Monday, July 03, 2017

What Age is Too Young for Marriage?

The Elders of the Firstborn (OALC) have arrived from Gällivare and are crossing the United States from east to west, holding meetings -- morning and evening -- throughout July and August.

According to a member of an online support group, new rules regarding "Christian" weddings were recently shared, including:
  1. No engagement rings. 
  2. The engaged couple must wait until married to sit together in church.
  3. Wedding rings must be simple bands.
  4. No wedding dresses (preferably a skirt that can be worn again).
  5. The skirt should not be so long that it touches the floor.
  6. The bridal party will not walk up or down aisle. 
  7. The bride and groom will walk down the aisle only after they are married.
  8. No food at wedding receptions.
This illustrates a practical function of the Elders' meetings: to reinforce visual markers of faithfulness (faithfulness to the preachers, not the gospel) so members appear separate from "the world." (An equally important function is to retain members through intermarriage. Out-marrying is taboo, so these large gatherings are opportunities to meet non-relatives. Youth are encouraged to travel out of state to attend).

Suggested addition to the rules:
  • No marrying of children.
This recent NYT article about child marriage in the United States was shocking for many of my Facebook friends, who had no idea this "third world" custom was so prevalent in our own country, and not must among minority religions but those who call themselves Christians. I recommend the Elders consider whose company they are keeping, e.g., men who elude statutory rape charges by marrying their victim.

It is not uncommon for girls in the OALC to marry and have children before they are 18.

That must change.

I foresee the day when it is illegal -- a violation of individual human rights -- to compel a person to forgo birth control. When and who to marry, when and how frequently to give birth -- these are human rights. It will also be illegal to compel a child to marry.

The OALC is on the wrong side of history.

Children deserve our love and protection. Jesus had something to say about that, and it had nothing to do with who sits where, or wears what.

FOCUS, gentlemen. FOCUS.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seeking Help as a Laestadian

In Norway, Sami victims of violence seek help less often than non-Sami. No surprise, as this also holds in native communities in North America.

But in addition to the disempowering effects of colonization, Laestadianism is mentioned as a cause in this article.
"Laestadianism's influence on Sami culture and society also plays a part in strengthening the attitude that it is the victim who must bear the shame and guilt for the violence, not the offender."
"The tabooing of sex and body, the silence concerning everything private, and the idea that issues are solved within the family. We find such ideas everywhere in Norway, but there are indications that these taboos are stronger within Laestadian and Sami communities." 
"The view on women in Sami communities is often colored by Laestadianism: women should remain silent in gatherings and sexuality is not discussed."
Sound familiar? What can be done?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Helena's Story

"What if you were told that reason and questioning can take your faith away? Contraception is a sin, homosexuality is a sin, wearing makeup is a sin, or even having a TV is a sin?"
In this Culture Chat with Mimi Chan podcast, Mimi talks to Helena (one of the bravest people I know, and a dear friend) about leaving Laestadianism, and healing from sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.

A few quotes:
Control through fear:
"They have a belief that you can lose your faith in an instant. There is a solid amount of fear built in. I remember as a kid feeling scared, what would happen if I lost my faith and then I died, what would happen to me?"

On the need for integrity as the final straw:
"If you don't say anything, you're saying something. And if you do say something, you're going to have to go against your belief system unless your beliefs are in lockstep with theirs." 

On shunning:
"If you were in the church and you're gone, now you're not just a worldly person, you're an evil worker. You're treated with less respect than people who have never been part of the religion."

On nonreporting of sexual abuse:
"When our daughter was molested by someone in the church, the preachers told us not to go to the police. Here in Washington, clergy are not mandatory reporters, which I think is wrong . . . but it's illegal for them to tell you not to go to the police . . . that is obstruction of justice."

"You're not doing the perpetrators any favors by not holding them accountable!"

On emotional abuse:
"When you are teaching someone that they are solid sin, that they should carry all this shame and guilt, it is very core to who you are. If someone hits you . . . if you have a bruise, it's easy to say that person is a jerk, that's not okay, but when someone is talking about who you are on the inside, it's harder to detangle from."

On raising healthy children:
"I'm glad I left when my kids were young so they wouldn't have years of that whole guilt-and-shame system to slough off."

"They will require more from their relationships that I did mine."

To someone considering leaving:
"Explore! Read about other schools of thought, about other religions. Allow yourself to ask the questions that you have. If there is supposedly this amazing God that created the universe, he is not too small to ask these questions against . . . it's not gonna hurt his feelings! There's no reason why you can't ask all the questions you have and get answers, and if you aren't getting the answers there, there's always the internet."


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Child Rapist Sentenced to Life

While not mentioned in the article, this serial rapist was raised in the Laestadian faith, whose doctrine of forgiveness has been discussed many times before on this site and many others.

I hesitated to write this, knowing the victim and his family must be eager to move on, but readers of this blog will know why silence only serves abusers. I salute this boy and his family for pressing charges and protecting other children. I hope they inspire others to do the same.

Sex offender sentenced to life in prison

Man convicted for two counts of child molestation

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

Published: April 14, 2017, 9:05 PM

While sentencing a Spokane man to spend life in prison without parole for raping a 9-year-old boy, Judge Scott Collier said he was waiting to hear one thing from the defendant. But he didn’t hear it.

“I hear nothing of remorse on your part,” he said.

Remorse wouldn’t have mattered, however.

Carsie J. Tikka, 38, already had one class A sex offense on his criminal history and because of the Persistent Offender Accountability Act, Tikka’s recent conviction comes with a mandatory life prison sentence.

The case began Jan. 6 when Vancouver police were called to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center to pick up a sexual assault kit. Officers were notified that the victim had told medical staff he had been raped three times by Tikka between Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, while visiting a residence in northwest Vancouver, according to a probable cause affidavit in the case.

Tikka was reportedly a friend of the victim’s family.

In an interview, the boy said the first time something happened between him and Tikka was when he was 8 years old and that Tikka had molested him on more than one occasion, the affidavit said.

The case went to trial in February in Clark County Superior Court, and Tikka was convicted of two counts of first-degree child rape and two counts of first-degree child molestation, all with aggravating circumstances for abuse of trust. Aggravators allow a judge to sentence outside the standard sentencing range.

Tikka’s criminal history includes attempted first-degree child molestation, communication with a minor for immoral purposes and attempted voyeurism, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristine Foerster said.

She called Tikka an “egregious danger to society.”

“The defendant is exactly the type of person the persistent offender act was created for,” Foerster said.

When given his chance to address the court, Tikka read a list of issues he had with a presentencing investigation report, at many points claiming that the person writing the report had lied.

He also read excerpts from the Bible, saying that his sins have been washed away, before offering forgiveness to nearly everyone in the courtroom for lies and vindictiveness, including the judge.

“I pray that you retire and give up your robe to someone more deserving of your title,” Tikka said to Collier.

Once Tikka was done, Collier addressed him.

“I think these comments are reflective of why the legislature has done what it has done,” Collier said, in respect to the persistent offender act. “You clearly by your statement here are not remorseful. You put the blame on everyone else and take no responsibility.”


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Swinging Laestadians

I enjoyed this recent post by Mauri Kinnunen about a 1937 article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, in which joiking is compared to swing music, and cocktails prove disappointing to some Laestadians. It may be a stretch to compare joik to swing, but both are characterized by energy and improvisation.

Go read the article, then come back and enjoy these clips.

Instrumental "cocktail swing" recorded in Sweden in the same year as the article, 1937:

Marie Boine inhabits this spine-tingling "Goaskinviellja / Eagle Brother" at the Oslo Opera House in 2009:

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Right to Dance

A reader writes:
My cousin's wife shared this link. She is a folkdancer. This is a parish in Helsinki who took part of this campaign and they challenged every parish in Finland. This is an example of how dancing belongs to everyone, everyone can dance in some way regardless of physical abilities, and everyone has the right to dance. You can see the priests, some of them female, are dancing in this video!

Do you dance?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, and I have been reflecting on the many ways in which we have more freedom, equality, safety, representation, and self-determination than our foremothers, and more than many of our sisters in religious states. These freedoms are always at risk of being curtailed or limited. Progress is not linear.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Tough love

This was posted on a friend's Facebook page.

What do you think of the dad's "tough love"?

Sunday, February 05, 2017

You Are Not Alone

The following discussion is excerpted from the Extoots group on Facebook. I thought it might help others, and asked permission to post it here with names removed.


My husband and I are both trying to figure out what we truly want and need in life. For a while now we have both felt an urge to leave the church and find out what else God has to offer us . . . we are both scared of fully leaving and being shunned by our families and friends. If anyone has some advice or support to share, it would be so welcomed! 


You need too do what's best for you, you'll always be judged by someone. Let your inner rebel come out and really not care what others think. Don't let fear stop you!! You'll probably have some relief after.
Shunning is painful, and many of us lost friends and even parents and siblings after we left. But even more painful is spending one's brief time here on Earth accumulating self-loathing and regret for wasted opportunities, for a life not lived, for love not given. Sending you lots of strength as you navigate these waters.
It is truly hard and scary to leave. Just follow your heart. I prayed many nights before I finally left for good. Through many new experiences I found out that there was so much more to my relationship with God than the (church) teachings. I've never felt more at peace or closer to God than I do now. I was shunned by many of my family and the church members. As time went on my family became more accepting and some found the strength to leave also. Good luck with everything you decide to do, and know that we all are here for support
When you start living for yourself and not worry about what other think, you will be free, free indeed.
The day I turned 18 I moved out of the house. Mainly because I did not want to partake in going to church anymore. My parent knew that, and we did not talk for a few months. Never once though did I stop being myself, and my parents have now decided that they would like to have a relationship with me. It took time for them to get to this point though. I am lucky that they decided they with to have a relationship with me even if I chose something different than what they have taught me. There is hope for you as well. In all honesty going though this all some days are extremely hard! But I now got to a point where I don't care what others think and just do what makes me happy. It a blessing. Wish you the best. If you ever need any other support feel free to reach out to me. I recently went through this myself. There is always hope.
Praying you will find that peace with God . . . In His Word, you will find contradictions to what you hear in (the church).
Blessings on your new journey to freedom and real life!! 
Leaving the church and deciding to be your own person takes immense amounts of personal effort. I have suggestions and they may sound extreme. But honestly if you want to change your life . . . you have to do something life changing, right? So my suggestions are:
  1. Take a vacation or a job with your partner away from the isolated community for a few years. Go outside your comfort zone. 
  2. When you get to this new environment. Learn, if you haven't yet a few skills that allow you to tap into your inner most self. That core that is so sacred and peaceful that no trauma can ever touch. I suggest meditation, yoga, and spending lots of time in nature.
  3. Tapping into the inner self will bring an immense amount of wisdom, and desire to express yourself. Learn skills of creativity like painting and dancing or poetry and drama to share that beautiful content you hold in you with the world.
  4. This sort of experience, if you make it this far will draw people to you. No longer will you search for relationships that are meaningful, people will find you and want to spend time with you to develop themselves. 
  5. You will begin to be reminded of old relationships as new ones are forming and old guilt will develop. That's ego. Continue the course.
  6. See the connection between (the church) and the little peaceful place in you. See the good in it . . . even after all it's trauma see the good, be grateful for the experience. But never go back.
  7. Take time to cultivate a faith that builds on what's inside you rather than what's outside of you. These are purely my suggestions. Do either what you will. I have so much empathy for you. Breathe easy homie.
Leaving is tough. I was the first person to leave in my family and didn't know anyone else who had left before me very well. My family reacted very badly and we went through a time of deep mourning. But time heals. Eventually all (except one) of the relationships I was afraid I may be shunned from accepted who I am . . . I’m planning to go to the conference for second generation former members this year! Feel free to reach out to me!
My family has left the church (other than father) and I have to say while it's difficult, it was the best thing we ever did. My siblings are happy and excel in sports and school and my mom is remarried and happy. PM me if you ever need someone to talk to!!
Praying for you. You've got us . . . We won't shun you. Moving far away works but it's not for everyone.
Always find what feels right for you - what makes your heart happy and your soul sing. It'll be hard, there's no doubt about it, but you get to choose and I promise it's worth it. I'm here if you need anything.
Know that we are always here for support!
One thing that was difficult for me was to accept "unbelievers." After being taught all my life how sinful they were and self-righteous etc., it took time to realize they're no different from me.
I wish you all the best as you navigate these next steps.
The most important thing to remember is that aside from all of the legalistic issues the church has... they did teach you that your salvation lies only in Jesus Christ, and what you will find that might surprise you is that there are very many dear, dear devout Christians away from the church--what they would call "in the world." They have separated themselves from the rest of the Church of Christ, which is very sad, but there IS a church out there--and many good churches . . . God be with you!
Everyone who searches for God/Jesus with a sincere heart finds Him. It's a promise...
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV) 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Leaving two years ago was the best thing I have ever done for myself and my children. It truly wasn't easy dealing with the back lash, and feeling so incredibly lonely for quite some time, but time and working with a great counselor has helped immensity. My family has since decided to love me and I now choose to see them again. I now have friendships outside of the "church setting" and it's really great knowing we don't just hang out because we go the same church. Besides having more love and compassion for everyone in this world, my relationship with my husband has grown to a new level after leaving.
I also am enjoying watching my children grow up free to see all the beauty this world and all the humans have to offer.  I am fully enjoying my "new life"
Having support while going through it really helps. If you need anything, feel free to reach out. You are not alone.
Readers, if you have advice, or a question of your own, please share in the comment section. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017