L’Observatoire des religions

In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead

Christian groups are growing, faith is more public. Is supply-side economics the explanation ?

dimanche 15 juillet 2007 par ANDREW HIGGINS

Stockholm - Late last year, a Swedish hotel guest named Stefan Jansson grew upset when he found a Bible in his room. He fired off an email to the hotel chain, saying the presence of the Christian scriptures was "boring and stupefying." This spring, the Scandic chain, Scandinavia’s biggest, ordered the New Testaments removed.

Sweden has also overhauled church financing. In 2000, the government gave up formal control of the Church of Sweden. With great fanfare it replaced what had been a church "tax" with an annual "fee," still collected by tax authorities, levied on Church of Sweden members.

For the first time, taxpayers were told what they owed in cash - instead of being given just a percentage figure, which is typically under 1% of household income. Church of Sweden membership dropped abruptly, and the church launched a publicity drive pitching religion. Membership stabilized, though church-going continued to decline. Still, the established church last year received around $1.6 billion in membership fees via state tax collectors. The church also brings in some $460 million in funeral-and-graveyard administration taxes.

A government-run commission provides money to 28 registered religious groups outside the Church of Sweden, but these funds totaled only $7 million last year. Passion Church and other such ventures rely mostly on voluntary donations by their worshippers. This, says Kjell-Axel Johanson, an evangelical priest, keeps upstarts more in tune with their flock. He recently set up a new church that, unable to afford a permanent home, rents a bar for a few hours. "God doesn’t care about packaging," he says.

Hotel chain Scandic, meanwhile, has reversed course. Before Christians mobilized, it planned to keep a few copies of the New Testament at the front desk, along with the Quran and Hebrew Bible. With the hotel under new ownership since April, Bibles are back in rooms. The Swedish arm of Gideons, a Bible distribution group, recently gave the chain 10,000 New Testaments in Swedish and English.

Cetr article a été publié dans le Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2007 ; Page A1

Accueil du site | Contact | Plan du site | En résumé | Espace privé | Statistiques | visites : 274675