Monday, October 22, 2007

Racism, Laestadian style

I received this question from a reader recently:

Why do so many Laestadians seem to be prejudiced against blacks especially, but people from other cultures, as well? How can they justify that? Standing out in the parking lot after church, I don't even know how many times I've heard the n-word. . .There are so few blacks in the LLL churches that it's ridiculous. Well, wait a minute. Actually there is a small LLC congregation of blacks in Togo, Africa, now. Maybe that will help some of them get over their attitudes. . .


Growing up in the ALC, racism was a common theme as well. N-jokes were told alongside other ethnic jokes. Our church was a small one, in the rural upper Midwest. Looking back I'm not sure whether we were any more racist than the general population, or if we were reflecting the general population on this issue. Both the church and the general population was quite racist. As northerners we liked to think that we were above such things (on the winning side of the Civil War and all) but I remember the way that "the new kid," a Hispanic foster child was received at school in our small town. The epithets, the shunning, his isolation. He didn't stay long.

At church I remember hearing a story about the one time a black family visited our congregation. Apparently the pastor switched his sermon at the last minute to include a long-winded section explaining how nobody in our congregation was prejudiced.

I think the pastor was afraid that our visitors would find something lacking with us or in our church. There was so much fear growing up Laestadian. Fear of breaking the rules. Fear of "worldly" people and influences. Fear that God would punish harshly any failing. Fear of "The Other."

When angels speak to people in the Bible, one phrase they often utter is "Do not be afraid." I take this to mean that our fear can keep us from loving God, and from loving our neighbor. So much bad behaviour is motivated by fear.

How do we, as Laestadians and ex-Laestadians, step past the fear?

-ttg

47 comments:

  1. Runs with Scissors - Fast10/23/2007 04:51:00 AM

    What does the -ttg mean at the end of your posts?

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  2. I have posted this before, but will again: I was told in a whisper , by an older OALC Preacher, that there will never be a black Christian. I was not given the reasoning behind this statement, only that they had once had their chance.

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  3. How is it that nothing is said, other than a slight chuckle, when my 4 year old brother comes running in the house screaming the 'n' word, but if I mention going to a movie, I am condemned to hell? So sad...

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  4. I kind of wonder at your choice of subjects here. It seems to me that the Laestadians I knew had enough trouble accepting people outside of their little culture who were of the same religion and ethnicity as they were...isn't logical to expect them to have so much trouble with those whose cultures are quite different from their own? They are challenged in this area, and as it seem to have genetic component as well, we should try to be tolerant of them.

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  5. Many Trails Home10/23/2007 05:53:00 PM

    The OALCers live in a very stark "us vs them" world, with even the other Laestadians peopling the "them" world, altho perhaps only one rung out. The other Lutherans would be the second rung, remaining Protestants the third, Catholics a distant fourth, Jews a far distant fifth - and where does that leave the rest of humanity? Barely visible in the far distance. And that does not even take into account ethnicity.
    It does make their world simpler, I'll give it that. But why we should be "tolerant" of this is beyond me. We should be "tolerant" of biggots? We should be "tolerant" of _________ (fill in the blank: child abusers, who are "challenged in this area"?)
    Frankly, I am rather black-and-white about justice and equality. We are all children of the one God, period. We are measured by the same yardstick, and that includes a measure of what is in our hearts and how much we love our fellow humans, of whatever color, stripe, etc.
    We love our Laestadian kinsmen, but that doesn't mean that we love in them (or ourselves!) that which is hateful, such as biggotry. Biggotry is not genetic, it's social, and it persists where it is accepted and reinforced.
    We all need help in this regard, I suspect. I shall say a prayer for enlightenment, understanding, and the propagation of Christ's love through us and all the world.
    MTH (It's good to be back)

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  6. Well said, mth.

    Ditto the experiences from others. I remember wondering many times why our church was so white. Someone told me once that this was because Africa has already had its time of calling. I don't know if that view is still popular among LLL churches today, however. Or even how many believed that. It still didn't wash for me.

    Tomte, I appreciate your efforts to look at this issue from a larger perspective than just the LLL's point of view. They did share a view that many others outside the church had as well. It wasn't just them. I just don't understand why it continues to be condoned. Not just at church, but anywhere, actually.

    Another insight I appreciate was when you said, There was so much fear growing up Laestadian. Fear of breaking the rules. Fear of "worldly" people and influences. Fear that God would punish harshly any failing. Fear of "The Other." That is SO TRUE!

    As I was reading your comments, it brought me right back to when I was a child, living in fear of almost everything. The constant monitoring of each other's behavior made you afraid to make any mistake. So we all put on our perfect masks to hide the faults we all had.

    Fear of worldly people was more obvious in my parents. I didn't get that, but of course I played along and avoided making a lot of friends outside the church. Since we lived quite a distance from most of the people from church (several states apart), my friends were mostly in books, and now in boxes--LOL. (joke from my blog).

    And the fear of God? Oh, my. I remember once in about third or fourth grade, I accidentally said a swear word on the playground. I stopped still, dead in my tracks. I was petrified. I literally stood there shaking, waiting for God to reach down and strike me dead.

    It's not a pleasant experience growing up with terror looking over your shoulder at every turn. I wasn't a wild kid. I didn't run with boys, I didn't act out, I didn't drink or use drugs...in fact, the worst thing I can remember doing was listen to my brother's Simon and Garfunkel record. Oh! And coming home with a cartoon book of naked characters. The cartoons weren't explicit or nasty, they just played on the fact that the characters weren't dressed. But you would have thought I was guilty of breaking all ten commandments in one fell swoop by the way my mother reacted when she found out. Go figure.

    Anon, I don't see that Laestadians should be exempt from examination and discussion of their peculiarities, any more than anyone else is. However, I didn't hear Tomte singling them out for criticism. I guess sometimes people may hear what they want to hear, even when it is not what was said.

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  7. The LLL churches are generally one ethnicity because hardly anyone joins the church. The only reason they have as many people as they do is because everyone has tons of children. I agree, its an us vs. them mentality, so of course anyone who is different than them is looked down upon, and your taught to stay away from them. I grew up feeling superior to my classmates because I was special, I was Gods chosen, they weren't. So of course I didn't have tolerance for others opinions or cultures. I was correct, they were wrong. Pride for sure! Thank God I learned how to break free from that!

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  8. I asked my step-grandma (who was related to others on this site)about the lack of other ethnic groups. She said, "They had their chance". I'm clueless about what that meant. I was scared to death of her--so am surprised I dared ask the question--I sure didn't dare tell her I didn't know what she was talking about! LLLreader

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  9. I would like to add to my above (rather faceitous comment) regarding the genetic nature of racism. It seems that the epitome of evil in our society is racial prejudice. Many of us adopt a "holier than thou" attiude regarding anyone we percieve as racist. For example,"Enlightened" citizens support muslim communities, while the muslim religion world wide is growing increasingly radical and increasingly violent toward the west and the freedoms we all hold dear. Is this wise?

    I believe that suspicion of those who are different than we are is an inborn survival instinct. And like other insticts (the sex drive for instance) it should be governed by the rational mind. For the rational mind to do its job well it needs to have wisdom, which is not a natural instinct, unfortunately.

    When we educate our children we do not put the sixth graders in with the kindergartners so they can learn what not to do, although we may partner the younger with the older so that the older ones can be mentors. Likewise, I do not think we are going to over come the foolish fears we have been raised with by examining those fears more closely. Instead we should look for wisdom and courage from the source of wisdom and courage, instead of, turning the judgmental scrutiny we learned in the Laestadian churches back onto the members of those churches and unintenionally adopt the superior atttitude we are trying to get away from

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  10. When do they suppose the black had "their chance"? I mean, the Ethiopians are the only dark people who ever had any significant proportion of Christians in the population before the missionary efforts of the last couple of centuries. Besides, not even Ethiopians really qualify as "black"...

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  11. The -ttg stands for "Tomte the Gnome." :-)

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  12. Actually, most Muslims are peaceful people. The extremists are not. But every faith has its extremists.

    If we judged Catholics and Protestants by the actions of those in Ireland, we might think the whole lot of them are terrorists. That is not the case.

    I'm not sure what you're trying to say, anon, but it sounds like you're talking out of both sides of your mouth at once. I don't get the whole sixth grade kindergarten thing. What?

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  13. HI THERE! I am sorry that my post was unclear. I'm new at this and apparently in need of practice. When I first left the OALC I heard a preacher talking about false teaching (heresey) and true teaching(Biblical Christianity.) He used the illustration of counerfeit money. To be able to spot the counterfeit we don't study all the ways money can be counerfeited, instead we study the real thing so that we can discern the difference. I was trying in my awkward way to apply that same principle here. If you go back to the question of how we overcome the fear (in this case of African Americans) examining people who are fearful, no matter how much like us they are, is not going to help us overcome it. Instead we are going to have to focus on something or someone who has mastered it. To me that person is Jesus Christ, who gave himself for the good of all mankind. His word says also "that perfect love, drives out fear." Is it any clearer, or did I just make it worse?

    And you are right, I was making two completely different points. In talking about muslims my point was that in trying to be open minded and fair we could be opening ourselvs up to attack. As you say, it may be true that the majority of muslims are peaceful, but the majority of young muslims, (those under 18) are not. This is the most rapidly increasing population in the world today. I think it would be wise to execise caution. When Japanese Americans were interred during World War II I doubt that anyone thought they were all out to destroy the U.S. Rather, I suspect that the thought was to isolate them so those that were out to destroy could not hide among our own citizens and ambush from within.

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  14. Ah, but if we truly believe that we interned the Japanese to keep us safer, why didn't we also intern the Italians? The Germans? I think that was just our excuse to legitimize our bigotry.

    Also, I think the reasons the younger Muslims are so anti-Western are much, much deeper than basic religious differences. It bothers me when people say "They just hate us because of our freedoms." What does that mean, exactly? It makes NO sense to me.

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  15. Neither the Italians nor Germans had caried out an attack on our country, perhaps?

    Maybe it was the fact that neither the Italians nor Germans had a history of suicide bobmbng as the Japanese did?

    I do believe that both groups werw viewed with suspicion, especially those who were new to the country.

    There have been some articles in TIME magazine regarding muslim extremists in the past year, which were not very encouraging. For instqance, one of the mujahdeen captured in Afghanistan was barely in his teens and firmly believed that the president of Pakistan was a Jew.That is what he was taught at shool.

    As for just hating us because of our freedoms? I don't understand it either but of course I have an opinion or two. On thing that contributes is the god "Allah" seems to require that his followers protect his honor. We don't see this sort of thought in Christian theology. Anyone else have any insights?

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  16. How many Japanese-Americans were suicide bombers, may I ask? And if memory serves me correctly, German uboats were known to be at our eastern shores. Why didn't we think German-Americans might be in kahoots with the uboat operators? See my dilemma?

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  17. The suicide bombers I was referring to were the kamakaze suicide pilots that did a great deal of damage to our ships in the pacific.

    As for the Germans, it would be pretty difficult to isolate them because they began settling in this country in the 1700. Culturally they were American.

    In wartime, the highest priority of the govenment should be the protection of the country. Everyone has to make sacrifices. The Japanese were imprisoned, my uncle was killed. Who gave more?

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  18. The Japanese were Americans, too. Just because they LOOK different than Europeans doesn't give us the right to TREAT them differently.

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  19. So, explain your self. Why do you take that position?

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  20. "The Japanese were imprisoned, my uncle was killed. Who gave more?"

    This doesn't make much sense. Where's the connection? Iraqis have been tortured and seen their loved ones killed. Does that mean they have the right to imprison you?

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  21. Well, to add to that, the Japanese were not only imprisoned, their sons became soldiers for the United States, and were often the ones sent into the fiercest firefights during the war. Casualties were very high.

    So if you're saying that "they" were not Americans because they hadn't been here as long as the Germans, "we," then, as Americans, took away their houses, their livelihoods, their rights, AND their children to fight the war. Where's the equity here?

    As always, there is more than one way to look at a situation.

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  22. Point 1. The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself.

    Point 2.(Because of point 1)we treat others as we want to be treated.

    Point 3. (Because of point 1)we should treat ourselves well AT THE SAME TIME as we treat others well.

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  23. This is a bit off topic, but someone above wrote that most Muslim's are peace loving people. If they are, it would be those who have not read and do not live by the Koran. We westerners need to read the Koran and see where extremism comes from.

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  24. THE Bible has as many invocations to violence as the Koran, if not more, says an American biblical scholar and peace activist. There is a darker side to the sacred text that many Christians will not admit.

    Alongside passages exhorting believers to love their neighbour and turn the other cheek are verses that refer to hellfire, encourage acts of violence or call for God to carry out acts of vengeance against sinners.

    Even the Book of Psalms, generally regarded by Christians as uplifting and comforting, referred to the dashing of "little ones" against rock, said Chris Stanley, a professor of theology at St Bonaventure University in western New York state.

    "There is the angry violent god of the Old Testament, but there is plenty of language in the New Testament that portrays God as a violent judge, and some that can be taken that human violence is something that God would ordain," Dr Stanley said.

    Dr Stanley spoke at a two-day seminar hosted by the United Theological College that explored how religious texts have been used to validate violence - and can be reinterpreted to encourage dialogue between faiths.


    Read more here.

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  25. So it's safe to say that it's not the texts nor the religions themselves, but the it's the behavior of the people who profess to live by them that determines how violent a particular faith is.

    During these times much more acts of violence are commited in the name of Islam than in the name of Christianity. Much, much, more.

    This is not to say that all Islamists are violent. Not at all.

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  26. I am not comfortable making that conclusion yet.

    I have 2 questions.

    1. Does Dr. Stanley distinguish between physical warfare and the battle against sin?

    2. What is the context for smashing little ones on the rocks? I can't find it in my bible?

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  27. Psalm 137 verse 9.

    Yes, God destroys His enemies and their children. He destroys them in two ways, by making them His friends and by destroying their life. He doesn't charge us with destroying their lives but with getting His Word out to make them His friends.

    So, Free have you read the Koran?

    The Koran says that women have half the intellectual capacity of a man. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

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  28. Does anyone here think about WHY some behavior is acceptable and some is not?

    I thought most folks went by the "treat as others as you want to be treated" adage.

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  29. The message I got, Loud and Clear, while living at home and attending OALC was that those adages pertained only to other OALC members. So Love Thy Neighbor meant Love Other OALCers. Do Unto Others meant Treat Other OALCers as You would have them Treat You. I can't stress strongly enough that the congregation was a society or tribe onto itself and no one else in the world came in even a close second. When you are God's Chosen, nothing else matters. Other people become less-than-human in the eyes of (most) members, so how you treat them isn't important. This belief or attitude isn't exclusive to OALC. In fact, I think it is a common thread in all fundamentalist belief systems, religious and secular.

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  30. O.K.

    Let's subsitute the term "black people" for the terms "OALC" and "fundamental belief systems" If this very accuarate remark was made about people of another race or another world religion it would be taboo.

    I don't have any problem with telling the truth. I do have a problem with setting some groups as "off limits" for critical discusion.

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  31. Many Trails Home10/30/2007 01:52:00 PM

    Hear, hear, Sisu.

    I looked up Psalm 137; how gross. We sure are selective when we read the Bible and quote "he leadeth me beside the still waters," etc. Psalm 137 says, verses 8 and 9: "O daughter of Babylon . . Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!"

    No wonder violence and hate are so persistent in the world. Between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it's a wonder there isn't more mayhem. I say we all become Buddhists! MTH

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  32. By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the Poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs,our tomentors demanded our songs of joy; they said."Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, or Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you,if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
    Remember,O LORD what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. "Tear it down," they cried, "Tear it down to the foundations. O Daughter of Baylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us--he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks!"

    I thought since we were discussing Psalm 137 I would type in what the entire passage so we could see the context.

    If you would like to know the historical context I could help you with that, too.

    Well educated people do not judge a book by 1/2 a paragraph. You are too smart for that.

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  33. Hmmmm, i like that psalm. But I don't see that it is a call to violence. To me it sounds like a captive people taking comfort in the thought that God will punish the people who are holding them as slaves.

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  34. Violent or not... it does not matter. The reader is the one who matters. Is the reader violent? Does the reader kill people in the name of the reader's religion? Does the reader think it's his or her religious calling to murder non believers in the name of the reader's God?

    If this were 500 years ago, all religions would have many adherents who would fall in to the "yes" catagory when answering these questions. Nowadays there is only one religion that would be so.

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  35. Psalm 137 might not necessarily mean to bash your little one against the rock as in a violent way, it could have another meaning.But there is alot of violence in the Old Testament, and parts say that God told people to go kill all these other people opposed to him. Hard to understand that, but its the Old Testament. I guess I believe more in Jesus teachings in the New Testament.

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  36. When God told the children of Israel to destroy other nations, it was a specific command, not an universal one like the 10 commandments. These nations were destroyed because they ignored God, worshipped idols and sacrifced their children in worship to idols.

    Likewise, when psalm 137 was written, it was written by the children of Israel after Jersusalem was destroyed and the people were taken as slaves to Babylon.

    Why did God allow this to happen? Because they ignored him, worshipped other gods and would not listen to his prophets who told them to return to God.

    God is just. God is righteous. He cannot lie.

    He does not change. He knows of the sufferings of ach of us and will lead us to a better place if we follow him.

    But just as some of the Jewish people did not return to Jerusalem when they were released from captivity, some of us prefer to stay where we are.

    Trivia: Did you know that descnedants of these Jews lived in Baylon (modern day Iraq) until this past year?

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  37. I have been reading the Qur'an, and I don't see what anon above is talking about. I'd like to know more about what the Qur'an says about women. Where is the reference located about their intelligence (chapter and verse)? I've been looking but haven't found it.

    Interestingly enough, I did find many parallels between the Qur'an and the old Testament. There were references to Mary and Jesus, and a whole chapter about Joseph: his dreams, his brothers getting rid of him, Potiphar's wife, etc., Moses and the Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf, and many more.

    Abraham's son Ishmael became one of the Arabs, although it is still being debated whether Islam originated with him or if he learned it from others. It would make sense, then, that the Muslims and the Jews would share many of the same stories.

    But I'm still listening--waiting to find out about those women, and about the violence piece as well. Is there more violence in the Qur'an than there is in the Bible? Are Muslims more violent than, say, the Catholics and the Protestants in Ireland? Or are these stereotypes spread and fed by fear?

    And to address the anon who compared criticizing the OALC to criticizing groups such as blacks, it's like comparing peaches and asparagus. One group maintains membership by choice, and the other group is defined by a matter of skin color, something over which no one has any control. It's not logical to compare them that way.

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  38. Fact: Muslims carry out much more acts of violence in the name of their religion than Catholics and Protestants.

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  39. "In the name of" means exactly what, and according to whom?

    Poor people commit more violent crime than rich. Men more than women. The insane more than the sane.

    All religions have been used as the rationale for violence among people fighting over the same piece of pie.

    The world needs a religion that redefines the pie.

    If you had enough, would you recongnize it?

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  40. I guess in the name of means shouting "Allah Akbar" or "Allah is great" while murdering non believers. It's very clear that they are murdering in the name of their religion.

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  41. To Anon above:
    Christians have killed and committed attrocities accorss the world in the name of Christ for thousands of years now, surely you wouldn't consider all Christians to be inherently evil because of that historical fact?

    Do "The Crusades" ring a bell?

    I suppose you can overlook that though because it doesn't support the hatred and fear you feel towards Muslims.


    ~JF

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  42. JF

    Read my post 10/31 6:12. I overlook the Crusades, and any atrocities in the name of any religion that happened in the distant past. They are not an excuse to defend religiously motivated murderers in our time.

    Islamic fundamentalists do not murder because they are poor. They do not murder because they are men (for the most part). They do not murder because they have gotten the short in of the stick. They murder because they be believe they are doing God's work.

    That is despicable and deserves no justification, only condemnation; preferably by a bullet or bomb.

    By the way, I do not Muslims who condemn this type of behavior in with these beasts. Those types of Muslims deserve respect and should receive it.

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  43. How can you say that what Christians did is not relevant? Just because it was in the past doesn't mean you can't compare the two.

    And another thing. I haven't read a single post defending people (Muslims or otherwise) who murder people. However, what I do hear is people trying to say that it is not appropriate to lump all Muslims in together and judge them based on the actions of a few. Now, I know you'll probably try to debate the "few" part of that statement.

    But you anons (and I'm not stereotyping, I just can't tell you apart!)--you anons keep trying to say "most" of them are killing people, or you say "more" of them kill than Christians do, in the name of...or the "majority" of young Muslims are violent.

    So where are you getting this information??? Are your sources reliable? Are they accurate? Do you have sources? Be specific!

    Quit making accusations based on generalities you come up with from a few examples, for crying out loud. No one is denying that those extreme situations happen. Some Muslims do practice jihad. But that can not be extrapolated to say that all Muslims think that way.

    So, just because a few people I know made rude judgmental remarks to me after I left the church, does that mean that I assume that anyone going to any LLC/OALC/FALC/IALC church is rude and judgmental? NO!

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  44. Many Trails Home11/05/2007 12:01:00 PM

    OK, so I still have something to say to Anonymous Oct 30 who quoted the entire Psalm 137: It clearly says (in your translation), "happy is he . . . who siezes your infants and dashes them against the rocks!" Now, how does the "context" make it any less horrific? Just because the Jews were taken captive and enslaved (which of course was SOP in those days) does that "justify" bashing their babies against the rocks, gleefully? Sorry, no sale. Sure, it is the sort of violent thing they did in those days (like blinding kids and send them out to beg) but it is STILL disgusting. Disgusting stuff in the Bible does not need to be justified. "The truth shall make you free." MTH

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  45. (I post this having not read previous comments; only the original post.)

    I think that there has been in Laestadian circles a "racism of heritage" in that there is an inherent suspicion of anyone outside of the observer's own LLL branch. Basically, if you weren't born into the church, then a) you aren't a Christian and b) the hope for you ever becoming a Christian is mighty slim and c) if you do repent the question is always in the back of "our" minds: "was it a true repentance?"

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  46. I "repented" once many years ago after leaving the church. I think I lasted like a year or so, then I quit again. I remember feeling good that my sins are forgiven, but I now know that my repentance wasn't to Christ. It was to the church and their beliefs. I didn't know Christ for myself. I don't believe true repentance involves anyone but yourself and God. Its about your relationship with him, its personal. No one can bring you to that point except for God. Others can help, sure, but there is no mediator except for Jesus. Although his spirit lives in people, it doesn't make them him. What I have a problem with is people who can say their relationship with Jesus is more real or true than someone elses. How do you know? Are you him? Do you know my heart and my personal intimate relationship with my Savior? Who are you to judge? Thats why I could never belong to any church that preaches truth is only found within their church. I know now its a bunch of fooey! But if thats what you want to believe, then have at it. I choose not to.I have met SO many people who are in love with Jesus and want to do his will and not their own, I have no doubts that God is not going to lead them in the wrong direction.

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  47. O yes, the True Repentance!!!
    In my case, I married a person born into the church. Although I spent decades there, I was always the one "from the world". Of course, now that I have left, I am sure they are saying, "See, when they come in from the world, they seldom stay".
    And yes, anonymous, that asking forgiveness that is a requirement in the OALC, isn't from God, but from the preachers and fellow members. They say that asking forgiveness doesn't save you, but when a preacher speaks at a funeral of a church member, they usually say there is a precious testimony for so and so,since he/she asked forgiveness from a preacher right before passing.

    Of course, you are told that asking forgiveness isn't necessary for salvation, but try not doing it and see how well you do in the church. You will soon be talked about and judged as a "maker of self repentance" or some such nonsense, and you will not be held as a "good solid Christian".
    I know. I was there. I am sooo glad to be out and free to believe in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Surely God doesn't need man to forgive sins and proclaim salvation!
    Blessings to all! 4eyes

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