Post: Readers Respond

As usual, I have enjoyed reading Pietisten this time, as I do everytime I do. And old ones too. But this Spring, 2008 one has much to commend it, as does good, spiritual and sensible writing at anytime—dunno where to begin to speak of it tho, so I’ll jus start at whatever comes, as my reading of “Death has a Face,” by Peter Sandstrom, about the director Ingmar Bergman, and his love for him and his movies, but the Bergman spoof he by chance saw, where the grim reaper is looking up into the face of heaven as his eyes follow a dove’s ascent, and there drops onto his forehead “the dove’s gooey droppings,” that gave Pete a real bellylaugh and I had to laugh at the laugh he got out of that, ha. The devil would make that seem sometimes an answer to our prayers, because we do not expect the answer that we sometimes get. Intriguing reading, that, because he writes so well. Ed Mampel, Kingsland, Texas.

I’ve already added a number of Bergman’s movies to our Netflix queue thanks to the good article by Peter. Dennis Jones, Cottage Grove, Minnesota.

Thank you to Dr. G. Timothy Johnson. Three months ago I lost my father. Two months ago I was reading articles from Piestisten and read the review Dr. Johnson wrote of When Live Calls out to Us The love and Lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl by Haddon Klingberg. This prompted me to purchase the book which I recently finished. The book has played a significant role in the grieving process from losing my father. Thanks to the review, I have been ministered to by Dr. Klingberg’s wonderfully written book on a fascinating couple. David Gottshall, Essex, Vermont.

Dear Penrod: I write as one who has a few years even on Phil Johnson. “Young” as in “Young Turks” (Spring ’08) has nothing to do with chronological age. It’s an attitude—a state of mind. Remember the words of Psalm 92: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green… .” Keep up the good work! Allan Anderson, Portland, Oregon.

I’ll gladly and gratefully renew my subscription. I know no other magazine that provides both comfort and challenge, humor and recipes. Thanks! Mariann Tiblin, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I couldn’t help responding to Glen V. Wiberg’s Christian music column in the last Pietisten. He speaks of summer worship services where American visitors comment on poor attendance and then describes Advent services in Sweden. On my first couple of visits to Sweden, one in November and the other in summertime, my relatives took me to a 12th century church near their home in a suburb of Stockholm. There were only a handful both times and we sang hymns that rolled off my tongue. I enjoyed the historical nature of the church and the sermon, though hard to follow at times because of the language barrier, was interesting.

Since then my “aunt,” a retired teacher, has begun volunteering in the confirmation class at a brand new church in another part of Jakobsberg. Because I have taught confirmation classes for decades, she asked me to come to Confirmation Sunday. At this church, probably constructed in the 1990s, people sat in padded folding chairs. The “auditorium” (it seemed more like an auditorium than a sanctuary to me) was packed. When the service commenced, I realized it was a confirmation service nearly identical to the ones I plan. The kids did a skit, sang songs, and the “message” was evangelistic, targeting those parents who don’t normally come to church with the gospel. The music included contemporary worship songs we sing at contemporary worship services in the states. The place was alive, the twenty or so youth singing loudly, the “audience” intent on what was going on. I don’t recall any music written before 1970. I was amazed to sit in a (formerly State) Lutheran Church in Sweden and hear an evangelistic message. There was no sign of death or decline; all was life and hope and future. It’s not my favorite music, and certainly not my favorite architecture, but I suspect most “Mission Churches” would give their eye teeth for a service like that.

[As] I helped my aunt pick up the discarded “programs” after the service, the youth pastor/music leader and one of the youth began to practice Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” That song has never struck me as Christian in its outlook (written by a pretty secular Jew, perhaps we could call it Judeo-Christian); but the young lady singing was clearly enthusiastic, happy to be at church, happy to be participating, happy to be singing that particular song. And the sermons she was getting spoke of God embracing her.

The more I travel, the more I realize God is alive wherever I go. Sincerely, John Lindholm, Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

I came across the Swedish novelist, Per Olov Enquist, when I picked up a sale book of his, just because I was wondering what the Swedes are doing these days. His novels are mostly based on some actual situation in history, kind of like so-called “fact novels.”

He is especially interested in pietism and its profound impact on Swedish and European society and history. Lewi’s Journey is about the founding father of Swedish Pentecostalism. I haven’t known about this movement, except that it has surpassed the Covenant of Sweden in size, becoming the largest free church. What is clear from this novel is that the Pentecostal movement was a continuation of the great revival out of which the Covenant came, only [with] speaking in tongues and faith healing added to the tool kit. An even lower stratum of Swedish society became active, in the context of a modernizing country with many new social problems in addition to the old ones, such as alcoholism, to which George Scott alluded when he brought the Wesleyan movement to Sweden around 1840. Many people were “saved” from this addiction.

Another big revelation: by 2000 the world Pentecostal movement had 250 million adherents, Brazil alone 30 million; and the Swedes were the missionaries who planted these other churches in many countries. Apparently Lewi and his associates figured out how to keep the revival going for an unusually long time before the rigor mortis of institutionalism set in, and this accounts for the remarkable missionary success.

So it turns out that this movement is in many ways akin to the Covenant, although our own forbears were, by the beginnings of the twentieth century, much too temperamentally conservative to abide spirit baptism, etc. Nevertheless, both the 19th and 20th century revivals were grounded in pietism. The author is especially interested in the relation between Enlightenment rationalism and pietism. As we know, Kant grew up in a pietist home. Enquist is at pains to show how interwoven pietism and the revival were in the fabric of Swedish life and culture as a whole, despite the fact that as people rise in the world and become more educated, they tend to react against the whole thing. Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand either Sweden or Europe apart from the two warring twins, pietism and rationalism. Truthfully, it seems to me that this is the Swedish national character, which those of us who know no Swedish carry in our cultural genes anyway. And someone like Ingmar Bergman, arch-enemy of churchly superstition and tyranny, has it too. Like a virus. Edvard Munch and Strindberg had it.

This is a fine novel of characters caught in Dostoyevskyan contradictions. I can recall no novel about ministers that is so real or sympathetic, while at the same time critical. Maybe we could go back to The Power and the Glory, but that was about a Catholic priest, which is a little different.

At one point Enquist actually quotes from the great hymn of the revival movement by Rosenius, “Where So E’er I Roam.” When Lewi has a nervous breakdown and falls into despair, he leaves for America. There are great doings to mark his departure. A recording is issued with Lewi’s final sermon and their great tenor singing this song. Pentecostals were giving such a large place to this pietistic hymn, with its references to the wounds of Christ. Zinzendorf’s name recurs throughout the book.

For me it is great to see any kind of representation of the folks I came from. They certainly don’t get much favorable coverage in media in general. Enthusiastically, Fred Cervin, Bridgeport, Connecticut.