Olaf the Stout was a Norwegian Viking king. He was a barrel-chested, powerful leader and a ruthless tyrant. His goal was to build a united nation out of the sea kingdoms.
Olaf recognized the value of Christian institutions for establishing legitimacy in nation building. He could see that church institutions made a country seem more legit. So Olaf pushed for Christianizing Norway.
Once he succeeded, the Catholic church felt the need to keep Norway solidly in the church fold. So they established Olaf as a symbol. After he died, they immediately canonized him. Now we call him St. Olaf.
Their strategy worked. As soon as Viking kingdoms were Christianized, they stopped killing, raping, and looting the rest of Europe. And symbols such as St. Olaf played critical roles in changing mindsets.
The strategy is common today. For me, Robert E. Lee had always represented patriotism and states’ rights. Recently, however, someone skillful in manipulating public opinion decided that Robert E. Lee will now symbolize slavery and oppression. Other examples abound.
::: The story makes me wonder: what do I symbolize? :::
This exercise is useful. I challenge you to try it: What do you symbolize?
When people hear your name, what do they think:
- Razor-sharp analytical skill?
- XBOX master?
- Trivia buff?
- Anxiety cat?