Friday, September 28, 2012

A Matter of Doubt

This week, the two co-hosts of A Matter of Doubt, “a podcast for atheists and people who are having doubts about their religion,” interviewed me about Laestadianism, the story of my initial questioning and eventual departure from the LLC, and some of the many issues involved. I really like the fun, conversational approach these guys take with their guests. They are very well-informed about the Bible and religion, and have some pretty interesting stories and discussions in their archive.

You can listen to the episode on the podcast’s website, download it, or get it via iTunes.

Another one I would recommend is Episode 20 with Chris Cherry, a brilliant and articulate, self-educated woman who left another “true church” group, the Keswick movement.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Memories of Good (?) Times

Note: This is a guest post by long-time reader CVOW. If you would like to write a guest post, please send an email to Free. Tell your story!

Friends, we've touched on this topic here and there, but I don't think in a dedicated thread.  Regardless of what particular branch of Laestadianism you were raised in, do you think that church is the same as you recall from years past?  How much did change in the church influence your decision to leave the church -- or perhaps enabled you to stay?

As I drift back in the theatre of my mind, I seem to recall a much different church (OALC) of close to 60 years ago.  I remember stern old Finns, who -- while they took their religion very seriously -- were also kind hearted (in a gruff old Finnish fashion).  I remember preachers who went out of their way to be gentle souls, trying their best to guide a flock in the best fashion they could . . . men who were good to me in every way. Sure, when W was preaching, you sat behind the biggest person in the church, hoping he wouldn't call on you to comment on what the sixth devil would do with the two edged sword on the slippery slope to hell or some such obtuse thing, but all in all, it wasn't unpleasant.  I remember evening services in a softly lit church during "meetings."  I remember my grandfather, who I suppose was the oldest of the "lukkari's," always leading "There's a land that is fairer than day," his favorite, as the last song, on the last night of meetings. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Q&A With Hanna and "We Sinners" Give-Away

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions (compiled below), thanks to Hanna Pylväinen for her thoughtful response, and thanks to MacMillan for sending 10 free copies of We Sinners. They will go to the first 10 readers to email me with (1) a suggested blog topic and (2) a mailing address (United States and Canada only, please). 

When "Learning to Live Free" began in 2004, it felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. There was nothing available, online or in print, about the experience of leaving Laestadianism. Is yours the first novel on this theme? How did you choose to write about it? Did you ever visit Learning to Live Free?

Toni Morrison said that she wrote The Bluest Eye because she wanted to read it -- and I remember, as someone who had turned so often to literature, wanting there to be a book that somehow caught at the turmoil of leaving a community that was not all bad, a community that had some very lovely things about it, but that, ultimately, was forcing me to leave them because I did not agree. So in some ways I wrote We Sinners because it did not exist -- because the literature on Laestadianism was limited to the pamphlets, novels, and dictums coming from within the Laestadians themselves. I did, in fact, run across "Learning to Live Free," which lessened somewhat my sense of loneliness, but when I began to see that I was interested, moreover, in writing qua writing -- in fiction, in arcs, in stories -- I began to see that, in fact, I could be the one to write about Laestadianism; it could be me. This revelation was slow to arrive, but once it did, I began to see that contemporary American literature was very much lacking in sincere discussions of faith -- and perhaps even I could add to that.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Who Will Sing for Me When I Die?

Check out this excellent interview with Hanna Pylvainen about her novel "We Sinners."

It helped me better understand her novel and why some people stay in the church.

Listen all the way to the end of it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Live, and Be Alive

On this anniversary of death brought to us by the very worst of fundamentalist religion, how about a celebration of life that has absolutely nothing to do with religion?


Do you have two legs at your command? Walk through forests and neighborhoods, leap and run for joy. Climb stairs with loads of laundry as some climb mountains with backpacks and dreams.

Arms and fingers that bend and move to your wishes? Feel what they touch, note the textures of the world around you. Caress and sense, support, sustain. Is this intricate mechanism of muscle and tendons, bone and joints best purposed for a clenched fist or an outstretched hand of friendship?

Do your eyes convey the light and vision of what's around you? Look, then, and see. Find the beauty in every scene and face. Know that billions of neurons are locked in complex arrays of interconnection to interpret what your eyes have chosen to look upon. Make it worthy.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Reminder

Any more questions for Hanna Pylvainen? You can email me or post a question in the comment section below. You need not have read the book to participate!

Also, a heads-up if you are in the Seattle area:

Friday, Sept 28
2 PM, Finnish Film. Kiellety hedelmä (Forbidden Fruit), 2009A teenage girl from a rural Laestadian community decides to break out and test her freedom in Helsinki. $5 donation. Swedish Cultural Center.

Happy Labor Day,
—Free