Last year I wrote on a blog about how a Finnish pastor and a lay member of the Finnish parliament were being investigated by authorities for teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality. Now prosecutors have made a decision to bring criminal charges against them and bring them to justice.
And lest we think that such persecution of believing Christians, though regrettable, is at least a problem on foreign shores far from us, those individuals threatened with prison for their beliefs have direct ties to the Lutheran Church. of the Missouri-Synod here in the United States.
I blogged about these two cases last year in my article on Criminalizing Christian Teachings About Sex. Please read that.
Dr Päivi Räsänen, physician and member of parliament – who served as Home Secretary, nothing less – wrote a brochure in 2004 titled Male and Female He Created Them (for an English translation, click on the link ), arguing that “Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.
His book was published by the Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Finland (ELMDF), an ecclesiastical body in full altar and pulpit communion with the Synod of the Lutheran Church of Missouri. Its bishop-elect is Reverend Dr Juhana Pohjola, who obtained his STM from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort. Wayne, Indiana, an LCMS institution, where he was also a visiting scholar.
Finnish prosecutors began investigating Dr Räsänen in 2019, arguing that his book, printed with support from the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, a recognized service organization of the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, could constitute a violation of the law. against “incitement against a group of people.” They also began an investigation into Rev. Pohjola, since he approved the publication of the book.
Prosecutors also uncovered other incidents that could be considered criminal: she posted a tweet criticizing the state church for sponsoring the Gay Pride parade, citing Romans 1: 24-27; and she gave the wrong answer when asked to speak on Finnish public radio on “What would Jesus think of a homosexual?” “
Now Dr Räsänen and Reverend Pohjjola have been officially charged. They face up to two years in prison.
The attorney general said the book and the couple’s statements are disparaging towards homosexuals and “therefore exceed the limits of freedom of speech and religion.”
Finland, as a liberal democracy, ostensibly values freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but, according to this determination, these are supplanted by the LGBT cause. Never mind that the book came out 13 years before Finland legalized same-sex marriage, when the issue was still debated.
Reverend Pohjola said this after being charged:
“As a Christian, I do not want to and cannot discriminate against or despise anyone created by God. Every human being, created by God and redeemed by Christ, is equally precious. . . This does not take away the fact that, according to the Bible and the Christian conception of man, same-sex relationships are against the will of God, and marriage is only intended between a man and a woman. This is what the Christian church has always taught and always will teach.
A European evangelical site quotes Dr Räsänen:
Räsänen has repeatedly said that “the teachings about marriage and sexuality in the Bible flow from love, not hate” because “the central message of faith, i.e. grace and the atonement, is based on the Christian vision of humanity seen in the creation, on the one hand, and the great fall, on the other hand ”.
She also made it clear that she supports the dignity and human rights of all homosexuals, because “the Christian view of human beings is based on the inherent and equal dignity of all people”. . . .
The Christian politician underlined the importance for citizens of democratic countries to use the fundamental right to express their opinions: “The more Christians remain silent on controversial issues, the more the space for freedom of expression shrinks. “.
I met both Päivi Räsänen and Juhana Pohjola when I was in Finland for a lecture series and had lunch with each of them. This was before their legal problems erupted. I was very impressed with both. Here is a Christian who lives her faith in her vocation as a public official and does so effectively – rising up in her party to be appointed Minister of the Interior – in a very secular country. Here is a pastor who faithfully proclaims the Word of God and presides over congregations whose members adhere to this Word, despite the very secularism of the state church. I was inspired by the many dedicated Christians I met there. (See my article on the state of denominational Lutheranism in Finland.)
I believe the opposition they face makes them stronger in the faith. We Americans have it so much easier. And yet, we too may one day face similar persecution. It is already affecting us, us Lutherans in the Missouri Synod, because of our fellowship with the Finnish church body that is under attack.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: Is this what conservative Christians will all face if the equality law, which allows LGBT claims to trump claims of religious freedom, becomes the law of the land?
Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, Dean and Bishop elected through the Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Finland
Päivi Räsänen by Eurooppalainen Suomi ry, CC BY 2.0