Saturday, May 27, 2006

Disco in the Holy Language

Just in case anyone missed this kneeslapper by RhymingBlue on the Yahoo site, here it is:
Ol' Laestadius making you spastic on the dance floor? Feeling your inner beat wanting to squirm past the "sorrowing sinner" filter? Look no further: dance instructions in Finnish. It sounds like Finnish, so you'll have some comfort to cling to as you venture one foot out into the world.

(The above was based on my personal experience of much sitting under translated sermons from Finnish, until there was an automatic connection between the Finnish language and the Laestadian tradition.)

Thank you, RB. I just watched it again tonight for some comic relief. That demonstration of the hip bump is priceless.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old Apostolic Funeral

I saw this bit online and thought I'd share it. It was written by a teenage girl about her aunt's funeral in the OALC. I was moved by her pain, and it sent me to some dark places. I'd be hella pissed too. Someone should start a ExOALC Anonymous to help people deal with these things. (Meanwhile, we've got this blog . . . I sent her the link.)
. . . Old Apostolic Lutheran Church.

Do those words mean anything to you?

If not you're lucky. I've heard them since the day I was born. It defines who my dad's side of the family is. Old Apostolics are pretty much a cross between Mormons and the Amish. The women don't wear makeup or pants and they must wear scarves on their heads when in church and they can't have birth control (Mormon comparison) so they all have like 1571258712357 kids, no seriously, I have a cousin who has 13 kids, can you say ouch? And pretty much, if you leave the church, you're shunned (Amish comparison).

Well, when my dad turned 18, guess what he did?

Yep, he left the church. And so, of course, he was shunned.

Well, I mean they still talk to him, but it's way different.

And today, when the pastors were talking about (aunt's name deleted), supposedly. They kept mentioning how Apostolic is the only "true faith" and they hate to see people that were brought up in the church "turn their backs" and run away. I almost got up and punched that pastor in the face. That is not the time to try to re-recruit the people that you pushed out.

I'm sorry. I was hella pissed.

Oh and I really don't understand how EVERY SINGLE song can sound the exact same. I mean we sang like 5 songs during the service and every single one sounded exactly the same. The same, long, boring monotone. The exact same dull drone as the Pastors when they were supposedly "talking about Annie."

That was bullshit.

I'm not sorry she's dead. I know that sounds horrible, but it's true. She messed up my family and I'm glad she's dead. I feel for my dad, he hadn't seen her in 4 years because he couldn't get over it. It tore him apart today, so I was crying, but not for (aunt's name deleted). I refuse to shed tears for her. It's not her fault, I know this, but I can't help but blame her.

My family has issues, and they need to learn that there are more people than just Apostolics in the world. They all marry each other and stay in this little crazy community and don't even try to get out and see what else is out there. It makes me mad.

I hate my family right now. I don't even care.

I love them because they are my family, but I hate them for what they've done to my mom, dad and I.

It's not fair. None of it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Laestadian Lingo

Okay, this a thread where you can weigh in on any special terminology used in your Laestadian church. If you click on the link above, it will take you to a very early discussion on this blog of OALC terms.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Exclusivity

In a recent post, former OALC member "Stylux" said: "the exclusivity issue, in my view, is quite normal and expected of faiths, companies, groups and even governments in general. The local gardening club does the same thing when it tries to get you to come to meetings by offering a tip on how to grow great petunias."

The next poster begged to differ, arguing that the garden club invites you in on their secret, while the OALC does not.

What do you think? Was your Laestadian church's exclusivity a deal-breaker, or just a quirk? Or something else entirely?

Monday, May 08, 2006

What It's Like to Leave

Here is a really thoughtful exploration of what it's like to leave a sect, written by RhymingBlue and posted on the Yahoo site. I've added a footnote from my own experience. What would you add?

This message discusses the experience of growing up in an extremely religious, closed community and later leaving to join the outside world. I'll first discuss the Laestadian experience, and next draw attention to some resources from the experiences of two other groups. This is intended to describe the "typical" experience of those leaving, but since we know there is no such thing as one typical experience, please forgive me if my description doesn't match your experience.

Growing up in the Laestadian community, you feel a deep sense of belonging. There are strict rules, and these rules clearly delineate how you should live your life. You know what is good and what is bad and strive to make your life conform to the rules, at least publicly.

The outside world is filled with atheists and dead faith churches. These people are on a lower plane of value because they are not part of the community. They are going to hell. You feel as if the community is a refuge from a cold outside world, filled with ravening wolves. The people who make up the outside world are not diverse; instead they are an undistinguishable mass of people "in the world."

There are many community mechanisms to keep you in the group. The fear of those worldly wolves is drilled into your head from childhood. You fear losing your sense of community and belonging. You know that if you leave, you will be tarred as a rebellious sinner who wants to pursue money and pleasure instead of remain faithful to God.

Despite these incentives to remain, you decide to leave. Perhaps, the central tenets of the community no longer seem true. If the community is based on a lie, it becomes empty to you. Or maybe you are driven out from being constantly repressed in how you choose to dress. Regardless of why you leave, the outside world appears to be a place where you can best live as your true self. Upon leaving, you feel the sudden loss of community. As a typical Laestadian, the community was your world. You likely didn't take part in outside social groups such as sports or student groups, and your friends were all from the church. Now, the community is gone. In addition to losing the community, you lose the rules. No longer do you have a clear roadmap that tells you how to be holy and how to live your life. You must create this roadmap on your own. You often feel resentment at having missed out on the many things you learn others did in their childhoods. You are suddenly eighteen or more years behind in learning the rules of how to behave in the wider world. You may find another church to attend or perhaps you just swear off religion entirely.

On the positive side, you learn the world has some decent people, and is not made up entirely of ravening wolves, as you were taught. Nonetheless, the outside world often cannot understand your experience. Although they offer sympathy and express amazement when they hear your story, they cannot understand what you feel. Some even go so far as to question why you ever left, thinking you simply succumbed to outside peer pressure to conform and denied your unique cultural heritage.

Laestadians are not the only ones to go through the feelings of leaving. Another group to experience these feelings are people who left the strict, closed form of Judaism known as Hasidism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasid. Like in the Laestadian community, there is a strong sense of community in the Hasid community, but there is also fighting for power and factionalism. http://newyorkmetro.com/news/cityside/16864/index.html Elimelekh Kohn grew up in this community, and later left to enter a profession forbidden to him as a child. http://www.forward.com/issues/2001/01.04.27/yiddish1.html

Another person who left was Malkie Schwartz http://conartistic.blogspot.com/2005/11/chosen-vs-unchosen.html and http://www.mentalblog.com/2005/11/lady-malkie-schwartz.html , whose experiences were included in the book Unchosen : The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0807036269/104-8014872-4211933?v=glance&n=283155 . http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/011206/ltauthor.html Realizing the difficulties people go through upon leaving the Hasidic community, Ms. Schwartz founded the group Footsteps http://footstepsorg.org/about.php to help others who had recently left. A similar group, Xlubi, can be found at http://www.xlubi.com/ .

The last group I'd like to discuss is the Amish http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish . When the Amish leave, they often experience social ostracism as bad or even worse than what some former Laestadians experience http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0966793102/104-8014872-4211933?v=glance&n=283155 and http://www.pjstar.com/services/photo/amish/lead2.html and http://www.showmenews.com/2005/Jun/20050619Show001.asp . Some make the most of leaving and take the good while leaving the bad http://www.chronogram.com/issue/2005/03/backbone/earwhacks/ . Others try to help those left behind in abusive situations http://www.amishabuse.com/ . or try to help those now leaving http://www.examish.com/ (only the forum appears active right now http://www.thatforum.com/examish/ ). The process of leaving the Amish community is prevalent enough, it even warranted a detailed study http://www.mcusa-archives.org/jhorsch/jhorsch2004/miller_essay.htm .

From the experiences of the former Hasid and Amish, former Laestadians can realize their experiences are not unique and are often easier than the experiences of many from other similar groups. Former Laestadians are usually able to earn a living in the wider world and can eventually re-define themselves as successful and free, even if worldly.

I would add that to the positive side:

You learn that while others may not have had identical experiences, many people (especially racial and sexual minorities) have also experienced being a "stranger in a strange land." You find that your understanding and empathy for the dispossessed makes you a trusted friend and natural advocate. Having found the courage to leave, very little can frighten you, least of all the social opprobrium of others. You are confident and able to connect easily with people regardless of socio-economic barriers. You have a high regard for reason, honesty, compassion, and inclusion, and attempt to model these values in your relationships. Your intellectual and spiritual curiosity never allows you to stagnate. You find life rich and exciting. While sometimes you are nostalgic for the close-knit community you left, you find incomparable satisfaction in being authentic, and in being a citizen of the world.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

God Speaks Through MacDuff

Yesterday to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I enjoyed coffee at our favorite cafe, dinner at our favorite pub, and opera by our favorite composer, Verdi. It was MacBeth, Shakespeare's tale of the Scottish king whose ambition was his fatal flaw. The sets, the direction, the music, the acting, the singing . . . all were collectively grand and spell-binding.

We've been going to the opera for almost 20 years since we met there (as volunteers), and as fond as we are of the art form, it is rare for any performance to excel in all those aspects -- let alone for three hours. And it is also rare (and a wonderful thing) to be in an audience that was universally moved, erupting with joy and applause right along with us.

Late in the opera when MacDuff, a tenor with a heart-piercingly fluid tone, is betrayed by MacBeth and discovers his wife and children slain, he enfolds his limp little girl in his arms and sings a song of grief like none I've ever heard. Tears sprang to my eyes.

I thought of those boys in Duluth and their families' suffering. My conscience stung: it was heartless of me to post criticism after that event. What if the heartbroken parents were to hear of it and suffer more? Whether something has validity or not is hardly the point. Where was my compassion?

I removed the post.

I beg pardon for any hurt, and pray that I will be more sensitive to the suffering of others.

Peace.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Conceptions of Morality


On the Yahoo site, RhymingBlue posted a link to an interesting thesis and provided these excerpts:

"[T]he Conservative Laestadian movement was born in the middle of the social transformation of the Finnish society in the end of the nineteenth century: the technical innovations gave push to the industrialization process which led to the emergence of new jobs. This societal change was interpreted by some Evangelical Lutherans to have a negative influence on the Finnish values and they tried to maintain the endorsement of "good values" by creating revivalist movements that attempted to call the values of the old society back to life. These values were regarded to be essentially religious but when observed from a broader point of view, it can be noticed that they are exactly the same as the values endorsed by the traditional Finnish agrarian society." -pp. 100-101

"The Conservative Laestadian community is very tight also because their ideology emphasizes the unique and special status of their community in the eyes of God, like the Jews or the Amishes. For this reason the boundary between the in- and out group is strong, the membership identity is explicit and the phenomenon of marginal community identity is rare. (Haavio, 1964, 73.)" -p. 102

"[T]he moral judgment of the Laestadians is not based on rational reasoning, or "logic", but instead on faith. ... However, the
Laestadians are well aware of the fact that by using rational reasoning as an approach for making moral judgments one can end up with moral conclusions that are different from theirs." -p. 194

"[In case you hadn't heard of God's word, would the contraceptive pills be still wrong?] - I would have a totally different opinion of everything. Because if a person doesn't have a faith, he uses in everything his own brains and with the brains, you know where you go when you use only your brains." p. 195

"The fact that God's word determines the state of affairs of the whole world is also manifested in the Laestadians' idea that a human being does not have the responsibility to help, as far as the worldly injustices such as the poverty of the developing countries, are concerned." p. 195

"[Prescription-free contraceptive pills, other countries; What do you think about introducing prescription-free contraceptive pills in the developing countries?] - I understand fully what they are doing and they have that overpopulation, stop. But God reigns and we don't have to take care of it in that way. [Does the overpopulation have a reason?] - Yes, he knows what he is doing. I don't have to care about it." p. 196

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Good Grief

A reader suggested this topic and I am happy to oblige.

Do tight-knit groups (such as the OALC) handle grief better than the society at large?

What is good grieving? Is it "getting on with life" or "talk therapy"?