Showing posts with label Laestadian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laestadian. Show all posts

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do You Travel?

When I graduated from college, I took my first trip to Europe with a borrowed backpack, a Rick Steves' guidebook, and a head full of poetry. That trip changed my life, and I returned with a very different view of myself, my country, the world, and my future.

Listening to Rick Steves in this interview, I wondered if people who love travel are unlikely to remain in Laestadianism. What about you?

What role has travel played in your life?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Healing from Hell Horror

“If hell is not a nice place for those who never have come to the knowledge of salvation, it surely is still hotter for those, who have once tasted the tribulations of hell and yet want to go there to eternal death. It must become still hotter for those who have had a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven and then return to the world from where the way leads to hell.”
—Lars Levi Laestadius, 1853

Hell Preacher. Composed from one of my photos along with a CC-licensed one by Michael “theparadigmshifter.”

Laestadians are raised to believe in and fear a place of eternal torment if they should die as “unbelievers” or with “unforgiven sin” on their consciences. Although LLC preachers have not been very explicit about the subject, at least not in recent years, a recent sermon from a preacher in the Rockford, Minnesota congregation reminds listeners of the unthinkably high stakes:
Even in a temporal sense, we can understand what the pain might feel like of the fires of hell. If you’ve ever burnt the tip of your finger lighting a candle or something, you know how bad that hurts. Imagine living in eternity in that kind of pain and agony, like the Bible describes, “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” So, it pays to believe, dear brothers and sisters. [23:00-24:32]
It pays to believe, he says, a phrase repeated in many a sermon. This reveals the essential cynicism of fear-based religion. “Belief” is tribute paid to a bullying strongman of a God in order to avoid horrific consequences down the road. It would be ridiculous to tell someone it “pays to hear” or “pays to see” that there is something in front of you. It can only pay to pretend to hear or see, like the townspeople cheering the fashion sense of a naked emperor just before an impertinent little kid spoils everything.

As time goes by, I spend less and less time thinking about Laestadianism or even religion, and even less time shouting at the curbside about it. Of course, the experiences and former beliefs of half a lifetime will always occupy a large portion of my brain, whether I like it or not. Those neurons are gone forever, along with the handful devoted to the term “twerking,” whose actual meaning I steadfastly refuse to learn. But I still sometimes drift off to the sermons on an iPod slipped under the pillow at night.

When I heard this little discourse on Hell during one of those sermons, I pictured how it must have put a little burst of panic into the hearts of those kids who’d listened to worldly music or had lust in their hearts or watched some inappropriate videos the night before. It seemed like a bit more writing might be in order, for the sake of the troubled and former Laestadians whom I know are reading my blog, so I spent some time writing a detailed posting, Healing from Hell Horror.

These currents of fear can run very deep indeed. That, along with all the social benefits of a close and comfortable little group huddled against the world, is why these churches manage to retain as many members as they do. I had to work very hard to overcome my own hell horror. There’s no shame in that, for me or for you. We are just overcoming what the church did to us, and a lifetime of indoctrination is not something everyone can reverse overnight, just like that.

The stakes, after all, are unthinkably high. As I told one of the few Laestadian friends who dared to discuss issues with me in depth after hearing I’d left the fold, I wouldn’t have left if I thought there were a 1% chance of it being true. I could probably work up that level of belief, given the consequences for being wrong about the other 99%. But it’s not true, not even a little bit, including the Hell part.

Take a look at the blog posting if this still has a hold on you, or still holds interest for you. There’s some discussion of the power of fear, a bit of history about Hell, and—believe it or not—a dog story. If you’d rather read something on a less dreary topic, I also have a posting there (with pretty pictures!) on that other long-dreamed of destination for a life beyond the grave, Paradise.

After you do, please come back and offer your thoughts. I’m not willing to deal with the hassle of comments on my own blog, but the thoughtful dialogue that takes place in comments from extoots readers has been a wonderful component of the reading available here. How have the Laestadian teachings about hellfire and damnation affected you? If you’ve left, how did you recover from the lingering fear? Or did it not linger much at all, as with a few fortunate people I’ve spoken with? What would you say to those troubled souls who lurk on these blogs wondering if they will ever be able to overcome the terror of leaving, or even questioning?

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Do You Want?

Thanks to everyone for maintaining a civil dialogue, and for including a name or nickname with your comments. The following is a guest post by a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church. Please consider her questions thoughtfully before responding. —Free
Andrew Z. Colvin, CC-licensed
I'm not much of a deep thinker. I don't ponder life's big questions, nor do I enjoy "a good debate." I have always said I see too much of both sides. I am often persuaded to see one side, only to be persuaded back in the next moment. I like to think of myself as a compassionate person. I am not a mover and a shaker. But, I am passionate about helping my fellow man in every small way I can.

When I first approached Free about a guest post, I had a very different post written out. I wanted to share my positive, though not perfect, experience growing up LLC. I ended up with a few days to ponder it, while talking with some of you here, and found that I discovered that many of you would not understand why I thought I needed to share it. If you really do want to know why, just ask. I don't like feeling defensive, and felt that in sharing this particular story I would not be understood, and I'd be left defending my "right to a happy childhood."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reach Out, Take My Hand

I know many of us have on our hearts the senseless tragedy in Connecticut, and many here in Washington State are mourning the loss of a sweet little girl to suicide. May these deaths inspire us to reach out to others, to listen to their pain, to offer solace, and to work toward a society that recognizes and treats abuse and mental illness of all kinds.

The powerful story below was submitted by a reader.
When I was 11 or 12, I decided I was going to commit suicide. I took a sleeping bag, a family sized bottle of Bayer Aspirin, and a canteen into the woods, where . . .  I lost my nerve after a few hours. I left all of these items in the forest, and if my mother ever looked for the sleeping bag, the aspirin, and the canteen, she never questioned why these items were missing. 
I lost my nerve because, according to church doctrine, I could not determine if I had reached the age of reason, and in taking my own life I would go to hell. Sermons gave conflicting opinions. Our believer friend “Lasse,” who we all consulted regarding spiritual matters, thought it was age 20, but some ministers said confirmation age, and another believer thought it could be as low as age eight. I did not want to take any chances on hell, so I did not kill myself. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judy's Blog

A new blog by an ex-FALC member went online this month, Finding My Way ...Finding My Voice

Only a few weeks old, she's already posted about Laestadianism, the Sami, and sexual abuse.

Reading Judy's posts was a good reminder for me that people are still leaving Laestadianism every day.

I wish Judy well in her journey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Key Laestadian sentenced to Prison

Thanks to Old AP for the link:
Key figure in Laestadian movement sentenced to prison

A middle-aged man described as an influential figure in the Conservative Laestadians, a revival movement of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, has been sentenced to prison for molesting a girl who is a relative.

According to the article an internal study has also been done by the SRK regarding abuse, to be released in April.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Laestadian sex abuse case goes to trial

Here's a link to an extremely short article stating that:

A prominent figure in the Laestadian revival movement faces charges of child sexual abuse and rape in a case that goes to trial next week, reports the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

If I can find more about this story I'll post some follow ups. I think going to trial is one of the best things that can happen for getting the facts out.

UPDATE 01.10.2011
Here's a link to a longer version of the story:
Leading Laestadian figure charged with serious sex crimes

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Laestadianism really Lutheran?

FinnForge got me thinking about this question. While FinnForge seems very certain that true Laestadianism is Lutheran, I'm not so sure.

When I was looking to leave Laestadianism, the first places I checked out were the LCMS, WELS, ELCA, and other branches of Lutheranism. They seemed very strange and alien, having little in common with my childhood church.

The biggest difference that was most immediately apparent was liturgy. Lutheran churches had it, and Laestadian churches didn't have it. As far as style of worship was concerned, I always felt much more comfortable in Baptist churches than Lutheran ones.

Differences in worship style often reflect different theological convictions. I think a liturgical style underscores the communal aspects of faith. Churches that don't have liturgy often emphasize a more individualistic approach. Both Baptists and Laestadians (at least back in the beginnings of the movement) emphasize a very individualistic "new birth" as essential.

Maybe that's why Laestadians don't have liturgy, and seem so ambivalent about infant baptism (gotta do it, but don't ever say that it actually accomplishes anything.) I personally think that it's hard to understand what infant baptism is supposed to accomplish without an appreciation for liturgy. In the liturgy, the church corporately acts out the story of Christian faith; in baptism the participants are bearing witness to and making manifest what God has already done.

Another way that Laestadianism seems really different from Lutheranism is the emphasis on the total depravity of human beings. Maybe this comes from all the amped-up rhetoric in Laestadius' sermons --he needed to get people to the breaking point by any means possible so that they would experience "the awakened state" or "new birth." Whereas more Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran notions of humanity would see them as created good by God but fallen and in need of redemption. A Laestadian view of human nature seems more similiar to Calvinism or the Baptists than Lutheranism.

What are some other things about Laestadianism that make it very different than other branches of Lutheranism?

See also: Pietism, Baptism, and Laestadianism

Tomte's thoughts on Baptism

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Laestadianism Never Apologizes

If you're waiting for any official branch of Laestadianism (either in Finland or in the United States) to apologize for the sex abuse and the subsequent cover ups, their exclusionary theology, or the way in which dissent is quelled and dissenters expelled, you may have to wait a very very long time.

At least such is the preliminary finding of new research by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki in his new paper entitled "Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies." (Click here for a link to the paper as a PDF file)

Dr. Ketola compares and contrasts two different conservative Finnish revival movements, the Finnish Lutheran Mission and SRK Laestadianism. Both have engaged in past behaviour that reasonably could prompt an official apology. The Finnish Lutheran Mission made such an apology, but to date SRK Laestadianism has not apologized. According to Ketola, Laestadianism's exclusionary "congregational doctrine" is primarily to blame. When you believe that your congregation is the true kingdom of God and all other Christians are on the road to hell, it doesn't lend itself to humility, accurate self-assessment, or apology.

Dr. Ketola's research paper is in English, only 13 pages and well worth the read. In addition to the topic of official apologies, Ketola also touches on the role of the internet in giving current adherents and ex-members a chance to express their dissent anonymously. A quote:

In cases like the SRK-Laestadianism where the community itself does
not encourage or tolerate criticism, an outside forum where criticism can be practised anonymously is almost the only viable channel through which to pursue change.

In addition to Dr. Ketola's research paper, there is also an in-depth blog post at Freepathways that provides an excellent summary of the research along with a photograph of Mikko Ketola.

Links: Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies, (PDF) by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki, Department of Church History and current (2010-2015) president of the CIHEC (Commission Internationale d’Histoire et d’Etudes du Christianisme)

No Apologising for Past Violence of SRK-Laestadians Healing Meetings, by Freepathways

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finnish Lutheran Sex Discrimination Case

This interesting article popped up in my feed reader this morning:

from HELSINGIN SANOMAT: Woman pastor wins sex discrimination case

Pohjanraitio had been scheduled to serve at the altar, handing out communion. However, before the service, she was told by the visiting pastor that his apostolic beliefs prevented him from working with a woman pastor at the altar.

Does the phrase "apostolic beliefs" mean that the visiting pastor was Laestadian? Does anyone know if the pastor in question was definitely Laestadian?

This article raises lots of interesting questions for me regarding the relationship between religion and the state. Because the Lutheran church is government supported in Finland, does that give the state the authority to enforce civil rights?

If this had happened in the United States I think the courts would never had gotten involved, due to the separation of church and state. In the United States Laestadians are not part of a state church --they control who gets ordained and women are not allowed to be ordained in any Laestadian denomination, so that's another reason this never could have happened in the U.S.

On the one hand, I very strongly support freedom for religions to practice and ordain as they see fit without government interference. But on the other hand if any tax dollars are supporting an institution I very strongly believe that then the public has a valid interest in regulating what goes on in said institution.

Finally, I think that churches that choose not to ordain women are really missing out. My current priest is a woman, and she is the most talented and capable clergyperson I have ever had, bar none.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Change in the ALC?

Il Coro's recent comments got me thinking about the ALC (Apostolic Lutheran Church of America, a.k.a. "the Federation") again, and how it has changed since I was a kid. So I thought I'd start this thread to give my pet theory on why this is the case, and invite everyone to post their views as well.

Back when I was growing up, it seemed like the ALC was a lot more like the OALC and other branches of Laestadianism. No TV, no sports, no make-up, no jewelry, no drinking, a lot of exclusiveness (thinking we're the only true Christianity), Finnish songs and preaching in the worship service, etc. Nowadays, however, you can find many ALC congregations that aren't much different than any other conservative evangelical denomination out there. People have TVs and even Internet connected computers. Women may dress conservatively, but wear makeup, jewelry, and clothing that are within the mainstream of the populace.

The first lens through which I see the change is that of the immigrant experience. First generation Laestadian Finnish immigrants, many of whom arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century didn't speak English, were uneducated with few opportunities other than farming, mining, and other manual labor. They built the churches as a touchstone and enclave where they could remember the best of what they left "back home," preserving the traditions and even setting them in stone over and against all the strangeness and harshness of a new land.

The second generation had a foot in both America and Finland. Fluent in both Finnish and English and educated in the American public school system, this generation felt the most conflict between the old ways and the new ways. While they were still sheltered from much of mainstream America through long hours helping out on the farm, raising siblings in large families, and not watching TV, English was their primary language and they were immersed in the mainstream culture through school and listening to the radio (often evangelical Christian radio). As this generation reached adulthood English started to become the primary language used in ALC churches, with Finnish songs and sermons becoming secondary.

The third generation and beyond (this generation) is fully acculturated to America. For the most part they have not learned the Finnish language, and speak only English fluently (or maybe some other language they learned in school.) They do not have any special ties to Finnish culture or heritage except for what might be preserved through church, or some foods eaten primarily during the holidays. Many of them have achieved higher education, even advanced degrees in engineering and humanities. Many of this generation feel no particular allegiance to the ALC as part of their cultural heritage and leave for other types of churches or no church at all, in keeping with whatever their worldview may reflect as a mainstream American living in a pluralistic society. Those that stay may stay for the sense of community and extended family, or may stay because by this time the church itself also largely reflects the mainstream of conservative evangelicalism with which they agree. There is now little or no singing or preaching in Finnish, instead largely traditional hymns or in some cases "praise music" drawn directly from the conservative evangelical subculture of "Christian radio" and books.

The other lens through which I see the change is that of factions within the ALC. At least since the 1960s and 1970s, there have been at least two and maybe three factions in the ALC. There is the "Laestadian faction," largely older but some younger members, often in smaller congregations in rural areas. These are most like the OALC and others in their implementation and view of the faith. There is also the "evangelical faction." Often larger congregations near larger cities, these ALCers would listen to James Dobson on the radio, attend Billy Graham crusades, and enjoy contemporary Christian music as well as "praise music." They seek to implement these types of changes within their own ALC congregation. A third and perhaps overlapping faction are those ALCers that support formal clergy training via the Inter-Lutheran (ALC) Theological Seminary. This non-accredited conservative seminary trained many pastors that went on to be ALC pastors, but the more "Laestadian" faction still eschewed formal theological training, so there is a landscape within the ALC of congregations where the leadership has some formal theological training, and others where the pastor has none at all. Still other split the difference, with a head pastor from the seminary but an assortment of assistant pastors without any formal education.

It seems to me that the momentum within the denomination lies with the evangelical faction. As time passes the Finnish heritage becomes less and less relevant, giving the Laestadian faction major headwinds. Conversely, the wind is to the back of the evangelicals, as adherents are looking for a form of ALC that accommodates itself better to the larger American culture with which they increasingly identify -- at least the conservative evangelical subculture. It's still not a perfect fit, because to the extent that Apostolic Lutheranism is actually Lutheran there will be major theological differences with the evangelicals --especially on baptism and eschatology. On the other hand, both Laestadianism and evangelicalism share an anti-intellectualism, populism, and suspicion of institutions, as well as Biblical literalism. To most rank and file modern day ALCers, theological distinctions between Laestadianism and evangelicalism may matter a lot less than the general "tone" and "mood" of the worship experience, and preaching that emotes "the Word."

My big unanswered question: Since the immigrant experience and the evangelical resurgence of the 60s and 70s potentially affects all branches of Laestadianism in the United States, why does it seem like some branches have changed more rapidly than others? Why does the ALC seem more accommodated to mainstream conservative evangelical culture than all of the rest?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lastadian Sex Abuse Scandal

"A Pedophilia scandal with more than ten victims is now being rolled up in a revivalist movement within the state church in Pietarsaari in Finnish Ostrobothnia. Years of covering-up keeps the total number of victims unknown."

This headline made my stomach turn. As longtime readers of this blog may remember, several of us wrote to a Finnish elder about our concerns over sexual abuse in the OALC congregation. The parallels are chilling. Children are told to forgive the abuser, who repeatedly repents, and continues to abuse.

I can't read Finnish or Swedish, and the online translations are clumsy. Bilingual readers, please help.

How did this come to light? What sect is involved? What is the response from the sect? What is the response from their American counterparts?

Go here or here for the story.

UPDATE: I found an English version here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A little Sunday irony

Here's a little irony for this Sunday:

ABSOLUT Vodka Brand Director Looks To The Future With Optimism
Interview with Anna Laestadius, Director Global Brand, Absolut Vodka

I don't know if she's related to our Laestadius or not, but after our recent conversation about Laestadius' descendants in Sweden from the Facebook thread, I couldn't resist posting this. Plus, it's great vodka. :-)

. . .promoting responsible drinking is a part of our heritage. We have a code of business ethics and conduct and a responsibility program. This focuses on promoting responsible drinking and responsible marketing. We are also active in the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD) and in Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) to drive important issues in this area on a global basis. We are sincere in our commitment to a responsible use and marketing of our products. . .

It just goes to show that no matter what your background, your heritage, your religion --no matter what bad things have happened to you in the past, today is a new day and you can choose a new direction in life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Laestadians on Facebook

Someone recently brought these links of Laestadian groups on Facebook to my attention. I thought they were worth sharing:

Apostolic Lutherans (ALC) Description: Finally...a group on facebook for all us APs. The site contains pictures of various "youth," the biggest bonfire I've seen, and the 2009 Convention.

Laestadian Lutheran (LLC) Description: Welcome to all who believe! Note: this is not the official Laestadian Lutheran site. Please visit for the Laestadian Lutheran Church website. Not much activity here, but there was a conversation on movies and temptation that reminded me of my own youth.

Lars Levi Laestadius Description: This is a group for all people influenced by the christian revival movement of Lars Levi Laestadius. His abbreviated name is LLL. Laestadius was a botanist and a preacher that created a christian revival in northern Sweden and Finland in the mid to late 1800's. Today, those that follow his doctrine are known as Apostolics and/or Laestadians. You do not have to be a member of a Laestadian or Apostolic group to join this site. This site is open to everyone, as I do not believe in exclusion. Disclaimer: This site has not been endorsed by any specific church group and is not attempting to promote any specific church group. The "Extoots" of Facebook. A couple of years ago the Admin of this group posted the link here, but it may have been lost in all the noise of a conversation on conversion.

Interestingly, I did a search for "Laestadius" on Facebook and came up with all kinds of people who shared that last name. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Laestadius had familial as well as spiritual descendants. I wonder how common a name Laestadius is back in Finland/Sweden?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Left the Laestadian Revival Movement . . .

I just found this essay online and am very eager to share it with you. It is by a Finnish woman from Ostrobothnia who left the Laestadian faith ten years ago. I hope she finds comfort and healing. I love her candor and sense a kindred spirit.

Here is an excerpt:

It was emphasised at services that it is not about rules, but rather the fact that a Laestadian wants to operate in a certain way. I recall how I preferred to speak about desires, rather than rules. I was pained to read newspaper articles about things that Laestadians “were not allowed to do”. The question was about what I wanted to do or to choose!
But whose desire was it really all about?
I was not asked what I wanted, or what I felt was important. For instance, the negative stance on birth control was taken in the late 1960s at a meeting of preachers, where only men were present.

I knew already at the age of 13 that I did not want to be the mother of a big family. It was not until I was over the age of 20 that I said out loud that I cannot stand the idea of a big family. My friends answered that “you can’t know in advance what it will be like”.
I was supposed to simply trust that God would give me exactly the right number of children, even if I did not use birth control.
I knew that my mind could not handle such an experiment. I simply did not want to become pregnant reluctantly. My thoughts did not find resonance, because they resounded with the voice of reason, not that of faith.

Some felt that faith is that people are encouraged to push their reason aside in big matters. For me rejecting reason would have been an abandonment of my own psyche.
I was not ready to bend at all in the birth control question, or to hide my opinions. The security of the Laestadian community began to turn into insecurity.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Laestadian Women Sharing Wisdom

A friend sent me this link to a site called Prime On A Dime, apparently written by Laestadian women in Battle Ground, Washington. It features cost-saving advice for homemakers. While you can (and frankly, you should) question the nutritive value of the recipes, it is entirely wholesome that these women are sharing their skills with "the world," not just those in a like-minded community.

I might even try making my own (phosphate-free) laundry soap.

In this economy, I think we will find modern twists on taking in wash or boarders (as my grandmother did to make it through hard times). After seeing advertising on the website above, I decided to try it here. Let me know what you think. I've written this blog for many years now, and it hadn't occurred to me to make it a source of income. But hey, times are tough!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

They Will Know You by Your Love

It's always interesting to hear what outsiders think of Laestadians, especially when they know next to nothing about them.

One day when I was in 6th grade in the little country school where my siblings and I were the only OALCers, I was surrounded in the school cafeteria by a group of angry girls. They accused me of saying that our classmate Michelle (a pretty but vapid girl whom I disliked) was going to hell because she was . . . Catholic.

I cried; I denied it. I had never said such a thing, and that much was true. Perhaps I felt bad, knowing that our religion taught that Catholics had "dead faith." But of more concern to my 12-year old soul was how did my classmates know? As far as I knew, nobody in town knew anything about our church.

Perhaps they knew enough. It was in all we didn't say, and all we didn't do, in the years we lived there. One's character is legible in one's actions.

I found an old thread on a board about the OALC in Battle Ground. A member had inquired about affordable places to live. (If you aren't familiar with Mothering, it is sold in health food stores, and features articles on midwives, breastfeeding, nutrition, and healthy family living in general.) Here is a sampling from the thread:

From "AmyMay":
There is a large apostolic lutheran element out here, lots of women with lots of children (5-6 is not uncommon), wearing dresses (don't get me wrong, they look pretty chic to me, but frighteningly similar to each other), long hair, no makeup...again, nothing wrong with that, but it is a little disturbing to me, and I wonder what they are taught and told to look a certain way to "fit in" and be obedient to church rules and expectations....

In school, the apostolic children group together and can be very mean to outsiders coming into the area. It's taken my kids almost a year to feel like they are finally fitting in and making friends. There was lots of teasing because my son had long hair, and none of us go to church. Anything different and unusual to the local kids was up for discussion and teasing about. It was pretty hard on my sensitive, liberal-minded kids.

From "FlyingSpaghettiMama":
BUNHEADS! Dude, so few people know about the sublime religion that is Old Apostolic Lutheran. I hate to generalize, except when I do, and boy, they tend to be an intolerant, inbred (no really, they have to marry inside the church, and all the church members came over about 100 years ago, and all the names are very reused - check it out) grouches who hate pants-wearin' women and other liberals of all stripes. They really, really hate gay people. And like to run them down with their MONSTER TRUCKS. They terrify me, honestly, and they appear to enjoy terrifying others as well.

I would try to get your son outta there by high school age or have him transfer to a Vancouver school. Trust me. It only gets worse and more violent. It's rough going out there.

But Battle Ground (and environs) is very beautiful, for sure. Except for the AL problem . . .

. . . they're originally from Finland. It's too bad, you'd think a community that left in search of religious tolerance would be a lot more tolerant themselves. Like the mennonites!

From "kxsiven":
Mostly from Norway side though. The movement has at least 8 different branches here and none of them is that scary what you are writing about the 'American version'(fundamentalism is pretty much unknown here anyway). If I have understood right, small group got in disagreenment with the main group 100 years ago and they left. Today the movement is very very tiny and probably will have a natural death in coming years.

There is obvious stereotyping here. I suspect some accusations of "meanness" may be due (just as it was for me in 6th grade) to what is NOT being experienced. No invitations to playdates, birthdays and barbeques, no donations, no volunteering, etc. But OALCers being human, their doctrine may provide cover for some less-than-Christian behavior. I remember reasoning that it was okay, even preferable, to avoid Michelle. Only later did I realize how jealous I was (she was blonde! a cheerleader! popular!). My "beliefs" made it easier to dislike her than examine my own prejudice.

Isn't that how all prejudice works?

(The photo was taken by our 7-year old at the farmers market last Thursday. She fell in love with and used her allowance to buy the hand-made doll in the blue sweater, at right. She named her Madeline. The skin colors of the dolls was a complete non-issue, and I found myself surprised at my surprise that she didn't choose the one that looked most like her. Kids like her are going to change the world.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Understanding Religious Violence

In light of the recent suicide bombings in Iraq last week, I found this essay on the roots of religious motivated violence extremely relevant and timely. As part of the Trinity Round table on faith and violence convened at Trinity Church Wall Street (the church right across the street from where the World Trade Center used to stand), the author's provocative thesis is that religious terrorists are motivated by the same things that motivate ordinary religious folks, with a twist.

Here are some excepts, with a link to the full article below:

Understanding Religious Violence, by James W. Jones

What makes [religious violence] happen is the conjunction of nearly universal spiritual motivations – the desire for union with God, the desire for purification and transformation, the need for religious community, the need for meaning and purpose--with a certain psychological structure, the need to dichotomize the world into the all-good and the all-evil. Also, there is a specific theology that you find in the writings of religiously motivated terrorists across the spectrum, and it is the view of God as wrathful and punitive and demanding of blood sacrifice. It's the conjunction of those powerful spiritual motivations with that psychological constellation that is a precursor to religiously motivated terrorism.

What's unique to fanatical religions is not the desire for union with God, or the desire for spiritual transformation; it's the linkage of that desire for spiritual union and purification with violence, especially the violence of sacrificial killing, blood sacrifice, or apocalyptic purification. It’s the linkage of these virtually universal and powerful desires with the themes of blood sacrifice and purification through violence, that turns spiritual longing into terrorist action.

Laestadianism shares a number of the features Jones writes about. Laestadians certainly divide the world into good and evil. Why aren't there Laestadian terrorists? Maybe because Laestadianism doesn't play up God's desire for blood as much as other fundamentalist forms of Christianity do. Or maybe it's because Laestadianism seems to lack an apocalyptic emphasis. Certainly I have heard individual Laestadians vent righteous indignation / violent talk against groups they perceived to be especially evil, such as abortionists and homosexuals. Yet I've never heard violence advocated from the pulpit or officially wished for in any way.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Moral Instinct

There is a thought-provoking essay about morality by Stephen Pinker, the Harvard professor of psychology, in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

People everywhere, at least in some circumstances and with certain other folks in mind, think it’s bad to harm others and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members and conformity to its norms. They believe that it is right to defer to legitimate authorities and to respect people with high status. And they exalt purity, cleanliness and sanctity while loathing defilement, contamination and carnality.

My reaction was to ponder how some Laestadians seem to value "loyalty to a group and conformity to norms" above fairness, purity and sanctity. Could this be a minority group's insurance against assimilation?

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 (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?