"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Notable Extoots: Sara Ranta-Rönnlund

Sara Ranta-Rönnlund ©Norrbottens-Kuriren. Fotograf okänd.
I'm fairly certain that when the first crop of Laestadian babies reached marrying age, they looked around, had a think, and all the nonconformers voted with their feet. They emigrated, if not to a new country, to a new community. They left for school and neglected to return. They took temporary jobs that turned permanent, vacations that lasted years and then forever. They left in anger, in joy, in pain, in doubt, in love, in pieces, intact. They waited, procrastinated, debated, heeded bad advice. They took a spouse, a child, a parent, a heresy, a harem. They left shame behind or brought it along, vanished, made the news, made mistakes, made bail, made good.

A few made history.

I'll call them Notable Extoots. Encountering them in my reading, I felt compelled to share a few with you. I think you'll relate, even to those who lived generations and continents apart.

Sara Ranta-Rönnlund, Swedish Sámi Author, 1903 - 1979

Born to a wealthy Talma Sámi reindeer herding family near Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, Sara Ranta-Rönnlund (shortened to Ranta for this profile) had only sporadic schooling, partly because of the Swedish policy restricting Sámi education, and partly because her mother wanted her home, to help with sewing. Ranta's family spoke Sámi, and she taught herself to read and write Swedish. She also knew Tornedalen Finnish (Meankieli), the majority language of the area and of Laestadian services.

Ranta's parents were devout Western (Firstborn/OALC) Laestadians, and her grandfather often hosted Laestadian meetings. In spite of this, and her godparents being "three great Laestadian preachers," she reported that even at a young age, she found the religion intolerant and restrictive. Ranta was critical of the double standards of the preachers and their power over people.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Liv & The Little Boy in the Red Sweater

Two new books are available, both about child sex abuse in Laestadian families. One is in from Norway: Den mørke hemmeligheten i Tysfjord (The Dark Secret in Tysford) by Anne-Britt Harsem. If you can read Norwegian (or know how to turn on translation), read today's compelling news story and interview with "Liv," the book's subject.

In English is a book by Carl Huhta, familiar to many readers for his gentle wisdom at the Messy Guru blog. Carl's book is called The Little Boy in the Red Sweater and is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. He writes:

My intention is to help others that have been traumatized by sexual abuse and other life-changing experiences. It is raw, honest, and it demonstrates that the pathways to healing can come from unexpected traditions like yoga and meditation.

Bravo, Carl. May your words give healing and courage wherever they are read.

(Whether or not his topic is relevant to our circumstances, let's all give homeboy some love and buy a copy, share the link, and leave a review. It's the least we can do.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Whitney's Story

This was submitted by a thoughtful, expressive young reader. I'm so impressed with this latest generation and their ability to see past all the arbitrary divisions defended by their elders, to celebrate in one another those universal human values that transcend culture. If you'd like to share your story, send me an email at extoots@gmail.org. Thanks! --Free

I left the FALC when I was sixteen, almost three years ago. This is my story.

As a child, Sunday evenings made me nervous. The mornings were pleasant enough—Mom baked desserts while my siblings and I finished our homework at the table, counting down the minutes before a pie was pulled from the oven. If it was warm outside, dad pumped our bicycle tires with air and sent us down the driveway with a wave. 

An hour and a half before church started, we started getting ready. That’s when my stomach started feeling queasy. What would I wear? Who would I sit by? What if my only friend wasn’t going?

Often, we arrived at church an hour early to visit with the elderly folks. I usually spent that time camping out in the bathroom, biting my nails in anticipation.

Because I attended a school with no classmates from church, I had no friends at church. I was ignored by the girls at Sunday School. It didn’t help that my parents forbade us to wear necklaces, bracelets, or rings, the only jewelry allowed in church. We also weren’t allowed to curl or straighten our hair. Trust me, this did not help with my middle school desire to be popular.

If I was considered peculiar by my Sunday School counterparts, I was an alien to my schoolmates. At least I could relate somewhat with those from church; at school, I was the only one in my grade who’d never seen "Lion King," let alone never watched TV. For this reason, I went out of my way to make friends with the foreign exchange students who seemed as lonely as I. This would be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I met Inka, an excitable and trustworthy girl from Finland who taught me my first swear word—and it was in Finnish! Another friend, Sofia, warmly shared her culture over bowls of Ecuadorian potato soup. 

I believe it was because of these friends that I am now out of the church, and for that I am grateful. At first, I was shocked at what they told me—movies and nail polish seemed like off-limit conversation topics, but later I welcomed their information with quiet satisfaction, ticking off the movies I’d seen at their homes, say, or knowing what a condom was, or learning how to make the sign of the cross over my head and chest. We talked about world poverty and fate, of divorces and religion.

Two years after my last foreign exchange friend returned to her motherland, I began paying attention to the sermons in church. I mean, seriously paying attention. It was a sort of revelation that may only come once—you know, when you’re looking around, thinking, “does everyone actually believe all this?” The minister, as usual, talked about how we were the one true faith, but this time I couldn’t stop thinking about my friends—one a nearly devout Catholic who was thousands of miles away in Ecuador, who literally didn’t know the name of my church. Granted, I’d heard those lines hundreds of times, but somehow the “world,” as it was talked about, seemed a dear friend, and the stakes appeared much higher for my “worldly” friends. Something wasn’t right. 

I’ll spare the details of my leaving—it was a brutal affair, and I’m not quite ready to talk about it. I will instead remark that I’ve repaired the relationships with most of my family members. Life isn’t such a chore as it once was. The church was my whole life, and I walked away from it. There’s still a scar, and I suppose there always will be, but hey—I’m okay with that. I had a great childhood and wonderful parents, truly. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. It’s beautiful, haunting, and I’m drawn to it. Makes for a great writing topic, too.

I feel I’m a much more spiritually inclined person than I ever was in the church. I no longer have the propensity to shy away from a stranger who’s overtly Jewish or Muslim. At the moment I’m into authors and theologians like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, who argue that the Bible isn’t too big that we needn’t talk about the parts which trouble us.

I once broke fast with Muslim friends who never once looked at me the way I used to look at them. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Breaking Silence

Photo credit: Carolyn Tiry/Flickr | Remix by Dell Cameron
From Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions:

"Being unable to tell your story is a living death and sometimes a literal one. If no one listens when you say your ex-husband is trying to kill you, if no one believes you when you say you have a pain in your body, if no one hears you when you say help, if you don’t dare say help, if you have been trained not to bother people by saying help. If you are considered to be out of line when you speak up in a meeting, are not admitted into an institution of power, are subject to irrelevant criticism whose subtext is that women should not be here, or heard. 
Liberation is always in part a storytelling process, breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories. A free person tells her own story.
Violence against women is often against our voices and our stories. It is a refusal of our voices, and of what a voice means: the right to self-determination, to participation, to consent or dissent, to live and participate, to interpret and narrate. A husband hits his wife to silence her; a date rapist or acquaintance rapist refuses to let the “no” of his victim mean what it should, that she alone has jurisdiction over her body; rape culture asserts that women’s testimony is worthless, untrustworthy; anti-abortion activists also seek to silence the self-determination of women; a murderer silences forever. These are assertions that the victim has no rights, no value, is not an equal. They have their equivalent in smaller ways in language: the people harassed and badgered into silence online, talked over and cut out in conversation, belittled, humiliated, dismissed. Having a voice is crucial. 
It’s not all there is to human rights, but it’s central to them, and so you can consider the history of women’s rights and lack of rights as a history of silence and breaking silence.
We are not where we were in 1991. And where we were in 1961, when I was born--I think it's hard for people who aren't historically-minded and weren't there to comprehend how deeply misogyny, exclusion, and the suppression of women's rights, powers, and voices were not an imposition on the rules but the unquestioned rule.
There is no inevitability that we will continue to win; it requires as it always did passionate participation and some vision that it can be different. It is already different from 1991, 1961, because we are winning --and they are furious about it. As Michelle Alexander pointed out this weekend, we are not the resistance; they are; we are part of the revolutionary river of change they are trying to resist.
We have a long way to go to a world where women live without fear and in equality, but we have come so far already. Don't stop now."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Religious Trauma: Steps to Recovery

The following is excerpted from the website Journey Free, founded Marlene Winell, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. She has been working in religious recovery for over 25 years and originated the term "religious trauma syndrome." Journey Free offers a Youtube series, no-cost phone consulting and low-cost retreats (the next one is in San Francisco, September 21-24, 2018).

Several extoots have recommended Marlene Winell over the years. Perhaps she'd be willing to lead a retreat in your area if contacted. Doesn't hurt to try!

1.   Get Real
  • This is when you start to get it that your religion is not really working for you.  It’s not making sense intellectually, it’s not paying off emotionally, or you see moral problems with it.
  • This early stage is hard because dogmatic systems do not let go easily and there is a cycle of abuse as you get blamed for the problems.
  • Your doubts and questions feel dangerous because you haven’t been allowed to think for yourself.  Yet you have to start getting honest.
  • Be honest with yourself about whether your religion is working for you. Let go of trying to force it to make sense.
  • Have a look at life and the world AS IT IS, and stop trying to live in a parallel universe. This world might not be perfect but facing reality will help you get your life on track.
  • If you feel guilty, realize that the religion teaches you to feel responsible when it isn’t working and tells you to go back and try harder, just like an abusive relationship.
2.   Get a Grip
  • Eventually, the problems get to be too much and you want to stop forcing everything to fit.  Don’t panic. It’s important to understand that the fear is just part of the phobia indoctrination.
  • Phobia indoctrination is a self-serving part of the religion that tells you that terrible things will happen to you if you leave.
  • If you calm down, you’ll be just fine. Many people have been through this. So read some deconversion stories and calm down. You will be fine.
  • When you look at the world as it really is, facing reality will help you get your life on track.
3.   Get Informed
  • Do everything you can to educate yourself. You are free to read, watch videos, and expose yourself to all the knowledge in the world – history, philosophy, other religions, mythology, science, psychology, biology, and more.
  • Read authors who have explained why they deconverted. In particular, learn about the origins of your religion and scripture, such as how the Bible was put together and early church history.
  • Having a look from an unbiased viewpoint can be pretty eye-opening. Enjoy letting your brain breathe.
4.   Get Support
  • Healing from toxic religion is not just intellectual. It goes deep into your emotional and psychological make-up, especially if you were taught as a child.
  • So don’t be surprised if you have a gap between what you know in your head and what you feel in your gut.
  • You can reject a belief in hell, for example, and still have nightmares. Get support in any way you can – from online forums, local groups, a therapist who understands, or go to a recovery retreat.
  • Do the work to heal the wounds of religious abuse. And be careful about what you may have been told about the evils of psychology or getting secular help.
5.   Get Well
  • It’s important to give yourself time to process your feelings and learn how to trust yourself.  You will probably need to deal with many emotions, such as anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, and grief.
  • You will also need to regain trust in your thinking abilities, practice expressing your own views, and develop critical thinking, creativity, and decision-making.
  • If you do the work to get healthy and mature, eventually your wounds will heal. You will feel stronger and able to love and take care of yourself.
6.   Get a Life
  • Letting go of a religious worldview means you have to rethink who you are and what life is about. You also have to rebuild most of your life structure such as social networks, work, and family relationships.
  • In general, you will have to take responsibility for your own choices instead of depending on the religion or God’s will for guiding your life.  This is exciting of course, because you are now in the world with many options, but it may be a little daunting as well.
  • But it is up to you to reclaim your life, construct your identity, and make commitments to new values. Rebuild your life around new values and engage fully with your choices. Develop your identity as you learn to love and trust yourself.
  • Take responsibility and create the life that works for you – in work, family, leisure, social – all the areas of commitment that make a life structure. If you still want a spiritual life, define it for yourself.
  • Venture into the “world” for new experiences and new friends. This will take time but you can do it.
7.  Get Clear
  • At some stage, you will need to let other people know about your change in views.  For many this feels like coming out of the closet and has serious implications. Family and friends who are still believers may react in negative ways, especially at first.
  • You may go through some challenging adjustments in your relationships. But for most people, this honesty is eventually necessary in order to have personal integrity.
  • It can be hard to let other people go through their own feelings and to deal with all the issues, but in the end, it’s worth it.
8.   Get With The Program
  • Welcome to the human race. Accept the idea that Earth is your home and humanity is your true family. If you aren’t part of a special group that is leaving, consider what that means for you.
  • You may want to participate in larger concerns to make the world a better place, such as caring for the environment or working for social justice.
  • Let go of expecting God to take care of all the problems and join others to make the world a better place here and now. You can see that we are all interconnected and you can enjoy relationships with other people.
9.   Get Your Groove On
  • As you relax about being part of this earth, you reclaim enjoyment of sensation and pleasure. You realize you don’t have to earn the right to exist. You are just like other animals.
  • Your sensory experiences are delightful, your body is great, and sex is good. You find all the ways to appreciate nature.
  • It’s ok to simply enjoy being alive. Learn to be present here and now. Enjoy and love other people instead of judging. Reclaim your creativity and express yourself any way you like, not just to “glorify God.”
  • Love your body and take care of it. Embrace this life instead of worrying about the next. Sing and dance and laugh for no reason except Being Alive.