My family in Christ, shalom.
I apologise for being so secretive, but I felt that I should not unvail where I’ve been until I was able to pay justice to this beautiful country. In order to better explain certain aspects of my trip I will be publishing a number of posts over the coming days. (Hopefully these ‘days’ won’t turn into ‘weeks’!) First, let us look at the Church in Noway:
For the first millennium of Church history Norway was pretty unaffected by Christianity. Although I can remember years ago reading about one or two missions to Norway prior to 1000 AD, a quick search on Google simply reveals that of Sunniva. I think that this Irish princess’s life is rather interesting and that the way in which the Holy Spirit moved her and her party, and indeed the legacy they left in Norway requires us to pause and take a more detailed look at:
With the Vikings themselves coming into contact with Christian communities during international trading and pillaging missions, the days of a “primitive Norse mythology”  remaining in the lands known today as Norway were numbered. The turning point came in the mid-1020s when king Olaf II (Haraldsson), converted to Christianity in Normandy, returned to Norway with dreams of unifying the lands with Christianity as their official religion.
Although Olaf ‘the Holy’ succeeded in realising the first part of his vision, the greater part of Christianizing the land was not so easy. In fact he failed miserably because of one basic error which continues to affect modern minds. That is, ending the earthly lives of non-Christians simply because they refuse to hear and / or fail to understand our beliefs is NOT a good evangelistic method!  Apart from the unnecessary and unChristian bloodshed, you are placing a permanent stain upon the Church and making things harder for both contemporary and future generations of God’s evangelists.
Aside from this, Olaf laid a reasonably good foundation on which the nation’s (rather than just an island’s) faith could be built. Unfortunately, Norway proved to be just like the other nations of the world, and no matter how pretty their ecclesiastical buildings were, the history of the Norwegian church is mingled with arson and non-eucharistic blood.
I find Norway fascinating, but at the present time I have very little to say about the state church, other than the fact that it severed its ties to Rome in 1537 and that, although many different denominational groups exist in Norway today, the one which offically defines the country is Evangelical Lutheran (which become independent of the state in 2017).
Now to the country as I saw it. Aside from the fjords (which shall be dealt with in a forthcoming post) one of the first things that a visitor notices are the tunnels going through the mountains. (On a train journey through the mountains the tunnels and accompanying constructions are one of the main things which spoil photos!) Most of these were built in the 1970s and 1980s when the country was riding high on the back of the oil industry. 
However, the 1980s were a long time ago and, although the Norwegian oil industry is still going (its oil production, however, has fallen way behind that of the UK), these antiquated tunnels are falling behind modern standards and are in need of renovation. Also, the Norwegian government is committed to building more tunnels in an effort to help home citizens (rather than foreign tourists) get quicker from A to B without wasting hours traversing the fjords.
Other than blasting their way through mountains, from what I was able to gather in the short time that I was there Norway appears to be very environmentally minded (with the exception of whaling, of course) and politically atuned to the welfare of its citizens. The following are just a few notes on my impressions of “the Norwegian dream”:
- Only 4-5% of the country is suitable for cultivation, and those who do take up the life of a farmer are heavily subsidized by the government. Other people who choose to work in the countryside (e.g. teachers) are also subsidised.
- Cooperatives have played an extremely big role in Norwegian society for at least the last 200 years, and are still going strong. Particularly in the countryside people of all trades have autonomous structures put in place in order for them to help each other and make sure that if one member prospers then the others do too.
- I seem to remember a tour guide using the term “mercy slaughters” to describe the destruction of livestock that could not be fed/nourished during the 2018 heatwave. If like me you are saddened by this, think what could happen if, as predicted, heatwaves become the norm.
- Hydro-electricity makes up around 95% of the country’s energy. Our loving and eternal Father has blessed Norway with an abundance of water. From Fjords to waterfalls beauty is being turned in into energy and it is incredible!
- The other 5% of Norway’s energy is solar and wind. I think that any nation that can put God’s provision to such good use, for both its people and the earth, should be admired and learned from.
- A number of areas in Norway are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. As well as being good for wildlife, for tourism and for history, this also has implications for the country’s infrastructure. For example, power plants. Here in the UK power plants have a distinctive architecture, and stick out like a 500-year old cathedral in an ultra-modern metropolis. But in Norway (at least on UNESCO’s sites) power plants need to be unobtrusive and blend into the surrounding area. Thus these are small and are disguised, for example, as cottages. The energy which they produce simply serves a single village. Personally, I think that some of the pipes they use are not in the least bit unobtrusive, being unimaginatively secured to the side of mountains, and often mistaken (by me at least) as waterfalls! Others are down on the ground, placed in caverns running from one stream to the next.
- There are over 1,200 fjords in Norway. Though a great number, this is apparently surpassed by the number of tunnels going through mountains! As to bridges, the government would rather invest in ferries in order to better use a resource which the coutry has an abundant supply of.
- Morwegians love to donate to charity. They are, I am told, very proud of this and like to display the fact. Though I never saw / noticed them myself, farms are said to diplay different coloured ribbons depending on whether the owner donates to children’s, women’s or men’s cancer research.
- The government is very strict (“ultra-restrictive”) on the sale of alcohol. At supermarkets you can only buy drinks up to 4% proof, and then only within a limited period each day. To obtain higher proofs one needs to go to the state-owned Vinmonopolet. However these stores (while operating within the same time-frame as average, non-alcoholic-specialist shops do here in the UK) are only open for 6 hours on Saturday, are closed all day Sunday, and do not open on bank holidays. In pubs, a pint of beer costs 8-9 pounds. If imported, like Guinness, the cost is closer to 11 pounds.
On the last day of the holiday I gave in and had some alcohol. It was free (i.e. was included in the price of the cruise), but this made no difference. I wasn’t teatotal, nor did I have any temperance mentality. Now, however, my views are changing. In my late teens and early 20s I drank a lot. This was part of the Friday night and weekend culture that I was part of, but I would often not say no to drinking during the week. I enjoyed the buzz it gave me. But over the subsequent decades I began to consume it less and less.
Since Christ saved me last year I don’t recall having drunk anything alcoholic other than eucharistic wine in the Anglican church. But now I gave in to this legalised drug. It tasted good; I began to feel that buzz again… But much time has past since my 20s, and now I cannot help but compare its effects with that buzz of salvation: the feeling that Christ my Saviour puts in me each and every day. And compared to that, the buzz of the demon drink is pathetic; completely and utterly pathetic!
I think that in order to be a true Christian and to follow Christ, we, each one of us, needs to have a firm foundation on which to build a true faith. During the course of the last year, God has been saying to me, “Get rid of this” and “Get rid of that”, and I can honestly say that it has really helped (although sometimes I have, and still do, put up a fight to keep hold of these useless things). I don’t recall there being an explicit command not to drink (and who could forget a command from God?), but I think that this ‘distasteful’ experience has reminded me of a past from which I have been saved. I feel that the lesson here is that alcohol – at least the non-eucharistic kind – must no longer be a part of my life.
Finally I wish to share something that I found rather amusing. An Argentinian tour guide was explaining how they were attending lessons on how to approach Norwegians. This was attended by people of many nationalities, including born and bread Norwegians. And it was the latter who sat some distance away from the foreign students. It was explained that this was typical Norwegian behaviour, that Norwegians are very shy and respectful and that they never want to invade another person’s private space. For example, if a Norwegian gets on to a crowded bus they will first of all express how sorry they are before asking if they can sit next to a stranger. I was actually rather pleased: I thought that the shy, introverted British soul that is me was already a typical Norwegian! 
I really wasn’t looking forward to writing a conclusion as my views have changed somwhat during the course of writing this blog. In short, I absolutely adore Norway… well, at least the parts I’ve seen. I think that the Norwegian culture has been developed in such a way that ‘the big society’ has worked for them (whereas for the UK’s Tory Party it is just one failure in a long list of many). I very much hope to do more research into this fascinating country in the near future, and maybe one day I’ll write another blog on it. But for now I hope that I have done justice to Norway here, and I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts and insights on it.
Shalom and God bless you.
 Inge Stikholmen and Tom Granerud, Norway: The Best of Norway in Glorious Pictures, p. 7.
 Unfortunately I feel that the linked video is not one I can let you see without warning you that the presenter uses a certain amount of crude language. However, I cannot deny how much this visual/audio presentation has influenced this part of the blog.
 Again I feel compelled to give a link to this video rather than include it in the blog itself. Although some of the language is still be a bit… politically incorrect, a few seconds of contemporary Norwegian music culture is included near the beginning which I for one would prefer not to be there. But this video has a bearing on much of what follows.
 For the sake of honesty, I have to say that from what I saw and experienced of Norwegian society myself its people are nothing like what this particular tour guide said. Which is fair enough. That’s the way that they see it and why should anyone else see things the same way? Oh well, Heaven is still the only land I want to live in after this one!