The Sermons in the churches of

Oester Skerninge and Egense

14th March 2004


By Jens Galschiot, 13.03.04

When I was 15 years old I decided to have nothing more to do with the Danish State Church. This was a reaction against the lifeless and petit bourgeois attitude I felt the church represented.

I wasn’t really in opposition to religion as such, but I didn’t feel that my opinion of justice coincided with those of the priests and church. As a consequence I ‘filed for a divorce’, and I don’t think the local priest considered it a great loss for the church.

I would never have imagined myself standing in a pulpit 35 years later.

A few years later I travelled to Asia. In Teheran an old woman collapsed on the pavement just in front of me. I tried to help, but everyone else simply walked away and seemed to be indifferent to the fact that she might be dying there alone. I was shattered, but got up and left like the others. It was a pretty tough experience for a 17-year-old, and on the spot I decided to become a socialist.

Later I experienced the famine in Afghanistan, and became accustomed to the sight of corpses around me.

I believed that socialism and the working-class would create a new world of freedom and justice.

I was an apprentice at Lindoe Shipyard, became a socialist and leader of the apprentices!  The dream lasted for 10 years, but all of a sudden I no longer believed in my own vision.

I had not forgotten the old woman, or the famine. But since I had no solution to the global problems I felt I had no right to voice my opinions, and I chose to remain silent for the following 10 years.

I became a sculptor and created aesthetic sculptures: interpretations of the miracles of the world - especially women. All the while keeping the pains I felt at the injustice and the imbalance of the world to myself.

In 1992 I participated at the world exhibition in Seville with a large exhibition of sculptures. In the meantime the Yugoslav civil war was raging. The Serbs were using a new strategy: raping Muslim women and killing their husbands and children, leaving them pregnant with Serb babies in their womb.

The massacres released great waves of refugees up through Europe, to Germany and other countries where they were interned in the empty concrete-ghettos that the East German workers had abandoned when the Berlin-wall fell. Young right-wing radicals gathered outside the buildings and threw flaming Molotov cocktails, through their windows so that they, once again, had to be evacuated.

I was shocked. I hadn’t imagined that that we could behave like that anymore - after Auschwitz. I believed that we Europeans had reached a standard of civilisation and knowledge, which precluded a revival of the barbarism from the 40’s.

Apparently this was also one of my youthful illusions.

I began making researches into what mechanisms make ordinary people capable of committing massacres. Which path has one trodden from being a decent, civilized German in the 30’s, to become a gaoler 5 years later, in a Concentration Camp? 10 million people were exterminated, in history’s first industrial mass-homicide.

It starts as a sliding motion: ‘the others’ become demonic: they are dangerous, lazy, impure, dirty scroungers – in fact rather inhuman. ‘Inhuman’ is the keyword. Once we have reduced other human beings to animals, we are able to release the animal in ourselves, and kill them.

The opting out of morality and the combination of cynical rationality and base, instinctive impulses paved the way to barbarism.

It is a kind of seduction, a psychosis, a spell, which blinds us to reality.

The Germans’ have a phrase for it: ‘der innere Scweinehund’. In English we may call it ‘the inner beast’.

In the text for this day Jesus says: “The Devil is the father of lies“: He who blinds us to the truth.

It is difficult to persist in maintaining the truth when one is subjected to extreme pressure. The majority surrender to base-instinct and support the atrocities. Very few say “NO”. Those who do are called traitors and exposed to reprisals.

I realised that when these things could happen to the Germans and the Serbs it could happen to me as well, unless I claimed to be a better person than them, which I cannot substantiate.

Perhaps this is what Jesus is trying to tell us with the words: “Let him among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her”. The beast is within us all.

My research into these matters led to a turning point in my life. I still hadn’t found an overall solution to the problems of the world, but I contented myself by concentrating my efforts on my own conduct.

I decided to try to maintain my human decency and compassion for other people, however inhumane my surroundings might become. I decided to be among those who said “No” to barbarism and dehumanisation of my fellow human beings. As a reminder to myself I materialised my inner devil in the sculpture ‘My Inner Beast’.

These new decisions and realizations had the effect that I no longer felt I had to carry the burden of pain I felt about the old woman’s death and the state of the world in general in silence. Now I could shout it out and demand action from the people surrounding me, who all belong to the richest people in the world.

When they asked me what I intended to do about the imbalance, I replied with equanimity that I had no reply, but that I could not accept living in a world were one third live in a society of overconsumption, while the rest live in the deepest poverty and that I am willing to share my wealth, and lower my standard of living to achieve a world in balance.

Do you remember? –They tore down the Berlin Wall and we rejoiced. The world had become a whole; there were no reds and whites anymore. We were all white.                         

However, the imbalance was still there, and all the stones we pulled down in Berlin we used to build a new and bigger wall. This time it was to separate the rich from the poor. We shut the door and shielded ourselves from the poor, who tried to escape from wars and impossible living conditions.

The world has become so small, as a result of globalisation and global communication, that it no longer can contain it’s own imbalance. In addition to the flow of refugees, international terrorism has emerged - bombing innocent civilians - in order to create further polarization.

The Berlin Wall was built in a few days. But it wasn’t sufficient. Human beings are ingenious creatures who are not easily stopped by walls. The Germans crawled over to visit friends and relatives on the other side.

·        Then they cleared a large area on the eastern side of the wall to prevent the flow of people, but it didn’t help much.

·        Mines were laid out. That had some effect, since many people became afraid when they heard about those who had been killed or mutilated. It still wasn’t enough. People kept fleeing.

·        Automatic machine-guns which fired on anything that moved on the Eastern side of the wall, were mounted. That helped - hardly anyone managed to get over.

·        But the price to be paid was high. After the fall of the wall the politicians who had given the orders to fire without warning were put on trial for crimes of inhumanity.

The problem lies in the way in which people are prevented from crossing borders: first control measures are taken into use, then reprisals - finally murder. This is the slippery slope Europe is on. Those responsible for building walls become callous, completely unscrupulous.

Control measures have been carried out; legislation against refugees has been tightened with unprecedented severity. The reprisals have begun:

·        Refugees of war are being sent back to the prisons and torture chambers they fled from. Holland has recently deported 35,000 people, many of whom have lived in the country for more than 10 years.

·        Scanners have been erected along the entire Mediterranean coast to prevent African boat refugees from landing.

·        All trucks and ships entering Europe are inspected with detectors, which can measure human expiration, before they are allowed to pass.

The killings have also begun:

·        Greece has recently mined its borders to Turkey. 30 refugees have lost their lives within the past 5 years.

·        The scanners in the Mediterranean force the refugees to use ever smaller boats, so as not to be discovered. Several hundred drown each year, and those who are not eaten by sharks drift ashore on the Spanish coast several times a week.

But it is not our fault. After all, they could simply stop running away from their executioners.

Our Christian ideal of: ‘Do unto others as you would be done by’, does not apply beyond national borders.

I suppose they should have realised long ago, that the rich world’s talk about: ‘The inalienable Right to Life’, doesn’t apply to the poor in the 3rd world. To mention just one fact: 35,000 children die every single day of easily curable hunger related diseases.

Why are we barricading ourselves?

·        In order to protect our civilisation, we say. But what does that consist of? – ‘Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood’ ???

·        Is it imaginable that the construction of the wall and the war against terrorism can prop-up these values of western civilisation? As far as I can see our reaction against the imbalance only serves to escalate the conflict transforming the western world to be meticulously controlled, exploitive and oppressive, in sheer contradiction to our democratic values.

·        The question is, therefore, whether it is the foreigners, or our reaction against the foreigners that constitutes a threat to our civilisation.

This raises the following questions:

·        Are we really worried about our civilisation, or is it rather our money and high standard of living we are afraid of losing?

·        Is it possible that it is out of sheer greediness that we entrench ourselves - because we don’t want to share with the poor?

·        Is our money worth more than our humaneness?

·        Is it possible that most people in their secret hearts have exchanged the God of Love and Mercy for the God of Mammon?

Human beings are the only creatures on earth that are capable of acting beyond instinctive impulses. It is our faculty of creating ethical and moral values that gives us the right to call ourselves human beings.

I don’t know whether I can call myself a Christian. But I do believe that Jesus’ talk about Love and Forgiveness ought to be the basis for all people’s social behaviour. And I think Jesus would agree to the essentials of this sermon.

That it is of essential importance to adhere to these fundamental values Jesus underlines in the text for this day by saying: “Truly I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word he will never die”.



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    Categories: Writings by Jens Galschiot | About Jens Galschiot
    Themes: Religion
    Type: Speeches
    Dates: 14th March 2004