Thursday, April 19, 2012

"No Choice but Forward" - Communique: Fridtjof Nansen Visits to the Oslo Lutheran Communist Youth Group


Communique of the Oslo Chapter of the Lutheran Communist Youth Groups
Minutes from the Meeting of 9 September 1898
Submitted by Comrade Hjalmar Werle, Secretary 
For immediate distribution

The brethren were most honored and thoroughly elated to be graced by the presence of Norway’s national hero, renowned arctic explorer and adventurer Fridtjof Nansen.  

Dr. Nansen, known as our Polar Oracle and now Professor of Zoology at Royal Frederick University, is perhaps most famous for his daring North Pole expedition, lasting from 1893-1896, aboard the now legendary ship, the Fram.  While Nansen and his courageous crew failed to reach the Pole, British mountaineer Edward Whymper has noted that our Dr. Nansen has made "almost as great an advance as has been accomplished by all other voyages in the nineteenth century put together.”  He has detailed his extraordinary exploits in his recent literary sensation, Farthest North, which has inspired youth across the kingdom to form Nansen Clubs of their own, devoted to the skiing and the spirit of adventure.

While Dr. Nansen has quite publicly voiced his discontent with the short-comings of the Lutheranism of the crown and state in our fair land, he has always maintained his firm belief in the faith itself - a position most suited to our brotherhood.  One of our current leaders, Hjalmar Johansen, in fact accompanied Dr. Nansen on the final stage of his polar expedition, in which the two of them traveled by ski, dog, and canoe, surviving against incredible odds.  During that time, Comrade Johansen was mauled by polar bears, and emerged from the ordeal with a deepened commitment to the faith of the cross.  

Following our recent visit from Herr Pastor Friedrich Nietzsche, the youth clamored for real-life examples of the kind of spiritual heroism and missional boldness to which he exhorted them.  It is largely due to the foresight and wisdom of Comrade Johansen that no less than Fridtjof Nansen should transfigure our imaginations and inflame our hearts by the mere hearing - indeed, may we call it what it was, a Proclamation! - of his exploits.
The popular details of Dr. Nansen’s exploits are now well-known.  I record here merely the insights we gleaned regarding the Chapter’s own recent conversations regarding the worldwide mission of the Youth Groups, both for the spread of the Gospel to all nations, and also, regarding the subversion of the lamentable wedding of Christ’s commission to the abominable machinations and pitiable delusions of glory of the state churches of the nations.
-The Youth were astounded by Dr. Nansen’s charity and humility in his willingness to learn from and adapt the practices of the Eskimo peoples of Greenland during his famous cross-country ski crossing of that wasteland in 1888.  Nansen, as is known, learned from those peoples, whom many would have quickly subdued as heathens, the art of making the kayak, a technological wonder in its simplicity.  The kayak, and the skills he learned from the people, made possible his successes.  A discussion ensued as to the ways in which Christians might, in their own travels, gain much for the Gospel by conversing with and even being converted by those who we, to our everlasting shame, are far more ready to believe are in need of our beneficence and tutelage.  
-Similarly, the Youth were reminded of the ancient insight of the Christian Church, lost in the wake of the Reformation and Industrial Revolution, that God speaks not only in the Book of Scripture, but also in the Book of Nature.  This great mystery, so recently revived by the devotion of Comrade Grundtvig to the Folk Life of his beloved Denmark, once again showed forth its glory in the tales of Dr. Nansen, who famously utilized the east-west current of the northern drift, working with the wisdom of the creation, for the sake of his mission (this, in spite of numerous protests by so-called “theorists!”).  Our faith has imbibed the unfortunate habit of viewing Nature as concubine to be dominated, rather than love poem of Divine Wisdom.  Many voiced their resolution to pay greater heed to the care of and attention to the creation.  
-An extended discussion emerged around Dr. Nansen’s famous vessel, the Fram, and its technical innovations.  The imagination of the Youth was captivated by the Fram’s many wonders: it’s on-board windmill, which generated electricity to keep the men’s spirits’ alive during years of arctic darkness; it’s reinforced hull, capable of withstanding the crushing vice-grip of the polar glaciers; the on-board library of over 500 volumes, testament to the necessity of wedding action and contemplation; it’s player-organ, which in addition to soothing mens’ spirits, also bespeaks the necessity of music and all arts that tune the soul to its own immortality; and also, the ship’s on-board newspaper, written by the men for one another, as a way of creating solidarity and providing ample opportunity for the constructive voicing of criticism and of praise.  
(Several of the Youth inclined towards tinkering and invention have already begun drawing up their own plans for a most unusual improvisation upon the Fram, what they call “Airships.”  They believe that such craft, fully equipped for mission and the furthering of community, could travel, not merely across polar currents, but through the very rivers of the sky, reaching more quickly and stealthily remote corners of the earth yet untouched by the avarice of the nations.  Their eyes are filled with dreams and with conviction that such craft may also serve as weapons of the Spirit against the Tyranny of the Nations, allowing the True Gospel to reach those who have, to this point, heard only its Babylonian doppleganger.)
-Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, the Youth erupted in applause akin to a Haugian Pietistic revival meeting as Dr. Nansen reiterated his own philosophy, exemplified in his famous maxim: 
“I demolish my bridges behind me - then there is no choice but forward.”
Dr. Nansen never left himself an escape route.  Much like the Dionysian Christianity of the Rev. Nietzsche’s New Zarathustra, Dr. Nansen’s own heroic life provided a powerful, living example of the kind of discipleship so devoted to the mission of the Gospel that it disregards all nay-sayers and all pretensions of impossibility for the sake, not of effectiveness, but of bold and radical faithfulness.  We are not explorers of the night-enshrouded poles.  But we are those sent forth into the darkness of a world enslaved by Sin, Death, the Devil, the Nations, and too often, the Church.  If the next century is to be brighter than the one which now comes to its end, Dr. Nansen’s philosophy must become our lived theology.
Dr. Nansen also delighted the crowd with his characteristic charisma and wit.  At the conclusion of such a weighty conversation, he also urged the Youth to continue in their passions, and especially, as is close to his heart, to the pursuit of outdoor activities such as our own Nordic skiing.  He closed the meeting with his own twist on a famous aphorism of our Dr. Luther, noting that “It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport.”  
Already, the Youth are grooming their moustaches, exchanging their Nietzschean walruses for the Viking fierceness of the Nansen.  And, if popular sentiment is anything, they are also exchanging a smaller world for a much expanded one, and a timid Gospel for one impelled forward by the spirit of exploration, of innovation, and of adventure.  Time will tell if this spirit is the same Spirit breathed forth upon the Church by the Savior as he sent them forth on that primal great commission.  In the meantime, while he is no saint, Fridtjof Nansen has certainly shown us something of a life of discipleship transposed into our own Nordic moment.  And for this, we are most grateful.


Faithfully submitted -HW

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