For Christians, the Bible is the Word of God. We must have the possibility to agree with it
Read and watch the speech that Päivi Räsänen (Member of the Finnish Parliament) gave on 19 February 2022 at the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. The Helsinki Court is expected to announce a sentence on 30 March.
23 MARCH 2022 · 10:09 CET
We publish the speech that the Member of the Finnish Parliament Päivi Räsänen gave at the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (Idea 2022) on 19 February 2022. The Christian politician is awaiting the sentence of the Helsinki District Court, which is expected to be made public on 30 March 2022.
Watch the video of her speech below.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends,
Thank you so much for inviting me to participate this event. It is always a joy to be together with Christian brothers and sisters.
I have been member of the parliament for 27 years and all the time open of my faith and Christian values. Since June 2011 to 2015, I held the office of the Minister of the Interior of Finland. As a minister, I was responsible for police force (internal security and migration in addition to church affairs). I am currently the chair of the Christian Democratic Parliamentary Group. From 2004 to 2015, I was the chair of our party, Christian Democrats of Finland.
I studied medicine at the University of Helsinki and worked as a medical doctor until 1995 when I was elected to the Parliament of Finland. As a physician, the ethical questions I came across, especially related to abortions, aroused my interest in politics. Already as medical student I decided not to end a life though abortion. As a young doctor, I took part in the public debates about abortion, wrote books, gave lectures, and organized panels. Defending the life of unborn children has been my top priority as an MP. It was the reason I went to politics.
A five-year-old girl, on her way to Sunday school, stopped a prison deputy director on his bike. She asked the following question: Do you love Jesus? You cannot get to heaven if you do not believe in Jesus. The confused man contacted the girl’s mother and asked her to consider taking the girl out of the Sunday school, so that she would not totally lose her mind. The mother was not startled but led the Sunday school continue.
My own mother has told me this story from my childhood. We lived near a prison because my father worked there. I remember all the impressive moments at the Sunday school and me praying that Jesus would enter my heart and take me as his own. Jesus heard my prayer and has been faithful.
In my childhood, the Sunday schools were common and in my village all children used to attend it. In only few decades the faith of the Finns in basic Christian beliefs has dramatically collapsed. In a recently published inquiry, only four per cent of women under 35-year-old answered having a personal belief in Jesus. I have been MP for 27 years and if someone would have asked then when I started, how many genders a person has, people would have considered the questioner quite stupid.
Now, both in Finland and Europe, we are living at a stage of history when the pressure to stay away from the influence of Christian faith is strongly growing. That is visible both in the political discussions and in the decision making, whether we think of the protection of life at the very beginning or at the end of life. Expressing opinions about marriage belonging between one man and one woman, or the sinfulness of homosexual acts, has become politically incorrect. The attempt to break down the gender system based on two different genders hurts especially the children.
The battle between values is largely fought with language, by capturing the concepts like love, freedom, equality and even rainbow into new interpretations. Concepts such as man and woman, father and mother, are dearly loved and as old as the history of humanity. We Christians and our values are unfamiliar to everyday life or even considered to be dangerous. When people do not know the loving and merciful God, what is left, is a punishing and a very limited picture of the Christian faith.
Personally, the last couple of years have been surprising and heavy. During the summer 2019 started a process resulting in me being prosecuted of three crimes. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, and this crime carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. Even more alarming than the punishments is the possible demand for censorship: an order to remove my Bible related social media postings or a ban on the publication of my writings. A true problem is that already the whole process, even without any punishments yet, has caused self-censorship among the Bible-believing Christians.
The first trial of my case was on 24th January and the trial will continue on February 14th. After that, the decision of the court comes approximately in one month. I wait for it with a calm and hopeful mind. I am hopeful to win the case. But even if I do not win, I think this whole chain of events is part of my calling as a Christian influencer.
So, the process started in June 2019, when I posted a tweet addressing a question to the leadership of my church that had signed up to support Helsinki Pride. The main content of my post was a screenshot of verses 24-27 from the book of Romans chapter 1 from the New Testament. The aim of my criticism was the leadership of my own church, not any minority. I myself considered even resigning from the majority church at the time it announced its support of Helsinki lgbt events. When praying, I was however convinced that it was better to try to wake up the sleeping ones, not to jump out of a sinking boat, and that is why I wrote the tweet for which I am prosecuted. According to the Church Act, approved by our Parliament, “all doctrine must be examined and evaluated according to God’s Holy Word”.
Following a preliminary investigation launched because of a citizen's complaint, a total of five criminal complaints were filed. On April 2021, the Prosecutor General brought three separate charges against me for the tweet, a pamphlet I had written in 2004, “Male and female He created them - Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity” and a radio interview with Ruben Stiller, “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.
The police did not consider any crime to have been committed in these two latter cases, but the Prosecutor General nevertheless ordered preliminary investigations to be carried out.
Being criminally charged for voicing my deeply held beliefs in a country that has such deep roots in freedom of speech and religion feels unreal. The decision of the court has consequences not only to Christians’ freedom to express their conviction, but to everyone else’s also. In court, I appealed to the Constitution of Finland and to international conventions that guarantee freedom of speech and religion.
The points of view for which I am accused do not deviate from the classical Christianity. Since Christianity is the dominant state religion in Finland, it is reasonable to assume that views such as these are widely disseminated in religious communities in Finland.
In all the charges, I have denied any wrongdoing. My writings and statements under investigation are linked to the Bible's teachings on marriage, living as a man and a woman, as well as the Apostle Paul's teaching on homosexual acts. The teachings concerning marriage and sexuality in the Bible arise from love to one’s neighbor, not from hate towards a group of people. I have always stressed that all human beings are created in the image of God and have equal dignity and human rights. All human beings are sinners and are forgiven of their sins by recourse to the atoning work of Jesus. Ultimately, the question in my case is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.
The prosecutor has presented many false claims about my speech and writing, which were all easily refuted.
At the trial, the prosecutor targeted the core doctrine of Christianity. She claimed that my views are known as “fundamentalist” doctrine, which she summarized as “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This doctrine she regarded as insulting and defaming, because according to her, you cannot make a distinction between the person’s identity and his or her action. If you condemn the act, you also condemn the human being and regard him or her as inferior.
Here, the prosecutor tries to deny the core message of the Bible: the teaching of law and gospel. God has created all human beings as His own image and we all have equal value, but we all are also sinners. No-one’s human dignity decreases because of sin. God still loves the person but hates the sin. God so loved all the people, that He gave His only Son to die on the cross to suffer the punishment that belonged to us because of our sins. Jesus condemned the sin but loved the sinners.
The thought that you could not make a distinction between the person’s deeds and his or her identity or human dignity, is unfamiliar to life. As I was raising my children, I loved them all equally, but I still had to at times criticize their actions quite harshly. The prosecutor’s thought is also unfamiliar to the rule of law. Even the most notorious criminals do not lose their human rights or human dignity if they get a punishment for their deeds.
I have sat hours in police interrogations, and the questions have mainly focused on the Bible and its interpretation. I was asked what the message of the Letter to the Romans is and what is its first chapter about. What do I mean by the words sin and shame? I said that all of us have sinned, but the sinfulness of homosexual acts is denied. People, however, do not determine what is against God’s will, but God himself does that.
The police asked if I agree to delete within two weeks my writings. I answered that I stand behind these teachings of the Bible, whatever the consequences are. For the Christians, the Bible is the Word of God, and we must have the possibility to agree with it. Everyone should be free to express their deeply held beliefs about important issues without fear of censorship or criminal sanction. Especially important this is for Christians, who are called to lift up Jesus and His word.
It is likely that this will be a process of several years. I expect this case to go even to the European Court of Human Rights and I am ready to defend free speech and freedom of religion as far as it needs.
The three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express a conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and to agree with it. It is absolutely vital that Christians have the liberty to teach and speak about God’s Holy Word also at those times when Christianity and the values that derive from it go against the tide and challenge the current ethos and thinking.
A conviction based on the Christian faith is more than a surficial opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I believe it is my calling and honor to defend the foundational rights and freedoms at this point of my life.
Queen Esther was encouraged to speak up and act on behalf of God’s people, the Jews, with the question: “And who knows, you may have been chosen to your royal position for just such a time as this”. The same question can be asked from us today, whatever your position might be. We have not ourselves chosen the time in which we live. But exactly for just this time you were meant to live, for such a time as this you were born to love your neighbors, to act on behalf of God’s people and to hold up the Gospel.
Dear friends, the inner experience of man has become the indicator for reality. The heart’s voice would function as the indicator of right and wrong if we forgot one key fact of mankind – the Fall. We are valuable created in the image of God, but also evil and sinful. That is the biggest marketing problem of the Christian view of man.
I want to share with you a very peculiar experience of a panel discussion on prostitution many years ago. The discussion was led by a famous media-persona and the other panelists were supporters of legal prostitution. Many media representatives were present. The star of the panel was supposed to be woman of whom a book had just been written with the title “Prostitution is my calling”. I understood that I was going to a tough situation and asked my friends to pray for me. The prayers were answered in a surprising way. When I entered the pub where the panel was taking place, there was confusion.
The professional in the field did not get vacation from prison on time, and she was quickly filled in by her colleague. Iiris astounded the audience and the panelists.
She did not defend the prostitutes’ right to their profession, but instead told us she had quit because of finding Jesus. She told us she had from the beginning understood it as violating the will of God but said that “I could not come out of prostitution with the Law of Moses, but by the blood of Jesus”.
Tears in her eyes, she summarized her message: “The only right place for sex is marriage between a man and a woman, where one goes as a virgin and where one stays faithful until death”. She even added that if there was anyone who knows to have broken God’s commandment, the person can show up after the event, so she can pray with Päivi for the person and the person can have sins forgiven by Jesus.
Silence came and the chairman of the panel stated that nothing else can be added to this except “amen”. Spoken by Iiris, the ethics of marriage from a Christian perspective was hundred times more convincing than coming from my mouth. She revealed the fact that in the end, each person’s conscience bears witness to the Christian view of man. When we break against God’s good commandments, we know deep down in our hearts the wrongfulness of our actions. But it is only because of the grace of the Cross that we have courage to face and confess our sinfulness.
In Romans 12:2, Apostle Paul exhorts: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” It is good to examine and be aware of which values at any given time are contrary to the Word of God, because too easily we just go with the flow. The Christian church has at all times been forced to live contrary to the spirit of the time in one way or another.
Helsinki News, which is the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, published an interview of Mrs. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General, in which she stated that although Päivi Räsänen would be convicted, it is not necessary to remove the Bibles from libraries and it is allowed to have discussions about it, but what is crucial is whether one agrees with the Bible. She deletes the whole right to hold opinions. For the Christians, the Bible is the Word of God, and we have to have the possibility to agree with it.
If we neglect the right to speak up and publicly confess our faith, the space for speaking will eventually get smaller. The more we keep silent about the teachings of the Bible on the painful issues of our time, the more powerful is the rejection. Our time challenges us to commit to the Word of God. We are especially called to stand firm in those parts of the Scriptures that contradict the spirit of the time.
I have been thankful for the huge international and national support I have received. People have told how God has through my case encouraged them to pray and trust God’s word. Many Christians in Finland have wakened up to defend faith and religious freedom. In July, over one thousand people gathered in front of our Parliament building and concretely raised up in their hands their Bibles to collectively show strong support for the freedom of God’s Word. The Finnish Association for Freedom of Speech and Religion was founded in June to support the case and possibly similar cases in the future.
Many churches and leading figures from different Christian organizations from Finland and abroad have shown their strong support for my case for which I am grateful.
I hope that that Christians would not be afraid of speaking up during these challenging times and that my case would set a positive precedent for the future regarding Christians and their right to express their faith in the public. According to my knowledge, the court has to for the first time take a stand on whether it is legal or not to cite the Bible and agree with it.
The judges have to weigh the relations between the foundational rights and the criminal law and the interrelationship between different foundational laws. The decision of the court will be a significant precedent that will have an impact on the legislation in Europe.
The late President Kyösti Kallio called our whole nation to pray in Christmas 1939, during a difficult time in the history of Finland. He stated: “Our ancestors have over the centuries, in tribulations, persecutions and in the days of peace, drawn life, strength and comfort from the Bible. At the present time our nation needs the creative power of the Word of God. Let us adopt with a humble faith the blessings of it”. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”. This same challenge, dear friends, is topical to us even today, in Finland or elsewhere in Europe.
I wish you all courage and wisdom to uphold the unchangeable message of Jesus Christ, who influences and changes the lives of individual persons, communities, and whole nations. Thank you so much for your attention and God bless you all!
19 Februrary 2022 (Spanish Evangelical Alliance General Assembly).
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