Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bad Week, Bright Spot

When it rains it pours. I spent last week in bed with a fever and chills and bronchitis. Then my Powerbook's hard disk died, with years of un-backed-up files, photos, and art. This event made me return to bed for several hours. I just could not cope.

A large expense is on the horizon in the form of a new computer. (And I so wanted to go to Sweden!) Meanwhile, I don't have internet access -- I'm typing this from Kinko's -- so if you don't hear from me for awhile, that's why.

A bright spot was the chance to hear Marcus Borg this morning, preaching at University Congregational. His topic was the Lord's Prayer. There is so much to share, but at 30 cents a minute, I'll limit myself to this: "Abba" in Aramaic is the intimate word for Father: like "papa." Why did Jesus teach us to ask Abba for his kingdom to come, here on earth? What does that mean? Note that the prayer doesn't ask for eternal life or for the power to believe. Borg thinks this is significant.

Okay, friends, talk away!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sweet Land

I hope everyone was able to spend Valentine's Day with their loved ones.

I'd like to heartily recommend the movie Sweet Land. Not only did I find it an excellent film and a poignant love story, but I found myself coming out of the theater thinking, "this is how Laestadian community could be, and should be."

Sweet Land is not about Laestadians. The main characters, Inge and Olaf, are immigrant farmers in 1920s rural Minnesota. However, their simple values, ties with the land, and the power of their tight knit church and community were all things that resonated with my Laestadian upbringing.

As unique individuals who remain true to their hearts over and against rigid and provincial community values, Inge and Olaf face many of the same issues that folks thinking about leaving the Laestadian community might face --including shunning and ostracising by the only community they have.

Unlike the bleakness of Laestadianism, however, this film promises hope and reconciliation. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that this movie affirms the notion that listening to one's heart --while bearing a high price-- yields a bountiful harvest in both self and neighbor.


-ttg

Unbearable Loneliness (No More)

The recent post by anonymous gave me a jolt. I often forget how painful it was to feel trapped, with seemingly no exits.

She writes:

I have so many doubts, have been having for so many years. Am living under fear and emptiness, uncertainty and confusion. Want to leave, but feel so constrained by the social issues involved in leaving. Not sure I have the mental stamina to withstand the shunning, and my family's sure grief. :( Dread the unbearable lonliness in losing my community. Yet at the same time, I am plagued by the sickening hypocrisy of bringing my innocent children up in it. Not sure where to turn anymore. I already recognize some of you here; and you would be sure to know me. I live in fear of being found out, at this time I prize my anonymnity, it is allowing me to jump in on these discussions here. Even wonder as I type this if I am commiting the 'unforgivable sin', by blaspheming The Church. Feel as if I may even go to He** for it. How do I know? How does anyone know? I pray every day that He will help me, that He will guide me. I know that He will. His love is unconditional, and forever. That is my only comfort right now.

First, let me say you don't need to worry about being outed on this blog. You can remain anonymous as long as you like. We understand the reasons why.

Most of us here have lived through that "unbearable loneliness" you speak of. It is awful. You won't have to do that, friend, because we're here. And we'll help.

Check out this wiki how. It represents my own views on how to best leave the OALC. Feel free to edit it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Let Your Light Shine

"When we let our light shine, we unconsciously give permission to others to do the same." Nelson Mandela

I can't make any claims to wisdom. Both an enthusiast and a skeptic by nature, my views define me as an apostate to all extant Christian traditions, save perhaps the Unitarians (which many do not consider Christian). Thankfully I don't expect or require any person's approval, but am free to follow my conscience and work out life in a loving, heritage-accommodating (ELCA Lutheran with lefse overtones) community, where I am challenged to pursue love and justice (compassionate interdependence) and spurn evil (unmitigated self-seeking).

The evil from which we can be saved is not doubt, which is our human birthright, but loss of relationship to one another and to love itself, that underground river so many call God but which no word can contain and no instrument measure.

Last week I watched Martin Luther King, Jr. in rare footage on a DVD called "Man of Peace in a Time of War". Incredibly powerful. Calm yet fierce, he burned with an inner fire, having seen a future not evident to others.

But we can all visit that mountaintop and see the promised land. It is here within us, each of us.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Laestadian Humor

I'm a fan of Prairie Home Companion, as every self-respecting former Laestadian otter be. (You have only so many radio hours left, use them wisely). Last weekend was the annual joke show, which inspired me to host a little levity here on extoots. Share your favorites, straight up or with a twist.

***

A Laestadian dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.
St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"Okay," the Laestadian says, "I married the only woman I ever kissed and we had 13 children and 60 grandchildren, all still in the church."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I went to June meetings every year, repented every Sunday, never drank a drop of whiskey and never watched TV."
"Terrific!" says St. Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."
"One point? Golly. How about this: I never turned on the radio in my car, even when I was alone, and have never used the internets."
"Fantastic, that's good for two points," he says.
"TWO POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
"Come on in!"

***

A guy dies and goes to St. Peter, who takes him on a tour of hell. He sees cheap hotels, chain restaurants, strip malls, and smog. Not so bad, he thinks. Then off in the distance he sees a lake of fire with souls writhing in pain and torment.

What's that? he asks St. Peter.

Oh, that's for the Laestadians, he responds. They insisted on it.

***

There's a line at the pearly gates. St. Peter tells the first one waiting, a Catholic, to go to Room 22, but to tiptoe past Room 13. He tells the second, a Presbyterian, to go to Room 39, but to tiptoe past Room 13. He tells the third, a Baptist, to go to Room 58 but to tiptoe past Room 13. The fourth person asks St. Peter "Excuse me, but why are you telling everyone to tiptoe past Room 13?

"Oh, that's where the Laestadians are," says St. Peter. "They think they're the only ones here."

***

How many Laestadians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
3. One to screw it in, one to determine if it was done as taught, and one to rebuke.

***

Some Fundamental Truths of Religion.

1. Muslims do not recognize Jews as God's Chosen.

2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as The Messiah.

3. Protestants do not recognize The Pope as their leader.

4. Laestadians do not recognize each other in theaters, bars, pool halls or stadiums.


***

Laestadian preachers used to put hard candies in their mouths during the reading. When the candies melted away, they knew the preaching had gone on long enough and it was time for the movement. That was the old days. Now they use buttons.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Please vote: Map or No Map

I like the map but it has been brought to my attention that it may prevent people from returning. Let me know your thoughts.

Inerrancy? Why?

It is not only de rigeur in Laestadian circles but in many others (Christian and Moslem alike) to claim the inerrancy of the Word. Tragically, along with this a priori comes the justified vilification of "unbelievers," heretics, women, homosexuals, science, and intellectuals, to name a few. A prescientific supposition that should have died with blood-letting and phrenology, inerrancy is kept alive by fear and ignorance, fueled by despots who need their minions (sometimes cannon fodder) unified beneath them.

If your hackles are rising, let me add: if errancy challenges your faith, your faith is misdirected.

I read recently that among American laypeople, the belief in scriptural inerrancy is declining but still much higher than it is among seminarians. I guess studying Greek and Hebrew and the origins and history of the Bible does something to one's credulity.

There are real world consequences to credulity, major and minor. Terrorists behead infidels while quoting the Koran. Korans are flushed down prison toilets by Bible-quoting grunts. Scripture-quoting idiots kill doctors and torch abortion clinics. Evangelical lawmakers cut off funds to AIDS organizations that distribute (horrors!) condoms. Creationist teachers tell their students that evolution is "just a theory."

Near Seattle recently, a school board restricted teachers from showing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" because an evangelical parent believes global warming is (1) not America's fault and (2) a sign of Jesus' imminent return.

Yah, sure. Let's speed it along, then. Make us some big bonfires. Throw on the science books.

In yesterday's paper there was an article about a newly discovered fossil in Kenya. Cool. Except that it is causing controversy among evangelicals, who claim that evolution is destroying their faith.

Well, then, let's throw that fossil on the fire, too. And Leakey while we're at it. Dagnab Darwinite.

The brilliant professor who introduced me to Darwin and evolution once remarked "most people if given a choice between security and truth will choose security." But that's a false dilemma. Our security must be in Truth, or it is false security.

Am I done ranting? Yes. Your turn.

Thanks to Theo (aka Thorough) for the Orthodox perspective on biblical inerrancy. For a lot of other perspectives, go here. Read all the way to the end . . . it's worth it. Then go ahead and flame / rejoinder / huzzah me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Faith, Alive or Dead

Time for a new thread, so you don't have to wade through the torrent of comments (172!) on the OALC topic. Thanks to all of you for keeping the discussion civil (if not always coherent, heh). Here is an excerpt from our OALCer's definition of living faith, followed by a rejoinder from MTH.
When man comes to the point when he realizes that belief in God is impossible without Him, when he sees himself to be so small in the eyes of God that he must cry out for help, when he is enlightened to the fact that he is nothing, then God gives the grace to believe. Here man is a willing recipient because he knows that, what little faith he receives, it is from God. Because the grace to believe is given to man in such a lowly state, the second one begins to deviate from this state, the battle for faith begins. Once man starts to give reason for faith or justify it in a way that he can comprehend it, living faith begins to die. If man should start to tell himself that his faith is strong, the opposite is true and his faith is dying-for it is faith based on human rationality and not God-given. It is this battle between living faith and dead faith that a true Christian must always battle and it is this battle that causes a true Christian to have such a weak, wavering faith. God does want a man to justify his belief for in doing so man takes away from God the grace He has bestowed upon us. This justification of faith leads to self-righteousness. Self-righteousness battles God for the hearts of men. Self-righteousness steals from God what is rightfully His and gives credit to man, who is an all-to-willing recipient. Faith based on self-righteousness is strong and unwavering for it rings true in the minds of men and man comprehends it. -- OALCer

So if I recognize my relative "nothingness" in relation to the majesty and glory of God and I feel him respond to me (I "believe"), do I have "living faith?" Am I as "saved" as an OALCer? Am I as welcome in heaven as you are? Do you think you (or any OALCer, preacher or other) KNOW if I or any of us truly has "living faith" or "dead faith?" I KNOW you don't know and I also KNOW (from personal observation in the OALC) that your OALC preachers speak as if they at least do. Rubbish. Arrogance. Self-righteousness, masquerading as humility. -- MTH