Sects, Lies, & Asatru:
a Rebuttal to
the Swedish-Finnish Congregation
© 2002-05 by Ingeborg S. Nordén
(Klicka på flaggan om du vill läsa den här sidan på svenska.)
While browsing through a message board maintained by the Swedish Asatru Society, I came across one post with the header "Read this and have a good laugh." It contained a link to an alleged interview between "Erik" (a former follower of Asatru) and Pastor Fredrik Dahlman (who leads the Swedish-Finnish Congregation at Sundsvall). Like most of the people who responded to that message on the board, however, I was not amused--instead, I felt angry and shocked.
Several Swedish Heathens have dismissed the whole site as a parody or a hoax: a darker, more mean-spirited version of anti-fundamentalist web sites like that of the fictional " Landover Baptist Church". (Pastor Dahlman's obsession with homosexuals and Communists appears in so many of his articles, that some readers might take them as a caricature of fundamentalist Christianity before the Cold War.)
Some language used in the "interview" does suggest that the site creator meant it as fiction, no matter how badly it was written and researched. First, a former follower of Asatru would refer to his "priests" as godar rather than präster in Swedish. (Most Asatru groups--especially those located in Scandinavia itself!--make a point of using Norse religious terminology.) Second, no sincere convert to Christianity would sprinkle his language with more profanity than a typical Eddie Murphy screenplay. (Since "Erik" is interviewing the pastor of his new church, that becomes even less believable: being homosexual is a grave sin, but swearing is not? Pastor Dahlman has obviously never preached against sinful speech, even though the New Testament condemns it in several places!)
Even if we assume that the "interview" is fictional, it does not prove that the Swedish-Finnish Congregation at Sundsvall is also fictional--nor that Pastor Dahlman's attitudes towards and knowledge about Asatru differ from those on the church's web site. Fundamentalist churches have always encouraged conversion or persecution by telling malicious, inaccurate stories about people who follow other religions. The so-called blood libel against Jews is the best-known example; however, people who follow completely non-Biblical religions often endure similar treatment. (Jack T. Chick has published misleading information about Wicca and Buddhism in his gospel tracts; elsewhere on Chick's site, an interview with a former Wiccan high priest strongly resembles Pastor Dahlman's "interview".)
Because no disclaimer or humor in a lighter vein appears elsewhere on the Swedish-Finnish Congregation's pages, I assume that this church actually exists [a mistaken assumption--see update #1 below], authorized the "interview" article, and teaches what it claims to teach. (Although I am unsure about whether a similar law exists in Sweden, U.S. law normally requires writers to label parodies and works of fiction as such--so that they cannot be sued for libel or copyright violation.)
With those assumptions in mind, I composed a letter to Pastor Dahlman and e-mailed it to the church recently: the complete text follows the disclaimers below.
1. I am aware that some Asatru groups do sacrifice live food animals as part of ritual feasts; the comments in my letter are not meant to denigrate this practice, but refer instead to the sacrifice of cats and dogs as described by "Erik" in the interview article. (He claimed that this practice was a mandatory initiation rite for followers of Asatru.)
2. I am also aware that some Heathens may indeed be homosexual; my remarks in the letter below are meant to refute "Erik's" allegation that Heathens are required to be homosexual and to campaign aggressively for gay rights.
3. Finally, I am aware that a few Heathens (especially those dedicated to the Vanir deities) may practice ritual sex with consenting adults in private. However, my letter is meant to refute "Erik's" allegation that ritual orgies, including homosexual rape by "high-ranking priests", are an essential or even widely accepted part of Asatru worship.
1. I am aware that not all Christians dismiss other faiths as Satanic; however, that is the position taken by Dahlman in the original article.
2. I am also aware that many Satanists do not follow the ritual practices which "Erik" claimed to see at an Asatru initiation ritual. However, those practices are associated with the popular media perception of Satanism--the only one I knew at the time I corresponded with Dahlman.
3. Finally, I am aware that Christians, Jews and Noachides may disagree strongly with my interpretation of the Bible passages cited below. Please read my warning to missionaries before corresponding with me about this; if you reserve the right to dismiss my holy texts as mythological, or re-interpret them in the light of your beliefs, then I reserve the right to treat your holy texts similarly.
Från: "Ingeborg S. Nordén"
Till: [address deleted]
Ämne: "Bearing false witness" about Asatru
Datum: Friday, August 16, 2002 12:48 AM
Dear Mr. Dahlman:
I have been Asatru for ten years and participated in several public rituals--both in Sweden and in the United States; most of those rituals were led by high members of the clergy. NOT EVEN ONCE did I see a live animal sacrificed, "initiates" locked in cells, ritual sex (homoerotic or otherwise), or any of the other vile acts described in your "interview". Nor have I ever been required to undergo any rituals similar to those described by "Erik" in your alleged interview with a former follower of Asatru.
Furthermore, most followers of Asatru consider homosexuality as morally unacceptable as some Christians do; they can quote numerous passages in the Eddas and other Norse historical texts, which show that even *accusing* someone of homosexuality was a serious crime. Black magic, blood sacrifice, and ritual homosexuality are NOT the "alpha and omega" of Heathenry as "Erik" allegedly stated--those practices may be common in Satanic sects, but not in anything seriously claiming to be based on Nordic tradition.
As for Communist political leanings, the typical Heathen is more likely to be an extreme RIGHT-winger if he's extreme at all: the average, moderate follower of Asatru in Sweden has to worry about being stereotyped as a Neo-Nazi rather than a Communist!
The accusation that "Asatru is about hating and murdering everybody who isn't Asatru, Communist or homosexual" is equally baseless. Most of us have close friends from many religious and political backgrounds; most of us also believe that murder is evil and dishonorable. The Eddas themselves list murderers among the few people whose misdeeds deserve punishment by torture in the afterlife.
Because you are a Christian pastor, I assume that you know the Ten Commandments--one of which forbids "bear[ing] false witness against [one's] neighbor". In other words, lying about what other people have done is a serious sin; your representing that "interview" as a typical Asatru viewpoint *does* violate the Eighth Commandment. I urge you to consider removing that page from your church's web site: though I am no longer Christian and extremely unlikely to convert, I agree with Jesus that hypocrisy is a terrible wrong.
Ingeborg S. Nordén
P.S. I would be writing this in Swedish, but my Scandinavian friends know that when I use English among Swedes, I am extremely angry and upset.
Updates and corrections
Apparently, so many Asatru followers have already written in to protest the "Interview" page that another pastor thought an official statement from the Swedish-Finnish Congregation was necessary. His article repeats the standard fundamentalist Christian argument that all non-Biblical faiths are forms of Satanism, whether their adherents accept that "truth" or not. In my opinion, this is merely a straw-man argument. First, members of any religion can claim that someone else's gods do not exist, or that they are merely the "true" religion's demons by another name. Those who equate Asatru with Satanism often assume that someone knows about dozens of fallen angels who use Nordic names and forms as a disguise--but that he still brazenly defies Christianity by refusing to recognize the situation. One might as well claim the opposite, that the Biblical God and angels are evil spirits from the Nordic tradition who use false names and appearances to deceive the Middle Eastern peoples: although I myself would not seriously make that suggestion, I know some Heathens who have indeed turned the typical Christian fundamentalist's argument upside-down.
Second, worshiping anything presumes that someone already believes that thing exists. Because Asatru is based in the Eddas, the sagas, and Nordic folklore rather than in the Bible, it's hard to back an assertion that Heathens believe in angels at all--"fallen" or otherwise. It's true that the Scandinavians who recorded the lore were Christian, but most of it tells about pre-Christian events, customs, and beliefs. Separating original Nordic religion and later Christian influence is not always easy; yet when later lore does mention Christianity explicitly, it comes to Scandinavia through foreign missionaries or Norsemen who have converted abroad. Narrators most often distinguish between "the old [Heathen] tradition" and "the new [Christian] tradition"; but the old tradition has nothing to do with either Christ or Satan, nothing to do with either angels or devils. Thor fights giants and trolls to help humankind, not to entice souls into hellfire; Odin allows heroes to die in battle but rewards them afterwards; and Freyr grants good harvests and peace without hiding some sinister motive.
Third, several passages in the Old Testament imply that other deities are real, legitimate beings rather than demons in disguise. Those are too numerous to list here, but any Bible search engine or Bible-contradiction site should help locate neutral and even positive references to "other gods". The most notable is a prophecy in the Book of Micah (chapter 4) which describes religious practice during the future reign of the Messiah:
3 And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
Clearly, some people who are neither Jews nor Christians must be allowed to continue their traditional beliefs even though the Hebrew God is rebuking and judging their nations for other sins. If the gods they follow were mere aspects of Satan, "walking in [their] name[s]" would hardly be permitted!
Despite the church's public fire-and-brimstone denunciation of Asatru, the site owner replied to me in a very different style. Using a childlike play-distortion of Swedish, he remarked sarcastically: "I really don't care what Asatru is about, although to be honest I think it's cute that you try to revive forgotten folk traditions by dressing in folk costumes and playing Viking. I respect your choice to do whatever you want, as long as I don't have to see any of it!" This suggests that "Erik" was actually aware of how Asatru is popularly misperceived, but that he ignored those stereotypes in favor of a lurid description consistent with his church's fear of Satanism, Communism and homosexuality.
Some of my Heathen friends have even speculated that "Erik" is an atheist who hates Christianity and Asatru equally, and created a parody church site to show all religion from the worst viewpoint possible. Even if that is true, however, misguided Christians have taken such parodies out of context and treated them as true rumors: when the Onion (a satirical weekly paper) printed a "news" story about a school-age child being led into Satanism by the Harry Potter books, the story began circulating without any hint of the original source or intent. Because quoting an anti-Heathen parody out of context might cause similar misunderstandings, I am leaving this article on my web site to warn fellow Heathens of the consequences.
The "Swedish-Finnish Congregation" site has been entirely deleted. I have no idea whether that happened for economic reasons, personal ones, or a Terms of Service violation against Crosswinds (the site owner's web host). Although I am relieved to see the offending pages disappear, it's possible that some still-existing Christian site in Sweden has taken them seriously and quoted them. My rebuttal will remain here, as stated before.
Background courtesy of The Background Boutique.