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.

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?

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Friend to Man

It's hot here in Seattle. This morning we were sitting on the porch drinking coffee and enjoying a brief hiatus from the heat. A siren wailed in the distance and the dog tried to imitate it, as he does, which is not very well. It's a dog falsetto. We laughed out loud while inwardly hoping that whomever or whatever beckoned the siren would turn out to be okay. Yesterday, an electrical failure in an apartment resulted in an enormous fire. It was so hot the firefighters had to be rotated out frequently to recover. Thankfully, the only damage was to property.

As we sat and sipped, a neighbor ambled by and asked if we would recycle a plastic container she'd found in the street. She was on her way to the hardware store. As I put the container in our bin, a fragment of poetry arose from the cobwebs of memory.  Something from long ago, when I lived in a remote house in the woods, far from any friends.

"I'll live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man."

At the time, I thought of the poem as being contrary to what I was taught in OALC. After all, most of the church people I knew lived in the country, and invested only in loving their own kind, certainly not their neighbors.

But I'm sure that was a limited view. What were your experiences?

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.