Monday, March 29, 2010

Hans Nielsen Hauge, Renewer of the Church, 1824

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Hauge. 

I have always served congregations more or less influenced by his movement.  Right now definitely more.  Sometimes it seems like everything that is wrong with midwestern American Lutheranism is laid on him.  Legalism, Pietism, anti-clericalism, congregationalism, individualism, judgmentalism, small-mindednessism...all those isms ALL HIS FAULT!

Then I started learning more about him and this guy's had kind of a bum rap.  

And a lot of that which passes today for "Haugeism"  I believe would make his hair stand on end.  I got people in my congregation who argue against any change or innovation claiming proudly "This is a HAUGIAN CHURCH!"  who don't have any idea what he was about.  

Hans Nielson Hauge was born April 3, 1771 on  a farm in Norway.    He never had much of a formal education but from a very young age he was drawn to God.  As a young man he had an intense religious experience in which he felt very close to God and experienced great peace about the love of God and salvation.  

Hauge felt called to share this experience so that others could know this love and peace.

The thing is, from what I can make of how Norway got to be Lutheran --it seems like the the Danish King just said "Okay now we are Lutheran" but there no grassroots movement or reform or renewal  - everything that was corrupt and stale about the Roman Catholic Church stayed the way it was only now everyone called themselves Lutheran.  

There was a lot of corruption among the clergy and church hierarchy at the time. It was against the law for lay people to preach and Hauge was persecuted, arrested and served time in prison for daring to preach.  This explains that left-over anti-clericalism and suspicion of educated people.  

Back then there was good reason to suspect church authority.  And maybe there is now but I highly doubt Hauge meant there to be the lack of respect for education and church authority that passes for Haugeism today.

Hauge just wanted people to experience the love of Jesus.  

 He didn't want them to be afraid of hell.  He felt the church had become stale and dry and non-responsive to the needs of the people to hear and experience the Gospel in their lives.  

Modern day Haugeism has seemed to hang on to the reaction against what was wrong with the church at the time but lost the heart of Hauge's message - that Jesus loves you!

I think it's very possible if Hauge came back today he'd be persecuted by the very people who bandy his name about.


  1. Interesting. I wonder how it is that people these days would even know about the origins of their own church. Maybe in some rural areas, the families have stayed the same.

    Our church here was founded by a Norwegian immigrant pastor, as were some in the outlying areas. He walked to the various churches, I've been told. I wish I knew more of the story. I knew his daughter when she was elderly, a good friend of mine. She died about 20 years ago. At that time, this church was slightly liturgical and I remember she said that it was more liturgical than her background. Now we are very liturgical, but we definitely don't resist change. We have lots of people from a variety of backgrounds who have joined when they moved here. It isn't a farming area.

    I know that we are much more liturgical than the churches my daughter serves, which are "Norwegian" churches. And it sounds like they do resist change. :-(

  2. the idea of evangelism scares a lotta folk, and that 's probably good, cuz the GoodNews-ing of folk, those speaking the Good News of Christ risen and alive, is not an ordinary conversation folks are used to engaging.

    whether or not seminary training is required is a question we like to debate, and probably will debate for the next while. power is conferred and transferred by the seminary system: vested powers dont accept challenge easily.

    Haugeians morphed over time into Anti-Authoritarians, i suppose. a strong Anti-Intellectual streak accompanies it. Americans have often demonstrated both the anti-autority and -intellectual tendencies, in public life and church circles. Someone with Charisma and Charm can wield great influence in those spheres even today.

    and CHANGE? we all want the "Next Better Thing" but we all mostly resist personal a nd corporate Changing! paradoxical beings: trapped in ourselves, as M Luther would point out.

    thanks, Pr Joelle, for this blog. well spoke, well thought.