Is Protestantism necessarily liberal?
Is Protestantism opposed to racialism and anti-Semitism?
Is Protestantism opposed to nationalism and authoritarianism? These questions have drawn my attention lately. We’ve already seen how church and state used to be integrated in Lutheran Europe before the Napoleonic Wars and how Protestants supported the Third Reich. We have also seen how apartheid in South Africa was a form of Calvinism.
The following excerpt comes from Scandinavia in the Age of Revolution: Nordic Political Cultures, 1740-1820:
“Like many other early modern churches, the Swedish church made effective use of the concept of Israel to create a sense of politico-religious belonging and national consciousness among the people. In Protestant discourse, ‘Israel’ could refer to various levels of political community, ranging from localities to the national or international community of Protestants, but in Sweden the concept was only used in reference to the Swedish realm as a whole. As a result of nearly complete confessional uniformity, the concept was inclusive and constituted a more realistic basis for the maintenance of the ideal of a unified politico-religious community than parallel concepts in the more pluralistic Dutch Republic or Britain. The confessional uses of the concept and the idea of Israel as a model political community were very much interwoven, so that Bishop Olaf Osander addressed the estates as ‘the citizens and inhabitants of our Swedish Zion’ in 1756, after a failed attempt by the royal family to regain power. Few preachers questioned the existence of a covenant between God and Sweden, but most entertained notions that Swedish Israel enjoyed special divine favor. Not even the sometimes radical atmosphere of the 1760s removed the relevance of the concept of Swedish Israel; the two wrangling political parties (the Hats and the Caps) took the debate on the state of Swedish Israel to the pulpit.
The connection between the state church and the fatherland was very strong in Sweden. Whenever ‘true religion’ was defended, it was the Evangelical-Lutheran doctrine of the domestic church – not that of just any international Protestant community as often in the Calvinist tradition. ‘Swedish Christendom’ was a unique community from which all non-Lutheran Swedes were excluded. Such notions of the correspondence between the borders of the religious community and the realm – and a nationalized concept of Christianity – contributed to the construction of a unified conception of the politico-religious community, particularly as the Finnish minority was also effectively integrated into it.
Swedish sermons at the Diet often made no distinction between religious and political questions. Bishop Andreas Forssenius advised the Estates in 1769 to love their fatherland not only by appealing to the Israelite model and natural reason but also to Jesus’ teachings and example, presenting patriotism as a religious and not merely a political duty. For him, a collective fear of God was true patriotism, and patriotism was a key to salvation. As part of their duty to uphold the positive image of authorities in the eyes of the lower orders, the clergy also continued to present the monarch as a kind of religious leaders as well as a model and object of patriotism.
Despite the so-called Age of Liberty, the Swedish clergy did not really advocate ‘liberty’ and in this they differed from the secular estates. For them, the established religious and political order constituted Lutheran liberty under law and order but no freedom to deviate from the Lutheran norms. Political liberty appeared to be a less relevant concept. The ideal Lutheran citizen contributed to the welfare of the realm by being upright, moderate, helpful, loyal, honest, sincere, loving, charitable, gentle, peaceable, conciliatory, non-partisan, unselfish, consensual and hard working, as the Court Preacher Gabriel Rosen put it in 1762.”
Sweden used to have an integrated church and state.
The period above was during the Age of Liberty which was sandwiched between two periods of absolutism in Swedish history. The ideal of Israel in Protestant Sweden was a model of exclusive nationalism. Denmark-Norway also had an absolutist government. Jews were banned from Denmark-Norway by King Christian V. They were only allowed to return in 1851.
Note: How is Sweden faring today under liberalism and atheism?