Separation of Church and Everything

When I first got here, I met a drunk Brit (what are the odds?) who commented on America being identified as a Christian country.  He had a theory that America was still religious because God hadn't broken our hearts enough yet.  Though funny, I thought he was onto something.  America is relatively young, and it would make sense to establish some values and guidelines through religion.  It's been almost 240 years and America is still pretty Christian in general.  If someone is not Christian, then they normally observe something.  Atheists/Non-believers/Agnostics aren't so common.

I have yet to meet a Swede that openly states that they are Christian.  I do know one Muslim guy (originally from Ghana) that prays regularly.  But other than that… nothing.  I haven't seen one person here (except my mother when she came for the wedding) so much as pray over their food.  And she doesn't count!  Growing up, everybody prayed over their food.  People must be in trouble over here.  Is somebody going to choke?!  Actually, I'm pretty sure I prayed over that steak that almost killed me at my friend's house in front of his mom and grandma.  But I haven't heard about anyone choking to death due to not praying.  Interesting.

I don't know anyone here that goes to church.  Actually, I do.  This American guy.  He told me it was difficult to find a good church here, but he found it after some persistent searching.  He consoled me and told me that I would be able to find a church family as well.  And I didn't even say I was looking!  That's another difference.  Americans assume you're religious.  Especially a black man from the south.  I'm supposed to be a bible thumping, praise dancing, hymn-singing Christian.  It's the default there.  Here, it's the exception.  People look at you strangely if you wear your religion on your sleeve as many of us Americans do.  Since I've been here I've had two people say "God Bless" to me at the end of a conversation.  Both were American.  I was used to it back home, but it's strange to me now.  People just don't do that.  Maybe Sweden as a country just isn't familiar with the bible.  Or is it?

Here in Sweden, holidays are called "red days".  This country that is full of empty churches on Sunday has a day off to celebrate Jesus going back into heaven a few weeks after the resurrection (it falls towards the end of May).  What?!  I grew up in the church.  I was at church at least three days a week growing up and nobody mentioned Ascension Day!  I would have loved to have a day off of school because Jesus was hanging around for a few weeks making people feel guilty for doubting him and then he peaced out.  Come on, America.  What else is there, you ask?  How about Twelfth Night?  Ever heard of that?  I hadn't.  It's a holiday to celebrate the ending of the 12 days of Christmas.  It falls on the evening of the 5th of January.  So that would mean, right after "Winter Break" (called Christmas break when I was a kid before non-Christians started destroying America) we would be able to have another day off?!  It fell on a Monday (January 6th) this year.  Come on, America!  Do it for the kids!  If non-believing Sweden can do it, you can too.

The US Constitution says there will be a separation of church and state.  Then the president ends every speech with

      - God bless you, (Obama pause)... and (Obama pause)... God bless America.

What more "state" is there than the presidency?  But I grew up with this.  Every president says that at the end of their speech.  Every politician for that matter.  It was normal to me.  If there is a tragedy, a public official or news reporter or even teacher will express that the victims are in their prayers.  I remember a democratic primary debate where then-candidate Barack Obama had to clarify how Christian he was/is.  He even said something about believing Jesus Christ is his savior.  How is that relevant to his leadership and competence?  It was crazy.  Here in Sweden there is a political party called the Christian Democrats.  They NEVER say God bless Sweden.  They see Christianity as the foundation of their values, but never use it as the reason you should do this or that.  I like that approach.

When a rapper gets his award for his song about sex, drugs and other things, he is sure to thank his mom and god.  For if not for mom he wouldn't be here, and if not for God, he wouldn't have been blessed with the talent to rhyme "bitch" with "snitch".  Thanks God! Athletes too.  God has blessed all of the WINNERS with great abilities.  He wants them to win because the other athletes just don't pray enough.  Needless to say, that doesn't happen here.  If you come out and say thank god for this award people will think you're crazy.  The line of thought is, even if there is a god, he/she wouldn't be making sure you get that album just right while ignoring other tragedies in the world.

Sweden got this right.  There isn't any persecution of people that are religious.  It's just a private thing here.  Just like sexual orientation.  It's nobody's business.  Pray to whomever you please, but it doesn't need to be broadcasted.  In all actuality, wouldn't your higher power want it that way?  So go pray in private, my Christian Swedes.  It's your right.  You can even have a bunch of days off to observe special days.  The coolest part about it?  Everybody else has the day off too.  Until next time...

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