Please take a moment to read Valerie Tarico's interview with Ed Suominen about his exodus out of Laestadianism. While my experience does not mirror Ed's (the Bible has always been primarily allegorical for me), and we don't agree on everything, I admire his desire to follow the truth where it leads him. His respect for his childrens' intellectual and spiritual independence is also commendable. And believer or nonbeliever or quasi-believer, regardless of where we tumble in the kaleidoscope of ideology, I think we can all work toward common goals. This quote by Scotty Mclennan, in a comment after the article, is germane:
“All of us—bright atheists and committed religionists—need to wake now and hear the earth call . . . . We need to give and receive as love shows us how, join with each pilgrim who quests for the true, give heed to the voices of the suffering, awaken our consciences with justice as our guide, and work toward a planet transformed by our care.”
|85-year old Lule Sami reindeer herder Apmut-Ivar Kuoljok, forcibly removed from protest in Kallak, Sweden, August 25, 2013. Photo by Per-Eric Kuoljok.|
Recently, I have been active with Sámi and Sámi-Americans in arguing against a prospective large scale mine in Swedish Lapland near Jokkmokk, where the annual winter market has been in continuous existence for over 400 years (one of my ancestors traded at the first market in 1605). Since Laestadius' time, it has been a significant meeting place for his followers. A mine there would not only negatively impact reindeer herding but put the entire watershed at risk from pollution and dam collapse. You can read the letter we sent to Obama here, and follow its links for more information. Please consider signing the petition against the mine here.
We've had a beautiful summer here in the Pacific Northwest. Unusually warm and sunny. I'm not ready for it to be over, but our enormous katsura tree—that we planted 20 years ago as a twig—is scattering heaps of gold heart-shaped leaves in the back yard, and spiders are seeking refuge in the house, and the kids have returned, a bit grudgingly, to school. Last Saturday, the skies dawned clear, so we drove to Mt. Rainier to soak up the beautiful views and lay down sense memories (pine scent, wildflowers, towering peaks, waterfalls) that would feed our spirits. Mt. Rainier's native name is Tahoma, "mother of waters," as its glaciers irrigate the rivers, lakes, and lush forests of our region (I wish we could go back to calling it by that name. Peter Rainier, the rear admiral friend of George Vancouver, does not deserve the honor). I grew up with a view of the mountain from our living room, and I've been up close many times, but somehow I'd forgotten that near the tree line, the alpine firs look remarkably like those in a model train set. So tiny! The heavy snows that fall here nine months out of the year clearly don't favor breadth or height in a tree. This fact made me muse on adaptation, and how the attributes that protect life in a hostile climate can become superfluous—even counterproductive—in a new habitat. Maybe once transplanted, those same trees would grow tall and broad; at warmer altitudes, they would branch out, leaf out, and exhale, without their limbs snapping in an avalanche. I suspect many former Laestadians can relate.
On Sunday I drove south to spend time with "exOALC," a dear friend whom I met years ago through this blog. Another refugee from the OALC joined us, and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner at Teote (a Venezualan restaurant in Portland), then stayed up late talking. The great thing about meeting people with whom you share a common history is the almost instant sense of comfort. It allows you to bypass the small talk and go straight to the heart of things: joys and struggles, hopes and regrets, dreams and plans. Maybe this is what we miss most about our old communities. It is incredibly gratifying to see us "formers" form our own community.
The next day, Labor Day, I went to the heart of OALC country to meet another former Laestadian, a woman who has blessed this blog with her wisdom for the past decade but whom I had never met in person. I was a bit nervous. I have a lot of respect for her; what if she didn't like me? With one warm hug, my worries vanished. (I would soon discover that her aunt was my mother's bridesmaid, and her grandfather played an important role in my dad's life.) Her husband showed me a sign on their house that reads: "Bigots, homophobes, racists, fundamentalists, etc., please leave your attitudes at the door. This home welcomes everyone regardless of persuasion. Tolerance, civility, and friendship will be observed at all times." They certainly walked their talk, too. Talk about healthy boundaries! There in the middle of an OALC community, such boundaries need frequent defending, and is another reason I am content to live where I do, a three-hour drive away. Close enough to visit, but not too often.
We had a wonderful chat and then my daughter and I took off for an OALC family reunion up in the hills. As we drove winding roads flanked by green and gold fields, with the occasional cows, horses, or alpacas grazing, I felt a profound sense of serenity. The love and acceptance of others is enjoyed in the muscles, I think, like music. It relaxes. It stretches out the knots. I mused on the fact that I no longer dread my family reunions, but look forward to them. I have become comfortable with my status as an oddball, a black sheep, a "worldly." My relatives no longer try to change me, and I don't try to change them. That comfort goes deep.
Our annual reunions are now in the summer rather than the holiday season: it makes the roads less icy and dicey, requires no room rentals, and is more fun for the little kids. There was delicious food (check out the cake by my sister-in-law!), energetic tugs-of-war, sack races, and lots of laughter. I was having so much fun taking photographs, giving underdogs on the swingset, and enjoying my grandnieces, that I was reluctant to leave when our daughter pointed out that it was past the time I'd promised her we'd go. She takes priority.
Of the many foreign words with no equivalents in English, the German word "schadenfreude" is a common example. It means delight in another's suffering. I much prefer it's antonym, the Sanskrit word "mudita," which means delight in another's happiness, or sympathetic joy. As I looked around me at my relatives, all of whom seemed healthy and prosperous (with such beautiful children!), I felt happy for them. Of course I can't see into their hearts. Perhaps some are suffering invisibly. Or perhaps those who are suffering did not come to the reunion. Many, after all, were missing.
As we drove off, I glimpsed a few young people in parked cars. Perhaps they were listening to music, smoking, or just hanging out. Maybe they are talking about their futures, and the future of the planet. I would like to think so. I would like to think that the newest generation of Laestadians can find a way to be more loving, more inclusive, more tolerant of differences, and more accountable to society—and to our shared future.
Maybe this will be the generation that branches up and out without splitting. What are the chances of that, do you think?