Sunday, June 29, 2008

Study Reveals Nondogmatic Faith

Thanks to RWB for alerting us to the recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, which seems to have surprised everyone with its finding that a sizable majority of Americans believe that "many religions can lead to eternal life."

Yowzah.

Genie is outta the bottle.

RWB finds this "contrary to God's word" and I can understand why, if one prefers a literalist approach to the Bible. Perhaps if the Pew people had phoned as many Laestadians as Jehovah Witnesses (the only group with a majority claiming exclusive truth), the numbers might have changed a bit.

But maybe not.

Clearly, most folks in the 21st century have experienced, seen and/or read too much about other religions to be seduced by claims of exceptionalism.

Some baffled commentators have wondered whether survey respondents actually intended to say that "many denominations (Christian denominations) can lead to eternal life." Hmmmm. I may overestimate the average American's intelligence, but I think most folks know the difference between religion and denomination. Don't you?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

They Will Know You by Your Love

It's always interesting to hear what outsiders think of Laestadians, especially when they know next to nothing about them.

One day when I was in 6th grade in the little country school where my siblings and I were the only OALCers, I was surrounded in the school cafeteria by a group of angry girls. They accused me of saying that our classmate Michelle (a pretty but vapid girl whom I disliked) was going to hell because she was . . . Catholic.

I cried; I denied it. I had never said such a thing, and that much was true. Perhaps I felt bad, knowing that our religion taught that Catholics had "dead faith." But of more concern to my 12-year old soul was how did my classmates know? As far as I knew, nobody in town knew anything about our church.

Perhaps they knew enough. It was in all we didn't say, and all we didn't do, in the years we lived there. One's character is legible in one's actions.

I found an old thread on a mothering.com board about the OALC in Battle Ground. A member had inquired about affordable places to live. (If you aren't familiar with Mothering, it is sold in health food stores, and features articles on midwives, breastfeeding, nutrition, and healthy family living in general.) Here is a sampling from the thread:

From "AmyMay":
There is a large apostolic lutheran element out here, lots of women with lots of children (5-6 is not uncommon), wearing dresses (don't get me wrong, they look pretty chic to me, but frighteningly similar to each other), long hair, no makeup...again, nothing wrong with that, but it is a little disturbing to me, and I wonder what they are taught and told to look a certain way to "fit in" and be obedient to church rules and expectations....

In school, the apostolic children group together and can be very mean to outsiders coming into the area. It's taken my kids almost a year to feel like they are finally fitting in and making friends. There was lots of teasing because my son had long hair, and none of us go to church. Anything different and unusual to the local kids was up for discussion and teasing about. It was pretty hard on my sensitive, liberal-minded kids.

From "FlyingSpaghettiMama":
BUNHEADS! Dude, so few people know about the sublime religion that is Old Apostolic Lutheran. I hate to generalize, except when I do, and boy, they tend to be an intolerant, inbred (no really, they have to marry inside the church, and all the church members came over about 100 years ago, and all the names are very reused - check it out) grouches who hate pants-wearin' women and other liberals of all stripes. They really, really hate gay people. And like to run them down with their MONSTER TRUCKS. They terrify me, honestly, and they appear to enjoy terrifying others as well.

I would try to get your son outta there by high school age or have him transfer to a Vancouver school. Trust me. It only gets worse and more violent. It's rough going out there.

But Battle Ground (and environs) is very beautiful, for sure. Except for the AL problem . . .

. . . they're originally from Finland. It's too bad, you'd think a community that left in search of religious tolerance would be a lot more tolerant themselves. Like the mennonites!

From "kxsiven":
Mostly from Norway side though. The movement has at least 8 different branches here and none of them is that scary what you are writing about the 'American version'(fundamentalism is pretty much unknown here anyway). If I have understood right, small group got in disagreenment with the main group 100 years ago and they left. Today the movement is very very tiny and probably will have a natural death in coming years.

There is obvious stereotyping here. I suspect some accusations of "meanness" may be due (just as it was for me in 6th grade) to what is NOT being experienced. No invitations to playdates, birthdays and barbeques, no donations, no volunteering, etc. But OALCers being human, their doctrine may provide cover for some less-than-Christian behavior. I remember reasoning that it was okay, even preferable, to avoid Michelle. Only later did I realize how jealous I was (she was blonde! a cheerleader! popular!). My "beliefs" made it easier to dislike her than examine my own prejudice.

Isn't that how all prejudice works?

(The photo was taken by our 7-year old at the farmers market last Thursday. She fell in love with and used her allowance to buy the hand-made doll in the blue sweater, at right. She named her Madeline. The skin colors of the dolls was a complete non-issue, and I found myself surprised at my surprise that she didn't choose the one that looked most like her. Kids like her are going to change the world.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

To my husband and all the terrific fathers I know who are not only reinventing the role for themselves but for future generations: good on ya. Today the New York Times has an article about couples practicing "equally shared parenting." Simply put, that means mom and dad share, more or less equally, the responsibilities for tending the kids, making money, keeping the house, and "recreation."

Feminist pipedream? Liberal menace? Admirable ideal? From a website devoted to the topic:
Imagine a life without having to choose between a meaningful career and enough time with your children. Envision that while you are at work, your wonderful children are safe, happy, healthy and growing in the care of someone who loves them just as much as you do. At home, you spend many hours with them each week to connect with and nurture them. There is plenty of time for yourself and your favorite hobbies as well, and you never have to do more than half of the housework. The burden of earning the family’s income no longer falls on just one of you. You are fully competent as a parent rather than an understudy or manager to your spouse, and you have an energized marriage with a fun and happy partner . . . Equal sharing doesn’t just happen. It can be hard earned and hard kept. Our society does little to encourage it, and many workplaces are not yet well prepared to honor it. It usually means living more simply, establishing yourself in your career before children arrive, and having the utmost respect for your partner.


I think most families, whether they consider themselves "progressive" or not, are tending toward this model. Even Laestadians. Certainly in my own extended family I have seen a notable increase in the amount of time dads are spending with their children. I don't know if the more moms are contributing to family income and enjoying more time away from house and children, but I would guess this is also true. (Certainly it is in my case.)

My daughter's first grade teacher told me that in recent years, fathers ("even doctors!") are taking time to volunteer in the classroom. After 40 years of teaching, she finds this remarkable.

In my experience, refining one's ideas about what it means to be a good father or mother is surprisingly difficult, especially in times of stress, when we tend to revert to type. I have to continually question my reactions and remind myself of my values. Balance can be elusive.

Case in point, our daughter just came up and asked me to play dolls with her. Her daddy is out riding bikes with her brother, and she wants company.

Well, I don't wanna. I don't remember MY parents ever playing dolls (or riding bikes) with us. The lawn needs mowing and the oven is dirty and the dog could use a bath, and of course there is more newspaper to read on this fine sunny morning.

But conscience demands that I sit on the floor and talk in a high squeaky voice for a few minutes. The rest will still be there when our baby is grown.

How are the changing roles of parents experienced in your life?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Movement: Compare & Contrast

Welcome back to Troll, who hasn't visited for a while. Anonymous Poison did us all a favor in shaking things up around here. HP3, the poem I posted from Markus turns out to be a hymn; it was sung at his funeral. The LLC ELCA clearly has more to offer musically than the OALC.

I am very tempted to tell you all how FIRED UP I am about Barack Obama, but I'll save that for another thread.

MTH in her last comment asks about the differences between churches in the ritual of asking forgiveness. In 1979 I brought my high school "worldly" sweetheart to the BG OALC (a parental precondition for seeing him). While I can no longer recall his reaction to the "movement," I vividly remember my own sweaty discomfort. The drama could get pretty dramatic, if you know what I mean, and it never had the catharsis for me that it had for others.

An IALC member writes:
"confessing your sins to another is considered optional and private. I've never seen anyone do this at a church service. Though I've seen a lot of rejoicing and crying, but most often its a joyous sort of rejoicing. I've always been told not to look back at sin, lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lot's wife. In other words, have your private conversation with God, or a trusted believer if its still bothering you, go to communion, and go and sin no more. So not all Laestadian churches practice the same way."

Well, shiver me timbers. More diversity among Laestadians.

How did they "move" at your church?