Debate Flares Up as God Gets Removed From Famous Swedish Christmas Hymn

© REUTERS / TT News Agency/Henrik MontgomeryThe 'Kongl. Teknologkoren' choir performs in Seglora church at the open-air museum Skansen on Saint Lucy's Day in Stockholm, Sweden, December 13, 2016.
The 'Kongl. Teknologkoren' choir performs in Seglora church at the open-air museum Skansen on Saint Lucy's Day in Stockholm, Sweden, December 13, 2016. - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.12.2021
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The omission of God from a historic 19th-century hymn has been called "an example of the pyromania of secularisation", whereas God himself has been notoriously compared with the N-word in apparently needing euphemisms.
A debate has erupted after SVT removed the word "God" from a beloved Christmas hymn by classic Finnish-Swedish writer and poet Zacharias Topelius and composer Jean Sibelius.

In the SVT programme, artist Malin Foxdal consistently replaced "God" with "love" throughout the psalm, with the line "give me the glory of God" replaced by "give me light".

Foxdal justified the choice of words by saying that the hymn resonated better with her in this way.

SVT subsequently explained that it only allows minor word processing where individual words have been changed. According to SVT, Foxdal relays Topelius' original text from 1887 "in a beautiful, innovative, and respectful way", the news outlet Världen Idag reported.
Yet, many argued that this is not the case. Among others, Swedish historian of ideas and former Christian Democrat Per Landgren, wondered how far one can go in deleting Christian cultural heritage and blotting out Topelius' original intention. Landgren also argued that SVT should show respect and integrity in the face of historical facts and authenticity.
Marie Willermark, a union leader and former head of the Salvation Army Sweden, compared it to a "prayer without a recipient".

In Finland, journalist and theologian Olav Melin was also startled, calling the changes "an example of the pyromania of secularisation", which, he argued, was about "burning up everything that gives tradition meaning".
"For most of us, regardless of faith, the word God in the psalm gives a meaning quite significant just at Christmas time", Melin argued to national broadcaster Yle.
He additionally compared the deletion of the word God with the so-called N-word.

"It is a kind of euphemism for something that is perceived as so dangerous that the mere mention is considered risky. As 'the grey-legged one' for a wolf in folklore. Has God also become too dangerous to use and should be rewritten? If so, who is the recipient of the prayer in Topelius' Christmas prayer?", he stated.

On SVT's Facebook page, many expressed joy and gratitude over this year's programme, but some were critical of there being little room for "traditional" songs and that arrangements and lyrics in well-known hymns have been redone.
Zacharias (or Zachris) Topelius was a Finnish author, poet, journalist, historian, collector of folklore, and rector of the University of Helsinki, whose native language was Swedish. He was known as a Fennoman, and is credited with having designed the modern flag of Finland.
Jean Sibelius was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods, broadly recognised as his country's greatest composer, credited with helping the country to create a national identity.
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