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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Opting Out

Recently I asked a Swedish visitor to our city if she knew of Laestadians.

"Oh, yes. Very strict." She said. She added that Laestadians had been in the news recently over dance classes in the schools. Not surprisingly, the incident happened in Pajala — a hotbed of Laestadianism.


Citing European human rights law, a family of strict Lutheran faith in northern Sweden have managed to overturn a decision by their daughters' school, which had refused to allow the three girls to skip out on "sinful" dance class during PE.

Here's the article.

It seems reasonable that the arts be a part of every child's school curriculum, and also reasonable that a child be able to opt out of an activity that conflicts with his or her religious beliefs. I remember in my small public school that Jehovah's Witnesses would leave the room during birthday parties. If my parents had known that there was dancing in gym class, I'm sure they would have required the same of me. (Square dancing as a gateway drug?). My children tell me that some students "sit out" the dancing in their gym classes.

But there's an obvious problem here. Schools are at risk of losing their arts and sports programs when children opt out of them. This was a concern of teachers in Davenport, Washington, when large OALC families began making their preferences known to the school district there. Teachers in some conservative towns are leery of "controversial" subjects such as evolution because of backlash from parents.

The family cited human rights law to make their case. Should the rights of children include freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion?

50 comments:

  1. No person, young or old, should be required to participate in any activity if it is against their religious beliefs. Period.

    The first amendment to the Constitution reads in part: The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, IMPEDING THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION,...

    If a school or arts council wants to take that one on, I want a piece of the class action suit.

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  2. Would it were that simple, CVOW. Does the free exercise of religion mean children can be denied healthcare if their parents' religion thinks medicine is a sin? Does it mean children can be denied a science education if their parents believe it is not Biblical? Where is the line drawn?

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  3. Big difference between medical care and dance. Denying a child (or anyone else) medical care is putting a human being in danger. Anytime we put someone else in danger we are breaking laws designed to protect. Refusing to dance puts nobody in danger. Note that I do not have any problems with dance, but I sure am not going to force anyone to do it for what -- the sake of art? Please. I myself have danced twice -- once at my daughter's wedding and another time when I was quite drunk. (BTW, I am also a strong supporter of the arts, but also recognize they aren't essential to life.)

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  4. This case in Sweden has been discussed also in Finland.

    Some views here:

    http://freepathways.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/dance-lesson/

    The very important point is the child's right to learn and grow to be able enjoy and create art and culture.

    Xsa

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  5. The "dance" in this case was not for art class but for a physical education class, with proficiency needed to pass an exam.

    I agree that children should be able to opt out of dance (there are other ways to demonstrate knowledge of physical fitness) but I disagree with the parents' desire to have the curricula amended to fit their needs. (Things must be different in Sweden, if this is the first time the issue has arisen! Here in the USA, kids opt out of PE classes all the time, not only for religious reasons but for a host of others, including two left feet. My son told me when dance was taught in his PE class, the teacher simply informed them it was optional, meaning most of the boys sat it out.)

    However, I am interested in the larger issue of where and by whom the line is drawn. If a child can opt out of dance class, why not biology? Who get to make these decisions?

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  6. Thank you, Free, for your very good point. Thus, we could make a question: why our ministry of education and teachers work so hard to set up the official curriculum for every stages for our schools? If we underestimate it what will be the role of true knowledge and competence in critical judgment then, in the life of our children? Do they learn to seek and exploit the real knowledge?

    Xsa

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  7. This topic brought up a memory: I was in elementary school, probably 4th grade, when we played a "game" in PE which was really a dance. I don't know how my mom found out that I had participated. I told her it was "just a game" but I was scolded severely. I still remember the shame I felt. Thinking back, I must have known it was a dance so it must have been my way of showing just a bit of defiance. Some of us start sooo young! SISU

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  8. Is this discussion really about dance and the choices to Opt out or is it the power the parents retain when they can use their religious card to control?

    And, how much control are they leaving up to their children? Do they have any personal choices in their own lives?

    What they consider opting out, is to maintain control...no matter where the child is. The parent's finger is always on the trigger. So much for living a life of free will. It has been removed in childhood, and there are folks who read this blog, who have left, who have suffered years of low self esteem or no self awareness, learning to get back what their parents removed in childhood.

    I opt out of religion in order to have control of my life. And, not have a pulpit or a few elders decide what my life can and cannot have.

    If only they (parents) understood that the very thing they are trying to do, keep the child's life free of sin, is actually putting them in Hell, not saving them from it.

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  9. This is an issue of parental control versus child's freedom from religion. Parents are allowed lots of freedom in how they choose to raise their children -- opt out of vaccines, have the child grow up with a raw food vegan diet, choose to home school their child.... choosing to opt out of a dance unit in gym class does not seem major compared to these other big decisions.

    Parental choice versus childs freedom from religion comes into play when parents make choices that would prevent a child from reaching adulthood and making their own choices. While I personally think that kids should participate in this unit, I would rather parents opt out of this and continue to enroll their child in public school where they will get an education and are exposed to other trustworthy adults than see the parents removing them from school and "educating" them at home.

    Caterpillar

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  10. Great discussion! Please read Xsa's thoughtful blog post on the subject, if you missed the earlier link.

    Homeschooling is definitely on the rise in the USA, and many zealots use their religion as an excuse to isolate their children not only from other ideas and people, but from the watchful eye of adults who can spot abuse and provide counsel.

    I agree with Caterpillar that it is better to make accommodations where possible to keep children enrolled in public school. However, as someone who was denied a musical education as a child, I'm still angry about the fact that my parents had the power to deny me that. Can someone tell me what is dangerous or sinful about a flute?

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  11. Nothing is dangerous or sinful about a flute, Free, except that it creates beautiful music which just might lure your soul away from the beloved church. (I joke but this is actually possible, I've not experienced many beautiful or enlightened moments at the OALC, just saying...)
    I think the dancing discussion is a joke. It's what, a 5 day section of PE? For 50 minutes per day? I participated but there were several classmates who were excused--and not necessarily because it was "sinful" but because they "didn't feel like it," which brings into play the parental and religious control. I have seen kids pull the religion card many, many, many times as an excuse for something they don't feel like doing or are too lazy, stubborn, obstinate to do. When "Freedom of Religion" was put into play they didn't take into effect the Laestadians.
    And can I add that for such a humble group of people they sure do put themselves high up on a pedestal.

    24

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  12. As Free is still angry that she was denied a musical education, I am still angry that I wasn't allowed to dance. I still struggle today, even after professional lessons, to loosen up enough to enjoy myself. The others in the classes, even with two left feet, had a much easier time of it. Not being able to participate in dancing, or even rhythmic movement as a child affected my self image in a very negative way, being female. As a female whose physical movements were so restricted, I found in adulthood that this was what caused too much worry or awareness of my every single step, arm raise, hair flip, stretch, it's disgusting. In a way, I feel that if I were allowed to dance, sway, bop my head, I would not have experienced the hypersensitivity that still has not left me.
    My little girl was playing with another little girl who is being raised in the church. My girl asked the other if she wanted to go dance in the rain. The little girl froze and I recognized how I must have looked to outsiders, and I felt such a rush of pity and sadness. (The girl is only about 4, talk about control!) So I interfered and suggested that they could run, jump, swing each other in a circle, and splash. All smiles, they rushed outside. The other mom looked at me with a grateful moisture in her eyes and got up quickly to get more coffee. I felt so bad. So yeah, still pissed.
    -Pebbles

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  13. It is about control and the constraints it does put upon the child and how they see, move and feel their own bodies, as Pebbles says.

    How it is uncomfortable to be moving freely with your very own body. They (adults who see sin everywhere) take out the innocence of so much very harmless things, while making the harmful harmless. Like mind control is okay, controlling others okay....etc.

    If music could be just music and movement just movement minus the implications of it leading up to something big and disgusting (sex)....Which isn't about sex, but more insinuating abuse. For sex with love is not something 'bad'...as we were taught. Imagine, how uptight and awkward we are about something so natural and loving....due to the negative vibes we received about it from an early age.

    Honestly, what they put the fear of God and hell into us about, is so backwards, compared to the reality of what is going on. Like only 'bad' things happen outside of church and the members.

    Even the mindset a child is put into when simple dance is 'bad'.
    How upside down and backwards life appears.

    And, the same parents who get up in arms about dance, do nothing when sexual abuse appears within the family.

    It is all the same side of the card they always play....we are right and they are wrong!

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  14. Thank you Beth for you wise words giving us analytic understanding as well. I do agree that parents make a big damaging mistake when they prohibit dancing the harmless enjoy and happiness of the body of the child's own, rhytm and music. They all are valuable gifts of the life.

    Xsa

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  15. This post really hit close to me. As I child I was forced to opt out of many things. Plays, puppet shows, movies, DARE, sex education, dancing. All of these seem harmless in my adult mind and I certainly think its fine for a middle schooler to learn the dangers of drugs and alcohol at a young age, and a 9th grader to approprately learn about her body! It's not as if my parents taught me those things at home! As for the arts things I missed... It was all completely innocent stuff. It confuses me to this day. I was old enough and responsible enough to do my fair share plus more at home and help with younger siblings whenever they wanted but I wasn't mature or responsible to do typical innocent things in school.

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  16. That is because they were not considered innocent. They were gateways on the slippery slope to hell.

    It IS sad. However, I understand where they are coming from, and on many levels I appreciate the upbringing I had.

    SISU

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  17. SISU, I'd love to hear more on what you appreciate about your upbringing. In my attempt to remain positive, I am thankful that I was raised well and armed with the tools and skills necessary to now lead a healthy and successful life. There are most certainly things I would do differently were I to choose to raise children, but overall I had a happy childhood, with no abuse, and emerged with a good head on my shoulders. They must've done something right :)

    24

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    Replies
    1. 24, Mia beat me to the punch! I agree with her comments (below) and would add that I also had a happy childhood and didn't feel like an outcast until I was in my teens. I have often wondered how many others also felt outside the "in" group. I suspect the percentage was fairly high.

      My parents sent us mixed messages, for sure. They stressed education (I couldn't skip a day of school!) and yet expected girls to get married and have a houseful of children. I chose the former and skipped the latter.

      Hard work was an important virtue as well as being responsible for one's own welfare, but my mother also emphasized compassion for the less-fortunate. I have carried those lessons with me throughout my life.

      SISU

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  18. I think in some ways, my upbringing made it easier for me to rebel, strange as that sounds. By being asked not to care about what worldly people think about our life choices, I got used to the uncomfortable feeling of not doing what the rest of the crowd was doing. When I left the church, that same quality stood me well in the onslaught of well-meaning people who wanted to convince me to return. Unintended outcomes can backfire if you're not careful. I appreciate learning that there is a clear distinction between right and wrong, and learning it's okay to draw the line and take a stand for what I believe. I like the hard work ethics I was raised with, and the matter-of-fact lessons I learned about living within your means and being grateful for what you have.

    mia

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  19. Mia and Sisu you both are on to something. I felt that the very nature of being raised to stand out and to go against the grain, was the same strength I eventually used to go against my family when abuse became present in my reality.

    I felt that I had almost been trained for what was to come.

    It seemed odd, that I now used what my mother drilled into me, against her, if you will.

    What was preached were high morals and high values, while in the closet was piled with immoral and valueless items. I dragged out those items, which were our reality, and used my standing out and apart to find a healthier way to live.

    I was raised to stand out, but now am using it to stand against abuse.

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  20. As for anyone questioning if the parents should have the right to remove their child from dance in PE, who would you rather have make that decision? The government?? Maybe we should turn over the few remaining 'freedoms' we have left? Our freedoms are disappearing everyday and perhaps this would be another good one to turn over as well.

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    1. Anon 08:44-

      How about the child themselves? Isn't that the point of parenting? To guide your children into being independent with knowledge on how to make good choices into their adult lives? Of course parents should have the right to make that choice for their kids, as they should have the right to contest anything that they think is objectionable. When you say "our" freedoms are disappearing, did you mean that you don't want to turn over the power and control your religion exerts over the helpless? Sorry, I was making an assumption.
      -Pebbles

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  21. I think I'd worry more about drugs, alcohol, etc. than some kids who want to opt out of dancing in PE. I let my kids do it, but I always thought it was a dumb section regardless.
    ~FALCon

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  22. Growing our school never had dance, mostly thanks to FALC and LLC influence I think. But on the same note, when classes watched movies in school, my parents gave us the option to opt out if we felt uncomfortable. I took the option to leave until junior high school and then started watching them with everyone else. As a young child though, it was empowering to say, I can't watch this, its against my religion.

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  23. We never got to enjoy school sports, social activities, proms and such as life centered around blue collar labor, church and social obligations. It was not until later that I realized that the school curriculum is designed to take the best parts of society & introduce them to children as part of their growing process. In contrast Laestadian upbringings seem to be almost designed to raise up unthinking zombies whose lives evolve around the local Apostolic Lutheran/Laestadian church. If the topic is 'opting out' then the easiest approach is to 'opt out' of Laestadianism. Old AP

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    1. Old AP
      I'm sorry that you feel like you were raised wrong and "like an unthinking zombie" I am a current young adult that believes that school social activities, dances, movies, tv and music are wrong and unforgiven, will send me to hell. Will participating in such activities send you to hell? I have no idea! Faith is deeply personal and I just happen to have the luck to be able to be with people who believe as I do. No minister has ever told me I am going to hell because I have sinned. Ever. Nor have I been told that I absolutely may not participate in something. Each dance, each time the class watched a movie, I made the personal decision not to join in. Do people really believe that the LLC is oppressive and restrictive?
      Young LLC

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    2. Young LLC,
      Yes, I do believe that the LLC is repressive and restrictive, but if you are happy there and choose to continue believing that way, that is your personal choice to do so. You believe they're wrong, so you don't do them. Fine. Whatev.

      But I disagree with one statement you made: "I just happen to have the luck to be able to be with people who believe as I do". Luck has nothing to do with the fact that you are with people who believe as you do. These beliefs didn't just circle around you like a flock of butterflies and decide to settle in your vicinity by random chance; you believe that way because you were taught/indoctrinated that way BY the people around you, who went through the same experience themselves as children. It's because you have been taught this way, and because of that teaching, you make the choices to do what you think is "right".
      mia

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    3. No Mia, as a child, was I "brainwashed"? maybe. But it would be considered brainwashing and indoctrination no matter he subject. The parent's job is to teach their child in the way they see fit. As said child grows into a teen and young adult they make their own decisions about faith, life and the way things are. i have not been indoctrinated into a cult or anything similar, though I can see why it appears as such. Do I question my faith? Yes, often. It's human nature to question and doubt and that has never been supressed.

      Perhaps we are talking about two different LLC's perhaps there is another Laestadian Lutheran Church out there that is more radicalized. or perhaps Ex Members are all from the distant past when things were different and before the split 40 years ago.

      Perhaps I also am wrong to be on here, as it appears to be a site for Ex ALC members, which I see as a deeply fundamentalist church that actually would consider me and the LLC heretics. People seem to forget this.
      Young LLC

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    4. Young LLC, this site is for discussion on "Laestadianism", which includes all of the branches including LLC, OALC, ALC, IALC and FALC. Old AP is an ex-OALC member, which is perhaps where some of the confusion comes in.

      Most religious parents, not just Laestadians, indoctrinate their children -- which is probably human nature. There IS another way, however; you can teach your children values and beliefs while at the same time teach them to be critical thinkers (something most Laestadians view as inherently evil since it usually eviscerates faith (belief without evidence)).

      Ask yourself, why do you believe in that laundry list of sins? Because the ministers or your parents say so? Because it says so in the Bible? (Hint: it doesn't). Because it truly feels "wrong" for you? Some people truly do feel that way, and that's ok ... others realize that these "sins" are an arbitrary list made up (and frequently changed) by Men, and choose instead to fully experience this one life we're given.

      Delete
    5. There is no "laundry list of sins" simply decisions one makes throughout life (or made by parents if you are a child) to help a life of faith. I purposely don't make a list of sins, because faith is not a work, it's life.
      No the bible doesn't specfically say "movies are sin" nor "rock music is a sin" but watching movies and rocking out doesn't make me happy, it actually makes me kind of miserable so I (not my parents or a minister) have decided to cut them out of my life for my own good and my own mental state. Same goes with many other things.
      I simply don't understand why people have to get so bitter about this religion. So catholocism isn't indoctrination? with having to do certain things to get to heaven? It makes me sad to see such anger here, such self-rightousness, but i undestand the cause behind it. to the human mind faith makes NO SENSE. that's why it's called "faith"
      Young LLC

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    6. Young LLC, if you don't like movies or music, that's certainly ok. To each their own.

      However, how would you react if someone from your church WAS partaking in those activities? Would you shun them? Would you rebuke them? Many people here are "bitter" because they've been treated badly by their Laestadian church of origin for not toeing the official church line like you do. Not to mention, if you've read this site at all you'll recognize there's a significant amount of abuse that gets swept under the rug (or, more accurately, swept away by the "Sea of Grace"). So perhaps you'll excuse a little of their "self-righteous" anger.

      Delete
    7. Young LLC-
      Stumbling across this site can at first be a little appalling, shocking, sickening, or simply fuel something in you that says "What? How can people say that? That was not my experience at all!" At least, I experienced all of that... When you truly read what people have to say about a church you are comfortable in, happy with, a lifestyle you find suitable and very happy, it can be a little jarring. I would like to encourage you to listen, some do have legitimate concerns (such as above mentioned abuse) and I feel that it is good for those of us within Laestadianism to be aware of these issues. It is also good to keep up with current publications within the LLC-have some of them been addressed? Are they being addressed? Are people talking about them and are things changing? How can you change to be more understanding to peoples individual choices? This can be done with you still remain that firm believer on the narrow walkway to heaven. Be aware of what people write, listen-Are they simply bitter, or do they have specific desired changes? Listen to those who express need for changes and think, could I make these changes and still remain confident in my path as a believer? If you could, then good will be done for all.

      I want to say as a current LLCer myself, I, as you, did not grow up under the same impressions as many on this site. I did not find that 'list of sins'. I do not believe you will be going to hell for watching one movie, or listening to one 'wordly' song, or dancing as a way of expressing feelings and releasing energies, that is not what I was taught. But I do find that there is reason for caution against them. Many contain powerful and icky images which can easily lead someone into a lifestyle in which they are not truly happy. Not all, but many. Often they leave me with a yucky feeling or a bad mood, and in the end I find I am truly happier without them. Some may argue that this is because that is what I have been trained to feel....but I do not find that to be the case. I chose to fall into this world of music and movies for quite some time and found that to be my most angry and depressed stage of my life. If it was just training, shouldn't I have been able to un-train, eventually? I am glad I was able to realize the source of this negative energy in my life, and once I cleared them back out I have been a much happier person.

      Again, I encourage you to listen, and to talk to people in all walks. Those who left feeling bitter, and those who left peacefully, and those remaining as happy believers. Listen, and make the choice that makes you truly happy, I believe your true happiness will lead you to the right choice. No forced smiles or hidden anguish, but moments and days, even years, of pure happiness.

      Delete
    8. JAT, what a kind, thoughtful response. It is so good to hear a Laestadian encourage someone to talk to people in all walks, and to make the choice that makes them happy. Beautiful.

      As for music and movies, it sounds like you are discerning about what you feed your brain, as am I and many others, regardless of their religion. I don't have a quibble with preachers warning people about the ill effects of media. There is a lot of trash out there, and available 24/7 on the internet, which gives us parents a huge responsibility in how we teach our kids to be discerning.

      What is the difference in these messages: "Love and truth are within you, pay attention, practice compassion always. There's a lot of suffering out there that makes people do stupid things to themselves and each other. Trust your instincts and they won't lead you astray."

      Versus: "The Evil One is always present, seeking whom he may devour. Succumb not to the flesh or your sinful desires, nor lean unto your own understanding, but rely on the preachers and the precious living Christianity." (This is what I remember from OALC days.)

      Which of those two messages will inspire children to love more than fear? Which will help them be open and compassionate towards others?


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    9. Free- you pose an interesting question. I agree that the way the message is worded or presented makes a huge difference, and I often find that it is the defining line between those who stay, and those who leave. As I said, I find my experience to be different from many of the ones on here. Although I heard similar messages, I seem to have been given a more extensive understanding somewhere in my life,at home, perhaps, so that when I hear "The Evil One is always present..." It is not like I am being told about the boogeyman; I do not become so frightened that I cannot move or think, but I know to be aware of Him, and to guard against Him. To listen to my inner being, my conscience, in determining what is right and wrong. To know that the wrong is always a choice.... I know that good, love, truth, are with in me, and I do not have to participate in the evil of this world if it does not make me happy. It is like being told the majority of crimes against women occur within parking ramps late at night. I am aware it really could happen any time, this is just 'majority', but it is not that I refuse to enter a parking ramp, rather I will take precautions. Perhaps I will be more aware of my surroundings, perhaps I will have my phone ready, 911 dialed in, perhaps I will pack a can of pepper spray in my purse. It is GOOD I have been told to be aware of this danger-the 'evil one' may really be lurking just behind that car parked next to mine. The 'evil one' may really be lurking in the lyrics of that song, causing you to do something you wouldn't normally do...
      (continued...)

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    10. It is only natural for me to avoid those late night parking ramps all alone, whenever possible, knowing that there is such a danger for me.

      When I hear "lean not unto your own understanding" I do not hear, 'rely on everything the preachers tell me and follow it blindly', but rather that it is good to pay attention to how others react, because if others can see the wrong in it, it may actually be wrong. For example: If I am telling someone about a friend who did something embarrassing, lets say she walked into a door (for lack of an imaginative brain), and I found it to be rather funny-the way she fell, the look on her face, and here I am describing it in great detail to a large crowd. Perhaps someone else would realize that it really was not my place to tell the story, the friend is embarrassed and would rather not have everyone know, it is good of me to pay attention to that, because I would be in the wrong in sharing this story. It was not compassionate of me to disregard her embarrassment. Or to put it into more "Laestadian" terms, perhaps I am listening to a song that I have always thought completely harmless, and my kids love to jump around and spend some energy when it comes on, harmless silliness, but I haven't ever stopped to listen to the words, and it actually makes some obscure reference to sex (maybe I did listen to the words but didn't even realize what it meant-I find I am often naïve when it comes to this stuff), obviously it would be good for me to pay attention to how others are reacting to this song, so that I can determine if it really is appropriate for myself and my children. I actually had this occur in a non-Laestadian family I babysat for. The mother was allowing her young children to listen to a rap song filled with terrible references, because she had only listened to the beat, and had not stopped to try figure out what the words were (words in a song can be hard to understand, sometimes). Once I asked her if she had listened to the words, and requested that she did, she thanked me profusely for pointing it out to her.
      I can remember when Harry Potter came out and I received the first book for Christmas. There had been some talk in many 'Christian communities' not just Laestadianism, that it perhaps was not appropriate for a Christian girl because it was about witches and wizards, so my mom read it first so that she could determine if she felt it was appropriate for her young daughter to read. It was good she paid attention to what others were saying, even though she determined it was perfectly harmless, and I, naturally, fell in love with the whole series. So, in this way I learned you don't need to always follow what others say...
      It is possible, within Laestadian communities, to create the same positive messages you strived for in your own home when raising your children. Laestadianism, in my experience, is not negative and fear based, but has helped me become a positive, strong individual.

      Delete
    11. It makes my heart glad to hear about your positive experiences in Laestadianism, JAT. I confess that my experiences and research have led me to consider it primarily fear-based, although I think all wisdom traditions have extraordinary value in passing on life skills to the next generation, skills that are adapted to the particular challenges of that place and time. For Laestadians, it was 20th century Lapland, and then the immigrant experience as second-class citizens in America.

      Religious stories can also be more or less effective in promoting self-knowledge, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion -- when the teacher's "power of love" is greater than the "love of power." As you demonstrate, the metaphor of the Devil can be used or abused, to generate useful caution or provoke needless paranoia. I'm reminded of the woman who told me her Sami grandmother would caution her about the underground beings (uldas) in the forest. She was warned to step lightly and whisper, so they wouldn't get upset and snatch at her feet. We might laugh, having never been taught about these beings (although Laestadius was, and they appear in his writings), but they served as were vivid reminders to respect nature and keep alert. Depending on the storyteller, these stories could lead to terror, or (as they did for my friend) a delightful memory of her grandma's wisdom and of Sami luondo, or way of being, that predated our scientific concepts of ecological balance.

      Sorry to prattle on. Thanks for contributing to the discussion here. I am glad to have my ideas about the practice of Laestadianism challenged, and I sincerely hope for more of the same.

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  24. Off-topic, but thought I'd bring it to the community's attention. Ed Suominen is profiled in this piece on alternet.org.

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  25. Young LLC said, "No minister has ever told me I am going to hell because I have sinned. Ever. Nor have I been told that I absolutely may not participate in something. Each dance, each time the class watched a movie, I made the personal decision not to join in. Do people really believe that the LLC is oppressive and restrictive?" Young LLC-Each person's experience within the domain of Laestadianism is personal & each person's experience is greatly affected by their parents, their congregation, peers & their ministers as well as the time period in which they grew up in. I have no doubt that in general most Laestadian/Apostolic Lutheran churches are much more moderate than what they were 50 years ago. So you may have grown up in what I would call a 'moderate' home whereas my experience was a 'fire and brimstone' upbringing. Some who grow up in Laestadianism have little to no aspiration to leave the fold and their life goals are within the normal range of expectations within their church peer group. Generally, if one accepts the religious & social status quo without too many questions one will do fine within Laestadianism. Unfortunately I did not fit that mold & my innate goals were to become something far beyond what was considered the 'norm' for Lastadians. However as a side note, most of what I would call 'progress' has been from people who DID QUESTIONS the status quo. I still remember my grandmother believing that by spiking her blood and 'bleeding' herself that she would remove that 'bad blood' from her system. That is nothing but quack medicine. Yet there were many Laestadians who actually believed that kind of malarkey. Those people were the same bunch who taught that God was going to kill people for not confessing their sins, disobedience, curling their hair etc... So if your happy with your church, friends and peers and you have no 'questions' about your beliefs then I am happy for you. In my case I would tend to agree with Albert Einstein when he said, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Old AP

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    1. Old AP
      You must be from the "old era" as I call it. Before the split. I have seen no sign of fire and brimstone or condemnation. As I said, I have never heard "Watching a movie will send you straight to hell" or anything similar. Yes it is preached against because it is understood that the moving picture is immensely powerful and one can get too wrapped up in it. (I am using movies just as an example here, this applies to the entire "list of sins" that we supposedly have)

      Young LLC

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    2. Alrighty... To answer the question posed by FreeThinker. I don't believe that to shun a person for something they have done wrong is ok. It is judgemental to think that a person is going to hell because they have sinned. We ALL sin. anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.
      JAT, I agree with your statements about what movies and music do to a person 100%. I do not believe I have said otherwise(?) It appears we have the same thoughts on many things.
      Young LLC

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    3. That's good to hear, Young LLC. It appears you and JAT have a more-or-less healthy view on things.

      Frankly, I grew up the same as you (except in the FALC); I had nothing but positive experiences. But I've also come to realize not everyone has had those same experiences, in fact some have had a profoundly negative experience, and it's disingenuous not to recognize it or try to excuse it.

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    4. FreeThinker-
      I agree, to try excuse someone's negative experience, or to not recognize it is not 'right'. But, it does not mean the core teachings of the church are wrong. To me, it says there is room for major correction in the way we look at things, and the way we interact with people, but that I can still believe wholeheartedly in the forgiveness of sins and the preachings of the church. To 'shun' a family member or friend is a reaction of the members, not a teaching of the church. In my eyes, anyways.

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  26. I have been reading through all of the comments from the people still in the Laestadian churches. It is good that you feel good and comfortable in your church.
    I left because Jesus said to Love God above all else and to love thy neighbor as thyself. Does the Apostolic Churches preach this. I know that my relatives do not offer me God's Peace any longer. Is that the Love, Jesus speaks of? I could easily wear my scarf on my head, not watch TV, and not dance. Trying to follow the commandment of loving all people, truely loving all people, is the most difficult thing to do. That is what Jesus wants.

    God's Peace.

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    1. I always wondered about that, why wouldn't we wish God's Peace to everyone. It was always awkward when there were relatives from other laestadian branches (heretics...do they still call them that?)
      Young LLC, JAT...you keep talking about one movie or one song not sending you to hell. Correct me if I am wrong, but it used to be taught that even if something specific like a song wasn't sinful, if the church taught that we shouldn't listen to "worldly songs" that going against that church teaching was a sin, and unforgiven sin led to damnation. So if a person believed that there was nothing wrong with listening to rock, or country, or blues, or jazz, and that like in anything else, you let your conscience be your guide as far as appropriateness of particular songs, and chose to listen to worldly music, despite the church teaching that one shouldn't...the church no longer considers that a sin?
      I'll give you my take...God sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world...all the world. Jesus while here, established a Church...and humans in their sinfulness have fought and argued about who is really saved ever since....and the devil celebrates. Every time my parents (who are good, loving people) do not greet someone of their relatives with God's Peace, or buys into the lie that the OLC or the OALC or the XYZ etc. ad nauseum are not saved because they are "unbelievers" (and what is it that they don't believe in..that the LLC is the one true church?)Or family members refusing to go to other family member's weddings because they left the church and became a mainline Protestant or a Catholic...The Devil smiles...because we foolish, prideful humans are playing into his hands.
      "unbeliever"

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    2. This, this is why I have been so hesitant to do a lot of talking when it comes down to exactly how I believe. For me to explain each and every point in how I believe I feel is a little petty, a little pointless. It will not change your mind, nor is it likely to make you look at the church any differently. I do not have the 'official position'. I only have the way I have grown to believe and to see things. I recognize that my opinions, because of my life circumstances, may differ a little from others around me. BUT, to respond....

      First to Annon from 9/19. I completely agree. Loving ALL people is truly a difficult thing to strive for, but a major message of the bible. It has been a particularly hard one for me, as I was not a 'popular' child. I got picked on and felt left out often. It has been hard for me to learn to forgive the girls who picked on me, to come to the point where I can pray for the best for them. Where I can occasionally converse with them if I bump into them at church and truly wish them the best instead of feeling that hatred and hoping they experience some sort of suffering. Strangers come a little easier. This includes people who are not from my church, people who are gay or lesbian or Iraqi or in some other way different from me. Or to take an example from today, the man on the corner with his family, telling the world he has no job, begging for help for his wife and his kids. Do I feel this love is talked about and taught in my church by the ministers? yes. I also feel many members fail in this more than I'd like, but also, that this love really comes from the way we act around our children, both in and outside of the home. That it gets passed on, for the most part, from parent to child, parent to child, and all I can do is speak against it in hopes my friends and acquaintances can learn, and teach my children of this love. I can, and feel comfortable, remaining in my church, and also striving to love all people as Jesus did. As far as greeting non-church goers with Gods Peace, I will admit I do not. This is not because I do not WISH them the peace of God, but rather I see this greeting as a recognition that someone has the holy spirit, and that it is really the holy spirits within us conversing, so to speak. As I'm sure many know, I do not believe you receive the holy spirit until you have had your sins forgiven by and through someone who already holds this holy spirit-a believer, someone in the church, and that you can lose it to unbelief. That being said, I do have a friend who has left the church in her quest for the peace of God, and after a long conversation with her about her quest and so forth, I will now often tell her at the end of our conversations that I wish her the peace of God, or often, more simply, Gods Peace. I have been admonished by one person for saying this to her, and after explaining why I do, this person has admitted that it is not WRONG for me to say it, but that they, personally, still wouldn't.

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    3. Next, to reply to "unbeliever". You ask if the church considers listening to country music "still a sin" (as an example), because it is cautioned against. I say it never has. We have been told to avoid it because it leads to sin, not because it is sin in and of itself. Interestingly, my husband is a listener of country music, and is an accepted member of the LLC. Granted, the majority do not know he listens to this type of music (and its really none of their business), but those who matter (to him) do. His friends, his family, his wife (me). During our dating years, when he first told me about it, and began to encourage me to listen to 'his songs' to help me understand where he is coming from, I wondered if I could marry him. Could I really marry a man who listened to songs about drinking? About breakups and affairs and divorce? The words offended me. Could I take his faith at value? Could I believe he was truly following the same beliefs as I, when he was so comfortable listening to these songs, and I was not? We discussed, and argued, and rationalized at length about it. In the end, I realized, he often cannot sing the words to the songs, no matter how many times he hears them. That the words of the songs are not a reflection of his own personal beliefs, and do not harm his faith life in any way. HOWEVER, I do feel they harm mine. As mentioned about movies above, the songs often make me feel angry, selfish, and depressed. The subject matter in the songs make me uncomfortable. So, while my husband listens to this music in his car, on his drives to and from work, in moments he catches alone, he respects my feelings and this music is not turned on while I am with him. I am sure there would be people within the church who would not consider my husband a 'believer'. We are not worried about them. I know my husband, and he knows himself, and we are comfortable with his choices.

      As far as your 'take' on church, perhaps you are right, perhaps not. I feel that as long as you have a belief in God, you have a belief that SOMEONE is going to hell. Is it really worse to 'judge' 99 people to hell, than one? Human nature is to judge based on our beliefs. I believe you will go to hell, unless you have received the holy spirit through another 'believer' and believe your sins forgiven through Christ. Another person may believe that you are going to hell only if you murder someone and don't feel sorry about it. Either way, we are both judging. Maybe its not our job, but my guess is that even you judge SOMEONE as currently going to hell if they died right now.

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    4. JAT,
      I think you my question, perhaps the wording was poor. Before I left, the understanding in the Church was that if the Church said we were to "avoid" certain things, even though those things were not necessarily sinful, the act of doing them against the church teaching to "avoid" them was because you were going against the "spirit".
      I challenge you to ask your local minister what LLC teaching is about that.
      "I am sure there would be people within the church who would not consider my husband a 'believer'. We are not worried about them. I know my husband, and he knows himself, and we are comfortable with his choices." The question is, would the LLC board, as the guiding body of the Church see him as a believer if he is unrepentant?
      "unbeliever"

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    5. OOPS, I was in a hurry. My first sentence should read: "I think you misunderstand my question, perhaps the wording was poor."
      "unbeliever"

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    6. Unbeliever-
      Since the LLC board, nor the ministers know about my husbands country music listening, I cannot say for sure what would happen. But, based on my own personal experiences, and those of my friends whom have left and I have talked to about their experiences, I can only offer my best guess. I believe that if it was heard about he would, or perhaps even we, would be invited for a sauna or a visit of some sort and it would politely be brought up. Being seen as not appropriately repentant we would likely be invited to attend a more group-oriented 'visit' about the matter. There would likely be 'concern' over the walk of faith. One or two may even go so far as to say they are not sure we 'are in the right spirit'. There would be much talk about the fruits of faith/the fruits of the spirit, and not offending thy brother. BUT, none of the board members would quit greeting us at church, nor would anyone tell us we cannot consider ourselves members of the church. The 'concern' would be expressed, maybe even brought up off and on throughout our lives, but again, I say we are not concerned about that. We know where his spirit rests, and it is not harmed by this choice of music (mostly, in my mind, because he somehow never seems to hear the words, which to me is what makes the music offensive). Like I said, its just my best guess, and will probably never change your opinion of the church. If it ever does come up, I will let you know, until then that's the best I can do in answering your question.

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    7. JAT,
      perhaps things have changed in recent years.
      However, there rests in my mind the time my father voiced a doubt based on something his father said to him (his father was in one of the "Heretics") His father asked him "what if we both are wrong?"
      My dad made the fundamental error of telling someone that this raised doubts for him. In a congregational meeting (are you old enough to remember them?)he was accused of being in a wrong spirit..just because he questioned whether or not his own father was saved or not. He was "bound" by the congregation when he wouldn't admit to the "wrong spirit". People crying, begging him to repent his wrong spirit,getting angry, refusing to greet him with God's Peace.If he wouldn't repent, he would be considered an unbeliever.
      a wee small voice inside me said this is wrong...but gosh, when your salvation is at stake, you shut up and play the game....
      until you can't. because the Truth, God's Truth is bigger, and not based on fear.

      "unbeliever"

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