Thursday, December 20, 2007

Home for the Holidays?

With Christmas approaching and many people travelling or visiting family members they may not often interact with, I thought Anonymous' comment on the Unforgivable Sin topic was especially timely:

This is off topic, but I would love to hear what other people have to say about this. How do you deal with your family that is still within the church? Do you speak about why you left and every reason why the church has it all backwards, or do you keep quiet? There is a part of me that realizes that I will keep my relationship with my family intact if I just keep quiet about everything that I believe and know, but there is also a part of me that so badly wants to pour my heart out to them. I love all of them so much and sometimes I look at there lives and suffering and so badly want to open my mouth and let them hear it all. There thinking is so ignorant and unselfish that they end up suffering so much through this one short life they have been given. My fear about speaking arises from hearing about 'evil workers' while I was a member of the OALC, and knowing how devoted my family is to the church and there rules, I would hate to speak my mind and lose my family. I have toyed with this thought thinking that well, if they choose to abandon me over this, they are not people I want in my life anyways, but I know that I would be brokenhearted if I lost my family, they mean so much to me. Who knows, maybe over time they will slowly disappear anyways. We are like oil and water now.

-ttg

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Us and Them

I ran across this poem by Rudyard Kipling recently. It reminded me of the Laestadian mindset
(all too easy to fall into even if you're ex-Laestadian or never Laestadian:)

We and They


All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!)
Looking on We
As only a sort of They!


In college I learned about "binary opposites," socially constructed pairings such as us/them, male/female, black/white, rich/poor, civilized/savage, etc. Western thought is based upon drawing these distinctions, and priviledging one of the set in the pairs over the other. Laestadianism shares in this heritage and expands upon it.

The story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection can be seen as one of reconciling opposites. As Advent gives way to Christmas in the days ahead, ponder these binary opposites:

heaven/earth, life/death, divine/human, spirit/body

Happy Holidays!
-ttg

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unforgivable Sin

Bunless said...
I would like to start a new thread on this issue. I grew up OALC. I am now married with children and belong to a healthy church. In the OALC I was taught there is one unforgivable sin, they call it "selling your birthright" and explained that it meant either saying bad things about the OALC, or if you were born/baptized into the church and then left. I have assumed that this is the theoretical origin of the shaming and shunning of members who "stray away" (myself, for example). Can anyone please explain the theological thinking behind this, and if you encountered this teaching in your experience with OALC.

then Many Trails Home responded...
Bunless (love your moniker), when I tried to absolve my mom of responsibility for my immortal soul by telling her that I didn't want her to worry about me, that I had a relationship with God (she said it was the devil), and that I was responsible for myself, she started crying and said "you sold your soul for a mess of pottage." It took me forever - and I mean decades - to accept the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion would ever shrink the gulf between her and me. I had to finally accept her for the way she is, including what she believes (staunch OALC) and what she thinks of me.
Actually, I don't think there is any theological basis to the "selling your birthright" threat. I think it's only meant to scare the crap out of people so they don't leave, and it's pretty effective for most.
Many blessings to you. Wishing you peace of mind and happy holidays. MTH


to which I add...

Fear of the unforgivable sin was a big fear for me as a child. Since I was already somewhat neurotic, I was ripe to be obsessed about something like this. I think in some ways Laestadianism gives neurotic people a focus (and victims for psychotic people, but that's a different blog post). Lots of rules to be overly scrupulous about. So when I read the biblical passage about "blaspheming the holy spirit" --the sin from which no one can be forgiven, young me obsessed about accidentally breaking this rule and thus being damned to hell for all eternity.

My parents, while I'm sure they meant well, could not allay my fears by telling me that I was in no danger of breaking this rule, which only added to my distress. The best they could do was tell me to pray about it, which I did compulsively until I was mentally exhausted.

-ttg

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gratitude

Growing up Laestadian, there seemed to be so much focus on the negative. "Don't do this." "Don't do that." "They are going to hell." "They aren't really saved."

Even though I've left Laestadianism behind, negativity still persists. Is it a Finnish thing? Is it a Laestadian thing? Is it just a "me" thing? In any event, it's a lot easier to be positive as a gnomelike persona on the internet than it is to be positive in real life. :-)

Anyway, I recently ran across an article by "positive psychologist" David Pollay about "building gratitude chains" that I thought was illuminating:


The challenge then is for us to find ways of becoming more grateful. One powerful way to increase your gratitude is by increasing the number of what I call “Gratitude Chains” in your life. Gratitude Chains are made up of links of appreciation for what contributes to the people and things we care about. Here are the four keys to building Gratitude Chains.

Cultivate Awareness
. . .
Cultivate Curiosity
. . .
Cultivate Memory
. . .
Link Your Gratitude Chains Together


For all the details, visit his site. I've started keeping a gratitude journal in an effort to become more aware of the things I am grateful for. Here are few entries I made recently:



  • I am grateful for family time, like yesterday when we all went to see the holiday displays together
  • I am grateful for my wife, she is such a good bargain shopper!
  • I am grateful for my daughter, her kindness, generosity, and maturity.
  • I am grateful for a warm house and cars that work on cold winter days.
  • I am grateful for my job and for vacation time
  • I am grateful for my wife, who makes me lunch, and is such a capable person.
  • I am grateful for my child, who brings me joy seeing how much she enjoys her life.
  • I am grateful for my mind and thoughts, which can dwell on interesting intellectual and spiritual pursuits
  • I am grateful for a hot sauna
  • I am grateful for my wife, who is such a good host and makes people feel welcome in our home.
  • I am grateful that I have a job, when the news says that recession is looming.
  • I am grateful for the Extoots blog, where I can post my thoughts about spiritual subjects
  • I am grateful for my daughter, whose happiness and wonder reminds me of what is good in the world.
  • I am grateful for my wife, who made me lunch of turkey salad today.
  • I am grateful for the Extoots blog, since it reminds me that there are others who have gone through some of the stuff I have gone through.


-ttg

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Church Shopping

I'm church shopping again; I'm sure that you ex-Laestadians out there have been through this too. So this article from the Christian Century's Blog (great magazine and great blog, by the way) hit me when I read it yesterday:



Church shopping has been rightfully attacked as a consumerist, individualistic approach to faith --as a shopper, I do what "works for me" on a Sunday morning, and I can change churches as fast as my preferences change.

All the same, we've nearly all done it to some degree or another. The parish model of churchgoing rarely addresses the realities of our mobility and, though we might hesitate to admit it, few of us would last long in a church environment where at least some of our needs were not being met.
. . .
Is there a better way to conduct this kind of search, a way that is not consumerist at its core?


Thoughts?

-ttg

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Back in October, p3 said,

Baptism has been a thought as related to our new little one. When/how/where/why? Baptism vs dedication? Any particular scriptures or thoughts out there? With the others we did the expected OALC baptism; we know that's not the route we want this time, but it feels that something should be done...


I never had a clear idea about why we baptized babies in the ALC. I suspect that there really wasn't much of a rationale behind infant baptism other than:


  • The Bible commanded us to baptize. At most of the baptisms I attended this was the main theological rationale. It was an "ordinance." In other words, we baptize because God commands it; now shut up and pass the holy water.
  • All the Laestadianisms baptize infants because they come out of the Lutheran tradition, which also baptizes infants. However unlike much of Lutheranism, the Laestadians emphasize pietism, which in a nutshell means that you're always looking for some kind of sign that yourself and others are really holy and holding up their end of the Christian bargain instead of relying on God's grace.


I've given this some thought. Even though I am no longer Laestadian, I still believe in baptism, and especially infant baptism. No, I don't think that un-baptized babies go to hell. NO, I don't believe that baptism saves.

So what does it do, and what is it good for?

For me, all of the sacraments (including baptism) are what St. Augustine called an "outward and visible sign of inward and invisible grace." That's a fancy way of saying that mysterious things happen in the spiritual realm. God does stuff like confer grace and love upon us.

I think that when a child is born God's love and grace is lavished upon that child. In this sense there are no unloved children and no unloved human beings. God loves us all, for we are all God's children, and what parent worthy of the name fails to love their children?

As we all know, however, the world is often an unloving, cruel and unforgiving place. I believe that everything good comes from God, and that as human beings we are called to be God's hands and feet in the world. We turn the spiritual reality of God's goodness into physical reality.

The same thing happens in baptism.

What is already true on the spiritual plane is "made manifest," focused, given flesh in the ritual of baptism. When the water is poured over the infant's head, when the parents and godparents and congregation make promises, personally guaranteeing that the child will be brought up within the beloved community of faith, what is true in the spirit becomes true in the flesh as well.

It's a beautiful thing to behold. And it encapsulates all you ever really need to know about being a Christian. Love God, and love each other.

-ttg

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Doing Nothing is Not an Option

Am I bigoted for complaining recently that Biblical literalism is ignorant and irresponsible? Isn't it just a difference of opinion? Not if you consider the consequences. For example, a huge number of Christians are either willfully blind to, or "skeptical" of, the science of global climate change. I urge you to watch this video. We can afford to disagree about global climate change, but not what we do about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Unity, Laestadian Unity

What is the basis for Christian unity? We all know how unsuccessful Laestadianism is when it comes to unity. What started as a church-within-a-church in nineteenth century Finland quickly splintered into differing and competing groups both there and in the United States, where acronyms like ALC, FALC, OALC, LLC and more denote the many groups --most of whom think they are the only true church.

Of course, all the Laestadian splinters are but a microcosm of the even greater disunity throughout greater Christendom. Depending on which historians you read, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism either parted ways in 1066 or were never one church to begin with. Then in the 1500s the Anglicans split off, and poor, naive, Martin Luther opened the floodgates for split-offs and spin-offs by translating the Bible into the vernacular, effectively allowing each reader to be their own priest, preacher, and theologian. He actually believed that if each person could read the Bible for themselves they'd all agree with his interpretation!

I'd like to start a conversation here about what keeps us together as Christians, as ex-Laestadians, as human beings... I'll start by quoting this excerpt of an article I read in another context but which I found illuminating...

If we are to restore unity amidst our differences, I don't think we will find it in the Bible. After all, the expression of the Word of God par excellence for Christian people is not the Bible. It is, rather, Jesus himself – the Word made flesh. At the heart of our faith, we see Jesus as the most sublime expression of the Word of God, and we are convinced that Jesus as the Christ is not locked into a particular period of history, but is a living presence in the life of the church today and in the life of each of us who seek to be his followers. The Bible is a tool – and an indispensable one – in coming to know the Christ, as are tradition and reason. But the tools can ever only be tools – none of them can ever replace the One whom they help us to find.

St. Paul has been much maligned over the years. He is regarded by many as a misogynistic conservative. But it is closer to the truth, I think, to acknowledge that whatever else St. Paul was or might have been, at heart, he was a mystic whose own conversion to the Christian faith was rooted in an encounter with the Risen Christ that was difficult to put into words. As Paul himself says, when it happened, he couldn't tell whether or not he was in his own body, and after it was over, he had seen things that were impossible to describe. But the result of this encounter with the Risen Christ for Paul was radical transformation – the kind of transformation that made Paul, the observant Jew, able to say – quite astonishingly – that in Christ, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." This leads me to conclude that in Christ, there is also neither conservative nor liberal, Global South or Global North, straight or gay. Rather, there are only human beings made in the image of God, baptized into the Body of Christ, each seeking to be transformed through our own encounter with the Risen Christ. Our life in Christ lies exactly there: in Christ. Not in the Bible, nor even in our tradition. And Jesus reminded his followers many times that life in Christ was often an unpredictable and personally crucifying experience.


After making this post, I ran across this funny cartoon on CartoonChurch.com regarding some of things that divide us, so I'm making this update. ;-)



-ttg

Monday, November 12, 2007

Intelligent Design, Laestadian style?

Growing up in the ALC, we took the book of Genesis quite literally when it came to the story of human origins. I assume this is true for the other branches of Laestadianism as well, since if you have no reason to believe otherwise it is a pretty natural way to read Genesis 1.

Biblical scholar Marcus Borg calls this way of reading the Bible "natural literalism." Prior to the beginnings of modern science in the 1500s, it was pretty normal (although still not a universal practice by any means) to take much of the Bible's descriptions of natural history at face value. Given the high status the Bible holds within the Christian tradition, with little evidence suggesting otherwise, a reasonable adherent would have no reason to doubt that the creation story was anything but a straightforward account.

Since then, many of the sciences and humanities have delivered findings that call older interpretations of the Bible into question. Whether one accepts the findings as true or not, I think everyone can agree that the findings do question older ways of understanding the Bible. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is Darwin's theory. One of the many dividing lines in modern Christianity is between believers who incorporate modern science into their understanding of faith, and those who see science and faith as diametrically opposed to each other.

I think it's safe to say that Laestadians are firmly in the "diametrically opposed" camp. ;-) Ex-Laestadians, on the other hand, run the gamut. I bet we have young earth creationists, intelligent designers, people who just aren't sure, as well as folks who fully accept Darwin's theory reading this blog.

I'd love to hear from all of you.

I'd also like to recommend a Nova episode that will air tomorrow evening on PBS. It might be fun to watch the episode "together" and then discuss it here in the comments. If you don't have access to the television program, PBS has a comprehensive web site full of information. Full details below:

NOVA: Judgment Day: Putting Intelligent Design on Trial Tuesday, November 13th 8:00 PM Eastern Time on PBS (check local listings)

Phillip Johnson, the founder of Intelligent Design, defends his ideas

Defending Intelligent Design


NOVA: Why do you think some people do not accept evolution?

Johnson: I think they see a problem. I don't think it's that they're ignorant. I think that they see that what's being given to them as evolution is less than science in that it hasn't really been proved, and yet it's presented as if it were proved. And on the other hand, it's more than science, in that it contains the whole philosophy behind it, metaphysics as it were.


Biologist Ken Miller defends evolution, and explains his views on why faith and science are compatible

Defending Evolution


NOVA: Where do you come from personally on this topic?

Miller: I think that faith and reason are both gifts from God. And if God is real, then faith and reason should complement each other rather than be in conflict. Science is the child of reason. Reason has given us the ability to establish the scientific method to investigate the world around us, and to show that the world and the universe in which we live are far vaster and far more complex, and I think far more wonderful, than anyone could have imagined 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.


-ttg

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Politics, Laestadian Style

My head was spinning the other day, as I read about Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president. Politics certainly makes for strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes.

At the same time, I couldn't help but think about Laestadians, ex-Laestadians, and how their politics has and has not changed over the years.

Growing up in the ALC, most of my fellow parishioners were farmers and unionized workers who tended to vote for the Democratic party. However those were the decades that saw the rise of the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan, and social conservatives as a voting block. Today I'd be willing to bet most of these folks vote for the Republicans because of their opposition to abortion and gay rights.

As an ex-Laestadian, my own politics has changed over the years as well. As a kid I was a staunch Republican, because I was a social conservative and a fiscal conservative. Questioning the faith of my youth also caused political questioning. I've been a card carrying Libertarian, voted for Ross Perot two times, (I'm a bit embarrassed about the second time) and had a brief flirtation with the Green Party before settling into my current configuration of "votes mainly for Democrats, but is still very fiscally conservative."

I'm supporting Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate, I might leave that section of my ballot blank (because of her 'yes' vote authorizing the Iraq war.) So if I'm a Democrat, I'm a conflicted one.

How about you? Has your politics changed with your faith? Do the two inform each other? Do Laestadians tend to vote a certain way, or not at all? If you read this blog from outside of the United States, what is your perspective on the role politics and Laestadianism comes together in your country?

-ttg

Monday, October 29, 2007

Were the Finns Treated Fairly?

When I saw this article on MSN I immediately thought of the current discussion here regarding racism and the gross injustice done to Japanese-Americans during World War Two.

Minnesota's Finnish guests find a rude airport welcome

Erkki Maattanen, a filmmaker for Finnish Public Television who accompanied the musicians on the September trip, said his questioners seemed to think the entourage was smuggling drugs or intending to work without a permit. "I kept trying to tell them why we were here, but they'd just yell, 'Shut up!"' he said.
What is going on at this airport? First Larry Craig and now this?

-ttg

Monday, October 22, 2007

Racism, Laestadian style

I received this question from a reader recently:

Why do so many Laestadians seem to be prejudiced against blacks especially, but people from other cultures, as well? How can they justify that? Standing out in the parking lot after church, I don't even know how many times I've heard the n-word. . .There are so few blacks in the LLL churches that it's ridiculous. Well, wait a minute. Actually there is a small LLC congregation of blacks in Togo, Africa, now. Maybe that will help some of them get over their attitudes. . .


Growing up in the ALC, racism was a common theme as well. N-jokes were told alongside other ethnic jokes. Our church was a small one, in the rural upper Midwest. Looking back I'm not sure whether we were any more racist than the general population, or if we were reflecting the general population on this issue. Both the church and the general population was quite racist. As northerners we liked to think that we were above such things (on the winning side of the Civil War and all) but I remember the way that "the new kid," a Hispanic foster child was received at school in our small town. The epithets, the shunning, his isolation. He didn't stay long.

At church I remember hearing a story about the one time a black family visited our congregation. Apparently the pastor switched his sermon at the last minute to include a long-winded section explaining how nobody in our congregation was prejudiced.

I think the pastor was afraid that our visitors would find something lacking with us or in our church. There was so much fear growing up Laestadian. Fear of breaking the rules. Fear of "worldly" people and influences. Fear that God would punish harshly any failing. Fear of "The Other."

When angels speak to people in the Bible, one phrase they often utter is "Do not be afraid." I take this to mean that our fear can keep us from loving God, and from loving our neighbor. So much bad behaviour is motivated by fear.

How do we, as Laestadians and ex-Laestadians, step past the fear?

-ttg

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finding God in the Brain

I ran across this article recently, and thought I'd share:

Searching for God in the Brain, from Scientific American

As one who is fascinated with religious experience, I was intrigued by the finding that mystical experiences, speaking in tongues, and the like can be positively correlated with activity in specific regions of the brain.

Here's my bias: I think that any religion worth its salt should be able to provide its adherents with profound experiences. In that light, do you think Laestadianism measures up? Does it provide an experience of divine union? if so, which practices or beliefs facilitate this?

Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.


What do you think? Do these kind of findings have a positive, negative, or no effect on your faith?

I'm with the nuns. I think it's exciting that there might actually be a part of the brain that allows us to experience the Divine.


-ttg

Friday, October 12, 2007

Forgiveness, Laestadian Style

I think the recent comments regarding sexual abuse and forgiveness are very iluminating, and extend well beyond the present context. I completely agree with the folks who have said that forgiveness within the OALC (and I saw this issue alive and well within the ALC too) was and is used to sweep problems under the rug, to shift responsibility from perpetrator to victim, and to allow people to maintain appearances and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

One of the reasons why this tactic is so effective, of course, is because as Christians we really are called to forgive each other. But is forgiveness saying "I forgive you" and then never speaking of the matter again? Absolutely not!

True forgiveness is a long process. It's the end of a long journey that in the case of abuse should start with a full criminal investigation. Only once the full extent of what the perpetrator has done has been exposed, examined, and judged in the full light of day can an informed decision about forgiveness be made. Only once the victim is safe from threat of further abuse and given time and resources to process the experience of what has happened to them are they in a position to consider true forgiveness.

The quick shortcuts to forgiveness offered by the Laestadian churches cheapens true forgiveness and in the case of abuse only serves to short-circuit the healing process and to enable the perpetrators to continue on in their evil ways.

This issue enrages me for a couple of reasons. First, sexual abuse happened within my extended family many years ago. It was covered up and never talked about. Secondly, the same dynamic comes into play for so many lesser issues as well. "Forgiveness" being used to close down discussion and disagreement of all kinds.

I apologize if this post sounds like I'm shouting. I'm not shouting at anyone but the perpetrators and enablers of this sick theological idea.


-ttg

Friday, October 05, 2007

Once

One of the few things that I think Laestadians do well is the aesthetic of beauty in plainness. There is a quiet beauty in a plain, white-painted wooden country church adorning a stark prairie landscape. A not-so-quiet, yet equally subtle beauty in seeing a large family of young children sharing a pew on Sunday morning. The beauty of young women with fresh-scrubbed faces and cotton print dresses. Of elders chanting mournfully in Finnish before ambling forward to receive communion.

I was reminded of this luminousness last weekend when my wife and I went to see the movie "Once." Set in Ireland, it captured "a guy" and "a girl" with simple dreams and ordinary challenges. Similar to Sweet Land there is a sub-theme of the immigration experience (in this case "the girl" is a first generation Czech immigrant). Yet throughout the film plainness and ordinariness is suffused by a quiet dignity, basic goodness, humor, and of course great music.

I recommend this film. It is rated "R" solely for language. I don't find this problematic, but if you do this is your warning. :-) Below are links to the film's web site and blog:

Once Official web site
Once Official Blog


-ttg

It's been a bit slow here lately...

It's been a bit slow here lately. I thought I'd create this post as a place where people can post their ideas for topics. Post just an idea, or something that is fleshed out. If you have a full article-length piece of content that you wrote yourself, post it here as a comment and I'll repost it as a topic.

Or if you'd rather Email me ideas, my address is e (dot) tomte (at) gmail (dot) com.


-ttg

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Goodbye, Maestro

This morning after soccer practice, we sat around the kitchen table and watched YouTube videos of Luciano Pavarotti, who died Thursday after a long and brilliant life of song. We found ourselves wiping our eyes as we listened. But you don't have to be an opera fan to see the power he had in this clip: the human, unadorned, vast emotional range and vocal control. In the paper today, a writer said opera's celebrated "high c's" are the sound of the human cry. Perhaps. But it is a cry that contains yearning, love, grief, joy and everything that words can't express.

Arrivederci, maestro. Your music lives in our hearts.

(I don't think it is necessary to know a song's lyrics in order to feel its power (a lot of opera lyrics are just silly) but if you are curious, below is a rough translation of Una Furtiva Lagrima.)

One tear that falls so furtively

from her sweet eyes has just sprung,

as if she envied all the youths

who laughingly passed her right by.

What could I want more than this?

She loves me! I see it.

One moment just to hear her heart,

beating so close next to mine,

to hear my sighs like they were hers,

her sighings as if they were mine!

Heavens, please take me now:

All that I wanted is mine now!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Another Personality Profile (more fun)

First off, I promise this is the last personality profile I post! I couldn't resist sharing this one though, because it the only online personality profile I've seen that tells you about yourself based on the pictures you select.

This has little to do with Laestadianism other than the fact that folks might find it interesting in light of my background how often I selected pictures of food and alcoholic beverages. ;-)

Tomte's Imagini Visual DNA Profile



-ttg

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pachelbel Bedtime

For those of you with young children, or children who used to be young. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Speaking of Psychology...

...I recently have been reading about something called "Positive Psychology." While psychology has traditionally focused on mental illness, pathology --basically negative feelings and emotions-- positive psychology focuses on what makes people thrive and what constitutes happiness for a given individual. The idea is to identify and build upon your strengths instead of focusing on the negative or one's weaknesses.

There is a free on-line strengths inventory that you can take at ViaSurvey.org. It was a pretty long questionaire, but it pegged me pretty well!

I've listed my "top five" strengths below. Are these signature strengths for people from a Laestadian background? Or of ex-Laestadians? My suspicion is that different people have different strengths and that people from a Laestadian background will vary every bit as much as the general population. On the other hand, when I saw that my Number One strength was caution and discretion I couldn't help but wonder if this is something that got pressed upon me at an early age precisely because of my Laestadian upbringing.

I invite you to take the survey and post your "top five" strengths here, as well as discuss all aspects of psychology and Laestadianism. At the very least, we might get to know each other a little better!

My "top five" strengths:

1) Caution, prudence, and discretion
You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

2) Fairness, equity, and justice
Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.

3) Industry, diligence, and perseverance
You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you "get it out the door" in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.

4) Curiosity and interest in the world
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

5) Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.



-ttg

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Welcome, Amelia

Please join me in welcoming my new friend Amelia as a guest contributor! I promised her she need only talk when she feels like it, and I do hope she feels like it soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of Bonobo chimps at play . . .

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Slow-Rising Blog


Hello friends. My apologies for the confusion over the shutdown. I had some difficulty managing my different blog and email accounts, and then vacation got in the way, and then, well, maybe a little inertia. Okay, a lot of inertia. Why? I dunno. I guess I'm bored silly by Laestadianism and religion as topics. I find myself increasingly distressed and distracted by world events, and eager to align my daily life -- my tiny sphere of influence -- with my values.

I'm not sure where this blog fits in.

But since "community-building" is one of my core values / hobby horses / compensating behaviors (pick one), I'll keep blathering away.

What's new with you? I just finished reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, and highly recommend it. What a vivid depiction of life behind the veil. You will find it difficult to think in stereotypes about Afghanistan and Muslims after reading this.

In the past few months, I joined a group of neighbors in bringing a farmers market to our hood. It has been incredibly rewarding. Not just for the glorious variety of fruits and veggies, but the event itself. In Bill McKibbon's "Deep Economy," he cites a study showing that there are 10 times the number of conversations at farmers markets versus grocery stores. Indeed, ours is a royal jabberfest, with the cental aisle so clogged with conversations at times that snits have snitted (can you DO something about those people who just STAND there and TALK while I'm trying to buy my PARSNIPS and get OUT?! Erm, no, We. Encourage. That kind of thing.)

At last week's market, I ran into an old friend, someone who danced at our wedding and lives just blocks away, but somehow, I'm ashamed to say, fell off the face of the earth when our kids were born (hers are older). She has aged so much in 10 years that I barely recognized her! No doubt she was thinking the same thing about me.

As they say, time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

So what's up with you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pre-millenial Dispensationalism and Laestadianism

Every once in awhile someone will copy and paste a long-winded post to the XLLL Discussion group regarding the "end times", "rapture," or some other rambling of the Left Behind sort that is commonly associated with pre-millenial dispensationalism.

This makes me wonder: what was Laestadius' view? On the one hand, Lutheranisms of most sorts are typically a-millenial in their eschatological outlook. On the other hand, pietism and dispensationalism often go together.

Growing up in a part of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) that was more heavily influenced by evangelicalism, I knew many folks who believed that the rapture was imminent. I grew up reading books like Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and Paul Meier's The Third Millennium. It was interesting to live through the Y2K scare, when religious and secular fears about the future seemed to merge into one.

For me, leaving Laestadianism meant leaving rapture/end times theology behind. I could easily see how it could be the opposite for others, however.

What's your story? Has leaving Laestadianism affected how you believe about "the end of all things?"

If all these "isms" are making your head spin, I recommend this short article by Michael White: Christian Millenial Expectation Through the Centuries. He does a good job of showing just how much Christian thought on this topic has evolved over the ages, as well as describe some of the main schools of thought in relatively few words.


-ttg

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Conversion Conversation

I've long been interested in conversion and other religious experiences. As Laestadians and ex-Laeastadians born into that particular faith, perhaps conversion seems like an odd topic to bring up. However the first converts to Laestadianism seemed to have profound religious experiences that undergirded their understanding of what it meant to be Christian.

Even within a modern day Laestadian church service, I think the purpose behind some of the harsh preaching is to generate a crisis emotional state leaving one open to conversion to a deeper level of faith.

Of course, conversion is not the sole property of Laestadianism, or even conservative/evangelical Christianity. I recently read a fascinating article about Sara Miles that illustrates that even left-leaning liberals have conversion experiences:

What makes God laugh? According to a much-quoted saying, it's people making plans.

God probably had a few good giggles over Sara Miles' conversion. The San Francisco writer and former restaurant cook was a happy atheist, a probing journalist who covered wars and revolutions in Central America -- and a woman married to another woman. She certainly didn't intend to become a Christian or -- as she describes it -- "a religious nut." But early one morning she ambled into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, took Communion and her life changed. That day Miles found both God and her life's mission: feeding the hungry.

I can post about my own experiences in more detail later if anyone is interested, but for now I'll say that I had a typical conversion experience as a teenager in the ALC at a youth rally --which didn't "take." I was flying high on the emotions of it all for a few days. After the experience wore off I became slowly disillusioned over a period of many years. I was an atheist for a time (having left Laestadianism much earlier) before I had a second conversion experience that propelled me along a left-liberal "reconstructionist" (for lack of a better term) version of the faith.

I'm interested in hearing from others on this site about their own experiences with conversion. Did you have one? Did it make a difference in how you saw Laestadianism?


-ttg

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

I was rooting around on the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) web site recently, and stumbled across Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, one of the most comprehensive statements of Laestadian belief that I've seen thus far. Does anyone know if any of the other branches of Laestadianism have tried to "codify" to this extent?

I was raised in the ALC, and my immediate reaction to the document was one of surprise. I don't remember this document ever being referred to in sermons, confirmation class, or Sunday school. Who wrote it, and by whose authority is it a doctrinal statement? Gotta love unsigned documents. Did it pass through the Central Board? Did some seminarians think it was a good idea? ;)

Another thing that struck me was how it didn't mention any of the "don'ts" that so many of us were raised with. Nothing in there at all about drinking, dancing, TV, and keeping separate from "the world." In that sense there seems to be a real disconnect between the document and what is often stressed as important in real congregations.

Talk about proof-texting! I was amazed at how little the document tries to truly argue for its position. Instead it merely asserts its position, and then cites a number of Bible verses as if their application to that particular doctrine were self-evident. I found myself rolling my eyes even for doctrines I agree with! I think it goes beyond proof-texting, and into "puke-texting."

For instance, here's the section about The Baptism of the Holy Ghost and of Fire. Is this even coherent?

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said John indeed baptized with warer; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:16). John the Baptist witnessed of Jesus, saying: ...He shall baptize ye with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11,12). The Apostle Paul refers to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, as he writes: And hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:5). Likewise John writes, ...and every one that loved Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him (I John 5:1).

This divine love binds the children of God together by the Holy Spirit which is in them. This ...is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:14). All who are born of the Holy Spirit are the children of God. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16).

This love of God, which is given to the children of God, is the motivating force in God's kingdom on earth. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (II Corinthians 5:14, 15).

But this love is not understood by everyone in this world, as the Apostle John writes: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not (I John 3:1).

Jesus made it known what His own can expect: I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? l tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12:49-53).

Here is where one learns what true cross-bearing is. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). This is because the seed of the woman (Christ by His Spirit) has come to abide in the hearts of the true believers. Therefore, it follows as the Lord God spoke to the serpent, the devil, after the fall of Adam and Eve: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed... (Genesis 3:15). The Comforter of God's children, the Holy Spirit, with which they are empowered and enlightened to confess their faith and to proclaim the true doctrine of Christ, will reprove the world of the sin of unbelief, the righteousness of the world and its judgment. For they being ignorant of God 's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Romans 10:3,4). This is as Jesus says: And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (John 16:8-11). For this cause, the ...adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).

The Apostle Peter, having experienced much tribulation because of faith in Christ, was able to write: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified (l Peter 4:12-14). Also in the first part of his epistle: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: What the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (7 Peter 1:6, 7). Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5: 12). These things I have spoken unto you. that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).


HUH????


-ttg

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Watered down KJV?



I offer this post tongue in cheek, in light of the King James Onlyism that pervades many Laestadian churches. Growing up, our only options were either the King James Version or a Finnish translation. Since I don't read Finnish, I was stuck with the King James. The Finnish version some churchmembers used was a modern translation! I'd hear things like, "it's so much clearer in the Finn." Irony!

Hurrah! At long last, I've finally found an online King James Bible. What's that you say? It's easy to find the KJV online? You could not be more wrong. Not this King James Bible, the original and best:

Original 1611 King James Version

What's the difference? Well, the original KJV contains a whole lot of prefatory and commentarial matter not found in your average off-the-shelf pseudo-KJV, as well as the Apocrypha. But more relevant to me is that your garden-variety KJV has been updated, reworded, and worst of all re-spelled, so that it no longer provides any adequate hint of the original language and pronunciation of 1611.

For example? Well, your namby-pamby, watered down, fit-only-for-Evian-drinking-fundamentalists fake KJV will start out something like this:

Genesis 1

1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Whereas the REAL KJV starts out like this:

THE
FIRST BOOKE
OF MOSES,
called GENESIS

CHAP.I.
1 The creation of Heauen and Earth, 3 of the light, 6 of the firmament, 9 of the earth separated from the waters, 11 and made fruitfull, 14 of the Sunne, Moone, and Starres, 20 of fish and fowle, 24 of beasts and cattell, 26 of Man in the Image of God. 29 Also the appointment of food.

IN* (*Psal. 33.6. and 136.5. acts.14.15. and 17.24. hebr. 11.3.) the beginning God created the Heauen, and the Earth.
2 And the earth was without forme, and voyd, and darknesse [was] vpon the face of the deepe : and the Spirit of God mooued vpon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, * (*2.Cor.4.6.) Let there be light : and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good : and God diuided+ (+Hebr. betweene the light and betweene the darknesse.) the light from the darknesse.
5 And God called the light, Day, and the darknesse he called Night: + (+ Hebr. and the euening was, and the morning was &c.) and the euening and the morning were the first day.

So if you're man -- or woman -- or Christian enough to take your Bible STRAIGHT UP, without any dilutions or distortions, go read it in Hebrew manuscript. No, no! I mean, go check out this site. It's really cool.
*

*italicized portion originally posted by Vanity in the Bible and Christianity forum on ISCABBS


-ttg

Friday, April 13, 2007

Delurk Thread

Oldtoot suggested on the last thread that there are a lot of folks hanging out here who don't comment. With upwards of 130 hits a day, that must be true. What are you waiting for? No one has to know. You can remain anonymous or choose a handle. You can rant or rave, share a joke or book recommendation, or just say hi.

This blog lives on comments.

So here's the deal. Ten newbies delurk (post a comment) and I'll share a puppy photo. A really cute one.

Regulars, you may comment also, of course. But no cheating! Use your handle.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Message

Vance writes:
I just want everyone to know my reason for going to speak at the OALC on Easter. The first is obedience to God. The second is my love for all the people in the OALC.
For the last few weeks God has laid it on my heart to go to the OALC and share my testimony. I kept praying about it and hoping that the feeling would go away. It didn't. I finally obeyed and decided to go to the event center on Easter Sunday. When I begin to share my story, they shut the microphone off. I begin yelling so people could hear me and they started singing to drown me out. Needless to say, I didn't get the chance to finish. So, here is my testimony
(if anybody was there, the wording of this may be different. I knew I would only have a chance to say a few things before I was stopped):

I born, raised, and married while in the OALC. I was pretty happy most of the time but I was never truly at peace. I knew Jesus died for my sins but since we are always sinning we could never really be free. That bugged me. Another thing that bugged me was that the preachers' would say that if anything they said was offensive or wrong that they wanted to know. But, yet, earlier in the same sermon, they would say you were supposed to trust the preachers and NOT question because it is GOD'S WORD. That is a lie because only the Bible is the word of God and we can NOT follow any man on earth. Not Laestadius, not the preachers, not me, not your parents, not the older christians. Jesus Christ is the only one we can follow. When people try to direct us to Christ, we need to compare what they're saying to the word of God. (the Bible) It was also preached on Easter Sunday at OALC, that we need to follow the ones who have the understanding through the Holy Spirit. That's not what Jesus said. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6 KJV We will all stand before God on Judgement Day and we can't have excuses of why we put our trust in men. (preachers, elders, Laestadius)
Jesus died to forgive the sins of the whole world, not just the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church. When we belive Jesus is our Redeemer, we go to the cross and repent of our sinful ways. We have to get up from the cross as Jesus did and turn from the sin that died with Christ. The resurrected Jesus represents the new life or rebirth in us through the Holy Spirit. Not just the preachers are enlightened to the Truth of the Bible but anyone who desires to know God and follow Him through His son.
For anyone reading this that has fear, doubt, and confusion... Jesus says, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Matt. 7:6-8 KJV
God will never leave nor forsake you! I did not go to the service to condemn anybody but to offer hope. My hope and prayer is that I see all of you in heaven.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

This is a bittersweet day for me missing a dear friend who took her own life last fall. She loved Easter in all its sacred and secular aspects; it was her favorite holiday. Her presence is constantly missed and remarked upon, but today the sense of loss was particularly vivid, as she seemed to blossom at Easter like the lilies she loved. This morning she wasn't there to place flowers, to greet the visitors at the door, to help the children queue for their Alleluia processional, to shepherd them back to their seats, and to sneak out early to prepare the egg hunt on the front lawn.

She wasn't there, yet she was. In her family pew, it was not her shiny blond head I gazed at during the service, but a tiny black one: the infant grandson she did not live to meet. He is named Mathias, gift of God. While Mathia will grow up never knowing his grandmother, the love she gave away during her too-short life will surround him, nurture him, and buoy him up in myriad ways.

Unlike many of the people I celebrated with this morning (and perhaps you, too), I don't believe in the physical resurrection of Christ. I can't. But I treasure what the Easter story holds: a vision of death, not as an end, but as a transformation.

****

Cvow writes:
He is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia! The somber period between our
recollection of the Lord's passion and death on Good Friday is over, as we
celebrate Jesus' great victory over death and sin!

At tonight's vigil mass -- the most important holy day of the year -- our
Priest said some very compelling things that made me pause and reflect. I
don't remember all that he said, but here's the gist:

When we love again, after having had our love rejected, we share in the
resurrection. When we fail but get up again and try again, we share in the
resurrection. When we have been rejected and shunned, but respond not with
hate but continue our lives with love and peace, we share in the
resurrection.

I like this priest. It sounded like he was talking directly to me! He is a
gentle and wise man that works far too hard but never complains. (Well, OK,
he does complain about those 7 AM masses!)

Happy Easter Friends! May you have a peaceful and joy filled day thinking
about the great gift we have received.

I will be giving all of you a week of peace as we fly to AZ tomorrow to lie
in the sun and dry out. My loving wife of 34 years (She who must be obeyed)
gets really annoyed when I get on the computer when we're on vacation (since
I'm usually sneaking in a little work...) so I may not post for awhile.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Who's That in a Huivi? Part B

Another Laestadianesque photo for your contemplation (she's the spitting image of my niece!). One can assume that the cigarette was voluntary, but not much else.

Thankfully, Faye Turney and her fellow sailors are home safe. Now the spinmeisters are eagerly disagreeing as to how and why, leaving this observer convinced that there is much we won't be learning about for decades, if ever.

But on the subject of the scarf: "Take it or leave it, wear it or not, it's homely when it's tied under the chin," says the blogger (a rightwingy catlover) over at sisu.typepad.com. (With a blogname like that, I was surprised to find no references to Laestadian headgear).

Hmmm. I recollect seeing a few OALC women who tied their scarves "behind." Perhaps that is what you call a Laestadian feminist. Heh.

As I see it, a woman (or a man) may reasonably be expected to alter his/her attire (e.g., head covering/no head covering, foot covering/no foot covering) in a place of worship. Pelosi was at a mosque, so it isn't as if she was kowtowing to political neantherdals, although this was undoubtedly the message some wished to convey with that image.

Bottom line: one should do in Rome what wise Romans do, not dumb Romans. Funny how you never hear this rule applied to sexual mores.

That said, I PERSONALLY would wear a scarf in a mosque or cathedral, but not in a Laestadian church. Is that hypocritical? I don't think so. I'm not a foreigner, but an "insider" whose response carries a different message.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Who's that in a Huivi?


Arguably the most powerful woman in the world (or is it Oprah?), Nancy Pelosi covers up for the Lebanese. Nice huivi, eh? Just for the record, Pelosi is not a Laestadian but a (prochoice) Catholic.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Jesus's Last Week in Jerusalem

For some reason, my husband is regularly tapped to play Pontius Pilate for our church dramas. (I tease him that our pastor is trying to tell him something.) The sermon today mentioned a book called The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem, by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Specifically, the contrast between the two processions, with Jesus coming from the east on a donkey, and Pilate from the west with legions and pomp, the two paths colliding at the cross.

Here is an excerpt of an excerpt from belief.net that seemed relevant to the call for sacrifice mentioned by Tomte:

A common Christian understanding of Jesus's death is that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. As we reflect on the extent to which this is present in Mark, we distinguish between a broad and a more specific meaning of the word "sacrifice."

The broad meaning refers to sacrificing one's life for a cause . . . The more specific meaning of sacrifice in relation to Jesus' death speaks of it as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, a dying for the sins of the world. This understanding is absent from Mark's story of Good Friday; it is not there at all . . . To many Christians, the word "ransom" sounds like sacrificial language, for we sometimes speak of Jesus as the ransom for our sins. But it almost certainly does not have this meaning in Mark. The Greek word translated as "ransom" (lutron) is used in the Bible not in the context of payment for sin, but to refer to payment made to liberate captives (often from captivity in war) or slaves (often from debt slavery). A lutron is a means of liberation from bondage.

To say that Jesus gave "his life a ransom for many" means he gave his life as a means of liberation from bondage. The context of the passage in Mark supports this reading. The preceding verses are a critique of the domination system: the rulers of the nations lord it over their subjects, and their great ones are tyrants (10:42). "It is not so among you," Jesus says, and then uses his own path as an illustration. In contrast to the rulers of this world, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a lutron—a means of liberation—for many." And this is a path for his followers to imitate: so it shall be "among you."


Well, there's lots more. If you're interested, follow the link or read the book and let's talk about it.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Bible and Pluralism

Would you want to know if your deeply-held convictions were based on a misunderstanding of the Bible? If you were wrong, would you want to know?

Please consider this carefully.

If Jesus is the "only way," who is Jesus?
Jesus was a mystic, especially as he is depicted in John. That is, he experienced God directly, within himself. Many Christian mystics have shared this experience over the last 2,000 years. The “I am” passages may be Jesus’ poetic expressions of such a mystical experience in which his personality and ego fell away and the only reality he sensed was that of God. If this is how we understand the passages, then when Jesus said “I am the way ... no one comes to the Father, but by me”, this may mean that the way to God was to become one with God, as Jesus did. It may mean that we do not get to God through dogma or doctrine, but rather through mystical union with God, an experience shared by mystics of many religions throughout history.

Other passages in the Bible provide helpful language to express religious pluralism. Philippians 2: 5-7 is a beautiful expression of the humility of the Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” We might well ask: how could the religion of an empty man get so full of itself that it would claim to be the only true faith? Integral to having a mind of humility among ourselves is abandonment of any claim to the superiority of our religion. Our walk of faith is hindered by this hubris, and it is insulting and hurtful to others. Jesus said “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20: 26) To declare that we have the true faith compared to all others would contradict our calling as servants. It gets in the way of having a mind of humility. The highest values of our religion, the very reasons that we follow the path of the Christ, are contradicted by claiming that Christianity is superior to other faiths. (Jim Burklo)

This passes my mind check and my gut check. It allows me to embrace Christ fully and passionately, to see him everywhere, in everyone.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fundamentalism Will Never Bring Peace

Happy Spring, readers. This site has had lots of competition lately: long walks with a puppy under blossom-heavy cherry trees, baseball practices on muddy diamonds, Jonathan Raban's new novel "Surveillance," teaching our daughter to jump rope, baking rhubarb pie, designing posters for a farmer's market. Yes, life is grand, even when problems arise. On one eventful day this week, I dropped my cell phone in water, learned that our old Toyota's "oil change" had morphed into new brakes and pads and rotors, and discovered my husband's identity had been stolen to charge items online (hence the need for a rhubarb pie, with its natural mellowing agents).

These were minor glitches, fixable, nothing to put a dent in my happiness. In fact, as I looked at the fogged screen on my cell phone, I wondered if setbacks make me feel less guilty for living a charmed life, ergo happier. By pure accident of birth, I have more than I need, and others not nearly enough. How does one make sense of that? How do you make sense of that?

Here is something to chew on, from Christian Ethics Today

The core belief of Fundamentalism is the conviction that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Because of this compulsion about truth, it becomes essential that everyone else share the same beliefs. It has been this religious conviction that has brought about the greatest bloodshed in human history. This is at the heart of the Catholic-Protestant war in Ireland and the Jewish-Arab wars in the Middle East. Perhaps the ugliest expression in recent years of this mentality is the Nazi Aryan Supremacy movement which resulted in the death of millions of Jews. Even today, it seems inconceivable that the nation that produced scores of theologians, musicians, artists, and scientist, could produce such an evil movement and evil man. And the underpinnings of these atrocities were religiously based! This is Fundamentalism at its worst.

Closer to home, this egocentricity, both in the political and religious venues, is tearing churches and nations apart as it has done for centuries. There will be no peace in our hearts or in the world until we have the grace to accept differences in others. It should be humbling to realize that we are American, Iraqi, Egyptian, African, Chinese, Christian, Muslim, Jew, by the accident of birth.

Fundamentalism is insidious in that, like alcoholism, it is wrapped in denial. Those who rigidly hold to their belief and want to impose them upon others, feel gratified that they are “uncompromising” and “true to the faith.” This rigidity of belief more often than not leads to irrationalism and inconsistency. People captured in this mental prison pick and choose their beliefs and then search high and low (and in the Bible) for justification to support their beliefs regardless of logic or consistency. For example, take the “Right To Life” movement. Think of the logic of killing abortion doctors in the name of the “Right To Life.” If the issue in abortion is the right to life, what about the right to life of women and children we burned alive in Vietnam and Korea. Or for that matter, what about the right to life of our enemies or convicted criminals. Strangely enough, many who feel so strongly about protecting the lives of fetuses are perfectly willing to kill our enemies and execute criminals. This is an example of how rigid beliefs force inconsistencies.

I knew a Baptist minister who canvassed several members of his church one Sunday morning when he discovered the supply of unleavened bread was gone. When someone suggested they use regular bread, he declined on the basis that it had to be unleavened in order for the Lord’s Supper to be authentic. However, he had no problem using grape juice for every Lord’s Supper. When questioned about this, his indignant reply was that “my Lord would never put alcohol to his lips.” (The limits of credibility were sorely stretched in a later discussion on the subject with this minister about Jesus’ turning water into wine and the parable about putting new wine into old wineskins).

Fundamentalism is dangerous because it will stop at nothing to get its way. How much difference is there in the Muslim who martyrs himself and kills others for Allah and the abortion protester who blows up a clinic killing medical and other people inside. Think about the logic in the term, “fighting for peace!”

In a world of warmongering, rebellion, and bloodshed, Jesus taught peace and asked that His church continue that mission. Instead, the Church today has lost its moral leadership in peace making because of its own divisions, rigid dogmas, and territorialism. Our creeds and covenants are exclusive and designed to foster an artificial unity. Pluralism and inclusiveness are ridiculed while inerrancy and baseless convictions are embraced in the name of orthodoxy and truth.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Hawks, Doves and all others: WAKE UP! Life is about love and not hate. It is about acceptance and not rejection. It is about peace and not war. It is about unity and not division. If we can’t accept that, we are surely doomed to an Armageddon of our own making. The Prince of Peace gave us an alternative.

By C. Truett Baker

Friday, March 16, 2007

Small World

I just got my Powerbook back, so please indulge me while I blather and fulminate and make up for lost time. First, huge kiitos to Tomte for the lovely updates to the blog, to Ilmarinen for posting (and deleting as needed), and to all of you for keeping the conversation going. It will take me some time (understatement) to wade through old comments.

Have you heard about "addiction transfer"? It has been in the news recently in reference to gastric bypass patients who become, post-surgery, addicted to alcohol. Get one monkey off your back, another one hops on, so to speak. Stop eating, start drinking. Stop drinking, start clinging to dogma. Right? It would explain why there is no zeal like that of a convert . . . the zeal is steady even when the object isn't. And it could be why Laestadianism attracts some personalities more than others. I suspect that for some folks, if you took the exclusiveness (fear and scorn) out of Laestadianism, it would be like taking the nicotine out of a cigarette.

Somewhat related: Our daughter came home singing "It's a Small World" yesterday, sending me reeling back to 1970 and elementary school.

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes, it's a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

There is just one moon and one golden sun
and a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide
It's a small, small world.


Well, I learned that song in 4th grade, when Ms. Reese cast me as the American girl in her school play. I wore a red, white and blue costume and long braids, travelled "the world" with my redhead pal Larry, met Santa Lucia, sang "Konichiwa means Good Day in Japan" and learned to toss and catch sticks rythmically while sitting like a chief. The rehearsals were outrageously fun and I overcame my stage fright for our one performance, not missing a line.

Wherever you are, Ms. Reese, thank you. You could not persuade my parents to advance me a grade, but you did better: you inspired me to see strangers as potential friends, not "worldlies." (Now how do I get that dang song out of my head?!)

More or less apropos, I'd like to share an email from a reader:

"We had a big snowstorm last week and my husbands sister and brother in law were on vacation. Me and my husband went over to her house to shovel out their driveway before they got back. As I was shoveling, an African American lady came to help from across the street and asked if we needed some help and offered to let us use her snowblower. She seemed rather friendly, so I struck up a small conversation with her, asking her how long she had lived in Minnesota, etc. I told her that my family is Swedish and Finnish (I was actually born in northern Sweden)...and she told me that her husband is Finn. Out of curiousity, I asked if her husband had any ties to the Apostolic church. Sure enough . . . Marion Hallberg. This lady invited me and my 3 year old daughter in her house and we had lunch and talked about some of the interesting aspects of being around those people. She remarked that I look a lot like the OALC'ers, even though I was from the FALC... I know a lot about the OALC because it was similar to how I grew up and I attended services there a few times, out of curiosity. I was just shocked to meet someone that was so close to Marion (I have never met her, but was touched by what people said about her on this site). I have no connection to the FALC anymore, but still enjoy conversing with others who have left and those from other sects of the church. This is basically my invisible "social network", which still keeps me in touch with my culture and my upbringing."

I'm glad she shared that. Dunnit warm your cockles?

Peace all.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bred Dina Vida Vingar

To OALCer who asks what churches we attend, may I suggest that it doesn't matter? If you want to find our what makes someone tick, you need to go deeper. I appreciate the desire to find categories for people; it's natural. But it doesn't get you far. Within the OALC there are people who don't agree with what you have posted here. I just talked to an OALCer who thinks it is sinful to judge another's spiritual state and that it is "un-Christlike" to shun those who leave the OALC. (Unfortunately, this person is not a preacher.)

That said, I go to an ELCA church, when I'm not visiting an Episcopal or Congregational or something-other church, or staying home with the New York Times and a Thermos of coffee. So sue me! For all the wonderful things a church can do, it cannot stand in for one's relationship to God, and it sure can get in the way of it, if allowed.

Today our pastor gave a stirring sermon about the need to resist a culture of hedonism and to fight for social justice. She described a recent meeting with a senator who received so much hate mail from "Christians" after supporting some civil rights legislation that the senator concluded they "can't be on the right side" if God is, as Christ said, love.

We were urged today not to retreat into ourselves but to be "engaged with the world" on behalf of the poor, as Jesus was. Love in action.

Mentally, I contrasted this message with the Laestadian ethos of avoiding the world, which seems, well, so much easier. Especially in our modern age when we are constantly exposed to the suffering. If you spend even a few honest minutes thinking about how many children died today in Darfur, you are motivated to either (1) distract yourself or (2) do something -- however small.

Later in the service, to my surprise and delight, came a blast from the past: "Bred Dina Vida Vingar"(the entire first line came flooding back, in Swedish no less!). In English it is called The Holy Wings. Is this hymn also familiar to you? I sang out with joy. It was one of those "full circle" moments, where I returned to a place where I once stood, but no longer in shackles. (I'm no more Lutheran than Chinese, but boy am I happy to sing that good ol' Lutheran music!)

Today in the NYT Sunday Magazine there is an intriguing, heavy-weight article (warning: do not attempt to read it in a noisy room) about faith and science. It includes a novel theory that belief and skepticism are tandem evolutionary adaptations. In other words, our age-old disagreements have ensured our survival as a species (if not, alas, as individuals in the crosshairs, or bonfires). We need each other.

For some reason this concept cheered me. What we argue when we argue about faith is usually immaterial (pun intended). And if it is true that some of us are "programmed," as it were, to be more or less faithful, how is that different than being blue-eyed or brown, smart or simple?

The dishes still need doing.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Juletomte to the Rescue

Hi friends! Thanks to Tomte, who may in fact be Juletomte, I am back to blogging. No sooner did I kvetch about my computer loss than he mailed me a little Dell that happened to be "gathering dust" around his um, workshop. (Apparently reindeer prefer Apples?) My Powerbook is in California somewhere getting data extracted, and when it returns, my warranty will recover its replacement. After which, I pledge to be a good citizen and back up regularly. One very expensive lesson learned.

Nonetheless, I am feeling very grateful these days, to Tomte (who also gifted us with "recent comments" and the Label CLoud and the new search box) and to all you regulars and newcomers, who have made for some exciting catch-up reading. Wow. You are doing such a great job of welcoming new voices and respectfully asking and answering questions. This feels like a true community, doesn't it? Who'd a thunk?

Recently a cousin in the OALC phoned me and asked if I was "free2bme." I confessed. She had heard rumors about this site and they were personal and derogatory, to put it mildly. This saddened me. I hope that she is comforted by the fact that we are not slandering people here. I welcome anyone to post comments. I expect others' experiences to be different than mine (my cousin's family does not, for example, practice shunning). But I will continue to publicly reject a doctrine that I consider false and harmful.

And sometimes just unsavory. I was tempted to hit the delete button when I read OALCer's post with the "breast" Laestadianisms, but decided it is better to leave it all on here. Readers can weigh the tone and content of all the various messages, and draw their own conclusions.

Now, as for searching the archives, doesn't the search box work for this? I will try it and report back.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bad Week, Bright Spot

When it rains it pours. I spent last week in bed with a fever and chills and bronchitis. Then my Powerbook's hard disk died, with years of un-backed-up files, photos, and art. This event made me return to bed for several hours. I just could not cope.

A large expense is on the horizon in the form of a new computer. (And I so wanted to go to Sweden!) Meanwhile, I don't have internet access -- I'm typing this from Kinko's -- so if you don't hear from me for awhile, that's why.

A bright spot was the chance to hear Marcus Borg this morning, preaching at University Congregational. His topic was the Lord's Prayer. There is so much to share, but at 30 cents a minute, I'll limit myself to this: "Abba" in Aramaic is the intimate word for Father: like "papa." Why did Jesus teach us to ask Abba for his kingdom to come, here on earth? What does that mean? Note that the prayer doesn't ask for eternal life or for the power to believe. Borg thinks this is significant.

Okay, friends, talk away!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sweet Land

I hope everyone was able to spend Valentine's Day with their loved ones.

I'd like to heartily recommend the movie Sweet Land. Not only did I find it an excellent film and a poignant love story, but I found myself coming out of the theater thinking, "this is how Laestadian community could be, and should be."

Sweet Land is not about Laestadians. The main characters, Inge and Olaf, are immigrant farmers in 1920s rural Minnesota. However, their simple values, ties with the land, and the power of their tight knit church and community were all things that resonated with my Laestadian upbringing.

As unique individuals who remain true to their hearts over and against rigid and provincial community values, Inge and Olaf face many of the same issues that folks thinking about leaving the Laestadian community might face --including shunning and ostracising by the only community they have.

Unlike the bleakness of Laestadianism, however, this film promises hope and reconciliation. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that this movie affirms the notion that listening to one's heart --while bearing a high price-- yields a bountiful harvest in both self and neighbor.


-ttg

Unbearable Loneliness (No More)

The recent post by anonymous gave me a jolt. I often forget how painful it was to feel trapped, with seemingly no exits.

She writes:

I have so many doubts, have been having for so many years. Am living under fear and emptiness, uncertainty and confusion. Want to leave, but feel so constrained by the social issues involved in leaving. Not sure I have the mental stamina to withstand the shunning, and my family's sure grief. :( Dread the unbearable lonliness in losing my community. Yet at the same time, I am plagued by the sickening hypocrisy of bringing my innocent children up in it. Not sure where to turn anymore. I already recognize some of you here; and you would be sure to know me. I live in fear of being found out, at this time I prize my anonymnity, it is allowing me to jump in on these discussions here. Even wonder as I type this if I am commiting the 'unforgivable sin', by blaspheming The Church. Feel as if I may even go to He** for it. How do I know? How does anyone know? I pray every day that He will help me, that He will guide me. I know that He will. His love is unconditional, and forever. That is my only comfort right now.

First, let me say you don't need to worry about being outed on this blog. You can remain anonymous as long as you like. We understand the reasons why.

Most of us here have lived through that "unbearable loneliness" you speak of. It is awful. You won't have to do that, friend, because we're here. And we'll help.

Check out this wiki how. It represents my own views on how to best leave the OALC. Feel free to edit it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Let Your Light Shine

"When we let our light shine, we unconsciously give permission to others to do the same." Nelson Mandela

I can't make any claims to wisdom. Both an enthusiast and a skeptic by nature, my views define me as an apostate to all extant Christian traditions, save perhaps the Unitarians (which many do not consider Christian). Thankfully I don't expect or require any person's approval, but am free to follow my conscience and work out life in a loving, heritage-accommodating (ELCA Lutheran with lefse overtones) community, where I am challenged to pursue love and justice (compassionate interdependence) and spurn evil (unmitigated self-seeking).

The evil from which we can be saved is not doubt, which is our human birthright, but loss of relationship to one another and to love itself, that underground river so many call God but which no word can contain and no instrument measure.

Last week I watched Martin Luther King, Jr. in rare footage on a DVD called "Man of Peace in a Time of War". Incredibly powerful. Calm yet fierce, he burned with an inner fire, having seen a future not evident to others.

But we can all visit that mountaintop and see the promised land. It is here within us, each of us.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Laestadian Humor

I'm a fan of Prairie Home Companion, as every self-respecting former Laestadian otter be. (You have only so many radio hours left, use them wisely). Last weekend was the annual joke show, which inspired me to host a little levity here on extoots. Share your favorites, straight up or with a twist.

***

A Laestadian dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.
St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"Okay," the Laestadian says, "I married the only woman I ever kissed and we had 13 children and 60 grandchildren, all still in the church."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I went to June meetings every year, repented every Sunday, never drank a drop of whiskey and never watched TV."
"Terrific!" says St. Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."
"One point? Golly. How about this: I never turned on the radio in my car, even when I was alone, and have never used the internets."
"Fantastic, that's good for two points," he says.
"TWO POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
"Come on in!"

***

A guy dies and goes to St. Peter, who takes him on a tour of hell. He sees cheap hotels, chain restaurants, strip malls, and smog. Not so bad, he thinks. Then off in the distance he sees a lake of fire with souls writhing in pain and torment.

What's that? he asks St. Peter.

Oh, that's for the Laestadians, he responds. They insisted on it.

***

There's a line at the pearly gates. St. Peter tells the first one waiting, a Catholic, to go to Room 22, but to tiptoe past Room 13. He tells the second, a Presbyterian, to go to Room 39, but to tiptoe past Room 13. He tells the third, a Baptist, to go to Room 58 but to tiptoe past Room 13. The fourth person asks St. Peter "Excuse me, but why are you telling everyone to tiptoe past Room 13?

"Oh, that's where the Laestadians are," says St. Peter. "They think they're the only ones here."

***

How many Laestadians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
3. One to screw it in, one to determine if it was done as taught, and one to rebuke.

***

Some Fundamental Truths of Religion.

1. Muslims do not recognize Jews as God's Chosen.

2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as The Messiah.

3. Protestants do not recognize The Pope as their leader.

4. Laestadians do not recognize each other in theaters, bars, pool halls or stadiums.


***

Laestadian preachers used to put hard candies in their mouths during the reading. When the candies melted away, they knew the preaching had gone on long enough and it was time for the movement. That was the old days. Now they use buttons.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Please vote: Map or No Map

I like the map but it has been brought to my attention that it may prevent people from returning. Let me know your thoughts.

Inerrancy? Why?

It is not only de rigeur in Laestadian circles but in many others (Christian and Moslem alike) to claim the inerrancy of the Word. Tragically, along with this a priori comes the justified vilification of "unbelievers," heretics, women, homosexuals, science, and intellectuals, to name a few. A prescientific supposition that should have died with blood-letting and phrenology, inerrancy is kept alive by fear and ignorance, fueled by despots who need their minions (sometimes cannon fodder) unified beneath them.

If your hackles are rising, let me add: if errancy challenges your faith, your faith is misdirected.

I read recently that among American laypeople, the belief in scriptural inerrancy is declining but still much higher than it is among seminarians. I guess studying Greek and Hebrew and the origins and history of the Bible does something to one's credulity.

There are real world consequences to credulity, major and minor. Terrorists behead infidels while quoting the Koran. Korans are flushed down prison toilets by Bible-quoting grunts. Scripture-quoting idiots kill doctors and torch abortion clinics. Evangelical lawmakers cut off funds to AIDS organizations that distribute (horrors!) condoms. Creationist teachers tell their students that evolution is "just a theory."

Near Seattle recently, a school board restricted teachers from showing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" because an evangelical parent believes global warming is (1) not America's fault and (2) a sign of Jesus' imminent return.

Yah, sure. Let's speed it along, then. Make us some big bonfires. Throw on the science books.

In yesterday's paper there was an article about a newly discovered fossil in Kenya. Cool. Except that it is causing controversy among evangelicals, who claim that evolution is destroying their faith.

Well, then, let's throw that fossil on the fire, too. And Leakey while we're at it. Dagnab Darwinite.

The brilliant professor who introduced me to Darwin and evolution once remarked "most people if given a choice between security and truth will choose security." But that's a false dilemma. Our security must be in Truth, or it is false security.

Am I done ranting? Yes. Your turn.

Thanks to Theo (aka Thorough) for the Orthodox perspective on biblical inerrancy. For a lot of other perspectives, go here. Read all the way to the end . . . it's worth it. Then go ahead and flame / rejoinder / huzzah me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Faith, Alive or Dead

Time for a new thread, so you don't have to wade through the torrent of comments (172!) on the OALC topic. Thanks to all of you for keeping the discussion civil (if not always coherent, heh). Here is an excerpt from our OALCer's definition of living faith, followed by a rejoinder from MTH.
When man comes to the point when he realizes that belief in God is impossible without Him, when he sees himself to be so small in the eyes of God that he must cry out for help, when he is enlightened to the fact that he is nothing, then God gives the grace to believe. Here man is a willing recipient because he knows that, what little faith he receives, it is from God. Because the grace to believe is given to man in such a lowly state, the second one begins to deviate from this state, the battle for faith begins. Once man starts to give reason for faith or justify it in a way that he can comprehend it, living faith begins to die. If man should start to tell himself that his faith is strong, the opposite is true and his faith is dying-for it is faith based on human rationality and not God-given. It is this battle between living faith and dead faith that a true Christian must always battle and it is this battle that causes a true Christian to have such a weak, wavering faith. God does want a man to justify his belief for in doing so man takes away from God the grace He has bestowed upon us. This justification of faith leads to self-righteousness. Self-righteousness battles God for the hearts of men. Self-righteousness steals from God what is rightfully His and gives credit to man, who is an all-to-willing recipient. Faith based on self-righteousness is strong and unwavering for it rings true in the minds of men and man comprehends it. -- OALCer

So if I recognize my relative "nothingness" in relation to the majesty and glory of God and I feel him respond to me (I "believe"), do I have "living faith?" Am I as "saved" as an OALCer? Am I as welcome in heaven as you are? Do you think you (or any OALCer, preacher or other) KNOW if I or any of us truly has "living faith" or "dead faith?" I KNOW you don't know and I also KNOW (from personal observation in the OALC) that your OALC preachers speak as if they at least do. Rubbish. Arrogance. Self-righteousness, masquerading as humility. -- MTH

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Come With Us to Pajala

Okay, I can't afford it either. But that's what credit is for, and life is short, and this is an opportunity that may not come around again. When will you get to visit "the place where it all started" with others who share your heritage and the reknowned Bengt Pohjanen as tour guide? Never. Unless you come with us this summer. So far, three of us are intending to make the trip. Please consider joining us.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Laestadianism and Sami Culture


I recently had an email exchange with Nathan Muus of BÁIKI, The International Sámi Journal, and he gave me permission to post the following:
Yes my friend grew up in, and still is involved in the Firstborn . . . some of my ancestors participated in "like minded" religious movements in the 19th century in Norway. Home meetings, lay pastors, singing hymns with a one string instrument, suspicion of the Swedish/Norwegian state church and not wanting to pledge allegience to the king- the Laestedian movement was one of a number of such movements, not alone. People forget that.

However, the Laestedian movement was Sami led, and there are a number of "positives" to the movement at the time. Some of them are reflected in the Kautokeino revolt, which was Laestedian led also. Sami men were going to the city markets with a year worth of hides, crafts, goods to sell/trade. They were returning back to camp with nothing, no money, drunk..so is said. They were sold alcohol and cheated, taken advantage of. Sami languages were considered worthless, so was Finnish somewhat, by the way. The state church service was in Swedish, or Norwegian, with Latin flourishes. Laestedius deemed that Sami and Finnish were worthy languages to preach in. He deemed that simple was good, hence many people in a village dressing alike in traditional Sami clothing was ok. A simple Sami home or tent, not extravegantly adorned, was normal and was uplifted. I can understand why the movement had such a pull. The Sami traditional spiritual world had been battered for some centuries. This movement gave people an outlet.

I continue to be saddened that denial of Sami cultural heritage/identity today is still there. And I do know it is there. Yet some of the same people will often in their own ways, keep their Sami spirit and identity. I do not for a minute believe academically or otherwise, that traditional Sami spiritual beliefs and practices all were wiped out and went away. Evidence points otherwise to that. However, perhaps some people cannot reconcile the two religious worldviews well, hence continuing denial.

Popular misconceptions do not help either, ie."witches drum"; since when were those using a Sami drum a European style witch? The colonizers had many things wrong. Unfortunately some/a lot of that got transmitted into the various Lutheran church movements also. It's up to all of us to help sort it out. Blessings on your journey! Nathan

You may want to read this fascinating exploration of the impact of Laestadianism on Sami culture. (Among other things, it includes details about "Lapp Mary" that are new to me.)

Does Laestadianism keep Sami culture alive in some way? If so, how?