During the ending days of 2018 I read probably the most scathing indictment of European secularism and atheism I ever came across. It is the recently published „Seven Types of Atheism” by the former London School of Economics professor and philosopher John Gray.
What makes this book additionally painful for non-theists is that its author is an avowed atheist. I will write more on this subject and his book later on when I have more time, but for now it suffices to say that, while Gray is critical of religion in general, he is even more critical – and unashamedly so – of secularism, secularists, and atheistic thought.
He concludes that atheism and secularism have been more harmful to humanity and more responsible for its misfortunes (including wars, famine, human killings and genocide) than all religions of the world combined. What is more lamentable, however, is that, according to Gray, secularism and atheism have reached this unenviable status in only a few hundred years.
As one running for the European Parliament in the May 2019 elections I found this book troubling and Professor Gray’s assessments disturbing. I also found myself asking whether the future of Europe would best be served by more atheism and secularism at the helm of power or by more faith, prudence, sobriety, and Christian values. I think by now most readers know where I stand.
It is not only my faith that makes me believe that Christian values are the answer but also a unique event which occurred in my life in December 2017 in Peru. That encounter gave me hope that Norway, currently the most secularized and atheistic country in the world, can, once again, become a fervent Christian nation as it once was in the Nineteenth Century when it sent out large numbers of missionaries throughout the world.
The same encounter gives me hope that the same God who can change Norway can likewise change the entire European Union. For better. And as we pray for Norway, let us also pray for the European Union and pledge to make this a priority in 2019.
NOTE: The below narrative was written in January 2018 and I am reposting it again now, at the end of the year, in its original form.
PRAYERS FOR NORWAY
During the second half of December (2017) I spent several days in a fishing village on Peru’s northern coast relaxing, resting, running, and reading the Word. At night I would attend worship at two of the several but small evangelical churches in the village. Besides me there was another “gringo” in attendance, a young man in his mid to late 30s.
The first evening I attended church we did not speak, but the next time we did. He approached me wondering where I was from and what I was doing there. I told him I was on vacation and, when asked, I told him I was a Christian. He opened up and over the next 15 to 20 minutes, almost without stopping, told me his life story. One that remained imprinted in my memory, I did not want to forget, and wanted to share with those who read my occasional Facebook posts to encourage and urge them to pray for Norway. And for their own countries. Prayer is not in vain and, like Apostle Paul says in one of his epistles, prayer is not “batting against air.”
The young man told me his name which I have forgotten but sounded Scandinavian. He told me he was from Norway, had married a Peruvian woman, had two children with her, and decided it was in the best interest of his family, and especially the children, to raise them in Peru. His wife, whom I did not meet, was from Northern Peru. They decided they could not raise their children in Norway’s secularized environment and wanted to raise them in a more traditional, family friendly environment. Peru certainly is the place for that, which explains their relocation there where they live in a nearby village.
He told me he accepted Christ and had become a Christian some two years ago. I could see his passion for Christ and his faith in his demeanor and almost incessant talking. I merely listened and briefly answered some of his questions. He had been born and raised in a Christian home. His Lutheran parents faithfully and regularly attended church. No one in his neighborhood claimed not to be a Christian and most neighbors attended church. Including him.
But, as Norway became increasingly secular in the 1990s when he attended school, things changed dramatically and drastically for the worse. He lost religion, his faith, and God. The aggressive secularist teachings in Norway’s schools made it virtually impossible for him and his peers to maintain their faith and believe in God. They became atheist en masse. They felt estranged from their parents, other believers, the past, tradition, and the church. They became convinced there was no God, no hereafter, and began to ridicule everything and everyone who remained attached to God, religion, and traditional values. Norway’s children and youth became spiritual wards of the secular state, thinking in secularist terms, speaking in secularist terms, and rejecting anything Christian.
The nineties and the first decade of the new century were years of depravity, decadence, and immorality in Norway and Scandinavia. The young Norwegian, too, had embraced secular values and behaved just like the overwhelming majority of Norway’s secularized youth. After high school, he got a good job working in the oil fields of the North Sea. He worked a lot of overtime and earned exorbitant wages. What was there to do with the money? The state provided for the citizens’ needs and the money became a vehicle to satisfy the flesh. Soon, my Norwegian friend turned to alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality, and frequent trips to Southern Europe’s beaches. In the midst of it all he did not think of God. He had become completely secularized. There was no God. There was no need to be responsible. He was like the overwhelming majority of Norway’s youth of his day: aloof and bereft of any religious feelings.
But his parents kept on praying. He married, and married life, and especially the birth of his children, made him realize that his secular life style was not conducive to raising a family or having a stable marriage. He began to think and ponder. His wife believed in God and prayed for him, too. Gradually, he underwent the radical transformation known so well to all of us from the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke. He repented. He moved his family to Peru but, to provide for his family, periodically returns to Norway to work, earn wages, and then returns to Peru to be with his family and raise his children. An admirable about face indeed.
My Norwegian friend, however, told me additional details about contemporary Norway which I did not know and which made me cringe and commit to pray for Norway. People in their 60s, 70, and 80s, he said, pray for Norway daily. When this generation of faithful Norwegian Christians will die out, he added, there will be no one to pray for Norway or its people. Which means, he continued, that Norway will die in 50 years. Abortion, sexual immorality, hedonism, population decline, living for today, he said, is killing Norway at an alarming pace. What many generations of Norwegians have built over many centuries, including the very race of people called Norwegian, is likely to disappear before the end of the 21st Century.
But he provided one additional detail about Norway which made be shudder. His generation and their children are atheists, do not know how to pray, and have no interest in God or prayer. Who will pray for Norway, he asked rhetorically, after the generation of his parents and his grandparents dies out?
Have you ever thought about this? I am convinced that many of my readers pray for Romania, the United States, Poland, Norway or the countries in which they live. Has it ever crossed your mind that there might come a time when there will be no one left to pray for the country, city, or community in which you live? Or for Europe? Or the United States? A frightening thought no doubt. Let’s pray this prospect never becomes reality.
Pray for Norway!