Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celebrating Love and Light: Tips for the Post-Religious

The holidays can be difficult for everyone, not just former Laestadians. While intended for the non-religious, this article has useful tips for everyone. I particularly liked this one:

Find common ground with visiting relatives. All relationships (teacher-student, work colleagues, friends, partners, children, cousins) require that we come together around things we have in common: shared interests, respect for each other's good qualities, overlapping values, the appreciation of a good meal or a football game. Your family may not share your skepticism, curiosity or desire for personal growth. If not, don't go there, and don't let them draw the conversations into your areas of disagreement. Take deep breaths, exercise self control, and change topics. Save deep, painful conversations for another time. Trust yourself. Schedule coffee with sympathetic friends. It may be sad, but it is ok for you to grow emotionally and spiritually even if people you love don't come along.

This year, we are scaling back on gifts, giving Kiva gift gift certificates and home-made treats (lemon curd and spicy pecans), writing letters, making and listening to music, playing board games, and just spending time together, always the best gift.

What are your tips for celebrating the holidays?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Laestadianism really Lutheran?

FinnForge got me thinking about this question. While FinnForge seems very certain that true Laestadianism is Lutheran, I'm not so sure.

When I was looking to leave Laestadianism, the first places I checked out were the LCMS, WELS, ELCA, and other branches of Lutheranism. They seemed very strange and alien, having little in common with my childhood church.

The biggest difference that was most immediately apparent was liturgy. Lutheran churches had it, and Laestadian churches didn't have it. As far as style of worship was concerned, I always felt much more comfortable in Baptist churches than Lutheran ones.

Differences in worship style often reflect different theological convictions. I think a liturgical style underscores the communal aspects of faith. Churches that don't have liturgy often emphasize a more individualistic approach. Both Baptists and Laestadians (at least back in the beginnings of the movement) emphasize a very individualistic "new birth" as essential.

Maybe that's why Laestadians don't have liturgy, and seem so ambivalent about infant baptism (gotta do it, but don't ever say that it actually accomplishes anything.) I personally think that it's hard to understand what infant baptism is supposed to accomplish without an appreciation for liturgy. In the liturgy, the church corporately acts out the story of Christian faith; in baptism the participants are bearing witness to and making manifest what God has already done.

Another way that Laestadianism seems really different from Lutheranism is the emphasis on the total depravity of human beings. Maybe this comes from all the amped-up rhetoric in Laestadius' sermons --he needed to get people to the breaking point by any means possible so that they would experience "the awakened state" or "new birth." Whereas more Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran notions of humanity would see them as created good by God but fallen and in need of redemption. A Laestadian view of human nature seems more similiar to Calvinism or the Baptists than Lutheranism.

What are some other things about Laestadianism that make it very different than other branches of Lutheranism?

See also: Pietism, Baptism, and Laestadianism

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on FinnForge

I've had a chance to read a little bit more on FinnForge lately, and it's been intriguing. It seems to me like the author is trying to do the following things:

1) Place Laestadianism squarely within the Reformation tradition. In other words, FinnForge doesn't believe that Laestadius innovated doctrinally in any way, but rather hearkened back to Luther and especially the Augsburg Confession.

from A Brief Expose of Errors. . .

Laestadius was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, who held firmly and taught boldly the Lutheran doctrine, applying it to the heart, and citing the Lutheran Confessions as right doctrine.

2) To the extent that the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America deviates from the unaltered Augsburg Confession it has fallen away from what FinnForge's author considers the truth. Even to the extent that if the ALC's doctrinal statement Principles of the Doctrine of Christ (particularly the 1996 revision) conflicts with the Lutheran confessions, then the Principles are wrong!

3) FinnForge is a right-wing critique of the present day state of the ALC. Its author seems to find the ALC's tendency to become more evangelical in its doctrine and worship disturbing. He wants to return to what he considers an earlier, purer form.

I see now the fruit of division after division, many young leaving our fellowship for other churches altogether, and worldliness coming into the church. I see new music, with guitars and drums, making a noise nothing like the song of a redeemed soul who has tasted of grace.

and

Their changes have moved us far from the truth, and have made the Apostolic Lutheran Church into another church altogether

I must say that I see no small amount of irony here. It seems classic Laestadianism to me for someone to try to hearken back to an earlier age and circle the wagons around some notion of spiritual/ideological purity. To my mind, this is why there are the variants on Laestadianism in the first place. Everyone who splits off and starts a new group thinks they are "right" or "hearkening back to what the founders originally intended."

At this point in time it doesn't look like FinnForge is trying to split off and start a new variant. I'll give him credit for that. On the other hand, I think he's fighting a losing battle. As I've written elsewhere, I think the current trends in the ALC are moving in the opposite direction of where he wants to go.

I can understand why FinnForge wants to reform his own denomination instead of leaving for a different one. As we "exes" are acutely aware, there is a downside to leaving Laestadianism --even if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

If FinnForge eventually decides to quit the ALC, fortunately there are versions of Lutheranism that purport to follow the Lutheran confessional documents very closely. I'd point him to either WELS or LCMS for starters.

See also: Change in the ALC

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

FinnForge

As of last month there is a new blog called FinnForge that purports to be "Working to reclaim the Apostolic Reformation doctrines taught by Martin Luther and Lars Levi Laestadius."

Apparently authored by Steven E. Anderson with just eight posts so far, it will be interesting to see if this site has staying power.

I plan to post about this site in more detail in the future, but for now I'll say that I find it interesting (although admittedly longwinded) because it is, among other things, a critique of the present state of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) from within, and from the right. That alone seems rare enough to be worth watching.

If any of our regular readers can put this site into context, I'd much appreciate it. :-)

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Satan misled them"

HELSINGIN SANOMAT has this story about a Laestadian sex abuse case that happened back in the 1970s and 80s, but just recently came to light:

Incest victim of Laestadian preacher tries to piece his childhood together

This story seems especially tragic given that the victim's family knew about the abuse and chose to do nothing:

. . .at least some of the parents of the boys were aware of the preacher’s doings. Yet they did nothing to help their own children. Saving the congregation’s face was more important than protecting the children from their predatory grandfather.

One aspect of Laestadian theology that is only hinted at in the article is the whole idea of "the Devil made me do it." When we'd do something good growing up, we weren't supposed to take credit for it. Instead we'd "give God the glory." Conversely, if we did something bad, Satan was at work. It only now occurs to me that this is a very convenient way to avoid taking any sort of personal responsiblity.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Leaving LLC Made Me Who I Am

I've been reading a new (at least to me!) blog by a former LLCer, Freepathways. I enjoyed this post in particular, so I'm passing it on:

Leaving LLC made me who I am

It is interesting to notice how alike experiences people seem to meet in their leaving processes related to any branch of Laestadian revival movement, or any other fundamentalist and strict group. It is nearly unbelievable that even the details e.g. the inequality of social interplay and structures in the local congre-gation, experiences of shunning and being intimidated are precisely similar in Finland and in the US. Also aloof parent-child relationships and tendency to leave home very young in early adulthood in the Laestadian families are identified on both sides of the Atlantic.

Enjoy!