Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Helena's Story

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

****

3 comments:

  1. Helena's story is really a sad commentary on modern Laestadianism. The Apostolic Lutheran type churches are sometimes referred to as the 'ALC' Church...bit a better acronym might be the 'OCD' Church as in 'Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder'. About 1-2% of the general populace suffers from an OCD-a quick Google search will show more information about this medical disorder. Research shows that an OCD comes from an over active area of the brain that regulates guilt and that it is often a result of ABUSE. There are many variants of OCD but a hallmark of OCD is intrusive (obsessive and unwanted) thoughts and a compulsion to mitigate or get rid of them. One variant of OCD is where a person has constant guilt and a need to confess to others....sound familiar? Years ago, I noted how each congregation always seemed to have at least one guilt ridden person who always felt compelled to confess their evilness and sins. It was interesting how congregants often referred to that person as 'tender-hearted'. I learned later on that the poor soul who always felt guilty was more likely battling an OCD versus any real sin that they had committed. The truth is that many of those who preach guilt, feel guilt or are convinced that they are guilty of something within Laestadian realms are often suffering from an OCD. Helena is basically dealing with a church group whose obsession with sin and guilt borders on mental illness. She would do herself and her family a favor by searching out and finding a church family that actually believes in Jesus' words of faith and live a life of freedom. Old AP

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  2. Bach Festival 2017 is being held in Leipzig, Germany at the moment. This year they invited some Finnish performers and choirs to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish independence.
    J. S. Bach, the greatest musician thru ages, was known as Thomaskantor in the church named after apostle Thomas, Thomaskirche.
    So, the Helsinki Cathedral Boys Choir, Cantores Minores, held its concert in this very chuch of Bach. That performance was an extrardinary great success. The audience stood up and started to give its applause to these 60 boys standing there in front of the church. The choir was still standing there, but suddendly they started to sing again, a special piece of music, the Finlandia Hymn of Jean Sibelius - which is known by all choir conductors around the world.

    The audience, still standing there, started to listen somewhat surprising. Then, people fell in tears, started to hug and kiss each other. Die Stimmung, the feeling, was unbelievable.

    People crying and kissing each other, what does it mean?

    Martin Luther says, that music is the greatest gift if God after Gospel, because it creates good and peaceful mind. That is christian, because being a child of God, the one does not anything worried about. Our God has given his Son and promises to take care of us.

    What says Lars Levi Laestadius? For him, the music prevents man from mourning. So, all the musical instruments are considered as sin in the OALC. Thousands of people are convicted to follow this doctrine, which is not true.

    It is an experience of many, that old bad doctrines cannot be swept away, by information. So, the pure word of God, reliable teaching based on the Scriptures has the main role. Why, because God and his Holy Spirit works with us thru word and sacraments. It is the Holy Spirit, who can let convicted people go and get free.

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  3. Very good podcast! Helena is a brave woman for coming out and telling her story. I hope that sexual abuse issues will become more widely addressed in all the Laestadian/Apostolic communities. Growing up in the IALC, it wasn't something that I had ever heard about but have found out more in the last few years that it was not unheard of and has impacted several families that I know. It has always felt like those who were abused carried more stigma than the abusers, sad to say.

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