Urenhet, drikk og kristen viking-ånd: Forbundet i 119 år!

Den 16. februar 1899 ble Norges Kristelige Studentforbund stiftet. Til stede som øyenvitne var den senere fredsprisvinneren John Raleigh Mott. Han ble sjokkert over de norske tilstandene med urenhet, drikk og umoralsk litteratur. Men møtet med fem forbundere fulle av kristen viking-ånd ga ham håp for fremtiden.

John Raleigh Mott, 1910

John Raleigh Mott (1865-1955) var generalsekretær i World Student Christian Federation fra 1895 til 1920. Han var også mangeårig leder av det internasjonale YMCA. I tillegg var han sentral i opprettelsen av Kirkenes Verdensråd, hvor han var ærespresident på livstid. I 1946 fikk han Nobels fredspris for sin medvirkning til WSCF-bevegelsens fredsarbeid.

Det Norge som fikk besøk av Mott i 1899 var betraktelig annerledes enn i dag. Dette var lenge før Lånekassa ble opprettet og gjorde studenttilværelsen tilgjengelig for allmuen:

«In Norway, with its more than 2.000.000 inhabitants, there is but one university: the University of Christiania. It is the keystone to the educational system of the country and has about 1.300 students.»

Men enkelte ting kan kanskje være gjenkjennelige for dagens studenter. Som de mange farene og fristelsene studentlivet bringer med seg. Urenhet, fyll og umoralsk litteratur lurte bak hvert hjørne:

«The temptations and perils of the students of Norway (…) will show that it is not an easy gauntlet that these students of the North have to run. Impurity, while not so common as in Germany and France, is still sadly prevalent. Drinking is said to be decreasing, but is very bad at times of feasts and celebrations. Much of the current literature which the students read is immoral or agnostic in its character and tendency. The attitude of most of the professors toward religious questions is one of indifference or skepticism, and this naturally constitutes a very real peril to many students. Then the disposition of not a few students to look on Christianity as an intellectual system and a subject for discussion and speculation, rather than as a matter of life, is dangerous in its influence.»

Og som om ikke dette var farer nok, var også den norske fattigdommen en utfordring. Og hovedproblemet med fattigdommen, slo Mott fast, var at den drev de norske studentene til å dedikere seg i overdreven grad til studiene. Så voldsom var studieiveren at det gikk ut over studentenes fysiske og åndelige ve og vel:

«I am persuaded that, in Scandinavia more than in most countries, a peril to very many students is too exclusive devotion to study. Partly because of their poverty and consequent desire not to fail at examinations, and thus be obliged to prolong their course of study, and partly because of the keen competition for all positions open to university men, they apply themselves inordinately to study, often to the absolute neglect of their bodily, social and spiritual welfare. I met one theological student who said he would not have time to become a Christian until after he had finished his examinations!»

Det kan åpenbart slås fast at Norge anno 1899 var noe av en jammerdal. Men fortvivl ei! For lyset skinner i mørket, og mørket har ikke overvunnet det. Én organisasjon sto fram. Dens navn var Norges Kristelige Studentforbund. Den kom for å vitne om lyset, så alle skulle komme til tro, og fris fra både eksamensangst og smusslitteratur:

«In the midst of so many and such great temptations and perils, surely there is need of some strong student Christian organization to help students in the battle. It was encouraging, therefore, to come to Christiania at a time when final steps were being taken to unite the various Christian activities of the university into one comprehensive organization, to take the place of six or seven independent societies. (…) I conferred at great length with the leader of the national work about all questions regarding the relation of Norway to the World’s Federation.»

Allerede i 1899 kunne Mott slå fast det all i dag vet, at Forbundet ikke bare var bra – det var faktisk best av alle de kristne studentforbundene! I hvert fall i Europa:

«I was more favorably impressed by the newly perfected Christian Association in Christiania than by any student religious organization of the Continent up to that time. I was impressed by its comprehensiveness of purpose and plan, by its able leadership, and by its evangelical spirit. It will be a great day for the cause of Christ when such societies are established in all the other Scandinavian universities. If it is possible in Christiania, it is possible in other universities, for the conditions there are certainly no more favorable than elsewhere in the North. It is a distinct help to have such an example to which to point.»

Og i tillegg til et formål, en plan, kompetent lederskap og evangelisk ånd, hadde Forbundet et hemmelig våpen. En bonus-ånd, om du vil: Viking-ånden. Den samme gløden som en gang drev nordmenn til å seile helt til verdens ende der borte i Amerika, skulle nå gjøre Forbundet (alle fem av dem!) i stand til å spre Guds ord til hele verden:

«The missionary spirit among the students of Norway is also more vigorous than in Sweden. In Christiania, there are five volunteers, whereas there were but two in the two Swedish universities combined. Several students are carrying on a study of missions. The most notable pamphlet on the Student Missionary Movement has recently been prepared by the volunteers of this university. I confidently expect that many more of these students will concentrate themselves to missions. The Viking spirit, which years ago caused them to range from the interior of Russia to Greenland and America, still moves within them, but refined and intensified by the spirit of Christ, Who is the spirit also of world-wide missions.»

Alt i alt var det en oppløftet generalsekretær og senere fredsprisvinner som forlot Norge akkurat ved utløpet av det 19. århundret:

«I shall not forget how this missionary ambition and spirit manifested itself at the very last of my visit. A large company of students came to my train at nearly midnight to see me off. As the train pulled out, they sang, as only Scandinavian students can sing, two verses of that triumphant battle hymn of the Student Movement, ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’.»

I dag er Norges Kristelige Studentforbund blitt 119 år. Og den kristne vikingånden lever fortsatt i beste velgående, side om side med urenhet, fyll og umoralsk litteratur. Vi har kanskje ikke misjonert hele verden ennå, men vi har sannelig blitt flere enn fem frivillige – så vi er absolutt på vei!

 

Alle sitater er hentet fra Addresses and Papers of John R. Mott. Volume II: The World’s Student Christian Federation. New York Association Press 1947.