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3. Electronics and the church

In this chapter, I introduce the main conflict between science and religion; the two themes in my life that have been the drive to discover things; the apparent conflict between spirit and matter, mysticism and rationality, God and physics.

I am in close contact with both of these sides of life.

I «know» something about physics, and I «know» something about that which is behind. I know these things because I always observe from an unusual position outside the pack. I see connections that others often don't.

When you are alone in knowing something, you must get to the bottom of things yourself. Others have little to contribute. When such a boy immerses himself in electronics on the one hand and meets the dogmas of the church on the other – and also sees patterns in both places that others do not understand – it creates a tension with powers in it.
I'm not going to tell my whole life story. Still, I have to include a few important events for the sequel.

My upbringing occurred in northern Norway, on Lyngseidet – a small village with approximately seven hundred people a couple of hours drive northeast of Tromsø. We are talking about a town located about six hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and only 430 kilometres from the world's northernmost city, Hammerfest.

My mother took me there.

Lyngseidet deserves a book of its own. It is a beautiful place, located between two fjords, in the middle of the Lyngen alps where the mountains run from the sea and straight up to two thousand metres altitude.

We had a dog, a buzzing cocker, and I walked with him almost daily up these slopes towards Gajajenka (The beautiful plain) and Goalsevarre (1289 metres high).

It is Sami territory.

At Gajajenka, I occasionally met wild and domestic reindeer – and lots of sheep that our dog, unfortunately, loved to disturb.

Traditionally, the population lived on fish, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and shrimps. In the autumn, it was full of cranberries, blueberries and mulberries.

I belonged to the «southerners», who made up half of the school's teachers and half the municipal administration.

They were well educated from the capital or thereabouts and were lured north with tax breaks and subsidies from the state. That's what it took to attract qualified labour to a place where the sun is absent for several months in the middle of winter, and it is tens of miles to the nearest cinema.

Every other month, the ambulant village cinema came by, though.

Imagine that twenty northerners are sitting in the gymnasium and squinting sceptically at the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember the upset mood when it was time to change the film roll. I remember where I sat, the people around me, the machinist. It's almost like an image inside me.

The southerners were received wholeheartedly by the village's two trading families, who missed the slight smell of civilisation they brought. One family operated the ferries across the fjords, and the other owned shops and land.

In addition to the Sami, peasants, southerners and trading families, another group on Lyngseidet left its unmistakable mark on the small community: the Laestadians.

That is a pietistic, Lutheran revival movement established in the Sami areas in the middle of the 19th century. The starting point was to stop the destructive alcohol abuse among the Sami, not unlike the situation for the natives of North America when the Europeans came with their whiskey.

They were able to stop the drinking; and also dancing, card games, rude jokes (for which the region is known) and everything else that might be fun. The Laestadians can be compared to the Amish in Pennsylvania, USA, but they did not give up all modern things, only most.

When it came to the fight against everything sinful, on the other hand, the Amish probably had to see themselves defeated.

In addition, the state church was present with the priest Flokkmann, who was well versed in Sami culture and life but was to preach the state version of God's word.

Until recently, Norway had a state church. That meant that the school, too, was infiltrated by the Messiah of the Jews, in my case represented by class teacher Eriksen who was a believing man, a former sailor in foreign trade.

In third grade, Eriksen became my teacher. He was a man of order and morals and wanted every day to begin with everyone getting up and one of the kids reciting The Lord's Prayer from memory. It went in turn and started at the first desk by the front door.

I sat on the last row, along with the windows, number three from the catheter. How can I remember this so accurately?

So there I stood. With an Oslo-dialect among strangers, ten years old with complex PTSD, and was to read God's word. Poor Eriksen.

I knew my Lord's Prayer, but I refused.

I did not believe the words for a second.

They appeared to me as slander without prior sin. A moral index finger pointed at me by someone who wanted to indoctrinate me into a two-thousand-year-old set of irrelevant rules based on a view of life with sin, shame and humiliation of everything human.

Quite the opposite of humanism.

Quite the opposite of what science tells about the world.

It was also inconsistent with the radical wind that swept over the world, Lyngseidet included.

In this tiny place in Northern Norway, there were no less than three communist and socialist political parties in the 1970s. The leaders were all teachers. My mother was head of the Socialist People's Party for a short time.

God? The church? The Laestadian's extreme rules?

Not me, no. I refused to read anything out loud. I did not believe any of it. I was against moralism and submission. I had long understood that the church is a gathering place for sheep and not lone wolves.

I felt abused as a human being, still ten years old, by bowing to such use of force.

Guess what? Eriksen turned red in the face, sweaty, upset – and looked around for the world's most giant cane that he would have happily used if it had not had him fired.

It was a perfect storm.

I was the defiant boy who stood up to God and the teacher. I should have been sent to the principal and then straight home. I do not remember if I got away with it. Probably.

It was not defiance.

It was rational, a justified revolt. A struggle for values and the right to be who I am.

There was also something more.

I probably did not understand it then, but I see it now retrospectively.

I knew that portraying Jesus and God and all the metaphysical in this traditional, strict, guilt-ridden way was wrong.

I knew something else.

I had it in me.

Intuitive knowledge, absolute and indisputable. Bigger than words. Bigger than the world. Something quite different from the cramped universe that the classroom conveyed.

I did not understand it then and there, but I became aware of the problem when Jesus Christ Superstar burst his way through censorship and television debates shortly afterwards.

The cinema version of JC was more accurate than both the pietistic and the government-approved portrayal of religion I had encountered so far. The rock musical provides an everyday, political, realistic presentation of the events in Galilee.

The critics believed that religion was absent in the film. It portrayed Jesus as a long-haired, cool and beautiful hippie who also sang well. There were ladies, naked skin, excesses and heated conflicts.

I can guarantee that no Laestadians ever saw it.

But with me, some bells rang. I saw a guru ostracized by society, distrusted by his disciples, killed by his own. I saw a person in opposition going through a pre-determined process of infinite depth and significance.

In my opinion, this film is more genuine and more potent than any other portrayal of Jesus and Christianity, the church's version in particular. The organisation church. The man-made church.

Demolish the house of God and set the priests free!

I got hold of the double album with the music and played it until the grooves in the vinyl were almost planed away. But no, far from it! I was not converted or awakened or anything. I came from a family where science, the rationale, prevailed.

I was still profoundly fascinated by that JC movie and allowed «something» to settle in.