Saturday, June 15, 2013

Making It Safe to Speak Up

It seems a month cannot go by without my hearing of another case of sex abuse in Laestadian churches. An OALC member was recently arrested for child rape. Over at Imperfect Lady, Beth writes about another sex abuse case in the FALC.

It takes incredible courage for victims to speak up given the is enormous pressure in Laestadian communities to save face, and "just forgive."

If I could, I would have this video, posted on the "Child Friendly Faith" Facebook page, shown to all children. But the sad truth is, not all parents would respond like those in the video. Some would doubt, blame, or accuse the child of lying.



What do you think? What can we do to help make it safe to speak up?

43 comments:

  1. Recently I read some news reports of the sexual assaults in the military and the long standing culture of covering things up. The story sounded eerily similar to Laestadianism where the commander (the minister)would tell the victim to just forget about it (forgive) and the military unit (congregation) would just say 'amen' and hopefully the problem (victim) would just go away. Although the vast majority of members seemed like upright people to me there seemed to be a pervasive culture of not wanting to acknowledge that there were festering issues under the surface.

    My memories might be a little dated but as I recall modern day Laestadianism wanted to take a myriad of complex life problems/issues and answer them with a very narrow set of canned Finnish Apostolic Lutheran truths. It was sort of like the proverbial story of the ostrich who just buried his head in the sand to avoid a threat. If one does not want to take the ostrich's approach, they might ask themselves just what are the REAL beliefs of a group that condones or papers over child physical and sexual abuse, suicides, judgementalism, forced impregnations, religious quackery as well as lot of other hanky panky?

    Nowadays, simply stating that, 'the devil made me do it' and then just asking for forgiveness is no longer acceptable. Old AP

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  2. LLLreader: Hyvaa Isanpaivaa to those of you to whom it applies. My hope is that the dads of young children in the Apostolic churches will become aware that their responsibility is to their children first. Many people know the names of preditors in their own church. If I were a young father I can't imagine allowing an assult of my child to be covered up. This has gone on long enough.

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  3. Isn't it peculiar, that we have to ask "What can we do to make it SAFE to speak up?" Meaning, of course, it isn't safe.

    Hard to believe in is unsafe to do so. That among a group of "Christians" we are unsafe. Unsafe in a religious community to site evil. How does that compute with the teachings and morals they proclaim?

    Old AP has a good analogy...with the military. It is time for things to change, and the only way they will is when "good" people start acting differently.

    The inertia that permeates has to be punctured in order for folks to get out of old patterns. Will it be the women who start to rise or will the 'good' men start to relinquish old beliefs of the male being the head of the household, and start creating equal partnerships?

    Or lastly, will it be the children...the victims who have to set out on their own and rebel?
    The later is who is on this blog mostly. The ones who had to leave their families in order to become empowered.

    Odd too, how the clip above suggest that we 'own' our bodies, when the church clearly does in these religions. The church uses their bodies....and so do the abusers....and the husbands etc. The child does not even feel or sense a difference, for since it was born, the free will has been slowly taken away.

    Beth

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    1. If the men treated other men in the church who have done such wrong, such as molesting children, as women treat women in the church who have transgressed for far smaller "sins" such as make-up in some churches, or for using birth control, or for other such deemed worldly behavior, pedophilia might leave the church. But if the pedophiles are still welcome in their family, invited to church mens fishing trips, and sat with during lunch, they will remain in the church and continue having access. I say, fair shunning treatment for all! Shun the pedophiles as you shun the earring wearers!

      --Punahilkka

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  4. EX FALC Says...

    The situation with the minister in the FALC will be interesting to watch and observe. I am listening and observing from afar because I don't have many close contacts to church members since I have been out of the FALC for many years. I don't know a lot of details on what happened, but a general idea.

    I will never forget the nasty things this minister said to the people who left the church. He was one of the rudest, judgemental people I have ever known and he attacked anyone who tried to ask him to tell the truth and tried to make him accountable to the law for his sexual abuse. In recent years, people in the church began to become aware that he was an abuser. When this information became known, this minister was very angry with anyone who spoke negatively against him. He denied everything he was accused of. Several years ago, members in his congregation tried to vote him out of his minister position. He survived by several votes. Some people left the church at that time, out of protest and disgust that a congregation would allow someone like that to be a minister.

    The hypocricy of the situation is just amazing to me, but it is not surprising. Often those who are most critical and rude to others have the most to hide. I think the fact that he didn't step down earlier, and the fact that he denied it for so long, makes this situation so much more interesting. I wonder, will this minister stay in the church? What will his previous followers/congregation members do? Will they continue to support him and consider him a member in good standing? Will they deny the allegations against him? What about the abused children? Will the church members think the abused children were lying? Will the church take some steps to prevent this from happening again? I feel so sad for the children who are victims but can only pray that this will open the eyes of the people still in that congregation and will lead to positive change.

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    1. I'm not "defending" this former minister, but to my knowledge he has not been accused of any sexual abuse this time, but physical abuse (striking his grandkids). There is another side to the story, and I caution against jumping to conclusions.

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    2. EX FALC says:

      That's why I didn't put him name on here. I'm hearing things from various sources but I know their is more to the story so I am waiting for the facts to come out. I think something to point out here is that this situation is I feel this is the result of the prioties of the FALC members in that congregation. 1) Needs to be from a certain family 2)needs to uphold traditions and shun anyone who openly disagrees or tries to promote change.

      As long as those two qualifications were met, I think the members in that congregation couldn't have care less about what he does/did behind closed doors.

      Anyway, I will sit back and continue to listen to what I hear.

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    3. Oh Bullsh*t, EX FALC.

      If you've read anything I've written on this site, you know I'm no FALC apologist, and I agree to a point with your two assertions. But to think that members of the congregation "couldn't have care[d] less about what he does/did behind closed doors" is absurd. What, we're all ok with sexual molesters now?

      The fact of the matter is, when the original allegations (prior to the latest) came out, many people believed this former minister's story over his accuser's. THAT'S why people (narrowly) voted him in, because they didn't think he did it, not because they're okay with sexual molesters speaking from the pulpit.

      I'll even admit that, based on the evidence I had at the time, I was one of the people who believed this former minister's denials. Having delved into the situation, I now think it's entirely possible he did it, 30+ years ago, though I don't also discount the possibility that it didn't happen and the accusations are part of a personal vendetta.

      Either way, we don't need to start having another p*ssing match about it on this site. Suffice to say, I'm close enough to the current situation to warn against rushing about with pitchforks, as there is a lot of conflicting information. Two things to consider: are the children making this allegation (again, of physical NOT sexual abuse), or a parent? and 2., to my knowledge ALL of the rest of his children stand behind him 100 percent.

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    4. And again, I want to make it clear I'm not "defending" this man. You're not the first person I've heard accusing him of nasty judgmentalism during the Grace Apostles split, and I can offer no defense for such behavior. That's the type of thing that, if you read what I've written over and over on this site, I rail against.

      I'm just very tired of people pointing to this as some sort of proof that "the FALC is a haven for sexual abusers" or some such nonsense. Have there been problems with attitudes in this regard in the past? Yes. Are there still problems today? Unfortunately, yes. But the people I know, though perhaps misguided in many ways, are good, loving people at heart, and would not attempt to "shield" an abuser.

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    5. If "ALL of the rest of his children stand behind him 100 percent," why are most of them trying to sell their house and move away?
      - on the falc fence

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  5. THANK YOU freethinker! Well said!

    Current FALC member

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  6. I am a big fan of this site, and have been reading for a little while without commenting. However I feel the need to say if you read this site in a vacuum, you would think that child abuse is strictly a Laestadienism problem. You might be led think that the Finnish churches somehow cultivate more molesters than the rest of the country. But in my opinion, child abuse is as big an issue in society in general as the church.

    All you have to do is read the news. Penn State, Catholic priests, Boy Scout leaders, the cycle of people in power abusing and other adults not willing to see what is happening is not a localized problem.

    I grew up in the FALC, and had nothing but a wonderful, secure experience. Lately I have found myself "outgrowing" religion in general, but it does not change the fact that the vast majority of the people I know in the church are decent, humble people. Can they be judge-y and narrow minded? Sure, but that doesn't mean they would stand by and do nothing as a child was harmed. Does it happen in the church? Yes. Does it happen in society? Yes. Does it happen more often in the church than in society? Not a question that I could answer yes to.

    Now maybe my individual positive experience has led, as Free said, to "confirmation bias" where I am using my already held belief, instead of just logic or numbers. But I would say it is also likely that people who had a negative experience have a confirmation bias the other way. I guess we wouldn't really know whether Laestadianism is worse than society in general unless some major university did a large randomized study and crunched the numbers. Seems unlikely.

    -Plymouth

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    1. Plymouth, wise words by you and also by FreeThinker. Let’s not be mirrors of what we dislike about the churches we left.

      Confirmation bias is something I had to guard against when writing EOP. It can be a difficult exercise that raises the all-too familiar discomfort of cognitive dissonance: “I rejected this religion and now here I am saying something good about it?” Or, “This is a really strong point, and now I have to put in this stupid footnote acknowledging a weakness in my argument?” But that is what’s needed to have credibility and really enjoy this fresh new world of intellectual honesty. It’s worth it.

      For example, when it comes to this topic of sexual abuse, EOP is plenty critical of the SRK and LLC, but at the end of the subheading LLC Editorial, also acknowledges some positive things: The LLC has put out some useful guidance to its congregations, and in a couple instances of which I’m aware, they seem to have done a good job dealing with things.

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  7. LLLreader responds: The issue for me is not whether there is more or less abuse in the OALC then in the world at large. The hideous part is the preachers telling people to not report it to CPS. I know the Catholic Church did the same thing, but that situation is changing. I hope the Apostolic churches follow suit.

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    1. I've certainly never heard that expressed at the FALC. It's quite unimaginable really.

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  8. Plymouth and others, I would accept the criticism if I thought it was valid, but there is simply no way anyone could read this site in a vacuum unless the have some very peculiar restrictions on their news consumption, and shining a light on sex abuse in our former churches is not biased or prejudicial but ethically necessary.

    It is not science we are conducting here, but social change. There is no need to compare data with other churches or communities to determine if Laestadianism is "better or worse" before acting. We each must act within our individual spheres of influence.

    What we CAN know from research is that children in authoritarian families and communities are more vulnerable to abuse. Yet every church that is scrutinized responds with the same defensiveness -- "it happens everywhere!" So does pollution. Some places more than others. (Check out the Child Friendly Faith Project to see countless examples of this buck passing.)

    So I would ask, is it numbers we need, or change? We former Laestadians can make a difference by educating others, within and outside our former churches. It doesn't mean there aren't very fine people and families among Laestadians. (In fact the myth of abusers as ogres must be revised. Most abusers are family members with inappropriate boundaries.)

    The following are risk factors I perceive (for abuse of any kind, sexual, physical or emotional):

    RISK FACTORS IN LAESTADIAN COMMUNITIES

    CULTURE of male domination and authority
    UNSUPERVISED children in large, extended families and frequent social mixing
    NORMALIZATION of abuse as "equal to any other sin"
    UNTRAINED clergy
    SUSPICION towards outsiders including law enforcement, legal system, and psychotherapy
    POLICY of "forgive and forget"
    VALUING of perpetrator's career and reputation over victims' safety and justice
    UNTREATED mental illness

    Is the FALC an exception? The LLC? If so, in what ways?

    How can we begin courageous conversations with our loved ones inside the church so that new generations of abusers "don't go there" and new generations of children are not crying themselves to sleep at night?

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    1. Free, let me start by saying it will hopefully never be my intent to criticize anyone personally or this blog. Disagree with a point of view? Of course, that is the only way to have an open discussion. One of the things I dislike about the church is the way people attack the person instead of the scary new idea they are presenting. I'm sure everyone on here has experienced this at some point.

      That being said, I really feel like my personal experience in the FALC must have been different than some in the OALC. I hesitate to say this, because another thing I dislike about the church is how they say "Oh, we are so much better and different than the 'Lusties' and 'Bunners'. Did you hear they are even having church raffles at the LLC?!?"

      So my personal experiences with the points you brought up:

      Culture: Obviously only males are allowed to preach. Females can speak up in bible class though! (My mom didn't really know what to say when I told her I would be fine with a female minister.) From what I can see in the marriages of my friends, there seems to be a pretty equal distribution of power. And some of the guys can never do anything, ha. ha. To me the culture problem in the FALC is women being brought up thinking the only way they will ever be happy is to be married with many children. I have multiple female friends who are teachers and nurses, but these seem to be temporary careers until they have enough kids to stay home with.

      Unsupervised Play: This seems normal to me.

      Normalization: I cannot imagine any of my friends with children not going to the authorities if one of their children were harmed. Of course imagining the situation and being in the situation are two totally different things.

      Untrained Clergy: I agree with this one. Some biblical and social training for the ministers would go a long way.

      Suspicion of Outsiders: Definitely a culture of keeping your social circle within the church. However, I know at least seven people who are cops or in law enforcement careers.

      Policy: Forgiveness is what the church is based on, but forgetting about something as horrifying as child abuse is something I can't fathom.

      Valuing: Again, hard to imagine, but can't really say without personal experience.

      Mental Illness: This one seems to be changing as we speak. Even a few short years ago, mental illness seemed to be a taboo subject that was ignored or swept under the rug. Now in the last couple years, I have had discussions about this with many people. And in all the cases that I know of, the person struggling has ended up getting professional help.

      So in summary, I would never say that change is unnecessary or try to protect those who harm children. This needs to be looked at and addressed in the church and in society as well. I also would never deny or downplay that someone else had a negative experience in the FALC, it just saddens me that they didn't get the same positive one that I did.

      -Plymouth

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    2. Free, your list of risk factors is broad and accurate. From what I have seen from other ex-es here on this site, I don't think the LLC has many differences from the OALC as far as this goes. These seem to be common threads throughout. My thought is this, if you truly believe in the mission of the religious organization to which you belong, you need not feel slighted, or take it personally, because you would know you were part of such a good thing it could withstand any amount of criticism. I am glad when I see current members feeling defensive over items mentioned in these discussions because to me it implies that there is something that is not adding up to them, and that the duality of education and awareness, coupled with prevention, are having some effect.

      How can we begin these conversations? By beginning them. "It happens everywhere" is not a valid excuse. I would say that the occurrence of abuse DOES occur at alarmingly higher rates within these congregations, having to do with the increased risk factors detailed above. Of course, this cannot be proven as factual because the needed research would never be allowed. I doubt that even carefully phrased questions on an anonymous survey would reveal an accurate overview of the populace in attendance that is affected by abuse.
      Beth poses some interesting questions. Indeed, what DOES a good experience mean when it stands against a bad one? I believe in second chances, but I also think accountability is important. The women and children are not the only ones who need to be empowered. (Although I think they are the ones who will need to propel the change forward into reality versus hushed whispers.) If the men were taught appropriate expression, and didn't have to hold so much in, I think this would arguably solve much of the problem. I will continue to plant little seeds of "doubt" whenever possible, as they plant seeds of "faith." That is what I do when I encounter members, young and old alike, that are still members. Now that my "friends" from church are mothers to little kids, they ask me of their own volition what they can do to protect these smaller ones. This is BECAUSE they know what happened to me, and BECAUSE of the little seeds I plant, and BECAUSE I refuse to be quiet and leave well enough alone. I wish that I could do something larger scale, but for now I will have to be satisfied trying to seizing and correctly handling the opportunities that present themselves. Go ahead, begin those courageous conversations. Make somebody mad, upset, defensive. That is the beginning of change, to stir up enough emotion to propel someone into thinking. Who know, they might want to do something about something, too.
      -Pebbles

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  9. It is always interesting when someone does speak of their good experience, as if that somehow will erase/change or put doubt upon a bad one. Even if my father didn't abuse the boys, IT doesn't mean he did not abuse the girls

    So, what does a good experience mean when it stands against a bad one from the same man? Who is he then, a nice man or an abuser?

    Same goes for the church. Perhaps what is more true IS that the church has a negative side, one that those inside fail to feel, consider or acknowledge. There religion Isn't just a way to heaven, but it also sets up the climate to be a haven for abuse.

    Can we boil it down to not if there is abuse or not abuse, but how much?
    And, is there a tendency for more in the climate they demand?
    Then, what if anything can be done?
    How do we empower women?
    How do we empower children?
    Will it be possible to give them back their own bodies?


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  10. Beth, I really don't think anyone is trying to imply that just because they had a positive experience in the church that the bad ones don't or can't exist. What's frustrating to me is when people who have left cannot or will not admit that the positive even exist. Or that they cannot see, as in your case, that we are NOT all your father. Or I can get frustrated when I look at and read this blog pretending to be someone who has never heard of Laestadianism and think I would come away with the impression that these are frighteningly terrible churches full of completely brainwashed people who put any and all human decency (or maybe are so unfeeling they don't even have it) aside in order to follow their beliefs. My experience says that the majority of people within are caring, compassionate individuals, if a little judgmental. I often compare it to a small town or community. I'm not sure if you've ever lived in one, but there is a lot of judging and gossip that occurs there, too (again, at least in my experience). Are there changes to be made in Laestadian communities to improve things so that these bad experiences are at least fewer and farther between? Of course! Do Frees reasons why the church might be a good target for abuse occurrences sound logical? yes. Are there actually more occurrences of abuse in the church than outside of it? I really don't know. I'm not in a vacuum, so I hear of it everywhere, so I'm not convinced. It really doesn't matter, though, whether or not there are more or less occurrences in the church, the point is, there IS room for improvement. The trick is getting people to see both sides, the good and the bad.


    Free, I really don't think you need to take the criticism personally, it's just that the majority of people who post on here have negative things to say. You are very good about allowing both sides to come out, and it is greatly appreciated. What you are doing in bringing awareness to these issues is highly commendable. I just wonder, why stop at Laestadianism? You are no longer a part of this church community, don't you think it's possible, maybe even probable, that similar things are occurring in whatever your current church (or community) is? Wouldn't you have a greater active impact there? Please, don't take that the wrong way, I ENCOURAGE and ADMIRE your intentions here and what you are doing here. I just mean to say that it's good to incorporate this advocatism (not a word I know) into our everyday lives, too, and not just our online selves. Be a voice for ALL who are abused, not just Laestadians. It IS hard, as a current member of a Laestadian church, to come here and ALWAYS read what is wrong with the church, there are amazing and uplifting aspects of it, too. I always need to remind myself the purpose of this blog in order to not get frustrated with its heavily negative content.

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    1. JAT, it’s great to have a thoughtful member of one of the Laestadian churches here to offer some very sensible thoughts. I for one am very glad you are willing to make the effort to do so, and appreciate the genuine goodwill in your comments.

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  11. Of course it is slanted to the negative from your perspective, JAT. This blog is mainly to support those who have left the church. If any of us felt totally positive about it, we wouldn't have left! This site gives us a safe place to come to terms with our inner conflicts, fears, and frustrations. We have our good memories, too. But that's not a problem for us! SISU

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    1. SISU, I think it is slanted to the negative from ANYONES perspective, but I'm probably not as objective as I'd like to think. As I said, I always have to remind myself of the intentions of this blog, and it is good for me to be here, most of the time. I understand that if you were totally positive, you would never have left, but can you also understand that just because I choose to stay, it does not mean I see only the positive? And, why jump on someone as soon as they share a positive experience? Also, it is OKAY to share GOOD memories AS WELL as bad, don't you think? Why does it have to be an 'issue' before you talk about it? Do you only talk about 'issues' with your friends?

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    2. “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
      -Mother Teresa
      (-Pebbles)

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    3. JAT, I wrote a blog post about the actor James Gandolfini dying yesterday and it wound up being something of a positive comment about the LLC. Check it out.

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    4. Thanks for sharing, Ed, and thanks for your kind comments, too. It's a little off topic, but hopefully people will bear with me here. This post on your blog brings out one of the things I love about the LLC lifestyle. I am, admittedly, a sucker for a good (or even not so good) movie, but I love not having these things in my home. There is already so much technology that I struggle with as far as it pulling me 'out of the present' and away from my daughter and family duties. I love that I don't get wrapped up in all the latest and newest shows and actors, and I am able to spend this free time on other things. I love when people ask me 'what I do with all my time, since I have a tv' because I find so much joy in these other things I do. I hate, though, that it takes away opportunities for conversations. So often coworkers or my friends outside the church discuss the latest show they are watching and I hate feeling out of the loop. I hate having no idea what they are talking about, or not having anything to add to the conversation. You feel a bit awkward.

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  12. Jat, I hear your frustration and it is most likely equal to mine. We are both trying our best to support what we know to be true...IN our own experiences.

    I am an advocate in my community, as best I can be. I am working with Dial Help and co-founded a women's group to empower them in new directions. I am working with the Detective in our town. My Story Line Quilts will be hung up at the Copper Country Mental Health for Recover Month (September). I have and will speak up at public events that are trying to bring awareness about sexual abuse.....it isn't only here that I am speaking, and, would like to think that sometimes, I do make someone think differently about their own lives.

    And, Jat, what you may not consider, IS just how hard it is to leave the only family and religion you have known. It never is a decision that is made easily or without it being the last option. It isn't, at least for me a fad or a change due to boredom, there are reasons it is impossible to stay.

    What I can't seem to get understood is that we don't leave LOVING families and KIND churches.
    In our experiences, we have been hurt...they have treated us in harmful by those we loved.

    Do you ever wonder what it feels like leaving? What would happen if you left the church? What would happen if abuse entered into your relationships? It is easy to sit on that side as an armchair quarterback...but having to leave due to irreconcilable difference, has you looking backwards with new eyes.

    Jat, perhaps you could start a blog for all the positive things about the church.




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    1. Beth,

      I am so happy to hear that you take this beyond the internet. I'm sure many more than I even realize who do take that next step. I HAVE considered how difficult it is to leave. I have not left, so I can't say I've experienced it, but I have done things "not in my parents favor" so I probably have a taste of what it is like... thankfully, my parents ARE good and kind people who realize the value of family bonds, and we have made it through the rough spots. I have seen friends leave, some with good experiences, and some with bad ones. But, I know enough to think/realize how much power it takes to make a huge step such as leaving your childhood faith. I wonder, do you realize that it can take a lot of power to stay, too, even if its the right fit for you?

      You ask what would happen if abuse entered into my relationships? Ironic question, simply because of my life experiences. You have no idea how many times I ask myself this question every day. I can only imagine how scary and difficult it would be, and how much it would tear those I love apart in many ways....

      As far as starting a blog "just for positive experiences": first of all, I'd never want to restrict what people say, just as Free does not here. Secondly, I am a busy mom, with two blogs that I already run. Unfortunately, two is my limit with how much time they take up. Thirdly, I do not see why this blog cannot serve its purpose while still showing the positive side. Free allows the positive, but I feel there are some members here who tend to "attack" for lack of better word, anyone who hints at being positive, no matter how many negative things such a person has said in the past. I have enjoyed being a part of this particular blog community, no matter my occasional frustrations. It challenges me, I learn from it, and there are many here who just make me smile, chuckle, or I simply "connect with" in some way. I just think it would be nice to see people be a little more willing to hear the positive side, even if they don't agree, or can't understand the point of sharing it. No one is trying to erase or change bad experiences.

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    2. Jat, I would love to know your blog sites.

      And, you are right, we can all fit in on this blog, and it is enlightening to both sides to hear both sides and to try and understand them all.

      I would like you to expand on what you mean how hard it is to stay? I am not sure If I ever felt that.... For me, I began feeling less in agreement with many things, but I don't recall trying to stay. Maybe, I was more trying to go.

      Thanks again for replying.

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    3. Beth,
      I am so sorry it has taken me so long to respond, I have not been avoiding your questions. First off, the blogs. One of my blogs is specifically for staying in touch with family and friends, and so I am not willing to share-it's meant for those close and intimate with me, for people I've met face to face. My second blog is quite new, and is, in a way, more for my own reflections than anything, I have never shared it before, but am willing to share it with you if you're interested; www.deepintheheartland.wordpress.com

      You asked me to expand on how it can take strength to stay. I think we all agree that people can be very judgmental within the church. I was one who felt, for whatever reason, singled out and picked on as a child. In such a small church community, I occasionally find I have to face these same girls, to voice my opinion among them, and I believe it is only Christian to find it within my heart to forgive them for their past. But that does not mean I can wipe away the insecurities I feel when with them, or among them. It does not mean I can forget how they made me feel, and pretend it never happened. It takes strength and belief in myself to allow myself to be there with them, even if I try limit my contact with them. It takes a strength to separate the spiritual peace I feel in the teachings from the physical discomfort I feel amongst certain members.

      Also, I have relatives who have left the church who feel that it is a terrible place to be, and who cannot understand why anyone would stay. They degrade and talk down to those of us who have chosen to stay, as if we are somehow not as smart as them, or stupid for choosing the lifestyle we do. They make negative remarks to us about a variety of our views, from political to spiritual, and it takes strength to stand up to them. To come on here, and to read what people say, and to disagree, and find a respectful way to do so takes strength. To examine what is said, and find my own beliefs takes strength.

      It also takes strength to be your own person. I think in leaving you had to decide that you did not care if this small group of people thinks you are going to Hell, and if I make a decision that doesn't follow every social norm, I need to make that same choice. For example, I plan to allow my children to participate in sports, as long as it doesn't take over our lives, and in this decision I need strength to stand up to my family and friends about my beliefs. The church has a variety of people, and I am sure there will be some who think I will go to hell for that choice. It takes strength to realize that people have differing opinions, even within the like-minded church, and you do not have to strive for perfection, because nobody is perfect.

      You needed strength to be your own person and follow your beliefs. Unfortunately, it caused much hatred for some, it tore apart relationships and caused much grief for you. I feel for you, and understand it was not easy. I, also, need strength to be my own person too. To make my own choices regarding what I truly believe, not what I am told to believe. This may not cause me grief, but sometimes it causes pain. It does take its own kind of strength.

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  13. LLLreader again: There have been many times on this blog that I, and others, have reminded readers that we support people who are happy in the church and choose to stay. Each of us has our own knowledge about what works for us. If the OALC provides the spiritual home that comforts you then that's a wonderful thing.

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  14. I continue to stay in the FALC because it does meet my spiritual needs. In no way do I think it is perfect. It's full of humans, how can it be perfect? I try to teach my children to be respectful of people. I certainly never want to hear that my kids were on the school buses calling people "heretics" or telling their school buddies that they're "going to hell". And yup, they do have school friends....children whose parents I know, who are welcome at our house and whose housed my kids go to. Because I know the people. Frankly, I wouldn't just let my kids go home with anyone after church just because they attended church if I didn't know them. Because....you never know. And I teach them about "good touch/bad touch", even though it kills me inside. Abuse could happen, and not just from inside the church. Janitors, teachers, bus drivers, older kids at school, neighborhood man, etc. But when it happens, we have to remember the whole world is not evil. There are good people out there! (yes, even in the apostolic faiths)
    FALCon

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  15. FALCon, just keep in mind, that the percentages of sexual abuse. 90% happen with someone the child knows, trusts and believes is a friend. Of, that 90 %, 50% is with a family member. Our children are being lured and courted long before the act begins. The latin root of Pedophile comes from "Child Friendship". Most often, the child has had a relationship of loving kindness, before the sexual act happens. The 'good' family member turns bad.

    A good pedophile knows the dance....how to gain the child's trust, attention and 'friendship' and then they begin games, that escalate or change from fun to sexual tones.

    Most often we believe we can be vigilant in 'watching' for the pedophile behavior, but they are operating in daylight. Being your kids friend. Often, one of the signposts is if the adult male/female has very little if any friends of their age set.

    My father insisted on Sunday Dinners....and my mother would shame us if we didn't come home. It was an elaborate set up for abuse. We should have been tipped off, he didn't orchestrate one other event, but wanted the 'kids' to come from church in their little dresses. Sunday dinners seems so innocent, until you know how they were used.

    And, watch your child's nature, when their nature changes, someone in their lives changed.

    I am happy you find your spiritual needs met.

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  16. Thanks, Beth. Can't be easy for you to say, with your history in the same church. It is hard for me to know your story, and realize no one did anything to help. Does it ease your mind in any way to know that I and my friends are aware now that it happens, and that we at least would not hide nor condone it? A poor child! So shameful. I pray for the safety of all our kids.
    FALCon

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  17. FALCon, I am not against anyone finding spiritual peace and the love of God, and am happy your soul is happy there. Truly.

    Looking around at your friends, can you see them being rebels, being the ones to take a hard stand, to do what is right, not what is asked? Can you see them turning in a family member, a member of the church. That is what we need to pray for. Pray for the strength to leave behind our dreams of family when abuse arrives.

    The only way children will be safe, IS if adults are willing to have no contact with a family member who abuses. To show the child, this is unacceptable.

    And, I know most believe to the depth of their soul, they are the ones who can draw the hard line.

    And yet, these same adults will do a volume of things in order to not stick out and not be shunned and not be the only one standing alone. And, willingly give up control of their lives for the church or their parents. So, I hesitate to believe that the percentages of people within the church will be able to literally stand against family or friends. (since 90% of abuse happens there)

    For the 10% that is stranger danger, I believe that if it was someone outside the church, 90% of the church would rally against it. Does that make sense to you?

    Sitting and looking around your life now, how easy would it be to be the one lone voice against family/church and friends?

    This is what we pray for.....the strength to do that. Then, we can have a chance against abuse. Who among your friends will tear apart family and dismantle their beliefs?

    So I can't say I feel better, for I know the difficulties ahead for anyone who encounters abuse within their family. AND, I also know the group mentality and the fear of being different, being shunned and cast out.

    Oddly, or maybe against all odds, it is much easier to be the abuser than the victim....for they will get much more support. I would not have know this, until it happened to me.

    A brother paid his fees, sisters took care of him, he was supported until the day he died. It goes against nature, to move away from parents...it is to be stronger than the magnetic pull.

    Again, pray for strength to stand alone...to change the pattern of generations and the legacy of family.



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    1. Beth, I read JAT's comments where she said, "I can get frustrated when I look at and read this blog pretending to be someone who has never heard of Laestadianism and think I would come away with the impression that these are frighteningly terrible churches full of completely brainwashed people who put any and all human decency (or maybe are so unfeeling they don't even have it) aside in order to follow their beliefs." Years back I realized that those who had had bitter Laestadian upbringings and childhoods were often those who eventually left the church with bitter feelings as the church and one's family are almost the same institution. Conversely, those who had happy Laestadian/Apostolic Lutheran type upbringings seemed to fit right in with the whole church and cultural shebang and they would never consider leaving. It all makes me wonder about our lot in life as 'ex-toots' as much of one's personality was already formed by age 3. Old AP

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    2. Old AP, It is very interesting to ponder how there does seem to be a correlation between our experiences and the feelings of the church. I would tend to agree that they are some folks better suited, if you will, to conforming or liking the cult experiences, to be part of a big group and to not have to make key decisions in life, but to defer them to the church.

      And, I way agree, that by age 3 we are totally learning the unwritten rules of the church and our total sense of survival depends on us, going along.

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  18. Hm. I see your point. "the group mentality", for sure. Makes me sigh. But I do have hope! I do have some strong friends. I can pray we all remain strong, I guess.
    FALCon

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  19. IN the mid 90s a friend of mine who was a high on the totem pole preacher told me that he was on his way to another state to meet with the other church leaders to discuss sex abuse cases within the church. If I remember correctly the number was around a hundred. Of course these were allegations. I didn't hear any more about it. And it was not the oalc or falc. I asked the same preacher at another time, why doesnt he release the church held hostages and tell his congregation salvation is not connected to the Laestadian movement. You can only be saved by trusting in the merits of Christ He knew that and acknowleded that privately. HE TOLD ME HE CAN'T DO THAT some people may go elsewhere..........matt

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  20. Beth,

    I have recently discovered your blog and have really been provoked in reading it. I feel kind of silly for asking, but I can't figure out how to comment to ask you questions or add something that I was thinking. If you're interested in conversing there, let me know how! :)

    -Pebbles

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  21. For those in Clark County, WA, with information on sex abuse by Laestadians, please contact reporter Paris Achen of the Columbian newspaper. The names and relationships of victims will not be published. Her number is 360-735-4551 and her email is paris.achen@columbian.com.

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    1. OALC rs are biggest customers of newspaper since they have no TV so not surprising the article has yet to appear ! Money ? As the owner would you stop this article to save an already struggling entity?

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  22. If somebody in the FALC was suspected of murder or armed robbery, I doubt that the congregation would ignore it. Rather, they would cooperate with authorities and try to find out the truth. When it comes to suspicions of child abuse, however, the silence can be deafening.

    The lesson here? If you want to do a crime and get away with it in the FALC, make sure it's really, really heinous. The people around you will be unable to admit to themselves that you might be capable of such a terrible thing, so you'll only have your own conscience to contend with. Once you get your sins forgiven, you'll be cool there. Until the next time.

    Puurua Face

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