It’s day 3 of our “Around the World in 40 days” Lenten series. We’re traveling the world through our computers and devices, checking in with our fellow Christians and learning some new things. So far we’ve visited Cameroon and Wallis & Futuna.
Today we’re skipping over to Sweden.
The first part of writing process is for me to randomly open up to a country in my copy of Jason Mandryk’s Operation World. When I was preparing for today’s post and opened to Sweden, I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled. It just seemed to commonplace after Cameroon and the islands in the South Pacific.
But, this morning I was convicted to commit to Sweden and keep my end of the bargain.
So, here we go. It’s Friday, so we’re going to have a little fun with this one.
First off, let me say you’ve got to love a country whose tagline for their official website is
“You know that Sweden is not Switzerland, right? We’ve got the coast and the moose, but Switzerland costs the most. Discover more about Sweden!”
I love a country with a sense of humor!
You also have to love a country who spells out their views on religion on their official website in 10 easy to read points. But, I’ll get to that later.
First, let’s have a look around Sweden.
To play along with Sweden’s little joke on Switzerland, let’s take a look at the map.
I don’t understand why people get Sweden confused with Switzerland. They don’t even border one another! Ha!
Sweden is about 1,013 miles from Switzerland, and is the 3rd largest country in the European Union in terms of land. It has a population of 10 million.
It’s capital Stockholm, is spread across 14 islands and is the host of the Nobel ceremonies and museum, among many, many other wonderful things. Like it’s parent country, the city also has a fun website where you can learn all sorts of things.
Surprisingly, Sweden’s climate is much milder than I would have expected.
July temperatures in Sweden average 13 to 17°C. (about 55° F). February is usually Sweden’s coldest month, with temperatures from – 22 to -3°C (-7°-22°F). Pretty much the same climate as I experience in Upstate Central NY.
What’s different from where I live is that the northern part of Sweden is part of the region in the world know as the “Land of the Midnight Sun“, meaning that they have continuous daylight in the summer and periods of complete darkness in the winter.
As I’m writing this, here’s a couple of things going on with the Swedes that are important.
- This afternoon (3/3/17), Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström is going to be talking with U.S. Sec. of State Rex Tellerson via phone to get the Trump administration to take back statements President Trump made in regards to the terrible things “happening” in Sweden in February at a rally. The Swedes want Trump and Fox News, who falsely reported a story that prompted Trump’s statement, to go on the record to clear the good name of Sweden for the world (see below in the Culture section about the “characteristics of the Swedish culture” that may be the reason for their demands).
- Sweden has reinstated the draft into military service. Beginning next year, about 4,000 men and women will be required to report for service in the military. Sweden has decided that it must be prepared for the possibility of Russian advances on their country.
“One of the key characteristics of Swedish culture is that Swedes are egalitarian in nature, humble and find boasting absolutely unacceptable. In many ways, Swedes prefer to listen to others as opposed to ensuring that their own voice is heard.
When speaking, Swedes speak softly and calmly. It is rare that you were witness a Swede demonstrating anger or strong emotion in public.
In terms, Swedes rarely take hospitality or kindness for granted and as such, they will give often give thanks. Failing to say thank you for something is perceived negatively in Sweden.
Behaviours in Sweden are strongly balanced towards ‘lagom’ or, ‘everything in moderation’. Excess, flashiness and boasting are abhorred in Sweden and individuals strive towards the middle way. As an example, work hard and play hard are not common concepts in Sweden. People work hard but not too hard, they go out and enjoy themselves, but without participating in anything extreme.
Due to the strong leaning towards egalitarianism in Sweden, competition is not encouraged and children are not raised to believe that they are any more special than any other child.” – Commisceo Global
Fun Facts (found on the official website):
- Sweden is the number one exporter of “chart” music in the world. That’s because music education is quintessential in schools. ” Access to instruments and classes are provided through music schools run by various local municipalities so many children try their hands at different types of instruments to finally find which ones they’re naturally good at.” Additionally, the government funds musical artists and singing in choirs is a popular activity of Swedes. (https://facts.sweden.se/culture/8-reasons-why-sweden-rocks)
- Swedish film makers, films or actors have taken home 26 Oscars for their country. Ingrid Bergman is the most famous Swedish actress.
- Semla buns look an awful like cream puffs, but are totally different. The semla is a cardamom-spiced wheat bun, filled with a mix of milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream and is dusted with powdered sugar, are THE pastry of Sweden.
Other popular foods in Sweden are Swedish meatballs, Jannson’s Temptation, Raggmunk, Kroppkakor, Gravlax, Toast Skagen, Gubbrora, Cinnamon buns, Saffransbullar, and glog.
For today’s cultural immersion activity, the Swedish website has done all the work for me. Head on over to their website for recipes to try at home. While you’re cooking, be sure to play some ABBA music!
Christianity in Sweden
As I said earlier, Sweden’s official website spells out the religious landscape for their country in 10 easy to read sections. I won’t talk about all of them, but feel free to check out the page on the website.
Here are the highlights of Christianity in Sweden, according to their website.
- Like the American Constitution, the government of Sweden instituted a separation of church and state practice since 2000, making them the only Nordic country to not have an official “state church”.
- The former church of Sweden is an Evangelical Lutheran church.
- Since 2000, anyone born in Sweden no longer becomes an automatic member of the church.
- Also since 2000, “record numbers of Swedes have left the church”.
- Only 8% of Swedes attend church services regularly.
- Sweden’s Christian Lutheran heritage is still a large part of ceremonies, rituals and traditions.
- With only 29% of the population identifying with any religion, Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world. Civil weddings and “Christenings” are replacing Christian forms of the ceremonies more and more.
- “Next to the Church of Sweden, the most prominent Christian churches are the Free Churches (frikyrkor). Although also Protestant, the Free Churches are independent of the Church of Sweden and are characterised by Evangelical, Pentecostal, Methodist and Baptist elements. The area around the city of Jönköping in Småland is sometimes even referred to as the ‘Swedish Bible Belt’ because of its traditionally high Free Church activity.”
- “Sweden contributed its fair share of saints, with Saint Bridget of Sweden being the most famous. Swedes even participated in their own versions of the famed Catholic Crusades by embarking on various expeditions to Christianise Finland and the Baltic states.”
- “Although Sweden continues to rank as one of the most tolerant countries in the world, it also faces challenges from intolerance in terms of xenophobia and cultural clashes, just like many other countries.”
These are the things we should pray for, on behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters.
- Christians in Sweden to be a light for Christ in a country that values religious freedom, but not the practice of religion.
- “Free” churches to continue to grow spiritually and in numbers, as more people are discovering that they have a choice on how to worship.
- Sweden’s fears about Russia do not come to fruition and their relationship with the U.S. can be repaired.
- Christians will practice their faith not only with traditions and rituals, but with their hearts.
- That the more secular Swedes will find their way back to church and a more meaningful relationship with God.
Thanks for traveling with me today to Sweden. I’ve learned some things that I did not know and hope you have, too.
Hope to see you tomorrow where we embark on another journey to check in on our fellow Christians and experience their culture.
Until then, may God keep you and bless you.