Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hygge Christianity

I encountered the word in an article, and had no idea what it meant.  "Hygge." Hygge?  I had no idea what that word was.  A noun?  A verb?  An adjective?  All of the above?   I didn't even know how to say it.  Higgie?  High-guh-geh?

This was an offense to my vocabulary, which is a source of some hopefully-less-than-mortal-pride, so I looked it up.

"Hoo guh," it's pronounced, and it's Danish, a term that is an integral part of that culture's self understanding.  Apparently, the word hygge has been floating around for half a year as the latest next big thing, buzzing about in the fad-hungry networks of cosmopolitan souls who are considerably more hip than I.

It means, or so I learned from the New Yorker article on the subject (but of course, the New Yorker), a "quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

Hygge speaks to a particularly Scandinavian view of existence, of having enough but not too much, of enjoying simple comforts and the pleasurable company of others.  It's a warm flannel sheets kind of word, a sitting tending the fire kind of word.  It's very hobbitish, very Norman Rockwell, very Narnian.

And I wondered, as I thought, to what degree that concept translates to the life of Christian faith.

Not well, generally.

Jesus folk seem to have trouble with it.  We're good at stern Pharisaism, that bright bitter granular pursuit of our neighbor's sins.  Hygge makes the Jesus Pharisee think of John the Revelator's contemptuous letter to Laodicea, a place of warm tepid water that has no place in a world that deserves to burn in the hell-fires of our...oops, we mean, God's...ever-righteous wrath.

We're good at devouring anxieties, fretting about every last thing that might be wrong with the world.  How can you indulge in hygge, when everything is terrible and we must be continually outraged about the latest thing some fool said on twitter?  Hygge, one might sniff, is just bourgeois and privileged, and an impediment to our mission to afflict the world whenever it wants to just not stress out for half a moment.

And we're particularly good, we American Christians, at the big bright sparkle of AmeriChrist, Inc., in giant arenas with Jumbotrons and multi-level parking garages.  We prefer our faith commodified to an industrial era shine, not small and quiet and uninterested in a 55 million dollar campaign to build a new state of the art worship complex.

Which is the farthest thing from cozy, and the farthest thing from "just enough."

This is a pity, because if you can't do hygge, you can't really offer comfort to those who suffer and hunger for a place of sanctuary.  If you can't do hygge, you can't show hospitality to neighbor and stranger alike.

And an absence of hygge means an absence of grace, without which this whole Jesus endeavor seems rather pointless.