A Christmas Carol


Here’s a cozy little seasonal story for you.  You may want to play some yuletide music in the background as you read it.  Or maybe not.

Two years ago, as Christmas approached, it was reported that Klara Vogl, the vicar of the Church of Norway parish in Ellingsrud, an outlying and heavily Muslim neighborhood of Oslo, Norway, planned to have schoolchildren read various passages aloud from scripture at a pre-Christmas service that was designed especially for pupils from the Ellingsrud school.  One of the excerpts she’d earmarked for the service was the following, about what happened to Mary when she was about to give birth to Jesus: “Then the birth pains came to her, by the trunk of a palm tree. She said: ‘I wish I had died before this, and became totally forgotten!’ But then he called to her from beneath her: ‘Do not be sad, your Lord has made below you a stream.’”

If you don’t recognize those lines from any of the gospels, there’s a good reason for it.  They’re not from the Bible.  They’re from the Koran (19:23-24).

Curiously, Vogl didn’t bother informing the parents of any of the kids who would be attending the ceremony – including the parents of the kids she’d picked out to read aloud from the Islamic holy book – that she was preparing to venture so far afield from the usual order of service.  But word got around (not until the other day did I find out exactly how).  I am pleased to note that parents rebelled instantly at the idea, put together an impromptu campaign, and contacted the media.  “I don’t have anything against my daughter learning about Islam,” Elisabeth Sjølie, whose daughter was one of those who had been selected to read aloud, told Norwegian state broadcasting (NRK), “but I have something against her preaching from the Koran without my knowing about it. Would they have dared to ask Muslim children to read from the Bible during the celebration of Eid?  I don’t think so.”

After a torrent of such parental reactions, the quick-witted Vogl decided to change her plan: instead of having children read from the Koran, she’d do it herself.  That didn’t please the parents either.  The outcry continued.

Vogl didn’t get it.  After all, she reasoned, Ellingsrud is a multicultural neighborhood.  She wanted to explain to the children attending the worship service “that there are many people who have heard of Jesus, but also many who have a different view.” Besides, she liked the Koranic version of the Nativity: “It’s a very beautiful account of the birth,” she insisted.  All in all, apparently, Vogl’s view was that the protesting parents just didn’t get it and needed to be educated – by, naturally, the likes of her.  “I want to talk to the school and parents about how we do things.  In the cultural situation we’re in as a church in the Grorud valley [where Ellingsrud is located, and where the Muslim population is on the rise all over], we have to dare to do new things.”

To be sure, not all Christian clergy in Norway were thrilled with this particular “new thing.” One of them pointed out that while Mary’s parturition may indeed figure in the Koran, the Islamic take on the events at Bethlehem, not to mention the rest of Jesus’ biography, is – hello! – more than a bit different from the Christian view. Still, the Bishop of Oslo, Ole Christian Kvarme, appearing on NRK television, gave Vogl a cheery thumbs-up, declaring genially that since she was now planning to read verses from the Koran during her homily, and was not going to include them elsewhere in the service in place of Holy Writ, everything was just fine and dandy as far as he was concerned.

Sjølie wasn’t the only one who considered checking out of the Church of Norway on account of Vogl’s foolishness. Siv Jensen, head of the Progress Party, pronounced herself “so furious” about the vicar’s harebrained scheme that she too, she said, was considering quitting the church.  Jensen had earlier made clear her own reaction to Vogl’s idea: “You expect the church to be a nice place to send your children, where you don’t risk experiencing this kind of thing. It’s about coming off as so tolerant that it gets misunderstood and stupid.”

In response to the continuing deluge of complaints, the ever tone-deaf Vogl announced yet another change of plans: instead of reading from the Koran at the church service, she would just refer to the Koran.

In an exchange of e-mails the other day, Sjølie told me that in the spring of 2011, she and her family moved from Ellingsrud to the countryside, and have had no direct connection since then with either the Ellingsrud church or school.  But she’s kept in touch with friends in the neighborhood, and they’ve kept her informed of developments.  She was glad to let me know that neither last year nor this year have there been any proposals to include Islamic texts in a church service there – “so let’s hope they’ve scrapped that for good.” In any case, as a direct result of the campaign by Sjølie and her fellow irate parents, the Ellingsrud school was given “clear written instructions that they had no permission to let children preach from other religions, or any religions at all, without permission from their parents.”

Reflecting on the events of two years ago, Sjølie said that the whole episode was particularly strange owing to the church’s utter failure to contact parents beforehand: “it seemed as if they were doing it a bit under the table, and hoped that no one would notice.” In fact, as it turns out, Sjølie was the first of the parents to find out about Vogl’s scheme – her daughter just happened to mention it to her in passing.  And when Sjølie mentioned it to a friend whose little girl was in another grade at the same school, the friend asked her kid about it, and it turned out that she, too, was scheduled to read from the Koran.  At this point, one could have been excused for wondering: exactly how much Islamic scripture is Vogl planning to press on these pupils, anyway?

Sjølie, for one, was not a happy camper. “I contacted the school, and the teacher said it was the vicar’s idea – but that she thought it was a good thing to do, too.” Sjølie underscores an important point – namely, that the inclusion of Koranic verses in the pre-Christmas service was not a question of wanting Muslim kids to feel included.  In fact, there weren’t even going to be any Muslims present at the church service; the Ellingsrud school had made other arrangements that day for its Muslim charges. No, the Koranic material was intended solely for the consumption of the progeny of Christian parents.

Speaking of which, one of the ironies here is that Sjølie and her husband aren’t even believers.  Still, she wanted her daughter “to take part in a Christmas service for children so that she could learn about Norwegian culture, tradition, and Christmas customs.  So it was also very strange that she would be learning about the Koran there instead….How strange for the church to spend more time promoting other people’s beliefs rather than their own when they have children visiting, many of whom are not regular churchgoers!”

So there’s your Christmas story, with an ending as happy, perhaps, as can be secured in such matters nowadays: thanks to lightning-fast parental efforts, a pre-Christmas worship service for children of Christian families was prevented from being used by the clergywoman in charge to propagandize for Islam.  A small victory, and a weird one, in a ridiculous battle that should never have had to be fought in the first place – but a victory nonetheless, and in these twisted times we should be grateful, I guess, for all the victories we can muster.

  • Diana B.

    How sad and pathetic! Christianity and Christmas are under attack and on the defensive everywhere, even in Christian communities. Here in the USA, the media and other PC mouthpieces have decided to expunge all references to Christmas, so that this major occasion is euphemized as "the holidays" and "Merry Christmas" becomes "Happy holidays." No other holiday is treated this way, as unspeakable. The irony is that Christmas is actually celebrated by over 90% of the population, including Jews and atheists, because it is inherently appealing. (As always, Bruce Bawer is da bomb.)

    • Viet Vet

      If there is one thing that units muslims and leftists it is their animosity and hatred of Christianity and Judaism.

  • Lady_Dr

    I hope the good people of Norway will get this bishop canned. A bishop endorsing this!!! No wonder Norway is have a Muslim problem, when their clergymen are so clueless. One might understand how there could be an ignorant or wayward individual clergyman here or there, but a bishop!

    • DR COPPERTINO

      AMEN TO THAT AND SO DO I!

    • Huck Folder

      That's NOTHING! The HEAD of the Church of England publicly endorsed shariah.

  • Chiggles

    Bring back Thor and Odin.

  • carrie

    What a terrible betrayal of trust and violation of principles.

    All's well that ends well.

    Merry Christmas !

    • Chiggles

      Good Yule!

  • Mary Sue

    This is why Liberals shouldn't be vicars.

  • RedWhiteAndJew

    A woman my wife is close to, used to attend a pseudo-Catholic church, here in Dayton. They dealt with the oppressive and patriarchal practice of a male-only priesthood, by having a female "lay-minister." The priest just stood their and nodded most of the time. I believe he even passed hosts to the chick minister, who then passed them out to the "faithful."

    The diocese finally shut the place down, thankfully. Rather than go to a real Catholic church, the woman started attending a weird mishmash congregation (led by a female, of course), where she weekly passes out whatever leftwing spiritual tripe she finds at the half-price book store. One time, I saw a book lying on her coffee table, which had a picture of Yggdrasil on it. Freaky.

    Of course, she is a lefty stereotype, made flesh. Thin-skinned, 0bama magnets on the fridge, against anyone except an all-powerful government having guns. Vegetarian, too. I'm convinced the only reason she just doesn't come out as a wiccan, is because her Catholic mother is still alive.

    And I get to go to "Christmas" dinner at her house today. Yay. At least I've been charged with bringing the alcohol. I've made sure it's the strong stuff.

    • "gunner"

      your left tilting friend sounds like what we call a "fluffy bunny" or "whoopee witch" type in pagan circles. like a magpie, gathering shiny bits and pieces to build her ramshackle nest, all glitter but little substance. for the libations i'd suggest you bring a good 100 proof vodka, clear as water, but not as innocent.

    • Mary Sue

      If she's vegan or so vegetarian that she doesn't get any natural sources of B-12, she will slowly descend into an ever-widening spiral of organic insanity.

  • Snorbak

    I am not surprised, this kind of ecumenism that is being heavily pushed, predominately by the Roman Catholic Church, is a major contributor to the modern "Christian" church becoming apostate. (The bible even states this a warns the true "church" to be aware of such false doctrines)
    However, supposed bible believing Christians & senior church leaders wanting to include Islamic teaching in the Christmas Story is a new twist in the rapidly increasing spiral to the abyss.
    Islam does not need to destroy Christianity, many individual churches & several prominent denominations are doing a stellar job already.

    • Fritz

      I don't think that you comprehend what RedWhiteandJew wrote, they said the Catholic diocese shut this pseudo Catholic church down. In other words it was some local crackpot lefties took over the local parish, the Catholic church as an institution had nothing to do with it. Though I am not a Roman Catholic I will give them some credit for maintaining some standards, they have a very low threshold for what they consider heresy, which is more then I can say for the Anglican church which seems to sway in the wind of what's politically trendy.

      • LibertarianToo

        You have to give Pope Benedict credit for that. He has corrected a lot of the slide down the lefty slippery slope. For a while the Catholic Christmas liturgy actually said that the holy family went to stay in the stable "because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged." I am not kidding. Benedict has restored "inn", and eliminated much of the dumbing down of the liturgy. What happened to the Catholic church after Vat.II is that it got over-run with draft dodgers and homosexuals in the priesthood -people who had zero interest in Catholicism. The draft dodgers are aging out (those who didn't already leave after Vietnam was over) and the gays are meeting increased hostility to their theories (e.g. that "celibate" just means "not married.")

  • N.T. Riisgaard

    Bruce Bawer is excellent on Scandinavian sleep and surrender. Once a vigorous, protestancic stronghold, Scandinavians turned out to be flabby addicts of a social welfare state, with stress on state. Stateaddicts. Socialdemocratism has prevailed long ago, the moral compass cast overboard. For years spineless leadership has prepared the lands for islam, let muslims in by bulk volumes and given islam platforms. Indeed, Allah did his work well! All the while our tough breavehearts fall in Afghanistan and elsewhere but are still told to be defending their homelands. Carry on your good work, Bruce Bawer, tell the truth! You are encouraging a growing resistance. Latest heard in my church on Xmas Eve. The liberating spirit will move on from the protestant churches and will, I fear, end up in a bloody teaparty.

    • DR COPPERTINO

      YES, ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS!

    • jacob

      And with all due respect, I BELIEVE IT IS LONG OVERDUE !!!!

    • Drakken

      That day of reckoning is coming and the spineless socialistic ministers will be among the first to feel the wrath.

  • jacob

    We in this country should watch what is happening in the Scandinavian countries with their "Social
    Democracy" our President and his party want to impose and decide whether we want the country
    to end end up in the same place because whether we believe it or not, I can assure you we are
    well in the way to becoming another one….

    • Fritz

      Except Scandinavian countries have a relatively small population, and are relatively homogeneous in terms of makeup, aside from the recent arrival of the Mohammedans. The U.S is only about a decade away (at most) from bankruptcy if nothing is turned around. Welfare states take money and lots of it, and they only last as long as they have other people's money to spend, and that will dry up fast.

  • ChrisLA

    Religious faith leaders should not mix their faith statements with those of other disparate ideologies. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) observed in 1986, “Multi-religious prayer almost inevitably leads to false interpretations, to indifference as to the content of what is believed or not believed, and thus to the dissolution of real faith.” To airbrush our differences — even for the well-intentioned purpose of elevating “peace” as a transcendent value — is to deny the essence of who we are. (Andrew C. McCarthy) Real faith has such a transcendent power that religious relativism — this common concept of God, this nihilism swaddled in politically correct reverence — cannot compete. Judeo-Christian theology and Islam ARE different because they represent different claims about ultimate truth. Klara Vogl should re-read Ephesians 4:14 about becoming mature in the faith: “Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men [and women], who lead others to error by the tricks they invent.”

    • BayouCoyote

      islam will always be the enemy of Occidental. Peace will never be achieved by those who are in a perpetual state of war.

      Dar al harb.

  • Romegas

    Ms Vogl is obviously not a believer either. The Koran was written 300 years after the bible was compiled in Nicea. Muhammad couldn’t have received any new information by any conventional means so she must beleve that he had a supernatural connection. Or she doesn’t beleve any of it and is taking artistic license with the story. She’s either a closet Muslim or an athiest. Either way she is not a proper Christian and shouldn’t be working for the church.

    • Mary Sue

      She's just like "Bishop" John Shelby Spong, who had no business in any sort of clerical position from day one.

  • jacob

    Then what is it that has been going on with different denominations Christian churches????

    IF YOU CAN'T LICK THEM, JOIN THEM ????

    Just because, this is what has been definitely looking like…! ! ! ! !

  • JacksonPearson

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
    I am the light of the world" http://i48.tinypic.com/jjy0y0.jpg

  • Barbara

    My daughter went to a Catholic high school. The comparative religion class taught about all of the other religions. BUT there was no Catholic religion class during the four years of school. The clergy wonder why the young Catholics are leaving the church. Maybe it is because they do not know anything about the Catholic religion.

    • Judi

      The Catholic colleges do the same thing, have professors supporting abortion. I was told I was "brave" to do an anti-abortion project since people disagree! I was appalled.

  • Ghostwriter

    I don't have a religion myself but I still enjoy Christmas all the same.

  • Stuart {arsons

    There is no VERIFIABLE evidence to support the Bible or Quran versions of the birth of Jesus and indeed we cannot be absolutly sure that Jesus actually ever existed.

    • tagalog

      There's no verifiable evidence for string theory either.

      • Ray Olson

        Jesus is better attested than, say, Pontius Pilate, according to former evangelical Christian Bart D. Ehrlich, now an atheist and a fairly prolific and well-known professor of New Testament. See his "Did Jesus Exist?" (2012), which explains why historians' consensus is that he did.

        I've read that Muhammad is much less substantially attested than Jesus.

    • Willy Rho

      For People that say there is no evidence of Jesus existence other than the New Testament, they might try reading Josephus ben Matthias who was born into a family of Priests and became a Priest himself. He spent time with the Essence sect, but became a priest himself at age 19. He was in the rebellion and was carried to Rome and put i prison, but was released because of his predictions about Vespasian's rise to power. He adopted the Name Flavius and marched on Jerusalem in AD 70 with Vespasian. After that he was considered a traitor to the Jews. He was a contemporary of Jesus. He wrote about Jesus in the first Century with Jesus birth date as the Beginning of the Current Era.

      Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews" was written during the first century AD/BCE. If you wish to know what a contempory of Jesus said about Jesus, you should research it and not just believe the Haters of Jesus and what they wrote.

      In chapter 18.3.3 of Josephus' work, it says: Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ, and Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these things and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct from this day.

      The works of Flavius Josephus / translated by William Whiston 1998.

    • Christian West

      For your information, there is enough evidence of Jesus existence for quite a few serious atheist historians. Anyway, enough to justify their research of "historical Jesus".

  • den

    The vicar was female. the teacher was female. Hmmm. When you read about the many crossovers that bring the introduction of some Islamic Quran quotation into a christian service, women lead the way probably in the name of "politically correctness," This was done in a very sneaky underhanded method by boyh teachr and vicar. I say fire them both. Christmas is a christian rite.

  • Paris Claims

    "I don't have anything against my daughter learning about islam"
    Actually, it should be compulsory in schools. So long as they teach the truth.

    • tagalog

      AND, in addition, teach Christianity too.

    • DebbieOhio912

      And what exactly is the truth, Paris? Therein lies the problem with your statement.

  • mark

    Yet another 'minister' in yet another church supposed to be christian, that is not actually born again but intellectually thinks they are christian.

    Sign of the times

    (I left the Church of england years ago after finding out how false to God there leadership was, one example being their website had a page thanking God for other prophets, including muhamad and budha – sick isnt it).

  • tagalog

    Isn't it interesting that the Soljie person wasn't familiar with the Norwegian customs surrounding Christmas; why not? What's been going on in Norwegian society that she wasn't thoroughly familiar with them?

    What does the unfamiliarity of Norwegians with their predominately Christian traditions, particularly the Nativity (not "the birth"), tell us about their familiarity with Islam and its traditions and proper use? What presumption to put quotations from a religion that Norwegians as a rule don't understand into a Christmas service!

  • Guest

    I propose a new malady called MDS, or Multicultural Derangement Syndrome. Klara Vogl can be used as an example of what the symptoms are and its worst manifestations.

  • Willy Rho

    For People that say there is no evidence of Jesus existence other than the New Testament, they might try reading Josephus ben Matthias who was born into a family of Priests and became a Priest himself. He spent time with the Essence sect, but became a priest himself at age 19. He was in the rebellion and was carried to Rome and put i prison, but was released because of his predictions about Vespasian's rise to power. He adopted the Name Flavius and marched on Jerusalem in AD 70 with Vespasian. After that he was considered a traitor to the Jews. He was a contemporary of Jesus. He wrote about Jesus in the first Century with Jesus birth date as the Beginning of the Current Era.

    Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews" was written during the first century AD/BCE. If you wish to know what a contempory of Jesus said about Jesus, you should research it and not just believe the Haters of Jesus and what they wrote.

    In chapter 18.3.3 of Josephus' work, it says: Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works — a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ, and Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these things and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct from this day.

    The works of Flavius Josephus / translated by William Whiston 1998.

    Library of Congress ISBN: ISBN 07852-5049-2

    • Bob Michael

      I believe the date of the translation by William Whiston is 1898.

  • very special guest

    "It’s a very beautiful account of the birth"

    She's wandering around in the wilderness by herself, no Joseph or anyone else, and one of Islam's "perfect women", about to carry out a divine task from a Supreme Being…wishes she was dead and forgotten…then shakes fruit out of a tree, and is told reject assistance over some creepy vow.

    What's beautiful about that? It's not even a good story.

  • Vusal

    Dere som tror, stå fast ved det rette, som vitner for Gud, og må ikke motviljen mot visse mennesker forlede dere til ikke å være rettferdige. Vis rettferdighet, dette er gudsfrykten nærmest. Frykt Gud, Gud er vel underrettet om det dere gjør.
    (Koran 5/8 )

  • rtoz

    Happy Christmas to all!!!

    Jinglebells Jinglebells