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Conservative Laestadianism in the Municipal Politics of Northern Finland

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges book series (PSLRSC)

Abstract

Nykänen and Harjumaa offer a unique perspective on the political culture inside Conservative Laestadianism, the largest Christian revival movement in Finland. Focusing on municipal politics in the core support areas of the movement, Nykänen and Harjumaa look at the everyday political dimensions of the conservative religious movement. They illuminate the interwovenness of religious and secular aspects of the political actions and decisions and on the other hand the tensions between the religious and the secular. The chapter shows how the relations between political life and religion are never fixed but rather changing and negotiable.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Suomen Rauhanyhdistysten Keskusyhdistys/The Central Association of the Finnish Associations of Peace. See srk.fi/en/

  2. 2.

    Laestadianism has a long and somewhat confusing history of disputes. Currently, other major branches of Laestadianism are Firstborn Laestadians (headquarters or “elders” in Gällivare, Sweden, some 30,000 followers around the world) and Little Firstborns/Rauhan Sana (few thousand followers especially in Northwest Finland and Finland’s Southern Ostrobothnia) (see, e.g., Gelfgren 2016). Even if the branches have a common background, they are both spiritually and socially quite independent and exclusive. This means that they often do not consider each other as “true Christians” (Nykänen 2017). In their chapter in this book, Jakob Dalhbacka and Gerd Snellman examine the culture of Swedish-speaking Little Firstborns in Finnish Southern Ostrobothnia, a geographical area south from Oulu region.

  3. 3.

    Voter turnouts and other quantitative matters—such as how many Laestadianists are active in politics—are not analyzed in this chapter. It is, however, reasonable to suggest that these questions be addressed in further research. For instance, several observations made in the United States indicate that active members of Christian parishes and communities also participate more actively in public affairs compared to other citizens (Wilson and Musick 1998; Putnam and Campbell 2010). Religious doctrines and especially the support of a religious network have an effect on public activity (Lewis et al. 2013).

  4. 4.

    This interpretation has its origins in the book of Jeremiah: “Every human being, a religious one among others, lives and works in the context of one’s own time and culture. But even the ones who were forced to move and lived their life in Babylonia 2,500 years ago, received a request from God, passed on by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile’ (Jer. 29:7)” (Hintikka 2008, 134–5).

  5. 5.

    The Finnish Rural Party (1959–1995) was a political party founded by former Centre Party politician Veikko Vennamo. The party gained most of its support from the Finnish rural population, whose discontent it explicitly mobilized. Later the party was labeled as populist both in research literature and in politics. For example, Veikko Vennamo’s son Pekka Vennamo, his father’s successor as a party leader, used populism as a positive identification for the party at an interview in 1983. Former members of the Finnish Rural Party founded the nationalist “True Finns Party” (now known as the Finns Party) in 1995 (Elmgren 2018).

  6. 6.

    Tapio Nykänen attempted to conduct a survey of the political opinions of Laestadians in 2011 during their annual summer gathering Suviseurat. The movement’s central organization SRK did not give permission to conduct the survey. According to the answer by the movement’s general secretary, Suviseurat is a religious meeting, and politics “should not be mixed” with religion.

  7. 7.

    The Centre Party is a moderate center-right party and one of the three biggest parties in Finnish politics, others being the National Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party. The party was founded in 1906 as the Agrarian League. It still gains most of its support from rural areas and smaller countryside cities. The party has traditionally promoted classical liberal values such as freedom and free trade but also social themes (“an issue of poor people”) and, notably, decentralization of political power. Despite being liberal in some respects, the party has often taken conservative stances on moral issues. For example, 29 of the 35 MPs of the Centre Party voted against same-sex marriage in the Finnish Parliament in 2014 (see Eduskunta: Äänestys 14).

  8. 8.

    The National Coalition Party is a center-right party. Traditionally, the party has been considered conservative. Nowadays it promotes (socially orientated) economic liberalism, entrepreneurship and individualism, but also, for example, the model of the Nordic welfare state. The party is strongly pro-European. For a brief introduction to the Finnish political system, see Arter (1987).

  9. 9.

    Finnish words “tupailta” and “seurailta” used by the interviewee are difficult to translate. They refer to social gatherings that involve informal discussions, singing and possibly religious speeches.

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Nykänen, T., Harjumaa, T. (2021). Conservative Laestadianism in the Municipal Politics of Northern Finland. In: Gelfgren, S., Lindmark, D. (eds) Conservative Religion and Mainstream Culture . Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59381-0_3

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