Showing posts with label laestadianism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label laestadianism. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Boundaries, and those who cross them

I read an interesting article this morning by Carl McColman about boundaries which reflected upon a couple of mutually paradoxical points.

On the one hand every community, religious or otherwise, has boundaries that determine who is in and who is out of the community, define norms for acceptable behavior, etc. Sometimes boundaries are helpful, but other times (and here I'm thinking about my own Laestadian upbringing and the stories many others have shared on this site) boundaries can be very damaging, promoting fear of "the other," conformity, and stifling creativity.

On the other hand, Christians have the example of Jesus, who constantly got in trouble with the religious and secular authorities of his day for crossing boundaries. Looking at the theology and the stories the church tells about Jesus this theme is even more pronounced. Jesus violates the boundaries between human and Divine, between body and spirit, between heaven and earth, between death and life.

from That which is different by Carl McColman

[W]hile there may be boundaries that separate believer from non-believer, love -- true love, the love that comes from God -- knows no boundaries. So we who live inside the boundaries have to learn how to love through the boundaries. I’m not sure what that looks like, because it sounds like something that could easily be condescending or "second rate." But I don't think love operates according to a caste system. Jesus didn't say, "Love your Christian neighbors as yourself," nor did he say "love your neighbors as yourself, and of course this means different things depending on whether your neighbor is a believer or not." So here's the paradox: the boundaries of Christianity remind us who we are: a people who have given our lives over to love. Remove the boundaries, and our identity is in jeopardy. But it is that very identity that calls us to cross the boundaries with the lavish, prodigal love of God.

As ex-Laestadians, we've all crossed a pretty large boundary. What has it meant for you to be a boundary crosser? Has it changed the way you think about boundaries in general? What boundaries, if any, are still meaningful?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Three Free E-books about Laestadianism

Warren H. Hepokoski's research on the Laestadian movement has been mentioned here before, but I thought I'd highlight these links to his writings again since being recently made aware that his books are also available as PDF files for off-line reading.

Lars Levi Laestadius and the Revival in Lapland, by Warren H. Hepokoski (HTML) (PDF)

The Laestadian Movement: Disputes and Divisions 1861 - 2000, by Warren H. Hepokoski (HTML) (PDF)

The Laestadian Movement: Background Writings and Testimonies, Warren H. Hepokoski (PDF only)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Biblical Dreams and Schemes

I recently ran across this "long, but worth it" article by Dr. James D. Tabor (Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) entitled What the Bible Says About Death, Afterlife, and the Future. I think it's worth sharing because in no other article I've read on this subject to date have I seen both modern biblical scholarship and Bible verse citation used to such dramatic effect to convincingly show how biblical concepts have changed over time, resulting in a Bible in which competing and often contradictory claims about death, afterlife, and the future coexist.

There is no simple and single response to the question of what the Bible really says about the future. What one finds is just what one would expect in any book composed of documents from many times, places, circumstances, and authors–variety and development. . . My treatment presupposes no particular valuation of the various dreams and schemes regarding the future.

What is most remarkable about all these images and views of the future, taken from all parts of the Bible, is their amazing flexibility. They were, and continue to be, applied to all kinds of situations and circumstances, always shaping the way readers ask and answer some of their most profound questions.

I increasingly see Laestadtianism in this context. It arose in a specific historical and cultural situation as a meaningful response to valid issues at that time. As evidenced by some of the posters to this site, it remains meaningful to some people today. However to me and many others, Laestadianism fails to address the present day situation. This disconnect causes many people to leave.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pietism, Baptism, and Laestadianism

Yesterday at church a new baby was baptized. The sermon leading up to the baptism tied in well, discussing the meaning of the sacrament from a mainline protestant/Episcopalian perspective.

Without getting into too much detail on the theology, we believe that in baptism we bear witness to and make manifest God's action, washing the baptized from sin and welcoming him or her into God's beloved community. We make promises, "with God's help" to support the family and the newly baptized so that they can grow and mature in their faith journey, a life-long process.

As I sat in my pew, I couldn't help but be struck by how opposite this was from the pietism I grew up with in the Laestadian tradition. Sure, we baptized babies in the ALC as well, but it never really made much sense to me there and seemed to be in conflict with the rest of Laestadian theology, such as it was, which to me seemed to take all the emphasis off of what God has done or is doing, and put all the onus on what individuals must do, under fear of losing ones salvation.

Of course, if you corner a Laestadian pastor and put the question baldly, they'll say that salvation is by grace through faith and certainly not through works. But the pietism in Laestadianism belies this. Without the outward marks of piety, one's faith was called into question. If one didn't dress properly, speak properly, greet properly, act properly, think properly, or feel properly you were skating on thin ice at the very least, and probably headed down the road to hell.

Yesterday's baptism was the joyful expectation of another child starting down life's path, a journey of possibilities and adventure, full of wonder about life, God, and other people. It seemed such a contrast to Laestadian baptisms, where the feeling was much more somber, full of fear and trepidation about whether the child would be "saved" when he or she got older, and the dangers and temptations of the world.

I, for one, am sick and tired of fear based religion. Any religion or religious sales-pitch that preys on people's insecurities or fears is not worth following, in my opinion.

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?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What Has Laestadianism Contributed?

I found a cool web site yesterday called World Prayers - Prayer Archive. According to the site description, it exists to gather "the great prayers from all spiritual traditions around the world into a unified nonprofit archive; for the purpose of inspiration, study and cross cultural appreciation."

I especially got a kick out of the Prayer Wheel. You can click to "spin" the wheel and get a random prayer.

I was struck by the similarities of prayer across very different religious traditions, as well as the differences.

The site has many Christian prayers from different cultures, and this of course made me wonder if there are any distinctively Laestadian prayers that could be added to the archive.

One of the things I find disappointing about Laestadianism that it hasn't created any great art or literature. It hasn't seemed to me as if it has created anything of beauty for the ages.

I would love to be mistaken on this point. So if you know of any examples of distinctively Laestadian prayer, art, or anything else, please post a comment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Laestadian adventures on Youtube

Thanks to an Anonymous commenter, my attention was drawn to these Laestadian related clips on YouTube. Unfortunately, I don't know Swedish or Finnish so I don't know exactly what these clips are saying. Can any of you Scandinavian language speakers out there provide a brief paraphrase or summary translation of what is being talked about in these clips?

The first one had a description, which I ran through Google Translate to get this mangled rendering of the Swedish: The movie is a description of Laestadius' birth and .... Laestadianism is the largest revivalist movement and active in the Lutheran churches. The film tries, in contrast to most other youtube snippet makers, to describe Laestadianism in a positive spirit.

I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of irony watching this clip, with the beautiful organ and accompanied choral arrangement --wouldn't these be musical forms that many of Laestadius' followers (especially in the United States) would condemn as sinful? Yet here they provide the musical backdrop to the pictures and Swedish captions. I'd love to know if the singers are Laestadians...they certainly sing a lot faster and more in tune than most of the Laestadians I ever heard in church. :)

The next clip is in Finnish. Google translated description: A detailed description of Laestadianism origins and current status. The film goes through Laestadian early stages, distribution, and trends report. The film seeks to describe the positive wake-up movement, unlike many other products in this Youtube Code.

It looks to be virtually identical to the first clip, but in Finnish and a little more recent footage. I'm curious about what look to be large gatherings of Laestadians. Are these the Finnish equivalents of the Fall Services, Conventions, and Youth Rallies that existed in my ALC (Federation) youth?

Last clip, apparently in Swedish: Film and photos from laestadianernas meeting in Bosund 5-7.6.2009 with a pension song as background music.

What's a "pension song," or did Google Translate mess that up? :-) The people singing in this shorter clip sound more like the Laestadians I grew up with. Our services were often translated from Finnish to English, and we sang a lot of music out of the Finnish hymnal. So this singing, in a language I don't understand, has the same slow, soulful mournfulness of that music. The clips of large families, children playing in the parking lot, and the cadence of the preaching (used here as a voice over the music) all transported me back to similiar services during my childhood.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching these. Thanks, Anonymous!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Is change inevitable?

Like many readers of this site, when I was growing up there was no such thing as the internet, or the world wide web. The main source of media during that time was television, but like so many Laestadians "of a certain age," in our congregation no television was allowed.

In some branches of Laestadianism, in some congregations, this has changed during the last 10-20 years. Some Laestadians have TVs now, and even some of the ones that still don't have internet access. So I am always interested when a Laestadian church decides to put up a web site. Remembering how the internal politics of these congregations work, I think we can safely assume that if a congregation has a web site, use of the internet is not a major "controversy" within that congregation.

This weekend someone sent me a link to the Apostolic Lutheran Church of Kingston. It's a very nice site design, professionally done. It has an RSS feed, sermon podcasts, the pastor's blog, and the promise of constant updates with new content of interest to the congregation or visitors.

Housed within all that technological newness, however, are the very old ideas that most of us are so familiar with. One page in particular jumped out at me:

In Jerusalem, Israel, in the year 33, the Apostles Church was established upon the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the authority of God, our creator. This was the beginning of our present church.

In Germany, in 1517, Martin Luther fathered the reformation, hence we use Lutheran in our church name.

Within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, in the 1700's and 1800's, the quickening and awakening work of God began to stir the hearts of men. . . By 1845, in the Northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway, the Apostle Church experienced a revival by Lars Levi Laestadius.

On one level I fully realize that this capsule history is a cute way of unpacking "Apostolic Lutheran Church" in a few short paragraphs. On the other hand, it also perpetuates an idea that was certainly alive during my youth and lives on today in many fundamentalist protestant denominations --that nothing of any real theological or spiritual relevance has happened in the last 2,000 years.

This understanding of church history would have us believe that Jesus died, the apostles lived, skip ahead to the reformation and Laestadius (or insert your own sects founder's name), and here we are today. It completely hides the wealth of riches to be found in all the myriad and diverse understandings of the faith that have arisen between then and now, as well as the dark and shameful episodes of the tradition we call our own.

Thankfully, we live in an age where information has never been more freely available. It was easy to remain in the dark growing up, but it's much more difficult to control the message today. It's all here for anyone who cares to look.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dealing with real differences; Islam, Christianity, and Laestadianism

I recently read President Obama's speech at Cairo University. It's quite lengthy, but worth reading in full. It really sets a different tone than what I've heard before from any American President when speaking to the Muslim world. Gutsy, to say the least.

Regardless of how successful one thinks this attempt at outreach to the Muslim world will ultimately be, I think the speech can raise some interesting questions about how we on this blog can deal with the real differences between us. There has been a lot of heat lately. I have participated in that heat. Maybe there has been some light too, but I'm much less certain on that score. ;-)

I've excerpted some of the passages that are especially relevant to us below. I hope this post will serve as a jumping off point for further discussion.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.

Growing up Laestadian, it seemed like saying "openly the things we hold in our hearts" was very difficult when those things were things that questioned, or revealed difference. It seems to me like it was encouraged to keep those things very private indeed, in order to avoid offending.

Therein lies some of the problem. How can differences be shared openly without it causing conflict and hatred? How can "a sustained effort to listen" happen when people truly and widely disagree?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Forbidden Fruit

Seems there is a new Swedish-Finnish film called "Forbidden Fruit" that features a Laestadian theme, or perhaps more accurately, an ex-Laestadian theme. I wonder if the film is based on a book, and whether it is woefully exaggerated. Of course what seems plausible in the film may depend on the how much one knows about Laestadianism. As many of you have no doubt experienced, non-Laestadians tend to disbelieve the tenets of the religion, as if those ideas belong to an earlier century and couldn't possibly be embraced by modern, 21st century people. Heh. Little do they know!

I look forward to hearing reviews from our European readers. Meanwhile, here is Variety magazine's write-up.

Two 18-year-olds from apostolic Lutheran families wind up sampling "Forbidden Fruit" in Finnish director Dome Karukoski's ("Home of the Dark Butterflies") melodramatic coming-of-ager. Offering a superficial look at the strict fundamentalist beliefs of his country's 110,000-strong Laestadian community, a sect that takes the Bible literally and prohibits contraceptives, television, alcohol, rhythmic dancing and premarital sex, pic is always watchable but seldom entirely plausible or emotionally satisfying. A domestic theatrical release is slated for mid-February; fests and tube constitute best bets for export.

Sassy brunette Maria (Amanda Pilke) leaves her repressive home in Northern Ostrobothnia to experience the pleasures of the flesh in Helsinki. She figures she can always repent and be welcomed back to the fold ("All your sins forgiven in the name and blood of Christ") per Laestadian liturgy. When community elders dispatch Maria's prissy blonde best friend Raakel (Marjut Maristo) to save her from eternal damnation, they fail to consider Raakel's own vulnerabilities. Thesping throughout tends toward the histrionic. Tuomo Hutri's fine widescreen camerawork does a better job depicting the capital's worldly temptations than Aleksi Bardy's script. Costumes and makeup sometimes feel at odds with the story.

I had to laugh at that last comment. I don't know how 18-year old Laestadian girls dress in Ostrobothnia, but a reviewer would find the attire of most OALC girls QUITE at odds with religious modesty.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When Leaving is the Right Thing to Do

There has been some to and fro about marriage, and I thought exoalc had a great point:

"Sometimes divorce isn't a failure, but the most courageous step one can take. And on the flip side, staying in a dead-end, abusive, traumatic, explosive and soul-sucking marriage is the cop out for being the person you were created to be."

Once a therapist (yes, I saw a few, to great benefit) told me something along these lines "the success of a relationship is not only in its duration." A window opened in my mind.

How does this apply to our relationship to our former churches? Isn't leaving Laestadianism like a divorce (for some of us, quick and for others, long and drawn out)?

Can we reconsider our relationships to Laestadianism as successful, in some ways if not in ways that kept us there?

From this perspective, I can be grateful for my childhood in the OALC. It helped make me who I am. By giving me the experience of being an outsider, for example, it actually enabled me to become an outsider to IT, and to have the courage of my convictions when they are not shared by others.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Laestadians Online

Kiitos to the kind reader who sent me this article from Finland: "Conservative Laestadians' lifestyle debate boils over onto the Internet." (outdated link)

"Maybe you've started something," she joked in her email. But surely the online debate over Laestadianism predates this blog, which started in August, 2004. Maybe one of our European readers can give us a timeline.

Here is an excerpt:
Something of an upheaval is now going on within the movement, with an increasing number of people feeling that there is an overemphasis on the external rules of the religion.

As there is a resistance to expressing public criticism within the movement, debate takes place on Internet message boards and within small groups . . . Dissidents among the Laestadians want to emphasize pure Lutheranism without the lifestyle rules . . . (which) took root in the 1960s and 1970s - a time of pastoral care meetings and excommunications of wayward members. Increasing numbers of today's members are calling for a critical examination of the era.

Rules, such as the bans on television, the theatre, and birth control are no more than advice, according to the official teaching. However, individual members of the movement are not entitled to question them . . .

Conservative Laestadians often take part in on-line debates anonymously.

"They are afraid of being labelled. If an individual member of the congregation says something that goes against the official teaching, his or her faith is immediately is seen in a questionable light."

Been there, done that? I encourage you to read the whole article. There's a wonderful bit about a Laestadian pastor who got out of teaching confirmation camp by holding a press interview in a (gasp) theatre.

O tempora! O mores!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Duper Tuesday

Since today is Super Duper Tuesday, and many of our readers will be voting in primaries or caucuses today, I thought I'd start this thread to discuss faith and politics.

As ex-Laestadians, do you see your spiritual journey as relating to your political views or affiliations? Has your politics changed or stayed the same since leaving Laestadianism?

Who do you like among the current field of presidential hopefuls, and why?

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.


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?


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Us and Them

I ran across this poem by Rudyard Kipling recently. It reminded me of the Laestadian mindset
(all too easy to fall into even if you're ex-Laestadian or never Laestadian:)

We and They

All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!)
Looking on We
As only a sort of They!

In college I learned about "binary opposites," socially constructed pairings such as us/them, male/female, black/white, rich/poor, civilized/savage, etc. Western thought is based upon drawing these distinctions, and priviledging one of the set in the pairs over the other. Laestadianism shares in this heritage and expands upon it.

The story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection can be seen as one of reconciling opposites. As Advent gives way to Christmas in the days ahead, ponder these binary opposites:

heaven/earth, life/death, divine/human, spirit/body

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Unity, Laestadian Unity

What is the basis for Christian unity? We all know how unsuccessful Laestadianism is when it comes to unity. What started as a church-within-a-church in nineteenth century Finland quickly splintered into differing and competing groups both there and in the United States, where acronyms like ALC, FALC, OALC, LLC and more denote the many groups --most of whom think they are the only true church.

Of course, all the Laestadian splinters are but a microcosm of the even greater disunity throughout greater Christendom. Depending on which historians you read, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism either parted ways in 1066 or were never one church to begin with. Then in the 1500s the Anglicans split off, and poor, naive, Martin Luther opened the floodgates for split-offs and spin-offs by translating the Bible into the vernacular, effectively allowing each reader to be their own priest, preacher, and theologian. He actually believed that if each person could read the Bible for themselves they'd all agree with his interpretation!

I'd like to start a conversation here about what keeps us together as Christians, as ex-Laestadians, as human beings... I'll start by quoting this excerpt of an article I read in another context but which I found illuminating...

If we are to restore unity amidst our differences, I don't think we will find it in the Bible. After all, the expression of the Word of God par excellence for Christian people is not the Bible. It is, rather, Jesus himself – the Word made flesh. At the heart of our faith, we see Jesus as the most sublime expression of the Word of God, and we are convinced that Jesus as the Christ is not locked into a particular period of history, but is a living presence in the life of the church today and in the life of each of us who seek to be his followers. The Bible is a tool – and an indispensable one – in coming to know the Christ, as are tradition and reason. But the tools can ever only be tools – none of them can ever replace the One whom they help us to find.

St. Paul has been much maligned over the years. He is regarded by many as a misogynistic conservative. But it is closer to the truth, I think, to acknowledge that whatever else St. Paul was or might have been, at heart, he was a mystic whose own conversion to the Christian faith was rooted in an encounter with the Risen Christ that was difficult to put into words. As Paul himself says, when it happened, he couldn't tell whether or not he was in his own body, and after it was over, he had seen things that were impossible to describe. But the result of this encounter with the Risen Christ for Paul was radical transformation – the kind of transformation that made Paul, the observant Jew, able to say – quite astonishingly – that in Christ, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." This leads me to conclude that in Christ, there is also neither conservative nor liberal, Global South or Global North, straight or gay. Rather, there are only human beings made in the image of God, baptized into the Body of Christ, each seeking to be transformed through our own encounter with the Risen Christ. Our life in Christ lies exactly there: in Christ. Not in the Bible, nor even in our tradition. And Jesus reminded his followers many times that life in Christ was often an unpredictable and personally crucifying experience.

After making this post, I ran across this funny cartoon on regarding some of things that divide us, so I'm making this update. ;-)


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Politics, Laestadian Style

My head was spinning the other day, as I read about Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president. Politics certainly makes for strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes.

At the same time, I couldn't help but think about Laestadians, ex-Laestadians, and how their politics has and has not changed over the years.

Growing up in the ALC, most of my fellow parishioners were farmers and unionized workers who tended to vote for the Democratic party. However those were the decades that saw the rise of the Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan, and social conservatives as a voting block. Today I'd be willing to bet most of these folks vote for the Republicans because of their opposition to abortion and gay rights.

As an ex-Laestadian, my own politics has changed over the years as well. As a kid I was a staunch Republican, because I was a social conservative and a fiscal conservative. Questioning the faith of my youth also caused political questioning. I've been a card carrying Libertarian, voted for Ross Perot two times, (I'm a bit embarrassed about the second time) and had a brief flirtation with the Green Party before settling into my current configuration of "votes mainly for Democrats, but is still very fiscally conservative."

I'm supporting Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate, I might leave that section of my ballot blank (because of her 'yes' vote authorizing the Iraq war.) So if I'm a Democrat, I'm a conflicted one.

How about you? Has your politics changed with your faith? Do the two inform each other? Do Laestadians tend to vote a certain way, or not at all? If you read this blog from outside of the United States, what is your perspective on the role politics and Laestadianism comes together in your country?


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finding God in the Brain

I ran across this article recently, and thought I'd share:

Searching for God in the Brain, from Scientific American

As one who is fascinated with religious experience, I was intrigued by the finding that mystical experiences, speaking in tongues, and the like can be positively correlated with activity in specific regions of the brain.

Here's my bias: I think that any religion worth its salt should be able to provide its adherents with profound experiences. In that light, do you think Laestadianism measures up? Does it provide an experience of divine union? if so, which practices or beliefs facilitate this?

Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.

What do you think? Do these kind of findings have a positive, negative, or no effect on your faith?

I'm with the nuns. I think it's exciting that there might actually be a part of the brain that allows us to experience the Divine.