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> An Interview With The Swedish Archbishop
MindsWideOpen
post Jan 24 2004, 11:30 PM
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Hello people of Wikipedia.


As I have some time on my hands and not much is happening on the boards, I decided to translate an interview with the Swedish archbishop KG Hammar, just to see your reactions. In case you're wondering why the article focus so much on the countryside, it's because that's what the magazine is about (it's even named "Land", which means country).

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KG Hammar - an unusual archbishop

"The church is like the soccer club"

[PHOTO]
A modern church, open for all, is the vision of archbishop KG Hammar. He believes that the renewal of the Church of Sweden comes from the country side.

He is a genuine country bumpkin - the archbishop of the Church of Sweden. KG Hammar tells Land's Annika Boltegård about the struggles, the faith and the calm life in the country. For him the church has a place in the village as natural as that of the soccer team.


By Annike Boltegård


I grew up in a small village in Skåne where most people were farmers, says KG Hammar.

The name of the village is Norra Rörum, where about 300 people lived and where his upbringal in the rectory has affected him.

- I'm very much a country person in my outlook, especially concerning the church. In the countryside the church is still very natural. It's part of the villages identity, just like the soccer club.

AB: Is it true that you started cooperating with the soccer clubs in the diocese of Lund when you were a bishop there?
- Yes, as it's often the same people who attend church and are in soccer clubs in the country. You went to each others events, so this time-planning made things a lot easier.


LIVING WITH THE STRUGGLES
The 185 centimeters tall archbishop has sat down in one of the small, red sofas in his office. He looks relaxed when we talk about the countryside - it is a bit calmer than the struggles he has had to live with.

The latest was the "Jesus debate". This spring the leaders of the Baptist movement and the Catholic church went through the roof when the archbishop said in an interview that he had difficulties in believing in the virgin birth as a biological fact.

KG Hammar is the archbishop who wants to bring the church into the 21st century. Doubt is a part of faith, according to him. And the church should not stand in the way of people's way to God with demands of biblical literalism. Especially since the Bible and the Gospels sometimes give contradictory pictures and no scientific truth, they have to be interpreted.

Judging from the contents of the mail baskets he seems to have the support of the people. Nearly all letter writers support him, people seem to be relieved.

AB: Are there no "musts" in the Christian faith?
- There are, according to Jesus it's the message of love. Everything else is exemplifications. Jesus leaves a lot of room around the faith. He does tell anyone that you have to think like this or believe like that. Jesus rather say: follow me and it'll show. Every individual is responsible for their faith and to interpret if what they're doing is loving.

AB: Then what's the use of priests and bishops, if they're not supposed to guide us?
- There are different ways of guiding. You can guide by deepening the questions. The faster you get an answer, the less it affects you. It's when you drill wider that you mature, I believe. The role of the church should be more supportive than to tell exactly what every human being should do.

AB: Isn't there a risk that Christianity becomes a "feel-good religion", without demands?
- No, faith is each and everyone's own responsibility. What's the alternative? We cannot reintroduce the old guardian church.

AB: But Jesus was quite strict sometimes and spoke about sin. To the women he saved from stoning he said: Go now, and sin no more.
- You have no idea how many letters I get with that question. My answer is that Jesus made no demands. Those who accept the Gospel gets Jesus' request to stay in it and not shield themselves from each other and from God. That is what sin is.

AB: Isn't that quite far from the catalogue of sins of the old days?
- That we talk less about sin today isn't because that we don't believe that it doesn't exist, but because the concept of sin has become so banal. In former times silly things like going to the cinema or wearing nail polish could be considered sinful.

During the interview the archbishop noticed that I threw a gaze at the bottle of mineral water. He quickly asked me if I wanted some and filled my glass.

He seems mild and kind. Those who know him describes him as warm, generous and as a person who never speaks ill about other people. He brightens up when I tell him that.

- It makes me happy. It's a conscious choice of mine, to attack structures and not individuals. We humans can be victims of circumstances.


CAUSED GREAT COMMOTION
Still this gentle man has managed to irritate so many that you from time to time nearly could smell the anger from all angry letters that have arrived to the cathedral office.

The greatest commotion he caused was in 1998, when he supported the dean of Uppsala's decision to show the photo exhibit Ecce Homo in the cathedral. On provocative pictures homosexuals and transvestites played the roles of Jesus and the disciples.

A bitter debate was evoked about homosexuality and how you can portray Jesus. The Pope fueled the debate by cancelling a meeting with the archbishop.

AB: Is it true that you yourself had difficulties with some of the pictures?
- Yes, but that wasn't the issue. This was about homosexuals, a group who have a hard time to feel at home in the church. Should pictures which in a very charged way illustrated their part in Jesus be removed just because we found them difficult on a personal level? Then we would have sent the signal that the church and the homosexuals are two different worlds which are not to be mixed.


FRIGHTENING REACTIONS
The reactions were frighteningly strong from some directions. Hate, intolerance and homophobia, but also gratefulness and relief.

- We had two piles of letters, they were about the same size all of the time. There were a lot of emotions.

AB: Were you threatened? Did you need a body guard?
- No, there were more threats of hell than physical threats.

KG Hammar is also known for his political statements. Several moderate (Sweden's party furthest to the right) politicians thinks that he is leftist when he criticise greedy CEOs or encourages a boycott of Israeli merchandise, for example.

AB: In Sweden's largest congregation, in Täby north of Stockholm, an investigation shows that they lose members every time you make a statement.
- I don't know how true it is. But in that case I guess it's people who don't share the same basic political values as I do. But it's really not about me but about the church, which has a duty to show solidarity with the poor people in the world. I usually comfort myself with that we often get evidence that many stay in the church because of my statements.

AB: Should the church really interfere in the politics?
- Some of our tools as Christians are collective. They're not less interesting from the perspective of God than the individual tools. To be like the merciful Samaritan today can mean to make sure that there are enough resources in health care - not just to take action if someone falls in front of me in the street.


GOD CANNOT DO EVERYTHING
AB: If God is almighty and good, why does he allow cruelty and suffering?
- We can only speculate about that. But for me God isn't almighty in the regard that God can do anything anytime.

AB: What do you mean?
- If God is love it means that he cannot use force at all. Because love wants response from someone who is free. Not from someone who is forced to love back or love their next, but is free to do so.

AB: But is it right that innocent are affected when others choose evil?
- That's the price of love. This is where the cross comes in, love is suffering and self giving, but never leaves the track of love.

AB: Does that give any comfort or hope to all of those who suffer today?
- No, I don't think that there is a meaning behind everything that happens. It would be a twisted image of God, if God can interfere but does not. Hope is that everything that works against the love of God will eventually have to yield and that the realm of God will come.

AB: Where did the old man with a white beard go? A personal God who saw everything that we did and could punish and reward us.
- Every time has its own image of God. There used to be very human images of God, all old paintings and such. That we don't have today. But the Christian faith still remains personal - if God is love then it's no diffuse feeling but a relation. When we humans imagine relations it's between an I and an you.

AB: Does a human being have a free will? We are very much controlled by our abilities.
- We do not decide the frame of our faith, but surely its contents, writes Dag Hammarsköld in his book Vägmärken. We are genetically decided, socially and culturally decided, In that regard we are not free from scratch, but we make a lot of decisions all the time about what we ourselves want to prioritise and about what is important.

AB: Do you think that God uses humans as his tool?
- It appears to be that way. The human being has a responsibility as a free and conscious actor. And God is active and needs our participation. You have to be ready and waiting.

AB: What is the reward?
- That God gives of himself. Not because we have earned it but as a gift of mercy. And I believe in sowing and reaping, it's my country background. If you sow love then God will guarantee that it was not in vain. Even if you may not get to reap it yourself.

As archbishop KG Hammar is the foremost representative for the Church of Sweden, with 2 200 congregations and 7,2 million members (total population of Sweden ~ 9 million).

Travelling around the country and meeting employees and members of the congregations gives him energy and inspiration. But also a large number of problems to get involved in.


ALWAYS ANSWERING QUESTIONS
The most exhausting thing about the job is to always be expected to deliver statements and opinions in all kinds of issues.

Four times a year he takes a "time-out" for research and spiritual development, for which he take a whole week off at a time.

Normally he recharges his batteries by running. The archbishop is vigorous and can without problems run several tens of kilometers a week.
- Could. Now one of my knees is hurting and I can't run in the same fashion. I'll have to learn to live in my aging body, he says and smiles.


[Factbox]
Name: Karl Gustav Hammar
Age: 60 years
Profession: Archbishop since 1997
Family: His wife Inger, high school teacher and Ph.D. Five adult children (none of them are going to be a priest)
How he wants to work as an archbishop: "It's not we who are looking for the effort, it's the effort who are looking for us. A quote from Dag Hammarskjöld. It's a kind of trust that it's God and not us who are supposed to arrange everything. But that we shall not fail when the questions draw near."


[EDIT] Made it a bit more easily readable.

[EDIT] Corrected some typos.
[EDIT] Correct even more typos as I saw a guest reading it.
[EDIT] Tidied up some language and typos, said hello to the Wikipedia people. But really, I'm not a reputable source.

This post has been edited by MindsWideOpen: Nov 10 2007, 07:15 PM
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Ralph Wiggum
post Jan 24 2004, 11:37 PM
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Interesting. Probably better belongs in Philosophy, though.
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 25 2004, 12:06 AM
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It's religion lite! 20% less meaningful than even the anglican church!
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 25 2004, 12:13 AM
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cuntslut
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I see a lot of meaning in his words. What are you missing?
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Allon
post Jan 25 2004, 12:25 AM
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Thanks MWO. Quite interesting.
Sound like one of our enfant terrible bishops...

This post has been edited by Allon: Jan 25 2004, 12:27 AM
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True Liberal
post Jan 26 2004, 12:15 PM
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He shares many of my own thoughts on religion. I'm glad that he's our archbishop, since I've decided not to leave the swedish church.
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 28 2004, 03:19 AM
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"There are, according to Jesus it's the message of love. Everything else is examplifications. Jesus leaves a lot of room around the faith. He does tell anyone that you have to think like this or believe like that. Jesus rather say: follow me and it'll show. Every individual is responsible for their faith and to interpret if what they're doing is loving."

This is what I was talking about.

"AB: But Jesus was quite strict sometimes and spoke about sin. To the women he saved from stoning he said: Go now, and sin no more.
- You have no idea how many letters I get with that question. My answer is that Jesus made no demands. Those who accept the evangelium gets Jesus' request to stay in it and not shield themselves from eachother and from God. That is what sin is."

And this.
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Demo
post Jan 28 2004, 06:44 AM
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Jeeze, we have an Archbishop for our city!
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mhallex
post Jan 28 2004, 02:19 PM
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QUOTE (Demosthenes @ Jan 28 2004, 02:44 AM)
Jeeze, we have an Archbishop for our city!

We've got multiple ones here (IMG:http://www.utopia-politics.com/forums/style_emoticons/default/tongue.gif)
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 28 2004, 05:30 PM
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cuntslut
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QUOTE (Sir Buckethead @ Jan 28 2004, 04:19 AM)
"There are, according to Jesus it's the message of love. Everything else is examplifications. Jesus leaves a lot of room around the faith. He does tell anyone that you have to think like this or believe like that. Jesus rather say: follow me and it'll show. Every individual is responsible for their faith and to interpret if what they're doing is loving."

This is what I was talking about.

That's about the individual's individual relationship to God, and that the "rules" are not to be taken literally. This means a transformation from a religion of law (as is common in, for example, the US) to a religion of virtue.

QUOTE
"AB: But Jesus was quite strict sometimes and spoke about sin. To the women he saved from stoning he said: Go now, and sin no more.
- You have no idea how many letters I get with that question. My answer is that Jesus made no demands. Those who accept the evangelium gets Jesus' request to stay in it and not shield themselves from eachother and from God. That is what sin is."

And this.

Which is a response to a theological argument and, more importantly, a redefinition of sin, yet again away from law and towards virtue (or in this case, vice).
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 29 2004, 12:26 AM
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"That's about the individual's individual relationship to God, and that the "rules" are not to be taken literally. This means a transformation from a religion of law (as is common in, for example, the US) to a religion of virtue."

I don't understand. Are you agreeing with me?
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 29 2004, 01:34 AM
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cuntslut
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No, I'm talking about what it means, what its significance is and thereby why it's not void of meaning
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 29 2004, 01:54 AM
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reducing everything to personal relativism is severely unbiblical.
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 29 2004, 02:19 AM
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Not relativism, but contact with God. There is no less relativist thing.
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 29 2004, 05:48 AM
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Oh, I am well aware of what he calls it.

I'm worried about what he lets slip at hte expense of his happy christianity.
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 29 2004, 07:29 PM
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That's what we call a difference in faith, not being meaningless.
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Sir Buckethead
post Jan 29 2004, 11:42 PM
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You don't think two different things can be more or less meaningfull?
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MindsWideOpen
post Jan 30 2004, 12:51 AM
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Yes, but I don't think two different things have to be more or less meaningful.
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MindsWideOpen
post Feb 23 2005, 03:54 PM
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Just thought that I should top this to contrast with Sephiroth's thread about the Pope.

(IMG:http://www.kyrkanstidning.com/arkiv/2003/kt08/nyheter/bilder/hammar.jpg)


Also, something I just noticed while re-reading this thread: Yes there is just an archbishop for the entire country of Sweden, but that's because the archbishop is the head of the now former state church (the state and the (state) church got separated just a few years ago). So in a sense, it's similar to how there is just a pope for the entire Roman Catholic church (although the archbishop does not have a similar theological status to the pope).
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Arilou
post Feb 23 2005, 10:01 PM
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Actually isn't there a catholic archbishop as well? He's not the archbishop of the church of Sweden but of the Catholic Church in Sweden of course...
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MindsWideOpen
post Feb 24 2005, 10:45 AM
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That is beyond my knowledge. But considering how many (few) Catholics there are here, I suppose that it would be a waste to have more than one archbishop, but presumably they still want at least one high representative. So it sounds about right.
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gnuneo
post Mar 19 2007, 08:48 PM
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interesting. The protestant faith seem closer to the original one, in this respect.
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