WHAT THE LAW OF JANTE CREATES:
- An appearance of humility which is in fact pride
- A passive rather than an active faith. Fatalism replaces faith
- A lethargy difficult to overcome
- A lie which engenders a false religious spirit
- A uniformity rather than true unity; unity requires diversity
- A stifling of courageous leadership
- A resistance toward doing good works
- A legalism that opposes grace
- A spirit of judgment and suspicion rather than of Christian fellowship
- A cap on emotions, making a person feel emotionally restrained
- A climate in which true prophets are not welcome
The Law of Jante neutralizes what is positive in the Viking spirit. It levels everyone off, so that no one shines above the others. It creates a democratic spirit, the strong side of which encourages the rich to share with the poor, as they do in Scandinavia but the negative side of which keeps people from feeling special to anyone, even God. So to hear how freely God loves them for Jesus’ sake is good news, although some find it too good to be true and prefer sticking with their own feeble efforts.
The Law of Jante stands in contrast to God’s assessment of His crowning creation when He said that it was “very good.” It says, “I’m not okay, and you’re even worse.” So it makes people reluctant to affirm others, to show honor where honor is due, to live with positive attitudes toward themselves, and to exercise faith. God blesses people; I just don’t happen to be one of them. Of course, God loves the world, but I’ll never play on His first team.
Of course, all of us are prone to this sinister outlook. We need to fight it in ourselves, our children, and those we love. The spirit of Jante creates a heavy legalism that makes people uncomfortable with a spirit of celebration and where duty overcomes delight. Sober living is deep in the Scandinavian soul. They laughed at the jokes I told in sermons, but they let me know that their pastors do not tell jokes when they preach. I could get away with it, because I was an American. All of which means that peer pressure is a big factor in the Christian culture and in the community. Pastors fear more than they do in America becoming mavericks, disappointing their bishops, creating waves, and stirring up opposition. One can fall off the horse on either side. Where you find the legalism, it will be followed by license. Both operate in the flesh rather than the spirit. Legalism creates license, because legalism resists grace, condemning people to pull off holiness and resist sin by their own effort, which is impossible. So the Pharisees were out-of-control sinners, although they hid their wickedness behind a vale of religion.
Dr. Gary Sweeten, an American pastor/leader who did much teaching and ministry in Scandinavia, took people at the retreat through an eight-step process of deliverance prayer. “Amazingly,” he wrote, “after all this teaching, discussion, confession and repentance, there were still many leaders who were confused about why the Law was wrong. It had become so much a part of each person’s mental map that change was almost impossible. Thus, that very night I did another complete teaching, confession, small group sharing, burning of the vows, public confession and repentance and burning of the Law of Jante” (part 3 next).