August 2001

Archbishop attacks materialism

Archbishop Jukka Paarma of the Finnish Lutheran Church has expressed concern about the destructive force of materialism. In an interview in the regional newspaper Turun Sanomat (26 August 2001), Paarma says that a society based on shareholders' values finds it difficult to remain faithful to corporate promises of a more ethical conduct of business.

The archbishop thinks that burnout in work can only partly be blamed on a hectic working life. Behind exhaustion there is also a deeper dissatisfaction with life. Naked materialistic values have destroyed a sense of meaningfulness in people's lives. Personal decisions which go against one's own moral principles are harmful to self-esteem. Over-achieving in work is not necessarily good for mental health. Unfortunately, people are sometimes prepared to sacrifice their closest relationships for their career, Paarma says.

He notes that people are not feeling happy even if the Finnish economy is thriving. Among signs of general malaise are a constant growth of consumption of alcohol and drugs and an increase in mental health problems and depression.

The archbishop says that he has seen the new citizens' movements as a sign of hope. However, he laments the fact that the movements have not distanced themselves sufficiently from violent rioters. Paarma disagrees on many issues with these movements but acknowledges that their starting point is often from a moral standpoint and with a will to help people in need.

Paarma expresses a hope that the new movements will wake up decision-makers. Everybody needs to re-evaluate their attitudes, the archbishop believes. In an era full of materialism and egotism, communitarianism and equality tend to be left on the backburner.

The archbishop's comments are in line with the church's previous public statements on the crisis of the welfare state. These interventions have created some controversy. Paarma emphasises that the church's purpose was to initiate a discussion on the future of the Nordic welfare state. For some, however, this was too much, he says. Some people insisted that the church should stick to celestial matters. People of neo-liberal outlook in particular and some economic publications expressed unhappiness with the church's statements.

Ordinary people, however, were more enthusiastic, Paarma says. He adds that no other church intervention has been received with similar enthusiasm.

Paarma does give credit to the government's poverty programme.

"I am not saying whether the proposals are sufficient but they are going in the right direction", the archbishop concludes.

See also:

"Welfare state will strike back"

28 June 2001

From disorder to a new order

26 June 2001

Anti-poverty plan criticised

21 June 2001

Citizens concerned about poverty

24 May 2001

Archbishop's line on globalisation

16 May 2001

Erosion of welfare state

25 April 2001

Government survives poverty vote

17 March 2001

Welfare state "surrounded by confusion"

7 November 2000

Lutheran bishops in defence of the Nordic welfare State

24 February 2000

Bishops attack Anglo-American economic doctrines

March 1999

Lutheran worries about welfare state

March 1997

From Lutheranism to the crisis of modern welfare state

March 1997


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