Biblebelt feature: Many kids and few unemployed in Finnish ‘Texas’ (2/2)


Christian Life

Evert van Vlastuin, CNE.news

Seinäjoki is among the town with most kids in Finland. Photo CNE, Evert van Vlastuin

There is little to gain for a Christian party in Seinäjoki, laughs Aki Ruotsala. The Christian Democratic KD (Kristillisdemokraatit) has only 3 seats out of 49. “All parties here have respect for Christian values,” he says.

He handily steers his car through the town, pointing out important things. “See those children over there?” A schoolteacher walks along the street with a group of kids. “This town has children and, therefore a future,” he says.

This article belongs to part 1 in a series about the Biblebelts in Europe

Statistics say the number of children per family in Seinäjoki is among the highest in the country. Ruotsala himself comes from a family of seven. “You still see large families in the Biblebelt towns on the coast. However, the number of children is decreasing there too.”

While driving, Ruotsala points out exciting spots. By day, he works as a director in a government department. In the evenings, he is a municipal councillor for the KD. In his spare time, he hunts; he shows pictures of a moose he shot a few days earlier.

Aki Ruotsala1 kopie.JPG
Ruotsala. Photo CNE

He is proud of his city. “I was born in this region. For my Masters, I had to go to university in Vaasa. Later, I went south for work. But eventually, we came back here. It’s a nice environment for a young family like ours.”

For that, churches and schools are essential, says Ruotsala. “But also the community culture, for instance, the wide choice in sports clubs.”

A characteristic of the region is that people like to belong to a community. Individualism is not yet prominent here. “In that, you can see the mark of revivals in this region,” he says.

While the number of children is among the highest in Seinäjoki, the level of education is lowest. Ruotsala does not know why that is. “Young people who go to university tend not to come back here. That obviously works through. Something else is that people are focused on practical work. After all, Ostrobothnia is also the region with the highest number of businesses and the lowest unemployment.”

Ruotsala stops at the town hall, a modernist building by renowned architect Alvar Aalto, who was born in a neighbouring municipality. Opposite the town hall is the church; also an Aalto design. At first glance, the bell tower is shaped like a cross. “As the church is, so is the city,” the councillor says meaningfully. “People here are straightforward. You know what you’ve got on them.”

Compare Ostrobothnia to Texas, says Ruotsala. “That is also a kind of Biblebelt. But it is also the region of free-spirited people. In the 1918 Civil War, the victorious White Guard had its headquarters here; that still fuels patriotism. People here don’t want an apartment; they want their own home. It is well known that people here like to brag about themselves. Traditionally, there have been stories about gangs of drunken men who made the area unsafe with knives. You can still see this image in the media in Helsinki.”

Church-wise, he himself belongs to the Pentecostals. There, he finds people from all political parties, he says. “There are Social Democrats, people from the conservative Centre Party and also from the right-wing party The Finns. We here in the Biblebelt do not know the connection between church and Christian politics.”

He is worried about the general development in Finland. “We have become a post-Christian country. People talk about rights but not responsibilities. Divorce is increasing, and the family is losing its place.”

Seinäjoki City Council still has a conservative bias, Ruotsala says. “Earlier this year, officials asked if the city itself would celebrate by raising rainbow banners on official flag poles. The city council said no. In the Helsinki area, such a decision would have turned out very differently.”



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