Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Religion I Never Knew

A religion I never knew, but felt is a personal essay by Victoria Stoppiello about growing up in large Finnish family that she learns, on a trip to Finland. An excerpt:
I’d heard stories about the prohibitions that were part of my great-grandparents’ way of life: No smoking, drinking, dancing, card playing, whistling, wearing jewelry or make-up, or cutting your hair. (Those last prohibitions obviously directed at the females in the family.) Looking in the mirror was also prohibited. I knew all those behaviors were outlawed, but it never occurred to me that birth control was, too.

Before traveling to Finland I had some apprehension that all Finns would be like my mom’s emotionally cold family. On arriving at my grandparents’ home, a visitor might get a handshake, nothing more — certainly a contrast with my Italian-American in-laws. But in Finland, my Finnish cousins were quick to embrace my husband and me when we arrived at their homes. They were relaxed, lively and warm, so I was wrong about Finns being cold fish when it comes to greetings. I also assumed that my great-grandparents’ rigidity was typical of Finnish Lutheranism, but I was wrong about that, too. 
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Laestadian Feminists?

On his blog, Laestadius scholar Mauri Kinnunen is sharing a fascinating article by Liza Schneider from the 2007 Finnish American Reporter. It mentions several Laestadian women who actively worked for women's emancipation in early 20th century America. An excerpt:
“Even with little force one can do great things when one has enthusiasm to be enthusiastic,
When one is willing to work and act,
when there is hope and courage,
When there is belief for victory of the rights,
when young people have great ideas/thoughts.
From the Calumet Finnish Ladies Society Calendar, 1894:
With this manifesto, the C.F.L.S. (Calumet Finnish Ladies Society) pursued social change to “uplift women in the awakening and development of women, on self-knowledge and the realization that women should take personal responsibility to develop an independent status and move their mothering skills to the larger world.” 
Their first meeting was November 29, 1894 at the home of Lempi Heideman, wife of Arthur Heideman, pastor at the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church; several members of her husband’s congregation were present. Also present was Ida Nikander, wife of Pastor J.K. Nikander of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. All present were part of a first wave of feminism among Finnish immigrant women in the United States. 
The C.F.L.S. felt that women in America had lost their value in community life. These women came from a country where women focused both on the home and in the community, but lacked the educational opportunities to excel in both. In this new land, they saw a way to achieve both.
The article also mentions CFLS founder Maggie Walz (photo above), born Margreeta Johanna Kontra Niiranen.
Maggie Walz was born in 1861 in Finland. Actually, she came from the Tornio area that at any point could be the property of Sweden or Finland. Her parents were Laestadian Lutherans, and although there is no strong evidence that she is of Saami descent, her family recollections include life among the reindeer herders of the north. In either case, she was raised with the strict guidelines of Apostolic Lutheran Movement.
Having recently found several female ancestors in my family tree who ignored traditional sex roles by marrying late (or never), by having few or no children, and/or by pursuing education and careers, it should not surprise me to learn of other Laestadian women lobbying for "equal rights as men and the same voting privileges as our fellow Finnish women here in this land of opportunity." And yet, it does!

Were you aware of this history?


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Were You Raised into a High-Control Religious Group?

While there are good arguments for why Laestadianism does not meet the definition of "cult," few could disagree that even at is most liberal, it is high-control. That's pretty much the point, for better and for worse.

Thanks to a reader for sharing this link to an International Cultic Studies Association program that addresses the needs of second generation adults, i.e., those born or raised into high control religious groups.
Second-Generation Adults (SGAs) do not have a “precult identity” to which they can return. Raised in fringe subcultures, they frequently have educational and other skill deficits that interfere with adjustment to mainstream culture. Having grown up in high-demand, high-control groups, SGAs struggle with issues of dependency, self-esteem, and social conflict. They often have to deal with the trauma of physical and/or sexual abuse. SGAs have difficulty getting help because they tend to lack finances and be wary of other people, including helpers.
Two articles describe the program: Lessons Learned from SGAs About Resiliency and Recovery and My Perspective of Rosanne Henry and Leona Furnari’s Presentation to the Annual SGA Workshop.  The next workshop is in Chester, Connecticut next spring: April 15-17, 2016.

I fast-forwarded through much of the video, but even so, I heard a lot of parallels to my own experience.

This statement is pretty much the reason for this site:
"Former members are the most helpful piece for a lot of people recovering (from high-control gruops) . . . it's really the way to understand your own experience and to find out you are not the only one."

Readers, I hope you are finding the support you need, and helping others as you're able. Do you think things are easier now for those who leave Laestadianism, given all the resources available?