Transatlantic Tea Party Time?

Hilde Løvdal

Central figures in the right wing Christian media in Norway have expressed a deep admiration for conservative American Christians. Now, they want to put on the Tea Party mantel.

“We won America, now we must win in Norway.” So said a writer in Norge IDAG, a right wing Christian newspaper, in the aftermath of the American election earlier this month. Editor Finn Jarle Sæle has time and again stated his admiration for Sarah Palin, and the editorial from the November 8, 2010 on the election clearly expressed his admiration for Tea Partiers:

. . . They won America.

Now we must do the same in Norway. We must, like them, say that Jesus is the foundation of our laws. That’s what Norway’s first national legislation stated at Moster in 1024 and repeated in the Constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814.

The time has come to bring Norway back to the precious principles of our Constitution. Our nation needs a change based on the rule of law, which our fathers gave us. This is how they think in America. They quote George Washington. He said nobody can rule a nation with justice without God and the Bible. They quote the man who abolished slavery, the great Christian president Abraham Lincoln, who said the Bible is the foundation for the law of the land.

The Tea Party says no to socialism and no to secularization. They have said a strong yes to liberty. They elected a libertarian, Rand Paul, to the Senate. Because they know that ultimate freedom, or libertarianism, comes with finding Jesus Christ.

We know that only good, old Jesusland has freedom and prosperity. And we think that those who take away the philosophy of Christ and remove Jesus from our schools, kindergartens, and Constitution, take away our freedom and our prosperity. They surrender us to a controlling state unequipped to give us either freedom or benefits. As a last resort, the state tries to save itself with more and more taxes and more and more control.

So let’s stand up in the spirit of
Henrik Wergeland. Norge IDAG wishes to inspire extra-parlamentarian opposition, small and big tea parties. Soon, we too will win elections. We cannot follow the traditional methods that, for a long time, have led to losses for Christians. We win because we no longer just sit on the sofa. We win when we understand our possibilities as Christians. We are the largest people’s movement besides those that have formed around organized sports.

Our first task is to turn each pessimist into an optimist. We will claim God’s blessings over Norway. As before, Deut. 27 and 28 shall be fulfilled. When we follow God’s laws, we are the richest nation in the world. Then, we will start winning Nobel Prizes just as Israelis do. He puts us higher than any other nation, the Bible says, when we keep the covenant from Moster and Eidsvoll, which built Norway. It has helped our country so far, despite the infiltration of socialism and secularization . . .

This is just an excerpt, but you get the picture.

At a time when the more moderate Christian Democratic Party (est. 1933) struggles with massive loss of popular support and strives to find its way back to political power, right wing groups are networking heavily and taking cues from conservative American Protestantism.

Kristenfolket (The Christian People, or just The Christians), a coalition inspired by the Moral Majority, tries to encourage Norwegian Christians to vote for conservative political parties based on a nice bouquet of issues such as support for Israel, defense of traditional marriage, and Islamophobia. In 2009, Kristenfolket and other conservative Christians gathered at Moster, where the first national law based on Christianity was signed, to reclaim Norway for Christ and pray for God’s blessings over Norway. (If God really listened to their prayers, he must be a left wing social democrat.)

Whether they have actual political power or not is hard to estimate. But judging from their economy, they’re on the rise. While the Norwegian State Church, to which about 80% Norwegians belong, struggles to raise enough funds to create a reality show about the life of an ordinary minister, Visjon Norge, a charismatic right wing TV station has a record high offerings and a loyal base of viewers who donate money to the station.

As American style historical fundamentalism seems to seep into Norwegian fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and charismatic wings of Norwegian Christianity, I cling to the fact that Norway is a nation of coffee drinkers. I hope that keeps most of us sober.


Tom Van Dyke said…
It's been fascinating catching up on Norwegian politics as a result of this post, and thank God for google translator, from the original Norwegian.

But although there's a few wack things mixed in there, the sentiments are not quite fringe in Europe these days.
Tom Van Dyke said…
Sorry, if anyone was interested. Link."
Randall said…
Hilde: Excellent post. It's wild to see America's Christian Right politics in a funhouse mirror across the Atlantic. It's also fascinating that Norway has its own Bible Belt cinched around parts of the country. Does it also have a young evangelical left? I wonder if there's any action for the emergent church over there.
Hilde said…
Tom: Glad I can generate some interest in Norway!

Randall: Thanks!

Based on completely anecdotal evidence, I would say there is a some sort young evangelical left in Norway, usually based in cities and among people with higher education.

There are a couple of churches in Oslo that I guess would fit into emergent movement. One is non-demominational, the other belongs to a non-state church Lutheran denomination. They both stress being "culturally relevant" and mix tradition and innovation. Instead of rallying for political activism, they tend to stress interpersonal connections and international justice through NGOs.

Shane Claiborne is a great hero among many of them. So is Brian McLaren. Some are also often influenced by European traditions, for instance Taize movement and celtic traditions.

I'm not sure what the situation is like in other cities.

Again, this is just based on observations I've made over the years.
Tom Van Dyke said…
Actually, Randall, it's a lot more interesting than that.

From what I gather---and I hope Hilde will correct me if needed---the Christian Democrats are moribund, with support in the single digits. Most of the linked Christians were more concerned with the de-Christianization of the party.

The real analog to the Tea Party is the Progress Party, which has been marginalized by the political-media establishment since its inception in the 1970s as a sort of BNP, but now, combined with he Conservative Party, is polling a majority. [Although much may change before the elections in 2013.]


4.5 million people, 7 parties represented in parliament. Something for everyone.
Hilde said…
oh, you ask lots of big questions! I'll answer the best I can and hope it makes some sense.

The Christian Democrats had its glorydays in the late 90s, but it has never been as big as the Labor Party or the Conservative Party. Now, with record low support theparty looks to other European Christian Democratic parties for inspiration, where they do not require party officials to confess the Christian faith. The one who is likely to become the new leader has positioned himself as a voice of moderation and support of gay rights (to the despair of the right wingers who see it as part of the de-Christianization of Norway).

The Progressive Party does have ideological similarities with the Tea Party. In fact, it started in the 1970s as a party with a single goal: lower taxes. Over time, it has developed into a large populistic party that also call for individual order, law and order, and immigratin restriction. The party attracts a solid number of right wing Christians, mainly because of its strong support of Israel and hostility towards Islam (and despite its call for cheaper booze and easer access to porn).

However, I have not seen (so far?) the same conflation of then and now; of Christianity and the nation when I listen to the Progressive Party that I saw in the editorial from Norge IDAG.

In addition to the libertarian ideology, the the Norge IDAG editorial expresses some of the Tea Party movement's focus on the Constitution as a divinely inspired text/a document that express the will of God for the nation.
Kevin Taylor said…
With Robert Putnam and David Campbell's (and earlier, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer's) assertion that the increased secularism of America's younger cohorts is essentially a negative reaction against the Religious Right, shouldn't these "Norwegian Tea Partiers" think twice about trying to replicate those tactics there? Not that Norwegian young people are particularly religious anyway, at least compared the U.S. or some other nations . . .
Tom Van Dyke said…
Thx, Hilde. The set of Norway's dynamics is fascinating, and seems to me have more similarities to the US than most other European countries.

I'm not quite sure the Tea Parties make a direct connection of the Constitution with divine will, all there are surely some who try. But the surveys said only half the Tea Partiers are religious Right. There's a statistical correlation, but it may be more an overlap.

Cheaper booze and more porn? Now that's a platform that would fly bigtime in America!