There’s a documentary tv series in Scandinavia (I haven’t been able to find out if it’s Swedish or Finnish or etc) that did an episode about a US fundamentalist Christian preacher bumbling around Scandinavia getting shocked about how unlike him they are.
Pastor Marty McLain, who describes his religious belief as deriving from a literal interpretation of the Bible, was given the opportunity to see how secular Scandinavia is by a documentary series called The Norden.
What he found came as a shock, apparently. (He could have just gone to New York or Seattle and been shocked there. I suspect he doesn’t get out of Georgia much.)
McLain, who’s favorite expression is “wow,” is wowed a lot. Almost no one he talks to on the street seems interested in God. One guy puts it bluntly: “If there is no god, why should I believe in him?” Ouch.
A few highlights:
- While interviewing several members of a church in Copenhagen, McLain makes the mistake of assuming that, given their faith, they must be homophobes like he is. After he laments the fact that the oppressive government made Denmark’s churches perform same-sex marriages, the Reverend had to awkwardly tell him that neither he nor anyone else at the church had a problem with gay people. McLain’s pained expression is priceless.
- He runs into a man on the street who (finally!) says he believes in God. Excited, McLain asks if he is a Christian. The man tells him, no, a Muslim. McLain: “A Muslim!”
- An excruciating discussion with a humanist over coffee ends with the humanist telling McLain, “In short, I have no need of a god. To put it bluntly.” McLain stares off into space, his mind melting.
Something else I noticed from the excerpted highlights I watched – the guy seems not to grasp, or at least let himself be at all affected by, the fact that he is in other people’s country speaking a foreign language. He makes no effort whatever to talk clearly out of consideration to these polite hospitable people who are kindly speaking his language in their country. He mumbles and slurs and gabbles just as casually as if he were at home in his suburb of Atlanta talking to the wife & kids. It’s rude. It’s rude and unthinking and provincial. That kind of thing always makes me cringe when I’m in a non-English speaking place, the way Americans expect everyone to adapt to them.
While the show is shot with the Georgian pastor as the focus, if we inverse the perspective things get quite a bit sadder. It’s impossible to tell just what these secular people make of the shellshocked American staggering around their country, unable to cope with the idea that they don’t believe in Adam and Eve. It must look to some like a time traveler from an ancient era, confused by the progress we’ve made. We can only hope that they are generous with their assumptions. It would be embarrassing to think that they consider this guy a representative of all Americans, because between the “homosexuality is a sin!” and “There’s no proof of evolution, you weren’t there!” all I can say is, “Wow.”
I know. He’s embarrassing. So complacent, so confident, so ill-informed.