By Taina Chan

In the following series of three blogs, I will study post-Christendom in the context of my two home countries, Canada and Finland. These two western countries may first seem quite different, but they nevertheless share similarities not just in their landscape and culture but also in their religion: I will argue that the Finns embrace post–Christendom the same way as Canadians, just on a smaller scale. In my first writing, I will describe how immigration and changes in the value system have impacted the Christian church in Canada. In the consequent blogs, I will explore post–Christendom more from the perspective of Finland, viewing the past and the present of the church. The focus will be on Lutheranism as it has played the major role in the nation’s Christendom.

Canada and Finland represent the wealthy north, they are examples of countries where the physiological and safety needs are generally met, and consequently, the attention is not drawn to daily survival but to somewhere else. For instance, according to the World Value Survey, the people of the Global North consider self-expression and the equal rights of outgroups very important; “ethnic and cultural diversity” has become increasingly acceptable and even interesting.[1] The traditional values (e.g., religiosity and obedience) have been replaced by secularism, rationality, and autonomy. As a result, Canadians and Finns have changed in their religious beliefs: fewer people believe now in God, heaven, or hell. Moreover, membership rates and religious participation have dropped in both countries. For instance, in the 1980s almost all the Finns were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but today, just over half of them, although there are differences between the rural and urban areas.[2]

Due to the low birth rates and growth of the older population, immigration has become “a necessary component to achieve economic growth and keep taxpayer-funded systems such as pensions and health care stable and balanced.”[3] While new immigrants seek a better future, governments adjust their policies to the needs of their new residents. For instance, the Canadian Multicultural Act guarantees that people of all cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious heritage are equally respected and welcome.

As the Christian worldview is no longer the driving force of the government’s legislation, Christians struggle to maintain a Bible-honoring lifestyle within a secular society. As an example, both the Canadian and Finnish governments have ruled out the obligation of Sunday observance.[4] The Christian families easily waver between the two worlds: children’s sports activities and shopping trips compete with the Christian agenda of the church and rest on Sundays.

Similarly, the Canadian public school system has adopted a secular curriculum[5]; the Finnish education authorities are moving in the same direction, although a few steps behind.[6] Those of us from the era of LP records and rotary phones may also cherish the memories of school Christmas pageants and angel choirs with (live) candles. Now, as public schools have no role in Christian education, cultivating Bible literacy is left to the families and the church. The new generations will certainly learn to read and write but what about arts: How does Biblical illiteracy impact the visitors of art museums and concert halls? How can significant artworks, such as Ruben’s painting of Solomon’s Judgement or Bach’s composition, St. Matthew’s Passion be enjoyed and understood without knowing the central stories of the Bible?




[2] The ELCF provides information about the different aspects of the Lutheran church in Finland. Some of the contents has been translated into English.

[3] Gabriel Friedman, “All the Reasons Why Canada Needs Immigration.” In Financial Post, October 3 and 4, 2019. Online

[4] In Canada, the Lord’s Day Act was evoked in 1980 to restrict activities; In Finland, all the stores have been permitted to stay open on Sundays since 2016.

[5] The Catholic schools and the private Christian schools are an exception.

[6] Tuula Sakaranaho describes the status of the religious education in the Finnish public school system. Religion is still a school subject in the Finnish public schools, but the contents and the forms are widely debated as the Finnish society has become increasingly multicultural and indifferent to the Christian faith. Tuula Sakaranaho. “Religious Education in Finland.” In Temenos – Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion 49 (2): 225–254.


Latest News