Monday, January 17, 2005

I Have A Dream

What do Lars Levi Laestadius and Martin Luther King, Jr. have in common? They were both Christian preachers of subject races. Yet their legacies could hardly be more dissimilar. Can one dream that someday, tolerance and inclusion will be the hallmarks of Laestadianism?

MLK

Some interesting quotes:

"The Lapps have had the ordinary fate of a subject and defenceless people; they have been utilized with little regard to their own interest or inclinations . . . the Birkarlians began in the 13th century to farm the Lapps . . . they are regularly spoken of as having or owning Lapps, whom they dispose of as any other piece of property. In Russian Lapland matters followed much the same course . . . monks are declared masters of the Lapps . . . and they soon sought to extend their control over those not legally assigned to them. Other monasteries were gifted with similar proprietary rights." (http://66.1911encyclopedia.org/L/LA/LAPLAND.htm)

". . . .the invisible gods are innumerable, and the heathen serve them the most, such as the devil of fornication, the devil of honor, the devil of greed, the devil of anger, the devil of drunkenness, the devil of arrogance, the devil of deceit and the devil of envy, which all rule in the hearts of the heathen. The drunkard’s favorite god is the visible flowing liquor, rum, or whatever his name may be, which we call the devil’s shit, for the devil teaches people to ruin God’s grain and to make it harmful to body and soul. The people who drink it become animals. And what is the favorite god of the liquor merchant? Why, nothing other than that round liquor barrel, on which the liquor devil sits astride, as the heathen have painted him in their pictures. What is the whore’s favorite god? That which she loves the most, some whoremonger, who deceives her and makes her an animal. What is the favorite god of the slave of the world? Moolah or money, objects, possessions, beautiful buildings, beautiful horses or other worldly vanity, which are of no avail in death. All these transient things are the gods of the heathen. Some also have their belly for their god. Gluttons and drinkers are servants of idols, for they view their belly as their god." (Lars Levi Laestadius)

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

12 comments:

  1. Growing up, I often heard the quote that Laestadius called liquor "the Devil's piss." I wonder if it was a corruption of the quote above, where Laestadius called strong drink "shit." Or is there some other quote that is the origin of what I heard.

    I'm a bit gratified that Laestadius saw fit to single out rum specifically, as rum and coke is now one of my favorite cocktails. :)

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  2. One would have to read the original, I suppose, to see if LLL used both terms to describe liquor.

    I'm confused by "whoremonger" -- would that be a pimp or a john?

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  3. I know quite a bit about the Laestadius sermons in their original format, as I was privy to lots of attempts to get them returned instead of the "watered down" versions that are used now. Utter pornography. When I asked why Laestadius had to use such foul language, I was told it was because of the depravity of his culture.
    I don't know how much research they have done into the Greco-Roman culture that Jesus stepped into... if that was the way to deal with it you'd think he'd have spiced up his language with a little profanity.
    As for Martin Luther King, our world would be a lot different if he hadn't been around. One person can truly make a difference.

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  4. Have you ever seen the drunkenness that exists even today in Lapland? I have. Ordinary folks are sometimes afraid to venture out on Friday or Saturday nights. Drunken knife fights occur in the streets. There was a reason why Laestadius preached againist liquor, as it was the biggest evil of its time. Though today, it hardly seems as relevant as some of the other evils that befalls people of Laestadian backgrounds/inheritance. A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner out with my brother who decided several years ago to leave the church. He asked me if I would be offended if he had a beer. I said, of course not. His decision to drink is HIS decision, as was leaving the church was HIS, too. I might not like him opening a bottle in my house, but this was neutral territory, and I was happy to talk to him about how life was treating him these days. I am less concerned with him having this drink than about some greater sins such as spreading gossip, or cheating on tax returns, or verbal abuse of a child, or a enjoying a luxurious vacation in the Bahamas while passing over the Salvation Army kettle to get into your luxury SUV at Christmas time.

    I don't drink. It does nothing for me. I don't need it in my life, but I no longer think its the greatest evil, either. I also prefer not to be around people who are drinking heavily either, but someone's casual glass of wine neither affects me one way or the other. Jesus drank wine, too. I don't, but that is something else.

    Laestadius was a man who lived within his time, and dealt with contemporary issues. Perhaps today, a contemporary Laestadius might be tackling a methamphetimine abuse problem and preaching to users in the process of destroying their lives and their families'. I have a Finnish friend whose father was the typical Finnish alcholic; his body wore down completely and he died at age 53. Like many Northern Finns, his father was also a communist. There were 8 children in the family and in their younger years they were often hungry and their house was without food. Later they did better because of improved social welfare programs. In Laestadius' Day, their family would have starved. I once asked my friend, who is an athiest with little regard to any religion, what he would have prefered. A Laestadian father, or a drunken one. He would have prefered the Laestadian, he said. I was surprised.

    He was also dealing with what was almost universally considered a corrupt state-run Lutheran church. Some consider Laestadius to have freed people from what they considered a repressive church that further oppressed poor people. If you go to the land of Laesadius today--principally Norbotten Parish in Swedish Lapland, you will see the population peopled by two distinct groups of people--Laestadians and Communists. Sometimes in the same family. Social conditions yesterday and today and desperation, and perhaps even racism against the Saami, made people desperate for choices, and Laestadianism was a path out of desperation for many. People do horrible things in the name of God, and even in the name of Jesus Christ. Think of the Serbs crushing the Bosnian Muslims, the crusades, and Northern Ireland. It's not so unusual people do harm in invoking the name of LLL, though I consider him neither a saint nor a prophet.

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  5. I've never read ANY of Laestadius' sermons as my "Laestadian heritage" church didn't use any of them, and never spoke his name.

    However, I do know something about the Finnish language. Swears are pretty common. Some of my Finnish friends, many of whom are equally as fluent in other languages because they've grown up in other places as well, often resort to Finnish when they are very angry and want to do their most vehement cursing. Apparently cursing in Finnish is the most satisfying ever, and there are swears that can only be sworn as effectively as in Finn than any other language.

    The novel "Popular Music of Vittula" for example talks a little about this base swearing in Finnish. "Vittula" a village in Swedish Lapland literally means "cunts-mire." Think about a culture that would name a village a name like that. Another village in Ostrobothnia is called Kiiminki. I found out that in archaic Finnish terms that are not used today, it means "a town where people are horney."

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  6. I don't have a problem with preaching against drunkenness; the Bible does that. I take issue with the foul language, which the Bible also takes care of.
    I haven't seen drunks in Lapland but I have seen drunks in Portland, and I crave for them the grace of God that I have tasted. I do not believe that using nasty language will bring them to Christ...
    The most important thing is that we wear love.
    I would like to remind people that in the New Testament period there was prostitution in the temples as a form of worship and the shows of the time would be comparable to hard-core porn of our day... we are not the first to invent immoral behavior. There was also abortion and birth control back then. The only effective change in a person is an internal heart change. The sinful know they are sinful. Unless we show grace, there is nothing to set us apart.

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  7. I guess I've never seen the sinfulness of birth control. Seems more reasonable to have the number of children you can adequately take care of, rather than a number of children you cannot. I've seen families do an excellent job with 10 children, and those who can't seem to perform adequately with only one or two. God gave us a brain in our head with the expectation we would use it.

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  8. When I attended the OALC years back, I used to wonder why Laestadius' sermons were read every Sunday. His sermons were difficult to listen to, they made little to no sense to me, and his coarse language was a turn off. I wondered about his "colorful" imagination. I also yearned to hear sermons relevant to present day society and life in the United States, rather than in northern Swedish Lapland.

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  9. The Laestadians are taught that the greatest sins are all these 'flesh sins' and yet the worst sin that Jesus talked about most over and over (can't quote the places as it gets some people here mad when the Bible is quoted) while He walked this earth was false preachers and teachers. Laestadius was one of the worst. Leading people away from God's Word and His peace by putting them in bondage. I do not know if that is what Laestadius meant to do, but that is what it has turned into in this day and age. God is a God of love and freedom, not a God to be afraid of and wonder what He is going to do to you next. Fear of God in the Bible should be translated revere or love. Never did I hear it translated that way in the Laestadian religion all my years there.

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  10. Just a point to ponder. I have never attended an OALC church, but have a question: How did LLL's sermons get to be published. There were no tape recorders back then, and I believe its forbidden in the OALC in modern times. Is preparing a sermon forbidden in the OALC, as it is in some other Laestadian groups? Did they have someone taking shorthand to record his sermons? I'm thinking his sermons must have been prepared if they are now published in Postillas. This makes utterly no sense to me...

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  11. I seem to vaguely remember hearing that in Laestadius' time, preachers had to show a copy of their sermons to the "powers that be" before they were used on Sunday. So if THE man was able to prepare his sermons in advance, how can you derive whole religious sects saying that you can't?! Our OALC preachers would tell us each Sunday that nothing had been prepared ahead of time so that "the intellect" would not interfere with God's words... And if you'd ask a tough question in your confirmation class, that was your "intellect", when you should be accepting the preachers' words as those of God.
    Talk about distorting the Word of God!

    Also, in reference to "Devil's piss"-- I've also heard this in reference to perfume/cologne.

    I have so many more areas I could rant on, but will stop now and see where He leads me...

    God Bless us all.
    Good night

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  12. By the way, I am not offended by birth control. I was just making a point that their culture really wasn't that far of a cry from ours.

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