Listhaug fends off attack on her cross

Bookmark and Share

Sylvi Listhaug, Norway’s government minister in charge of immigration and asylum issues, is off on maternity leave but that hasn’t exempted her from more controversy. Now she’s been subjected to what she calls a “degrading attack” over the cross she’s often been wearing around her neck during the past year, claiming it’s “incredible” that it should be viewed as a political symbol of her Christian views as she deals with people from other cultures.

Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, in one of the many photos taken over the past year in which she’s clearly wearing a cross. She now writes that she inherited it from her grandmother and that it makes her feel more “secure” in her job. PHOTO: Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet

Listhaug, from the conservative Progress Party, has often referred to herself as a devout Christian. Her political agenda, meanwhile, has involved restrictions on immigration and limiting the numbers of mostly Muslim asylum seekers arriving in Norway.

That’s clearly stirred concerns since she took on her post in December 2015. Now Sven Egil Omdal, a veteran journalist and editor who currently works as a commentator for newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, has raised some questions as well, which have infuriated Listhaug.

Omdal, a Christian himself who once led the conservative newspaper Vårt Land and worked for the state church’s information service, noted over the weekend that after going through an open public archive of photos of Listhaug taken between 2001 and 2015, he couldn’t find any of Listhaug wearing a cross around her neck. Since December 2015, when she was appointed to the new ministerial post of Immigration and Integration Minister for Norway’s conservative government coalition, she has been wearing the cross much more often.

“Am I claiming that she uses the cross as a political statement to appeal to that strange group who thinks that fear of foreigners is a Christian virtue?” Omdal queried on social media. “Yes, that’s basically what I’m doing.”

He pointed in particular to a speech Listhaug gave at the recent Oslo Sympoisum, where her cross was especially visible on the outside of the turtleneck sweater she was wearing. Omdal suggested that made her “look like a bishop” as she stated that it “has never been usual for us to live side by side with people from another culture.”

Listhaug was not wearing the cross when she met early last summer with foreign correspondents in Oslo. On that occasion, she opted for another piece of jewelry around her neck. PHOTO: Berglund

Listhaug bristled at Omdal’s observation, quickly branded it as “false news” and told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was important for her to correct it. “This (the cross) is a piece of jewelry that means a lot to me, which I have had for many years and which I feel secure using when I need to perform and a lot is happening,” Listhaug told NRK. She claimed she had “of course” used the cross much more often after she became immigration minister because it’s a very demanding job.

“I clearly have had more need for it (the cross) during the past year,” she said. “I think there are few politicians who have been subjected to as many claims and attacks from all sides as I have been, or who have had such a difficult assignment as I have had. So you clearly have to use what you have to get the strength you need to deal with it.”

She also claimed that “no one has anything to do with what jewelry I use,” said Listhaug, who has stressed the need for immigrants to learn Norwegian, integrate and assimilate to Norwegian culture and has publicly opposed the use of other religions’ symbols such as the nikab and burka.

Listhaug, writing on her own Facebook page Sunday night, called Omdal’s comment “the most degrading attack I’ve ever seen! And that says a lot. The highly experienced press man, now commentator in Stavanger Aftenblad, Sven Egil Omdal is now spreading false news, portaying me as terrible and cynical.” Listhaug, who served for several years as a member of Oslo’s city government, also pointed to three public photos of herself taken in 2006 and 2007 where she’s wearing her cross.

Borrowing the sorts of allegations leveled by the controversial US President Donald J Trump, Listhaug went on to write that “more people are seeing through the many left-wing (writers) in the media and now rely less on journalists. They have an agenda, and it’s to take down the right side. They have no standards, they don’t care about facts, everything is allowed as long as I or the Progress Party is their target. It’s incredible, and apparent that Omdal and those like him can’t sink too deep.”

Listhaug also claimed that Omdal’s commentary on Facebook had received more than 1,000 “likes” based on what she called “a pure lie.” Omdal later claimed that on a subsequent check of Scanpix’ publicly available archive, he did find one photo, among 631 taken during the 14-year span he checked, of Listhaug wearing a cross. “I should have seen that,” he wrote in an “erattum” published on Facebook Monday morning. “I stand corrected.” Berglund


    I agree with Listhaug if she is a true believer. The more demanding is your task in life, the more you look for the support and inspiration from the cross of your Saviour.

    • inquisitor

      But “the cross of your Savior” that you refer to has absolutely nothing to do with and is not to found in any physical symbol or representation of a cross.

      After Jesus was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended, the cross now has an internal spiritual meaning in this regard and fashioning, displaying and wearing of physical crosses has nothing to do with this concept.

      It could also be argued that the physical symbol of the cross is actually idolatrous, and historically originates from a form of pagan worship and veneration of Tammuz that was adopted into Roman Catholicism and eventually diffused into even the Protestant sects of Christianity.
      In this case it is not always a matter of what the meaning is you give to the symbol or the psychological boost displaying the symbol may give to you, but what God thinks of your symbol and that which you seek to derive from venerating that symbol. As all glory is to be given to God. He has no need for any physical symbols as a mediary and there is a commandment that forbids it. This strict prohibition is to avoid golden calf and tower of Babel tendencies that result from man’s fallen state attempting to worship falsely or to be like God.

      The cross has more to do with crucifying yourself in contrast to the fallen world and your egoist and worldly desires over the supernatural-spiritual kingdom of promise of the Father. This is done by faith in the gospel and true repentance and obedience to God’s commandments…faith and works…unto judgement. The cross one needs to address everyday is…Did you sin today, or did you obey God when the choice to use your free will was before you? For it is by that we will be judged regarding our eternity.

      God cares not that she wears her grandmother’s esteemed cross. It only has meaning to her. But does God approve of this?

  • Roy Everson

    It doesn’t matter if she is a true believer. One photo from 631 examples makes for a pretty strong case for a rather wobbly point. Perhaps she does wear the cross to make some vague statement, but where are the voices of anyone who has taken this negatively or been intimidated? In other words while this may be a valid claim by Omdal any talented politician can easily get up on her high horse and tut-tut the accusation.


      I would like to think that Mrs.Listhaug wears the cross because she is a true believer and not another speculative politician.

  • richard albert

    This is a rather peculiar objection, given that Church and State in Norway were virtually inseparable from the time that Bishop Øystein Erlendsson placed the crown on the head of Magnus Erlingsson in 1163, until very recently. It would almost seem as if, as other learned contributors to this forum have pointed out, that the critic is being deliberately bloody-minded, and is perhaps ecuminically challenged.

    What would Omdal prefer? A rabbit’s foot? Perhaps one of those little apotropaic eye pendants that one is bombarded with in the Mediterranean? (If it works on vertical stabilisers for Turkish Airlines’ aircraft, it must be good.) Maybe a hex-sign – like those on barns in Pennsylvania and Finland. A solid gold, diamond crusted NOK 85,000 Lebron pendant might be attractive. (At least she could say it actually came from a jumble-sale benefit for Nidaros.)

    Now for the flip-side. There are people who are convinced, to this day, that the very reason for Richard M. Nixon’s fall from grace, was that he swore his oath of office on a heritage Quaker Bible.

    Since Omdal’s major opus, ‘The Children of God’ (ISBN 8253140614; pub 1974, Luther, Bokmål – despite its English title) seems to be out of print, It is difficult to assess his philosophy in any depth.

    His recent comments, however, betray a total lack of understanding of the US electoral system, constitution, and of the same incipient dissatisfaction with the liberal establishment which is now beginning to infect Norway.

    His use of stats is kind of forgivable, in this light.

    What is not, is condemning the American People as somehow stupid for rejecting their status quo. Mistaken – possibly. Regrettable? History shall judge. Reversible? Just wait four years. The US Electorate was more apt to equate “Gibt Mir 4 Jahre Zeit” with the last administration than Omdal’s citation of 37.1% of the German vote.

    What he totally misses is that enough people who were sick and tired of the status quo went out and voted. In Germany, the travesty of the Versailles treaty propelled a pathetic rage that swept a poisonous dictator into power. It was not the stupidity of the German race. Far from it.

    Nor was it stupidity, collusion, nor Russian influence that allowed ‘The Donald’ to capture the election. It was the cupidity, mendacity, ambiguity, arrogance and superbious attitude of the incumbents. I am not agreeing, nor disagreeing with either side, Rather seeking to explain the outcome in simple, blunt, historical terms.

    Reverend Dr. Omstead, Norwegians rise up in righteous wrath when US comments, appointments, and policies are perceived as offensive to Norway’s sensibilities. Norway has recently chosen to intervene in a long-standing US wedge issue, abortion. Oh, well…

    I do not believe you really understand politics at all. Perhaps not even Christianity. So please, do not make a political attack in priest’s clothing on an individual’s choice of personal adornment.

    • withaclue

      Well said, Richard. The Donald won because the unemployed and underemployed rust belt Democrats who have previously voted overwhelmingly Democrat now feel as abandoned and ignored by the Democrats as the inner-city citizens. Both segments of these economic strata have been taken for granted by the Democrats for too long. The Democrats must leave the Hollywood “millionairies” and academic elitists and rejoin the middle and lower-middle class, many of whom are strong traditional Christians. While Hillary was waltzing with Lady Gaga and Madonna, The Donald was visiting factories in Ohio and Pennsylvania. That’s why he won.

  • frenk

    Not sure Jesus died for ‘your sins’…?

    • John the Mad

      Frenk: Jesus died for individuals, not collectivities. The apostle Paul wrote::,
      “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).

      He died for my sins and for yours.

      • frenk

        Mmmm…I don’t doubt that Jesus was a ‘real person’. The bible however is a mixture of fact and fiction…mostly fiction…written and re-written many times. Lots of nice stories…..that I’m sure we can all learn from at some level or another….

    • John the Mad

      And yours!

  • JL in Jersey

    Is a Christian cross seen as “anti” other religions or people ? I think we should grant Christians the same religious freedoms we want to grant all others. This type of media nit picking is not going to make the world more tolerant or a better place.

  • inquisitor

    Well yes, your’s is the viewpoint of the Catholic.
    Clearly my post would never be addressing someone who is Catholic, but only as a consideration for those who are Protestant.