Men, I just have to write a blog about this story I read this morning (4/4/13), reported by Reuters about the controversy regarding Finnish toilet paper. My ancestry on both sides is Finnish, so when I read this story about Finnish toilet paper, I know that I would have do a blog. I warn you in advance, I am not neutral in this controversy. Of course, some of what I have to say can be taken in jest.
It seems that a Finnish toilet paper maker, Metsa Tissue, removed quotes from the Bible, after protests from some Norwegian church leaders. They only realized their mistake after they received feedback from quotes picked out from Facebook submissions. In wanting to convey messages of love, the company accidentally included these words from Jesus: “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” “People like to read small, happy messages while sitting on the toilet,” said a company spokesperson. “The vast majority of the feedback has been positive. Our intention was to spread love and joy, not religious messages.” Well, some Norwegian clergy did not like the idea. They objected to the way scripture verses had been used. The Bishop of Tunsberg had this to say: “This is bad taste and shows lack of respect. Bible verses do not belong on a roll of toilet paper”.
The company which regularly features witty quotes, poetry or philosophical messages, said it would continue the product line but with more stringent vetting. So the question becomes, “should scripture be found on toilet paper?” So here is my take on this controversy, as someone who is rather proud of his Finnish heritage. I hope some of you Norwegians out there will side with me. First, the whole idea is great. What a great way to get a man’s attention. You have a captive audience. A man sitting there, needs something to do. Why not take a chance that a scripture reference would give him something positive to think about. Who knows, some guy in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland could come out of the “john” thinking some positive thoughts about himself and the world he is going back to encounter. It sure is worth a try.
My second thought has to do with asking “why the controversy?” I just don’t get why a bishop in the Lutheran Church of Norway would be offended by a guy reading a scripture passage in the “john.” This has nothing to do with “bad taste” or “lack of respect.” The bishop should know that the Word of God might be offensive to a guy sitting in the “john.” It has all to do with the Word of God being able to speak to another searching soul. Of course, the bishop might be influenced by what a NY Times article about religion in the Nordic countries called “benign indifference.” Religion was more about being nice. “Jesus was a nice man who taught some nice things.” Well, bishop, I’m sorry, the way of Jesus is not about being only nice. It is about conversion and change. It confronts us with our sinful self. I have one more thought on this “gem” of a story.
I don’t think the Metsa Tissue company should back down. I agree, “people like to read small, happy messages while sitting on the toilet.” There is no better way to spread a message of “love and joy” then to share a something about “the Good News” of Jesus and his kingdom. So my encouragement to the folks in the land of my ancestors is to go for it. Keep preaching the gospel through small pieces of toilet paper, that can reach a captive audience in the “john.” Who knows, some lonely, searching man might see the light right there in the dark shadows of a “john” somewhere in Finland.