Friday, June 17, 2005

Numbers

I see you have been active on this blog, readers, while I've been distracted by other things -- like kindergarten graduation (what a papparazzi event that was! I'd never seen so many flashes popping!) and the weather (ideal for gardeners -- it rains at night and shines in the day) and my hapkido class (great stress release).

Thanks for your comments and I'm sorry this post will not address them, because I want to write about a neat thing that recently happened. I received an email from someone who saw my name on a genealogy website, and it turns out he is a second cousin. We had never met, because his branch of the family belongs to the -- well, why don't we call it "the 99.9996 percent." (Thanks, Theo, for the math. I wanted to illustrate it with a pie chart, but it would have to be the size of a moon for the "saved" percentage to even show up.)

So anyway, this cousin lives in my state and was passing through town, and we met for dinner. We don't look alike (he's handsome). But in his thick stack of photographs, familiar images emerged: the Finnish grandparents, uncles and aunts, the farms, the tractors, the big bulbous cars. As he sketched out our family history, it dawned on me that I am one in a long line of dissidents: TEN of my grandmothers' siblings left the OALC. Their children knew little or nothing about the OALC, and their grandchildren even less. My cousin thought it was simply a Finnish-speaking branch of the Lutheran church. He and hs family used to live within a few miles of my house.

When I heard this, I was inwardly outraged.

Why?

Imagine yourself as a 19-year old, fresh out of the OALC, shunned, naive, penniless, working nights at a Chinese restaurant to pay for college, renting a room in a huge, strange city, afraid of your own shadow and lonely beyond description. Imagine baking a cake for Thanksgiving and bringing it on the bus (you have no car) to the homeless shelter to have someone to share it with, then being overcome with shyness and furtively leaving the cake and pan at the reception desk and catching the bus home, crying until there are no tears left, partly because you just gave away your only cake pan. Imagine hating holidays.

Then discovering, decades later, that you were actually next to cousins in that city who would have opened their hearts and arms and homes to you. If only you had called! If only you had known!

But anger serves nothing.

The great thing is that NOW I'm learning about my forebears: the Crash, the Depression, the struggles and recoveries, the illnesses and deaths, the hard luck and stubbon hopes of these hardy immigrants. For example: the couple en route from Finland who had a baby at sea but hid it, so it could be registered a U.S. citizen. The newly-widowed mother who refused to give her baby up for adoption despite her siblings' pleas. The John Deere tractor, purchased in the thirties, that is still operating on the family farm.

I'm looking forward to seeing that farm, where my grandparents lived when they lost everything (the sister who took them in was a former OALCer, but they were not in a position to shun her). When I see that old John Deere tractor, I'm going to take a photo of it, and think long thoughts about "sisu." Mostly, I'm going to celebrate this freedom to love all my people -- 100%. It's a significant victory.

18 comments:

  1. Hang on to the anger for only a moment. Instead embrace the joy of meeting all of these relatives that will surely start pouring into your life. Anger is good for a quick examination and a warning of how things "should not be done". If it is over something that you have and had no control over, don't let it ruin not even one glorious day of this gift of life. I handle my anger of such things by praying for the offenders. You never know who will be enlightend next. Remember, some of the biggest defenders of cults are those with the most doubts who are struggling with an awakening which scares the bejeebers out of them.

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  2. Sometimes I think anger is really necessary to experience in order to really grow. I would look at that 19 year old and feel such love for her, she needs to be charished, not shunned. That girl has a right be angry. I'm angry for her too. Maybe it's OK for that scared girl to be mad for awhile, she'll get over it. You sure aren't that girl anymore Free2be--you have made quite a journey and have given many of us a voice that we didn't have. Thank you.

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  3. Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot.

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  4. This is a late response to a much earlier question re. "The God We Never Knew". I just started reading it now and may want to share thoughts on it later. The preface and portion of first chapter (current progress)suggest a very thought provoking reading.

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  5. I left the church 10 years ago, and my anger is still very strong.
    If only I had been born a little stronger willed, it wouldnt have taken me until the age of 38 to come around to the untruth about the Finnish Independant Apostolic Lutheran church.
    I'm angry that I wasted all those years living in fear of going to hell.I had no idea what the real world was about until I started reading about other cultures and religions.
    I actually learned more about God's grace in a 12-step
    program than I ever did listening those whiny, fear-mongering sermons.
    I'm angry that my family shuns me because they dont know how to love unconditionally.
    I'm angry at my mother for shoving this religion down my throat and for being so prideful in her disappontment of me for leaving the church.
    I'm angry at the church for never letting its members grow up and think for themselves.
    I'm angry because I feel broken inside, as if no amount of grace will mend the damage done to my psyche.
    Anne Lamott,in her book 'Grace Eventually' tells a story about driving by her old church and stopping by the side of the road to pick some flowers to place on the steps of the church, as an amends; A way of forgiving and moving on. I'm not there yet! Sometimes, I think about driving by that little white church and busting out a window with a hand- full of rocks.(and maybe hurling some insults)
    It would be easy to move on if thats all it was, but when you lose your community and your family considers you the devil because you left, well, the spiritual abuse continues and my anger festers!

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  6. I wish I could take your hand and give you a glimpse of a brighter future, where your wounds become windows, and by looking through them bravely, you can see forwards and backwards, birth, death, and beyond ... and feel limitless joy and compassion, not only for yourself but for your mother and the "church" and everyone who remains fearful, clouded in ignorance and suffering. How I wish this for myself! But I know this: the conscious, daily practice of gratitude does wonders.

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  7. Graced...."The best revenge is to live well." George Herbert, British clergyman and poet
    I know what you mean Graced. I found I had to finally personally address my bitterness within myself and not with 'them.' In other words, the 'issue' was really with me not with the ALC type Pharisees since they were content enough to stay with it.
    The problem was that I had listened to them, I had believed the false spiritual bunko taught by my parents, I had done what they said......even though deep inside I sensed that it was not true. I had stayed with the church far too long after I had had inklings that it was permeated with falsehoods and hypocracy. I never really healed until I learned to assert my own true feelings, live them and eventually understand how what I had 'sensed' was in fact what the Bible truly meant and said. At one point, early in the process, I wanted to go in and confront the speakers and then stand outside their churches with pamphlets explaining exactly how it was all in reality a non Biblical deceptive cult. One guy (not me) went so far as to write a 'letter to the editor' in a local paper stating how the church was a 'cult.' A wise objective friend warned me otherwise and told me it would be far better for ALL for me to bail out totally and go on and live the life I knew which was right for me as I had already seen the outside world and I knew about grace- filled churches whereas those in my particular branch of the ALC had not. It was wise advice. You will probably eventually come to see how you have lived a productive life so far and that dealing with the bitterness will make it even better. Zanon

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  8. Thank-you for your loving kindness. I have to believe I will get there. If that means distancing from my family for my sanity (right now) then, thats what I need to do. (I seem to get pulled into the old thought process when I am around them for any amount of time) My shame is my biggest foible!
    I am a voracious reader and have found solice in the many books that have come my way. Anne Lamott, Karen Armstrong, Jeff Van Vonderen. Pema Chodron,Harriet Lerner, Martha Beck,(Who I actually met, and talked with about this very subject) and a few others. I am looking into Huston Smith,(World religions) He has researched every religion and practiced several of them for 10 years at a time.
    My goal is to get to the place where I can finally own my voice and my place in my family; Where I can let them do what they do without judgement, and I can feel confident in myself around them, and not shrink under the weight of the shame.
    It may take me the rest of my life.
    A hand to hold onto right now will get me through :)

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  9. Graced, it is hard to let go especially when one has had deep family and emotional involvement with an APL group. The longer and deeper one has been 'into' the APL Church the more rigid the family ties and thought processes. The speakers refuse to change as they have even more 'invested' emotionally into the thing. For them to admit that anything is wrong would be akin to them admitting that they have been the disseminators of false imformation...i.e. false prophets. The AP speakers that I know were pretty much church conformists when they were young. There was no concept of challenging the status quo with them so do not expect them to change their views. I looked into other religions after I left the APL as I felt I had been 'burned' so bad that I even mistrusted Christianity itself as all we had ever been taught was essentially personal misery and that Christians always had a (heavy) cross to carry i.e 'all Christians are given burdens.' I later found myself drawn to true Christianity which I had never known existed and finally I was able to accept the Lord into my life. I broke all contact with my previous Laestadian family & friends when I left-I shunned them instead of waiting for them to shun me and my family-and that too has been a good thing. I talk to them now if I happen to see them but that is all as we do not really have that much in common any more. What a life transformation it has been! Revelation 19:10 clearly states that, "...for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." But to have the testimony of Jesus, one has to have Jesus living within one's heart.....something which is not taught within any of the Laestadian groups that I know of as they essentially believe in salvation through belonging to the right church and having confessed one's sins (skip the confession part if one belongs to the IALC). I found that when the fullness of Christ was within me all the previous hurt just disappeared. It was as though it had never happened. My hope is that you find the same. Zanon

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  10. Thank you again for your insights all. I am grateful right now to have a place to go for support. I am so glad that this blog is available. Thank you for your commitment to stay here and keep checking in on the struggling and disillusioned newcomers. There are a whole lot more of us coming. I personnaly know many family members who left the church and who are suffering. Its almost as if our internal compass was messed with and we have to start all over from square one.
    In future posts I would like to discuss the sociological context of the church and the finnish culture and how these two aspects play a part in trapping people in the church. The fatalistic attitude that is so apparent in church members. i.e.- "The world is such a dangerous place, and we are so special that we cannot interact with unbelievers" blah blah blah
    "Life is so hard. I look forward to the day I die because living on this earth is fraught with evil and despair".... No wonder so many of them are depressed and lifeless and stuck......
    Don't even get me started on whole special, members only,maliciously used "Gods-peace" secret handshake issue!

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  11. Graced,

    I am you 10 years ago, but been on this site for a number of years, but I still was trapped in the IALC for a number of reasons that I can't go into on this blog. I feared my loss of community and there were aspects of the church I liked, some concepts that still made sense. But the truth is, the community was just an illusion. When the chips were down for me, instead of support, there was judgment and even ridicule. I am still sorrowful for the loss of my "community" but I can't go back. And for me, I am sort of using the 12-steps to quit church, like giving up smoking. I take it week by week. I've had relapses and went back briefly, but I am now on over two months of "sobriety." Wish there was some kind of pin to go with that? Anyway, good luck to you. I'm just beginning to face what you've faced. If you want to touch base, contact the blog owner and she knows where to find me. Maybe we can help one another.

    --Stranger in a Strange Land

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  12. I had not known the IALC was a dogmatically 'rigid' as say the OALC. But it appears it is from what has been related here. It only appears that they have their own 'flavor' but essentially they are no different that the ALC, LLC or OALC. I too had to go back to 'square one' with regards to all that had happened to me. And yes I would expect that that there will indeed be many more coming from all of the ALC type groups over the next decade as the internet-information in general-and this site in particular-is shedding light on the subject. I read on an earlier post how Laestaian's say they are 'ready to go to heaven.' I actually would disagree with that in the sense as I saw a very fatalistic attitude when I heard it said. I saw a mentality where there was a subtle fear about 'judgement' and a fatalistic thought stream that essentially said, 'well I hope I am judged good enough to make it as my confessed sins are forgiven.' In contrast I have found that with true Christianity when one is living with the Lord, death is looked on more as a unification with some one you have already known quite well. Keep you chin up things will get better. Zanon

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  13. It's not as dogmatically rigid as the FALC or OALC or LLC, as far as lifestyle is concerned. It is easier to "be" IALC, but perhaps only marginally more easy to leave the IALC. It depends on your family. Most don't shun, but some do. There are some very unhealthy families there, and some who are more healthy.

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  14. Stranger in a strange land: yes Yes yes! How do we go about that?

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  15. Free to be Me will come back on here at some point and give you an e-mail for you to contact her. Then she'll give you my e-mail. Then we'll chat, okay? Hang in there! There's a lot to tell you I think.

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  16. Graced, my email is: extoot (at ) gmail (dot) com.Hope to hear from you soon!

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  17. Having trouble e-mailing that address. it keeps coming back to me saying undeliverable. i'll try again

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  18. Graced:

    I just tested it and it went through. Don't put in any of the spaces. Use the at (symbol - @) instead of at and the dot (.) instead of dot.

    extoot(at)gmail(dot)com

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