Showing posts with label community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label community. Show all posts

Friday, September 06, 2013

Musings at Summer's End

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?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Visit

The building seems smaller now, as if its physical size somehow had shrunk along with its significance. This is no looming Mount Sinai, just a simple structure that is lovingly maintained by people who have grown up sitting in its pews. There is probably no other single place, outside the childhood home, in which a typical Laestadian will spend as many hours of his life. It is not just empty talk to call it a spiritual home, a sanctuary.

Just as pangs of nostalgia fill the adult believer who sees the humble house where he ran and played with a swarm of siblings and harassed parents, the sight of the church evinces its own memories grown fonder with time: beloved old preachers with their sleep-inducing sermons and funny habits, weekly gatherings of lifelong friends, hasty communal lunches with fellowship shouted over the squalling of fussy babies. God’s Kingdom nourishes the spirit with the unchanging Word, and the body with hot dish and Sloppy Joes, iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing. Variety is not a prominent feature of either menu, and that makes the memories uncomplicated, easy to come by.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twenty Years Later . . .

It's been almost twenty years since I left the LLC.   Most of the time I don't think about it much, but lately I’ve been pondering about the things I miss and the things I don’t miss about the church. I have to say that the sound of dozens of voices singing in harmony is one of the things I most miss about the church now. Music has always been a big part of my life. Song services were my favorite church activity. Even now, almost twenty years after leaving the church, hearing people sing Christmas carols brings back a rush of nostalgia.

The thing I find so interesting about the songs, though, is that it seems like Laestadians quote song verses more often that they quote Bible verses. I’m guessing that this is because maybe they sing the songs so often that they have them memorized, but also because the songs speak of a shared experience that they can all relate to.  Maybe they sing the songs more often than they read scripture, and that helps it stick, too. 

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?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to the Pale Blue Dot

Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas, readers. I hope you enjoy this video. Please reach out to strangers over the holidays . . . those of us who have left a faith community know that the holidays can be a lonely time, and the smallest of gestures can be an enormous comfort. Be well.

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.

Monday, February 09, 2009

"I'm a Finnish guy . . . "

By googling "Laestadian," I discovered a new blog called Trying to Live Free (hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) that was started last December, apparently by a Finnish guy seeking pen pals. His first post:
I´m a Finnish guy. My English skills are limited. My backround is SRK (in America LLC).I want to share experiences with others, who have left the LLC or other Laestadian brances.I haven´t lose my faith, and I often notise myself think like laestadians. I have visited in America 5 times in my life. I know the culture and love America.

I´d like to get American friends more, despite in witch Laestadian branch.
Go visit his blog and say terve! Unfortunately I can't seem to post a link, so you'll have to google it.

Monday, January 28, 2008


It's been great to see all the new comments from folks who are questioning Laestadianism, reading the Bible and forming their own conclusions. You are not alone. This blog is for you.

One theme that I hear time and again from people who are leaving, have left, or are considering leaving is this: "I started reading the Bible for myself, and it calls what I've been taught into question."

I think this is one of the great strengths of the Bible, no matter what branch of Christianity you come from. At least since the protestant reformation (and I suspect long before it as well) all kinds of people with widely varying beliefs have used the Bible to call the powers that be and the prevailing wisdom into question.

I can't help but chuckle a little bit inside when some established faith communities try to take the Bible and use it to support a rigid system of rules and power relationships. (Laestadianism being a major offender, but I can think of some others as well.) The Bible, with all its stories of the lowly being raised up, and the rich and powerful being brought down. It's a little bit like trying to build a jail out of bricks using plastic explosives as mortar. Sooner or later that ediface is going to blow sky high!

On a slightly different tangent, when I left Laestadianism I had to take a "break" from the Bible for awhile. Whenever I would read scripture, I would hear the preachers voices in my head. I was so familiar with how the preachers interpreted the Bible that it was hard for me to see anything there other than what the preachers had to say.

One of the great benefits of reading theological books and course materials in addition to just the Bible is that you'll get exposed to ways of thinking about the text that you could never imagine on your own. It has taken a long time, but I'm starting to be able to look at scripture and see a "surplus of meaning" instead of the limited meanings assigned by the preachers.

While I believe that we're each called to be our own theologian and "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" there are also great benefits to taking advantage of the wealth of theological reflection that has been done over the last 20 centuries. We can "stand on the shoulders of giants" and see much farther than we would alone.

I'll conclude this post with some discussion questions from a Bible study I recently ran across on my own denominations web site. I thought the questions were good ones for ex-Laestadians as well:

  • What were your early experiences with and understandings of the Bible? How has your understanding of the Bible changed over time?
  • What is your understanding of the authority of Scripture and the role of tradition and reason in your decision making? Do you see the Bible as containing the specific answers to all our questions and issues, or is it more than "just a simplistic rule book"?
  • What is your experience of the difference between reading and interpreting the Bible alone versus in a group? What is the role of the Christian community (past and present) in interpreting or communicating God's Word to us?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Slow-Rising Blog

Hello friends. My apologies for the confusion over the shutdown. I had some difficulty managing my different blog and email accounts, and then vacation got in the way, and then, well, maybe a little inertia. Okay, a lot of inertia. Why? I dunno. I guess I'm bored silly by Laestadianism and religion as topics. I find myself increasingly distressed and distracted by world events, and eager to align my daily life -- my tiny sphere of influence -- with my values.

I'm not sure where this blog fits in.

But since "community-building" is one of my core values / hobby horses / compensating behaviors (pick one), I'll keep blathering away.

What's new with you? I just finished reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, and highly recommend it. What a vivid depiction of life behind the veil. You will find it difficult to think in stereotypes about Afghanistan and Muslims after reading this.

In the past few months, I joined a group of neighbors in bringing a farmers market to our hood. It has been incredibly rewarding. Not just for the glorious variety of fruits and veggies, but the event itself. In Bill McKibbon's "Deep Economy," he cites a study showing that there are 10 times the number of conversations at farmers markets versus grocery stores. Indeed, ours is a royal jabberfest, with the cental aisle so clogged with conversations at times that snits have snitted (can you DO something about those people who just STAND there and TALK while I'm trying to buy my PARSNIPS and get OUT?! Erm, no, We. Encourage. That kind of thing.)

At last week's market, I ran into an old friend, someone who danced at our wedding and lives just blocks away, but somehow, I'm ashamed to say, fell off the face of the earth when our kids were born (hers are older). She has aged so much in 10 years that I barely recognized her! No doubt she was thinking the same thing about me.

As they say, time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

So what's up with you?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Juletomte to the Rescue

Hi friends! Thanks to Tomte, who may in fact be Juletomte, I am back to blogging. No sooner did I kvetch about my computer loss than he mailed me a little Dell that happened to be "gathering dust" around his um, workshop. (Apparently reindeer prefer Apples?) My Powerbook is in California somewhere getting data extracted, and when it returns, my warranty will recover its replacement. After which, I pledge to be a good citizen and back up regularly. One very expensive lesson learned.

Nonetheless, I am feeling very grateful these days, to Tomte (who also gifted us with "recent comments" and the Label CLoud and the new search box) and to all you regulars and newcomers, who have made for some exciting catch-up reading. Wow. You are doing such a great job of welcoming new voices and respectfully asking and answering questions. This feels like a true community, doesn't it? Who'd a thunk?

Recently a cousin in the OALC phoned me and asked if I was "free2bme." I confessed. She had heard rumors about this site and they were personal and derogatory, to put it mildly. This saddened me. I hope that she is comforted by the fact that we are not slandering people here. I welcome anyone to post comments. I expect others' experiences to be different than mine (my cousin's family does not, for example, practice shunning). But I will continue to publicly reject a doctrine that I consider false and harmful.

And sometimes just unsavory. I was tempted to hit the delete button when I read OALCer's post with the "breast" Laestadianisms, but decided it is better to leave it all on here. Readers can weigh the tone and content of all the various messages, and draw their own conclusions.

Now, as for searching the archives, doesn't the search box work for this? I will try it and report back.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sweet Land

I hope everyone was able to spend Valentine's Day with their loved ones.

I'd like to heartily recommend the movie Sweet Land. Not only did I find it an excellent film and a poignant love story, but I found myself coming out of the theater thinking, "this is how Laestadian community could be, and should be."

Sweet Land is not about Laestadians. The main characters, Inge and Olaf, are immigrant farmers in 1920s rural Minnesota. However, their simple values, ties with the land, and the power of their tight knit church and community were all things that resonated with my Laestadian upbringing.

As unique individuals who remain true to their hearts over and against rigid and provincial community values, Inge and Olaf face many of the same issues that folks thinking about leaving the Laestadian community might face --including shunning and ostracising by the only community they have.

Unlike the bleakness of Laestadianism, however, this film promises hope and reconciliation. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that this movie affirms the notion that listening to one's heart --while bearing a high price-- yields a bountiful harvest in both self and neighbor.


Unbearable Loneliness (No More)

The recent post by anonymous gave me a jolt. I often forget how painful it was to feel trapped, with seemingly no exits.

She writes:

I have so many doubts, have been having for so many years. Am living under fear and emptiness, uncertainty and confusion. Want to leave, but feel so constrained by the social issues involved in leaving. Not sure I have the mental stamina to withstand the shunning, and my family's sure grief. :( Dread the unbearable lonliness in losing my community. Yet at the same time, I am plagued by the sickening hypocrisy of bringing my innocent children up in it. Not sure where to turn anymore. I already recognize some of you here; and you would be sure to know me. I live in fear of being found out, at this time I prize my anonymnity, it is allowing me to jump in on these discussions here. Even wonder as I type this if I am commiting the 'unforgivable sin', by blaspheming The Church. Feel as if I may even go to He** for it. How do I know? How does anyone know? I pray every day that He will help me, that He will guide me. I know that He will. His love is unconditional, and forever. That is my only comfort right now.

First, let me say you don't need to worry about being outed on this blog. You can remain anonymous as long as you like. We understand the reasons why.

Most of us here have lived through that "unbearable loneliness" you speak of. It is awful. You won't have to do that, friend, because we're here. And we'll help.

Check out this wiki how. It represents my own views on how to best leave the OALC. Feel free to edit it.