Tuesday, December 25, 2012

O Holy Night

Dear readers, wishing you all a beautiful Christmas, wherever you are, whomever you are with, with whatever faith or curiosity calls you into a new tomorrow. At this darkest time of the year, our little blue planet continues its path around the sun; we know the light is returning.

Thank you for being here.

For sharing your journey, your faith, your doubts. By letting your light shine, you give permission to others to do the same.

That means more than you'll ever know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reach Out, Take My Hand

I know many of us have on our hearts the senseless tragedy in Connecticut, and many here in Washington State are mourning the loss of a sweet little girl to suicide. May these deaths inspire us to reach out to others, to listen to their pain, to offer solace, and to work toward a society that recognizes and treats abuse and mental illness of all kinds.

The powerful story below was submitted by a reader.
When I was 11 or 12, I decided I was going to commit suicide. I took a sleeping bag, a family sized bottle of Bayer Aspirin, and a canteen into the woods, where . . .  I lost my nerve after a few hours. I left all of these items in the forest, and if my mother ever looked for the sleeping bag, the aspirin, and the canteen, she never questioned why these items were missing. 
I lost my nerve because, according to church doctrine, I could not determine if I had reached the age of reason, and in taking my own life I would go to hell. Sermons gave conflicting opinions. Our believer friend “Lasse,” who we all consulted regarding spiritual matters, thought it was age 20, but some ministers said confirmation age, and another believer thought it could be as low as age eight. I did not want to take any chances on hell, so I did not kill myself. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Laestadian Christmas Memories

Christmas can bring up feelings of loss for former Laestadians, no matter how long we've been gone. Until I met my husband, I was either solo at Christmas, or an awkward, grateful guest at a friend's house. Whether I was dining on Chinese or Thai food, or sitting in quiet admiration of my friend's tight-knit families and unfamiliar traditions, I was unsteadied by grief, and couldn't wait for the new year to begin.

Christmas is all about family, and I didn't have one. Not one that wanted me, at any rate.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Christmas Program

Three years ago, I attended the Christmas program of my younger children’s elementary school, my head swirling with cognitive dissonance over what I was reading in the Bible and church publications. One of the issues that stood out in my mind, as it does for so many troubled believers, was Conservative Laestadianism’s outrageous exclusivity claims. (These claims are also made by the OALC, FALC, and IALC, who all point their bony fingers of condemnation at each other along with the LLC/SRK.)

Here it is in a nutshell: The church’s membership comprises about 0.002% of the world’s population. Everyone else who is mentally competent and has achieved some vaguely defined age of accountability it consigns to an eternity of screaming torture, a fate that eventually will be shared by almost all of the billion or so of the world’s children. There are even questions about many of those within the official membership nowadays. I suspect the old guard in the SRK and LLC have been waiting quite a while now for another “heresy” to come along and clean house, freeing them from having to deal with those annoying liberals, part-timers, and questioners.

That evening I sat with my wife and watched our kids up on stage, saying their pieces and singing their little songs among the beautiful children and parents of a rural, simple, and fairly religious community. As it is most everywhere else in the U.S. and the world, none of them has ever heard of Conservative Laestadianism. The closest most will ever come to a member of “God’s Kingdom” is in their cars as they drive through the area where most of our old congregation’s members live, on their way to do some shopping in town.

Here’s what I wrote when we got home. It is reproduced from my book (§4.2.1), as is some of the commentary that follows (pp. 82, 84‑85, 242 of the printed version).


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Danger of "Forgive and Forget"



Watch this powerful series to see what happens when "forgive and forget" victimizes the victims, and allows a culture of abuse to thrive in the dark.

In Brazil, the rapist of a 9-year old girl who became pregnant with twins remains a member of the Catholic Church while the girl's mother (and the doctors who preformed a life-saving abortion), were excommunicated. The girl escaped excommunication only because she is still a child in the eyes of Church authorities. 

In Portland, Oregon, a woman is suing the Apostolic Faith Church for abuse she suffered as a child, saying she wants to hold the church accountable for looking the other way and ignoring her pleas for help.

"I realized that one way to help a lot of the friends that I knew in this church that were also victims was to come forward and let them see my face and show them that I’m not scared to let people know what was done to me," she said.