Wednesday, July 09, 2008

No permanent home here

It is very difficult to describe the atmosphere, the ethos of Finnish Pietism (herännäisyys) to outsiders. Harsh modernity has largely compressed Christianity either to bland mainstream churches going through the motions or to intellectually shrivelled, panicky fundamentalism. Those two versions, competing in shallowness, are familiar to all. Mysticism escapes this fruitless dichotomy, all fruitless dichotomies. Listening to Zion's Songs (Siionin virret), those amazing cadences of folk melodies from the 18th and 19th centuries, one is amazed that there still is, in this ice cold human world, forms of Christianity that can unite esthetics and ethics (almost in quasi-Eliotian way), that can make faith even now, even today, an intellectually relevant position. Incredibly for any human organization, Finnish Pietism has renounced power and manipulation, thus stubbornly maintaining a living connection to that amazing vision of universal redemption two thousand years ago - through weakness and powerless longing towards the true homeland, the loving absolute. Grace is not earned, not conquered, not owned, not maintained by human power, nor mediated by human hands. A beautiful, sad, living vision, a fit philosophy. This comment comes partially from outside, more Athens than Jerusalem surely in me, but a part of me has never left, and never will. Such strange thing, such luck to have encountered a living, credible form of Christianity - so easy to think these sorry days that none exist.