I have a Norwegian name and maybe 1/16th of my blood comes from the fierce, noble people who carved a distinctive culture of rock tough land and a cold ocean. I treasure my Norwegian friends that share in the hopes of building a global network of faith-based health institutions.
So I am also proud of a King who can cry for his people as did Harald V this weekend. Every single one of the 4 million Norwegians know at least one of the 92 young and civil servants who will be buried in the next couple days. The people are so tightly bound that most are an extended part of the many extended families who will weep for a long time.
In recent decades Norway has come to be thought of as a gentle wealthy country, so fair-minded as to be confused for neutral, sort of like Switzerland. But their oil wealth is quite recent and like the smart farmers and fisherman they have been for millennia, most of that wealth is in the bank or invested in education and health so that it will bear dividends needed when the oil runs out. And they are not gentle, but fiercely tenacious to what they have always been willing to fight for--their independence and free voice. Their "boys in the woods" tied down hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops in World War Two, keeping Britain from invasion until the Americans decided to show up and join the fight. They were among the first to lend their young men to fight in the frozen mountains of Afghanistan against Bin Laden.
Now they will weep a waterfall of tears for every single one of them and all of us who have come to love and respect them. But Norwegian sorrow will not spill like acid on the sacred documents of their democracy. They will remain recognizably Norwegian. They will love their free and open society and thus protect it against anyone whether it be a crazed evangelical from among themselves, a distant muslim or meddling American (like the Bush era puff who accused them of not being tough on terrorism). They will teach us what it looks like to defend democracy even when the attack comes from within.
Because of who they are, the lament for family and friends will be deep and slow. But so, too, will be their proud refusal to give in to fear, to turn away from the world and into themselves. Our Norwegian friends at Diakonhjemmet Hospital are convening a meeting of global and interfaith healthcare leaders on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem in November (Methodist Healthcare is proud to co-sponsor, with Augusta Victoria Hospital as the host)(http://www.faithbasedhealthcare.net/ejc2011/). This is the 120th anniversary of the founding of Diakonhjemmet Hospital, but they thought it would be better to focus elsewhere because it might support a global movement to do so, which is about as typically Norwegian as it gets.
The Norwegian church remains the soul of the people in a way that is hard for Americans to understand, since on most Sundays most Norwegians are off walking or skiing in nature. But the Oslo Cathedral filled to lament and strengthen resolve almost before the dust settled on the rubble a couple hundred yards away. And some of those prayers were instantly and instinctively to preserve the powerful humanistic values Norway represents, including openness to cultures and faiths from around the world. God so loved the (whole) world, pray the Norwegians, and they mean the whole thing. May we pray with them.
- Posted on the journey