Church Religion and New Age: An Encounter between Rivals?
Lisbeth Mikaelsson [+]
University of Bergen
Religion in Norway has for the past 1000 years been more or less synonymous with Lutheran Protestantism. The Norwegian state church was formally replaced by The Norwegian Church in 2012, and has – like Christian churches elsewhere in Europe – experienced decline on important parameters like Sunday service attendance. However, membership numbers and support of main rituals are still high: 75 percent were members of the Church of Norway in January 2014 (www.kirken.no); statistics from 2013 show that 92 percent of all burials were performed by the church, 61 percent of babies born were baptized and 64 percent of youngsters went through confirmation. New Age belongs to a wave of movements that particularly since the 1970s have challenged Christianity´s monopoly-like control over the field of Norwegian religion. The fluid nature of New Age-spiritualities, moreover, makes for a particularly challenging competitor. Unlike immigrant religions like Islam, New Age lack clear cut boundaries, authorities, congregations and belief systems and are accordingly difficult to define and relate to. This chapter starts with an overview of relevant research, including a brief history of the relationship between the Norwegian church, Christianity and New Age. The remaining part of the chapter will focus on 1) church strategies in regard to New Age-spiritualities, 2) bridge building and boundary protection on the part of individuals and organizations, 3) the establishment of contact zones, in the form of intersecting issues, interests and concerns.