Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Friday, May 03, 2013

Seeking Clarity in the Face of Tragedy

I have watched a child die—suddenly, tragically, accidentally. It was the worst moment of my life, and a far worse one for the child’s parents and siblings. Left with a ghastly void in the space that a vibrant young life so recently occupied, we desperately seek to fill it—with explanations, rationalizations, comforting old sayings.

Richard George Davis, CC-licensed.
A preacher in the local congregation did his best to make sense of the senseless, a commendable and compassionate effort. His kind words of comfort at the funeral and in private conversations were pitch-perfect, offering a sense of fulfilled purpose to a devastated family. He shared a heartfelt Christian love with them, and with the shocked and grieving believers around them.

Their fondest hope for themselves and their loved ones is to reach the glory of heaven, he said. God had spared this child a lifetime of trials and temptations, bringing the reward to hand at a young age. The assurance about eternity was an attempt to offer some consolation, in the face of a very real tragedy that had been experienced right here on earth. It was religion serving its purpose, and doing it well: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

So what are you supposed to think when your religion is widely seen as playing a part in the unfolding of tragic events? It is hard to miss the possible connection when a mother from your church, a religion that strongly opposes birth control, reportedly tells officers she smothered the youngest of her nine children “because she thought she had too many children already and she was jealous of the attention her husband was giving to the baby” (Forghani 2013).

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Christmas Program

Three years ago, I attended the Christmas program of my younger children’s elementary school, my head swirling with cognitive dissonance over what I was reading in the Bible and church publications. One of the issues that stood out in my mind, as it does for so many troubled believers, was Conservative Laestadianism’s outrageous exclusivity claims. (These claims are also made by the OALC, FALC, and IALC, who all point their bony fingers of condemnation at each other along with the LLC/SRK.)

Here it is in a nutshell: The church’s membership comprises about 0.002% of the world’s population. Everyone else who is mentally competent and has achieved some vaguely defined age of accountability it consigns to an eternity of screaming torture, a fate that eventually will be shared by almost all of the billion or so of the world’s children. There are even questions about many of those within the official membership nowadays. I suspect the old guard in the SRK and LLC have been waiting quite a while now for another “heresy” to come along and clean house, freeing them from having to deal with those annoying liberals, part-timers, and questioners.

That evening I sat with my wife and watched our kids up on stage, saying their pieces and singing their little songs among the beautiful children and parents of a rural, simple, and fairly religious community. As it is most everywhere else in the U.S. and the world, none of them has ever heard of Conservative Laestadianism. The closest most will ever come to a member of “God’s Kingdom” is in their cars as they drive through the area where most of our old congregation’s members live, on their way to do some shopping in town.

Here’s what I wrote when we got home. It is reproduced from my book (§4.2.1), as is some of the commentary that follows (pp. 82, 84‑85, 242 of the printed version).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's Happening to Apostolic Kids?

LLLReader, who has contributed her insights for many years to this blog, asked me to post this:
Having recently moved back to Battle Ground, I recognize that I have certainly been out of the loop. Yesterday I was at a meeting with a real cross-section of community members. The subject of the OALC boys who killed all those cats came up. I was familiar with that event, since it has been covered by newspapers and letters to the editor. What I wasn't aware of is how Apostolic children in this community are behaving.

A principal stated that his main problems are with the Apostolic kids. One women said her daughter drives her children to school because they were being bullied by the Apostolic kids on the bus. It's not all the kids, of course, but enough are showing bad behavior that the reputation of all of the students is being effected. There was a general consensus that the Apostolic children, especially the boys, are a little out of control.

What is going on? Back in the day, when I was in school here, the Apostolics were model students. I didn't say anything, just listened with sadness. I have some fine relatives, with fine children, who I know are doing well. I don't know of specific families whose kids are misbehaving, and I don't know if it's mainly the Hockinson or Brush Prairie Churches.

I thought carefully about what the causes for this problem might be. Possibly families that don't value education would have children that don't see the point of it either. Some of the men are pretty macho types, and their boys might have trouble taking orders from female teachers. Since many of the students aren't allowed to participate in school activities like sports, band, clubs, etc. they just don't build any bond with the school. It's interesting that my generation, and my Dad's generation, WERE allowed to be in sports. There were some good athletes from the church back in my day.

I have talked here before about the old preachers being kinder. I felt that the current crop has a more harsh attitude, could that be effecting the families? I don't really know the reasons, probably only the families who are raising these kids would have the answers.

What to do about it? My feeling is that the preachers need to address it. They probably won't. I hope that these children can become better citizens. Maybe the Moms are going to have to step up. I'll just pray for all of them, it's all that I can think to do.

What do you think, readers? If you are in the OALC, are you seeing these issues addressed from the pulpit, or at gatherings?

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.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Something Laestadian, or Just Me?

The following is the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah, presented as a Godly Play script.

I've posted before about Godly Play, and what a great Sunday School curriculum I think it is. What I haven't said is that I have a certain reaction to this way of presenting the story, and I've long been curious about whether my reaction is "just me" or something from my Laestadian upbringing.

So in the spirit of experiment I invite you to view the story, and post your reactions in the comments. Maybe your reaction will be the same as mine, maybe it will be different. Maybe it will give me some insight into myself, my Laestadian upbringing, or both.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I wonder if the birds have names?

If your church, like mine, uses the Revised Common Lectionary, it's very likely that you heard The Parable of the Mustard Seed in church today, either as a scripture reading, or maybe as the text for the sermon:

Mark 4:30-32 (NRSV)

[Jesus] also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Our priest gave this "sermon" in the style of a Godly Play script. (Godly Play is the Sunday school curriculum we use for young children). So she called all the childen up to the front, sat down on the floor with them, and opened up a golden box which contained the visual elements of this parable while she told it and asked open ended "wondering" questions about the story.

One of the questions was, "I wonder if the birds have names?" One little boy piped up right away and said, "No, they don't." That got a chuckle out of some of the adults watching, but in Godly Play, unlike Laestadianism, children are not told who God is. An environment is created in which children can discover who God is. Children are encouraged to wonder about the questions posed, without being told "the answer."

I've been wondering too. "I wonder if the birds have names?" I think they do. I think some of their names are cvow, Anonymous, hp3, PS, Tomte, Norah, Free2bme, LLLReader, Stranger in a Strange Land, Sisu, YM, Outtathere, Anonymous, Hibernatus, Older-understanding one, mia from the llc, Anonymous, daisy, Pretzel and many others I have forgotten.

I've also been wondering: I wonder what it means that the birds have names? For me, it means more than I put in a single post, more than I alone can imagine.

But for today, for me, right now, what it especially means is that I'm sorry, PS, for riding you so hard. While we will probably never agree on facts, let alone opinion, I realize that at times I let it get more personal than was appropriate, and I apologize.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Happy Childhood

Dharma writes (under the topic Abuse) ". . . it is very likely some of us played together as young kids at church. I have been hoping someone else would stand up and be heard. I was also molested by a cousin in the church. When I finally told, NOTHING was done . . . . it was swept under the rug . . . I am so relieved to find others who have left and started over. Hope to hear from you soon."

Welcome, Dharma. It is never too late to have a happy childhood, as Tom Robbins said.

I'm happy you found us. What would you like to talk about?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Phone Call to the OALC

This site is averaging 53 visits a day, with the average visit lasting five minutes, 40 seconds. When I started this, I didn't know where it would go or why I felt called to do it, but it seems to be finding an audience, and I hope it helps where help is needed.

The recent posts about abuse were upsetting to me. Thinking of the kids who are suffering, I felt a call to action. Last night, I sat outside the house in my car and summoned up some courage and called an OALC preacher on my cell phone.

If it took him by surprise, he didn't show it. We traded small talk and then I told him about my blog and expressed my concerns over how the OALC is handling child abuse (in addition to the posts here, I've received emails and phone calls from ex-members about their experiences).

He asked for names. (Of course, I gave none.) He suggested some people make "false accusations." He decried the use of the internet to spread lies, and said people should go directly to the preachers with their concerns and added "there are bitter people out there."

When I told him that it was his moral and legal responsibility to tell victims to report abuse to the authorities, he reassured me that "the preachers know the law." He continued: "we can only pray that God's will be done" (is this a defense of passivity?), and that abuse is a "terrible, terrible sin" and that some people even go to jail for it (Catholics, maybe).

I suggested he help protect the children in his church by preaching about the issue, by telling them that they can say no to adults and that they can report abuse without being ashamed. I said abusers should be prosecuted and given psychiatric help, not simply allowed to repent and forget, and reoffend.

Did he hear me? Did he stop listening three seconds into the conversation? I don't know. There was some commotion in the background, perhaps he was double-tasking. He suggested I come visit with Elder Evald Larsen and another preacher this weekend and I demurred and we rang off.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, as they say. Readers, did I do the right thing?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Abuse in the OALC

This is from a post on in a discussion about the OALC:
"In this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, many abuses take place. From spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to child and from leaders to congregation. The average person in this group deals with at least one source of abuse, some suffer many. I know, I was one of them, and I know so very many more who cry silently for help from somewhere, and because of the exclusivity in this group, no outside counciling or intervention is allowed the church members. Many of the older people in this church know what is happening, but claim that all answers are found "in this Living Christianity"."

This is an incendiary topic and I implore you to remain calm, refrain from personal attacks and consider what the OALC could do to improve its handling of this issue.

Obviously, abuse is a global problem, not just the OALC's. But certain conditions can make it more likely to occur and harder to prevent. (I'm talking about physical abuse here and I know of what I speak. So don't say it isn't happening.) Are church leaders obstructing justice when they ask victims not to report abusers to the authorities? Are they putting the victims at risk for further abuse? Are victims believed when they report abuse? Are victims afraid of reporting because they are afraid of being blamed? What role does gossip play in keeping people mute? Are wives expected to be subservient to their mates? How are children in large families supervised? How are they taught to respect boundaries?

Benjamin Franklin said: As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Feeling Positive?

Last year, my husband and I took a parenting course on "Positive Discipline." The class uses an Adlerian approach to teaching effective ways to parent. With two toddlers, we wanted to make sure we didn't unconsciously imitate the dysfunctional parenting styles of our own parents: in my case authoritarian and in his case, neglectful.

Recently it occurred to me that how we envision the family, that small social unit of parents and children, is a key to how we envision our society, the world as a whole and our relationship to God. What is the proper role of parents: authorities or nurturers? Are children inherently devious or innocent? Or they to be molded into a shape, or encouraged to discover their unique gifts? What works best to teach limits, encouragement or shaming? Is the parent-child relationship characterized by power and control . . . or dignity and compassion?

There's a saying: to know all is to forgive all. When I see how my parents were raised, and what kind of parenting was reinforced by the OALC, I can understand why they became who they are. That helps.

To the commenter below from the OALC: please ask a preacher if you are supposed to shun (i.e., not associate with) worldlies or exmembers. Then write back, okay? I'm very interested in the response. Maybe things have changed.