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Politics and religion holding hands – at least historically

Today was the first day of classes, so as much as I would love talking about all of the exciting things I did over the past few days, I think it’s time to get scholarly!!

Religion: it’s one of the things that fascinates me the most in Denmark.  Though Muslims are one of the fastest-growing populations in Denmark, over 90% of Danes are Lutherans.  I’m paying most of my attention to the Lutherans – who, though they pay taxes to the church, attend baptisms and marriages in the church, and would probably identify as “Christian,” do not actually believe in the theological underpinnings of the Christian faith. (At least, this is the stipulation; see the Research page for more info).

As the semester goes on, I will share personal experiences, interviews, and observations that can help me uncover this issue.  Yesterday was the first of such encounters.  While touring the Amelienborg Palace (home of the Danish royal family), I had an interesting discussion with Stefan, our guide:

nice pants

(by the way, nice pants)

Stefan explained how religion is an integral part of the Danish identity.  Beautiful cathedrals are scattered throughout Copenhagen; religion is a defining part of Danish art and architecture; according to the constitution, the ruling monarch must be a member of the Danish National Church (it is essentially illegal for the royal family to be anything but Lutheran); monarchs are coronated inside churches, and baptize their heirs.

Indeed, there is a strong historical bond between political and religious authority in Denmark.  This relationship is reflected in the design of Amelienborg.  As Stefan explained, there are 3 main “pillars” of the palace – the House of God, the King, and Eternity, which are symbolically aligned through the center of the Palace.  God comes first, represented by Frederik’s Church, seen in the background.  The King (Frederick V, who built the palace) sits on his horse in the middle of the square, looking up towards the church (drawing his power from God):

Royal palace - God then king

Behind the King is “Eternity” – before the Opera House was built, it was a vast, open space that reinforced the presence of God’s divine, infinite nature (and also mankind’s hope of reaching eternity):

Royal palace - King then eternity

Religion is certainly a part of the “Danish ethos,” as I like to call it.  It is part of their historical and cultural identity.  It is tradition.  Christianity seems deeply intertwined with political power.

Whether it is theological is another question altogether.

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