied taking part in drug trafficking. But she claims that it was a result of Battered Woman Syndrome; that her actions should be seen as the consequence of the violent domestic environment she endured at the time. She also states that since the criminal acts that she is charged for happened 12 years ago and that she is now the sole provider for a daughter, the charges against her should be dropped.
The Iraqis had all received and taken note of the refusal of their asylum application, but claimed that the situation in Iraq was too violent to make it possible for them to comply with the Ministry’s decisions and that several of them had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Danish doctors. They also claimed that their children were born and raised in Denmark, had never visited Iraq and only spoke Danish since that was the language spoken at school.
Two cases pleading for the compassion, forgiveness and neighbour-loving of Danes. But with one difference: To meet Camilla Broe with grace would also constitute criticism of the American Justice System. No problem there. Never waste a good opportunity to badmouth foreign countries. But to meet the Iraqis with grace would constitute criticism of the Danish Justice System – and we can’t have that now, can we?
This difference showed up immediately in opinion polls.
60% of Danes think that Camilla Broe should be acquitted of all charges, 18% even think she should be paid some sort of compensation for her troubles. 27% think the trial against her should be allowed to proceed.
53% of Danes think that the extradition of Iraqi families was the right thing to do. 54% find it all right for the police to enter the church at night and transport men, women and children away in buses to prisons and airports. 32% think they should have been allowed to stay due to extraordinary circumstances.
So if you ask the Danes about Jesus, they will tell you that he is welcome to stick around and do his grace-thing as long as he also does something Danish while he’s here. They will even comply with most of his demands for the human race as long as it doesn’t in any way, shape or form impair the Danes’ right to love themselves unconditionally.
That’s why Mr. Kristensen will have to come to peace with the fact that the Crucified Christ will be represented in the colour of dusty beetroot in his passport for eternity.