Christianity, as both a means of societal control, and a highly versatile method of furthering political and national agendas, has been a devastating and brutally effective instrument for nearly 2000 years. The crux of evangelical Christianity is, arguably, the total control, subjugation and assimilation of a target “congregation,” inevitably resulting in profound and irrevocable changes in whichever society upon which it inflicts itself. The flock is then regularly fleeced, on occasion slaughtered en masse, and without exception subjected to both subversive and brazen mental warfare and totalitarian policies of racial bigotry, gender inequality and an underlying lack of respect for the most basic of human rights.
Evidence of these darkest of human tendencies can be observed in myriad cases throughout the whole of human history, manifested most savagely in devastating holy wars and immeasurable political chaos, most notably in the European and Middle-Eastern crusades, the Holocaust and European colonization of Africa and the Americas. The spread of the “good word” often comes at the point of a sword, and the line between proselytizing and colonizing is often blurred past the point of indistinction.
Indigenous peoples such as the Sámi have consistently found themselves under the religious, political and cultural yokes of oppressive colonial enterprises; the exploitation of native peoples is both commonplace and shamefully consistent throughout our collective human past. In exploring the introduction of the Christian belief system and ideology to the Sámi, one inevitably draws noticeable parallels to the larger trends of the sprawl of the nation state, the marginalization of the indigenous tribal peoples, and the inherent viciousness of the missionary construct.
In examining the benign symbiosis many indigenous peoples experience with the earth upon which they walk, a deep appreciation for their way of life and spiritual communion with the world itself can be gained. Exploration of the way in which these peoples once lived their lives, and treated the natural world gives us powerful insight into the way they viewed, and interacted with, the supernatural world. Just as they sought to value all physical things and beings which they saw and felt, the Sámi belief structure operated in much the same way towards that of spiritual dominion. An openness and eagerness to explore, accept and understand set the Sámi belief system apart from more hard-line, intrusive religious systems of the western world. The willingness to accept new ideas as a method to understand and strengthen old ones is almost entirely unique to indigenous cultures, and certainly present in the Sámi belief system. Far from having established churches or religious buildings, the Sámi instead worshipped where they lived, in simple and organic environments. Sieidi – sacrificial sites, made from natural elements and situated amongst mountains, lakes and woods, were the only real formalized sites which the Sámi saw as revered or sacred.
The Sámi way of life, which had remained relatively homogenous and unaltered for centuries beforehand (despite the sundry societal characteristics, and widely dispersed locations of the populace at large) was now experiencing, after the initial introductions to Christianity, profound and rapid transformations. Sámi interactions with outsiders had seldom been pleasant, and early Sámi relations with Viking and Nordic peoples had ingrained in them a sense of fear towards the outside world. Those from the outside often came with the closed fists of oppression and violence, rather than the open hands of friendship. Having been driven north by Viking groups from the early pre-Christian era, the nomadic Sámi existence and close family ties made them understandably lukewarm to the alien.
The Sámi can be (and often are) erroneously boiled down to a collection of facts about their social behaviors and practices, stereotypes and ethnocentric analysis are often used to oversimplify these complex people. However, they can be more accurately understood and appreciated through an objective examination of their system of belief and their deep understandings and appreciation of the world around them.
Worldview and Religion
The Sámi people can be said to observe a form of Shamanistic, natural worship, in which they ascribe spiritual value to all that which is around them. Each object possesses a unique and knowable spiritual identity, a tangible spiritual presence which links it to the rest of the natural and spiritual world. The existence of a definite god or gods is only of a secondary importance to the underlying concepts of spiritual openness and the seeking of a meaningful relationship with the auras and energy of the people and things around us. The acceptance and understanding of this spiritual world is at the root of the Sámi belief structure. The Animistic nature of Sámi shamanism is defined by belief in the soul/spirit of everything, even the rocks and trees. Sámi creation “myths” include allegorical references to father and mother figures, into which the Sun factors heavily as a metaphorical father, and the life giving earth serves as both a metaphorical and literal mother to the Sámi people. (Hence the title of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää’s explorative works of Sámi poetry and prose, The Sun, My Father, and its sequel, The Earth, My Mother.) The creation story tells not only of the spiritual/physical creation of the Sámi people, but offers significant insight into the core vales of the Sámi systems of community, family, and unobstructed relationships with the spiritual and natural world. Birth, replenishment and attunement with nature all factor heavily into the story of creation, as is true with almost all contemporary works of Sámi artistry and writing.
Of paramount importance to the Sámi “religious” and/or spiritual experience is the Shaman, or Noaidi, a spiritual guide of sorts. Serving as a societal guide and spiritual functionary, the Noaidi works in both the physical and spiritual worlds to lead his people and seek greater meaning and truth from the spiritual realm. Shamans would be first amongst those persecuted when Christianity later came for the ‘reeducation” of the Sámi. As they occupied a central spiritual role, and a meaningful leadership role, they were seen as dangerous threats to the new ideology and dogma, and counter-productive to the assimilation movement in the eyes of the invading forces.
Chief amongst the tools needed to commune with the spirit world is the image drum, a deeply personal and powerful instrument which allows for conference with the other worlds. The drum is used to divinate, communicate and most importantly, to see. From its hand crafted, painstaking creation to its simple yet beautiful decoration, it is much more than the sum of its bark and skin. The drum was used to project its user into another time and place spiritually, breaking them free of the confines of the physical world, and giving them deep emotional and spiritual insight into the world around them.
The Yoik, a deeply soulful and guttural chanting/singing is also a Sámi method to achieve spiritual attunement, or “ecstasy.” A sort of meandering, explorative form of chanting, the Yoik, with its lack of concrete structure and flexible flow of tone, epitomizes the fluidity of the Sámi psyche – it erects no walls and blocks no path. The Yoik stands out against the functionally similar Christian hymnals and spirituals in that it follows no lyrics or tone, no real limits. While it has no predefined significance, it is nevertheless of paramount importance to the Sámi. Within the trance of a Yoik, one reaches a higher spiritual plain. The Sámi quest for spiritual understanding and communion was both complex and unique; the influx of outside belief systems irrevocably altered it, yet we see vestiges of what it must have once been, even today.
What we know of Sámi shamanism, beliefs and worldview is of course tempered through a broken and dirtied lens of hundreds of years of brutal suppression, massive cultural and religious assimilation, and the systematic cultural genocide waged against the Sámi in efforts to fully assimilate them, both culturally and spiritually. Our knowledge of shamanism comes from what we can see and hear from the past century, when Sámi religion had already become heavily influenced by Christianity. If shamanism can be said to exist today in a truly “pure” form, it is surely only a vestigial remnant of its former self.
What we know of the Sámi view of the afterlife is again very limited, but they are said to have believed in saivo, or áibmu – a sort of netherworld or afterlife, not particularly concrete in its description, but simply described to have been “a better place.” This is not the home of a vengeful, angry god of threats and lightning bolts. Rather, saivo was the hall of spiritual reunion, where all that once was is reconstituted in spirit, completing the circle of life.
When the stones of belief are toppled, the subsequent avalanche of social and individual change is indeed profound. As the boulders of worldview roll violently into the abyss, the land where they previously stood is forever altered. As elements of a cherished past are systematically ripped from their roots, and in their place are erected towering pillars of judgment, a profound sadness and feeling of numb disbelief are all that remain.
Hundreds of years of Christian law, judgment and control had slowly whittled away the “old” religion. Initially replacing the old says with a hybrid of Christianity and the Sámi belief system, Christianity would become increasingly singular in its influence, eventually stifling the ways of the past out of existence. Early missionary attempts were only partially successful, while the crucifix and Christ had entered the periphery of Sámi beliefs, the Sámi still held to their past, and continuing some of the old customs. The monotheistic followers of the god of Abraham have not traditionally appreciated competition, and many trends towards the purging of Sámi ideology would follow.
Introductions to Christianity
The most basic and fundamental tenant of monotheistic ideology is of course, a singular and all powerful god. Christianity brought a deeply different and entirely new concept to the Sámi, and a rigidly defined interpretation of the heavens which strictly forbade the worship upon which Sámi existence had been based upon up to that point. This disparity in two systems, one of acceptance, and the other of domination, would result in irrevocable changes in the spiritual landscape of the Sámi people, and result in much suffering during the painful transition process.
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24-1.) The bible repeatedly tells us that the land belongs to god, and obviously, the followers of god will tell us that the land belongs to them. Before the exposure to outside beliefs, the Sámi held no particular concept of “ownership” of the land. The idea of control and lordship over nature was in keeping with the policies of which were inherent in the Christian belief structure. From as early as the 14th century, the outside political/theological world began to slowly creep into the periphery of Sámi territory, the more rapid encroachment of ideological shifts would come later, but would represent a much more sweeping, powerful and complicated influx of change.
A Norwegian by the name of Thomas von Westen (1682-1727) called by some the "Sámi apostle", began schooling the coastal Sámi in their native tongue – one of the first movements of theologically driven education in Sápmiland. Among other early visitors, the Birkarls (early traders in Sápmiland) brought one of the first tastes of the outside world, alcohol. This metaphor for the intrusion of external poisons is indeed powerful, and indicative of the much more addictive, much more debilitating addiction of dogmatic fundamentalism that would trickle into Sápmiland during the years to come.
Missionaries and evangelicalism
In 1565, Trifan (a pirate turned monk) founded Petsamo (a cloister) in the northernmost parts of Sapmiland. At that time, monks were dispatched to the “godless Lapland” to start monasteries, and in the later 16th century, 50 monks and 200 workers began to set up shop throughout parts of Sápmiland. This did foster trade with the Sámi, but in some cases led to the beginnings of Sámi exploitation, relegating some Sámi to mere serfs in a semi feudalistic system of organized oppression.
Outside intrusion came as a double-edged sword, with one sharpened side of the blade driving forth as violent cultural subversion and change, and the other cutting deeply into the economic stability, independence and sustenance of the Sámi people. Taxes and Religion spread into the northern Sámi territories in greater force in the early 16th century. In 1542, Gustav Vasa (Swedish king at the time) declared that “All unused lands belong to God, us and the Swedish Crown.” This attitude resulted in both increased immigration of outsiders into Sápmiland, and the earliest attempts at mission work towards the Sámi. Brutal taxation proved unbearable, and the Sámi were forced away from what had previously been a hunter-gatherer existence into the domestication, breeding and herding of reindeer in order to meet the heavy taxation requirements levied upon them. Aside from the drastic changes in the ways which the Sámi made a living, the first traces of Christianity began to appear in other areas of life as well. Christian imagery on image drums reflects the growing presence of Christianity in the Sámi psyche. It has been noted however, that at least initially, Christian imagery on image drums seemed to be of lower importance, almost deemphasized, suggesting that the Crucifix and Christ were accepted as merely supplements to the preexisting belief structure. The placement of Christian imagery on image drums seemed only incidental, an afterthought. This would, of course, ultimately change as Læstadianism manifested itself more deeply and severely in the hearts and mind of the Sámi people, washing clean the “evils” of the old ways.
The wildfire movement of Lars Levi Læstadius
Læstadianism was a fundamentalist and evangelical movement inside the Lutheran Church of Scandinavia and Finland. The movement was without question a very powerful influence upon the lives of its followers, it is very difficult to separate the secular and the holy in daily life in the Læstadian system of belief. A complicated, yet highly devoted man, Lars Levi Læstadius (1800-1861) was of partial Sámi descent, went on to become Lutheran pastor, and was the founder of a modern day religious “awakening.” He served in seminary and ministerial capacities in northern Sweden from 1825 to his death in 1861 at. In 1844, after some 19 years as a minister, his epiphany was spawned by meeting with a woman named Milla Clemetsdotter (Lappish Mary), a member of a semi-religious group known as "Readers." His interaction with her lead him to reevaluate his seminary career, and sparked a fire in him which led to the ministry movement for which he is the namesake.
Læstadianism is undeniably "a way of life", in that it is not only a part of a followers life, it is the follower’s life, and all aspects of living stem from the practice of the faith in daily life. Living a devout, pious and staunchly religious existance is commonplace, and the rejection of all which interferes with that is of core importance to the doctrine. The movement spread “like wildfire”, and when the nomadic Sámi of Sweden came into contact with the movement’s founder and his followers, many of them were subsequently converted. They in turn began to spread the word, in the wake of the Læstadian movement, several lay-preachers were left behind to continue mission work and spread further the word of god according to Læstadius.
A Sermon of Læstadius Given on the Fourth Day of Rogation in 1857
Renowned for his blunt phrasings and strictly literalist interpretations of biblical texts, Læstadius’s style of ministering was harsh, to say the least. What follows are excerpts from just such a sermon.
“’Where are their gods…’ they must be in the liquor flask. They must be in the barn or shed. They must be in the whorehouse. Some female devil must be their god, like Diana of the Ephesians. ‘But our God is in the heaven’ “
Clearly, in this case, this distinction was made to isolate the Abrahamic god of Judeo-Christianity from the “lesser” gods of Sámi belief, setting God as the only, the alpha and omega, the superior. The “bastardization” of Christianity practiced initially by the Sámi included many of the old traditions, and to Læstadius and his followers, this simply would not do.
“They are worthless gods, which cannot affect anything.”
The validity of the Sámi system of belief had to be challenged, and destroyed in order for a fundamentalist, “pure” form of Christianity to take hold. Evangelical Christians are often willing to compromise on some minor aspects of the conversion of native peoples, if it helps the spread of Christianity, but of specific taboos are the presence of competing gods. The first Commandment clearly sets out the rules for worship “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Christianity is simply incompatible with other belief systems, most specifically within fundamentalist movements such as Læstadianism
“Above all, we must pray to the God of heaven that he would give true enlightenment to all the heathen so that they would come to know their gods, how useless they are in helping their servants in distress.”
The evangelical minister’s goal is conversions; he seeks only to spread his doctrine as quickly as possible to as many people as possible. He seeks neither compromise, nor understanding; he only wishes to replace what came before with what he sees as the one unquestionable form of the truth.
“To whom do the heathen give glory?”
The Sámi “heathen” gave glory to nature, and to that which they saw and touched everyday. This was not what the bible instructs, and thusly, was not worship, but blasphemy.
“Oh really! So you are a child of God and are as black and ugly as the devil himself. [You have bad thoughts, lusts and desires. You have not yet been properly penitent.] Don’t you dare confess yourself to be a child of God [before you perform the proper repentance]. If you climb so high, I will cast you into hell. So! You are a child of God [though you commit sin every day]. If you [still] confess yourself to be a child of God, you will blaspheme God."”
Original sin corrupted us, and made us unworthy to stand in the sight of god. We must then be in constant repentance, for as we are, we are not fit to stand before god. The Sámi may have been god’s children, but they lived with sin, and had to be “purged” of this sin before truly becoming one with god – so was the way of things under these types of movement, and especially under such vitriolic movements as Læstadius’s ministry.
The stark, almost bleak explanations of the human condition contained in Læstadianism are truly indicative of the most fundamental of all evangelical movements. The beliefs contained inside this doctrine are both firm an inflexible; a profound shift from the accepting, wind-like nature of pre-Christian Sámi ideals.
The aftermath of the Læstadian movement
Læstadianism finalized what had been for many years the trend towards the Christianization of the Sámi people; the fundamentalist nature of the doctrine required submission to its beliefs to the exclusion of all else, and so Sámi traditions began to die in the face of this powerful new influence. That which was not for god was against him, and so the “heathenistic” traditions of the past were frowned upon, outlawed and systematically starved out of mainstream existence. Just as later, boarding schools killed the language in Sámi children, the influence of Læstadianism killed the linkage to the past traditions. Normalization and assimilation meant that abandonment of what came before was the only true way towards the future, and towards salvation.
It can be argued that some Sámi, who had already turned to unproductive ends in some cases to solace their grief at their oppressed status, were helped out (of the bottle) by this movement. They took stock of themselves, and were later helped to fight for their rights once again, under a new flag of belief. Temperance was but one of the tenants of the movement, but was representative of the fervor and zealous strides of the faction towards what its founder saw as a new world, washed clean of the sins of the past. In addition to temperance, a rejection of worldly adornments was also a central pillar of the faith. The home of a Læstadian was to be free of “selfish, sinful decoration and adornment” – as these things lent nothing to the glorification of god, and satisfied only ephemeral, selfish, aesthetic desires, encouraging the sin of vanity and pride. The Salt Bin, a story of Norwegian Sámi illustrates this point masterfully, through a family poor beyond hope, yet still firm enough in their beliefs to reject worldly airs of luxury and decadence, no matter how restrained or mild these trivial pleasures may be.
Læstadius was also critical of the state church, and his fundamentalist and zealous approach were of some cause for concern to the church and government, but as he ultimately “helped” the Sámi on towards the process of assimilation, he proved Christianity was still a most effective tool in cultural reeducation, also pleasing the state run church/government construct.
Demonization of culture
Early in the 18th century, hundreds of Sámi Image drums were collected and later burned. This was as much symbolic as it was a practical way to stop the practice of Sámi “religious” experiences. In addition to this, Sámi traditional clothes were outlawed, and later, speaking the language became almost criminalized as it was forcefully driven out of the schools, and out of the populace at large – by targeting their children first; normalization started early is much more effective. The Noaidi were driven to reject their previous role, and some were even rounded up and killed in efforts to silence their influence over their people, and neutralize any possibilities that they might lead other towards dissent. Noaidi were made outsiders amongst their own people, as they were stigmatized as devil worshippers, deeply evil and enemies of the “true faith”. The observance of shamanistic practices had gone largely underground by this point, but it is of the deepest irony that the Noaidi were made out to be evil, when they had once been so vital to guiding Sámi on the spiritual and physical quests of life. Sámi Yoiks were condemned as sinful behavior, seen as a way to “commune with the devil” by some of the most conservative in the Læstadian movement. Literally, this, when coupled with the murder of the Sámi language symbolize an effort to “silence” the Sámi, effectively limiting their collective voice, and replacing songs of emotion and love with hymns of repentance and fear, all in the native tongue of their oppressors.
This was all part of the drive to turn the Sámi against themselves, against their own past, and it was remarkably effective. To this day, there is tremendous opposition to the ways of old; a fear of the “sinful past” of their ancestors has been ingrained into the Sámi people. The simple mention of an image drum is enough to instill trepidation and hushed whispers in people who have been raised to fear and distrust the very concepts which were once so important to their ancestors. Religious fervor and fear of community reprisal initially led the practitioners of the ways of old to go underground, but ultimately resulted in the near extinction of many of the most sacred of Sámi practices.
There had long been an effort to assimilate the Sámi into the whole of the societies of their respective nation-states. Stigmatization based solely upon race and language was certainly a massive problem facing the Sámi from their initial exposure to the “ethnically superior” peoples of Norway and Sweden. The marginalization of Sámi rights based upon ethnic reasons is certainly substantial, and is at the root of many of the problems the Sámi faced during forcible assimilation. However, ideological differences were much more profound, and resulted in a much deeper divide between the Sámi and the outside world. The conflict between the Sámi and the outside forces seeking their assimilation is dwarfed only by the magnitude of the internal struggles which have resulted in the Sámi community as a result of the entrance of Christianity into their sphere of existence. The most effective methods of Sámi assimilation were at the hands of Læstadius, a man of Sámi descent, and the subsequent lay preachers of Sámi descent, who were much more effective than any preceding external conversion missions. The Sámi, in some ways, became their own worst enemies; they were driven to fear and despise their collective past, and distrust those of their own people that practiced what had become to be seen as “devil worship.”
“According to Læstadius, the fallen angel whom god drove away yoiked like a Laplander before he was changed into the Devil.” - Kirsti Palto
Self hatred is key in the acceptance of original sin, seeing and condemning the evils inside yourself is central to this concept.
Sámi rebellion in Kautokeino
On November 8, 1852, in the Sámi town of Kautokeino, Læstadian members of a Sámi Siida, who had been rallied forward by their leader, Aslak Haetta and called, in typical fundamentalist fashion, “holy warriors” began an attack which would become unique within the context of Sámi history. They sought to attack a trading post for selling alcohol, a detestable practice in their eyes, and one that resulted in the death of the operator of the post. While trying to calm the wily rioters, the local priest was also severely beaten. Haetta, while incarcerated, translated the bible into the Sámi language, contributing to his later pardon and release. In the aftermath of the Kautokeino incident, two participants were summarily executed, and their severed heads were sent to a university for further study. The remaining members of the rebellion received life imprisonment.
This represents one of the only documented cases of this level of politically/culturally driven violence the Sámi have exhibited to date. The murder of an innocent shopkeeper and the beating of a “holy man” truly exhibit the level of fervor to which the Sámi were brought by their zealous Læstadian beliefs. It is ironic that Christianity was responsible for such a notably “unchristian” act. It took outside influence to inspire these peace loving people to violence, rage, and murder.
The status of Modern Sámi Christianity
While Christianity remains a powerful influence in Sámi culture today, cultural reawakenings in the past half century have reunited many Sámi with their collective roots. A sort of renaissance of art, culture and spirituality has swept many of the diverse population of Sápmiland with a new interest in their past, their futures and themselves.
With open eyes and minds come open hearts, and many Sámi are very willing not only to accept, but openly embrace and actively practice the spiritual traditions they were robbed of at the hands of the wildfire sweep of Christianity.
A Return to the past
Sámi today are willing to explore and accept practices which many from the older generations still fear and shun. In Ailo Gaup’s two-part story of a spiritual quest for a drum, he explores the dichotomy between the reawakened Sámi and their closed minded elders. Fear and a deep distrust of the ways of old had been systematically bred into the Sámi, and their weekly sermons reminded them of the evils of the past and dangers of associating with those acts. Some Sámi even feared to speak of the drum, through some deep-seated apprehension that the mere mention of something so evil would bring great misfortune or eternal damnation upon them.
Sociological and ideological shifts
The rift between the past fear and future hope has not been easily bridged, but the Sámi ideological concepts of acceptance and adaptation are reemerging ever so subtly amongst the people. As Sámi art, yoiking, and now the newly developed and passionate Sámi penchant for writing have all become increasingly popular and more developed art forms, Sámi culture is no longer taboo, and gaining in both popularity and acceptance.
The Sámi enjoy a unique kinship with other indigenous peoples across the globe, and as they seek to reestablish themselves, they will inevitably come to accept more of who they were, within the confines of the spiritual past. Fears can be assuaged, and hatreds can be forgotten, but the Sámi psyche and society is forever changed as a result of the all present influence of Christianity; the scars may heal, but they completely obscure the past.
A divergence which grew between the Sámi and outsiders began with their initial points of contact and eventually spread to almost every aspect of their respective societies. The dichotomy between the Christian and the heathen has forever been a cause for great civil unrest and profound conflict.
Colonialism/imperialism and the spread of Christian missionaries are inextricably intertwined, each movement equally dependant upon the success of the other to gain a foothold in the virgin lands into which they tread.
“Without Jesus' sacrifice we would have no escape from sin or eternal death, for we are unable to help ourselves. We have inherited from Adam and Eve the inclination to resist God and to do evil.” (Rom. 5:12; 7:14/21).
The idea of original sin is driven home very soundly in the Læstadian doctrine. The proposal being that humans are naturally evil, sinfully imperfect and in need of constant control and repression. The Sámi saw life as a path of exploration and understanding whilst simply doing what they could to survive. They saw no sinister demons lurking in the hearts of men, rather they simply trusted their lives to the natural order of things. Their chief evils were the cold and starvation, not wicked spirits or fancifully vengeful men in the sky. It is sadly ironic that the true evil came to them under the guise of salvation.
“The teachings of Læstadianism are based on the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions. Centermost among these teachings is the sermon of Jesus' suffering, death, and victorious resurrection.” - Modern Læstadian Church
Suffering. The misery of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that spawned millennia of religious holy war, mass genocide and a global revolution of oppression. The Sámi were but one of the hundreds of thousands of groups throughout history to taste the pain of evangelical imperialism.
“We hold, in accord with the Lutheran Confessions, that the Bible is the highest guide and authority for Christian faith, doctrine, and life.” - Modern Læstadian Church
A book does not live. Faith based upon something inorganic, unchanging and wholly inflexible is contradictory to the very essence of what the Sámi once represented.
A rigid book of rules and threats can never truly replace an evolving system of spiritual openness and hope.
Final Thoughts and Opinions
It is not my place to pass judgment on the validity of Christianity as a belief system (any more than I have already done in this analysis.) My summation of the actions of Christianity over the last 4 centuries (within the context of my area of focus) is based primarily upon the historical facts, expressed opinions of the Sámi who claim to have suffered greatly under Christian control, and comparison to countless other instances all over the world in which evangelical Christianity appears to have wrought great evil in the name of peace, love and salvation.
Perhaps the Sámi have been assured a in place in heaven as a result of their exposure, and ultimate forced conversion to the Christian faith, but the means by which they were brought to their alleged salvation are both heartbreaking and vile. The shameful past of Christian missionary work is nowhere more clear than in the blatant and borderline genocidal advances they have made into the minds and society of the peace loving indigenous peoples of northern Scandinavia.
My personal distaste for the message of Christianity, and utter distain for the majority of its messengers is firmly rooted in my understanding of experiences and events such as these. The suffering, hatred and overzealous bloodlust seen in the interactions between evangelical Christianity and the rest of the world is one of the most effective arguments against Christianity as a viable system of social governance, and severely detracts from the validity of its “intended” message of peace . The Sámi once had a peaceful, wind-like communion with the world around them (That the earth is our mother, If we take her life, We die with her.) Christian policy of dominion over all they oversee was not limited to natural resources and worldly good alone – they sought to fell the trees of belief, and pollute the waters of Sámi spirituality with their own brand of vitriolic dogma. The legacy of pain and suffering in the wake of a religious conversion movements such as this is often profound; life on earth is but an inconvenience to those carving a path to heaven, and worldly suffering is of no consequence. One can only hope that the negative influences of Christianity are relegated to the darkness of the past, and that the future holds a return to that which once was, and that which should be again.
Bibliography and Resources
Valkeapää, Nils-Aslak. The Sun, My Father
Helander, Elina and Kaarina Kailo. No beginning, No end.
Gaup, Ailo. In Search of the Drum.
Gaup, Ailo. Night between the days.
Jenssen, Frank A. The Salt Bin.
Stein, Laila. Antiphony.
Lehtola, Veli-Pekka. The Sámi People.
Internet/Web Catalogue Resources
University of Tromsø [Centre for Sámi Studies]
Læstadian Lutheran Church (LLC)
A Sermon of Læstadius Given on the Fourth Day of Rogation in 1857
Suite 101 – Religion and spirituality
Church of Norway General Synod
UOC: Virtual University
Detroit Finnish Co-Operative/Finnish American Reporter
Báiki: the North American Sámi Journal
Snadanavia And Boreale
Suomen Rauhanyhdistysten Keskusyhdistys (SRK)