"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Ricky & Austin Johnson on Leaving Laestadianism

When Ricky Johnson's son Austin stopped attending church (the OALC in the UP), it presented an opportunity for Ricky to address his own doubts about the faith. He sought treatment for his depression, found the courage to question his own beliefs, and to be authentic with himself, his family, and his friends. 

He and Austin, who is now a biology professor, talk about their experiences on several videos. Ricky said the interviews were intended to support others who feel marginalized by high control religion. 

"It hurts to feel othered by family and friends within high control religions. Those who have left are worthy of unconditional love and support.”  

While I have different perspectives on animism and rationalism (and the origins of the religion we once shared), I find it encouraging that Ricky and Austin are navigating their inquiries together, and am grateful that they are willing to share their experiences online. 

May others be inspired by their curiosity and compassion. 

Friday, October 06, 2023

Growing Up Laestadian

Karen Tolkkinen’s series “Growing Up Laestadian” (on Medium) is recommended reading for anyone curious about the religion and its effects (particularly the exclusivity practices) on children. It is also a rare and welcome example of a writer who has created, in spite of Laestadian conditioning in feminine self-erasure and secrecy, a space to share her own perspectives. Karen’s quiet courage, humility, and hope suffuse the writing.  

Born into the Minneapolis Laestadian Lutheran Church in 1972, Karen remained a member for 30 years before leaving. She began writing about her childhood, she says, “as a way to open the door to this closed group, to document its practices, and to educate parents about the secret ways their children might be suffering.”

We call ourselves Christians, or believers. We call people outside our church un-Christians, or unbelievers or uns for short, as in, “She’s an un.” We call the people who split away from our church in 1973 heretics, or tics, for short. “They go to the tic church.”

Karen’s formative experiences are simply and effectively evoked. While she avoids historical or political analysis (the focus is on her personal experience), it is not difficult to extrapolate the patriarchal ideology and control dynamics to other arenas in American life, including our continuing struggle for reproductive rights.

The series has been resonating with members of the Extoots support group on Facebook.

“I really enjoy reading what you’re writing; you have a way of getting the words to paper that explain perfectly what’s sometimes difficult to explain when I’m asked about specific things regarding my upbringing . . .”

“You write so well! Keep it up!”

There are 18 posts in the series so far, with more to follow. 

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Links Round-up

Greetings, readers, hope you are staying well. What a weird time to be alive, eh?

When I was hit with Omicron over Christmas, it helped me let go of expectations around tradition and justify a long, slow recovery. I took a lot of baths, watched movies, read books, learned to crochet and bake macarons, etc. 

This formed some habits that are hard to break. I am still moving like molasses in January.

An email from a reader reminded me of just how badly I had neglected this blog. 

In penance, I offer you a post with juicy links, and a warning: if you are likewise susceptible to sloth, click away now!

But say hi in the comments first. Isolation is awful.



Swedish Game Show Takes On Religion

Ällt for Sverige, the popular TV show in which 10 Americans vie for a family reunion (while learning history lessons and enjoying the beauty of a Swedish summer) is back in production post-Covid.

Among the contestants this season is a gay ex-Mormon, a former evangelical youth minister, and a Lutheran PK. They visit Sweden's "Bible Belt" -- Småland, not Norrbotten, to my surprise. (Perhaps there are two Bible Belts in Sweden, one evangelical and one Laestadian? Filming the latter could be a challenge.)

All the Sins

This award-winning crime show directed by Mika Ronkainen features a fictional Laestadian village and explores themes that will resonate with anyone familiar with the faith. One reviewer said: "Unlike other popular Finnish television series such as Bordertown (Sorjonen) and Deadwind (Karppi), All the Sins bears a substantial social dimension and tackles many important themes such as religious fanaticism, family relationships and their effect on the individual, homosexuality, infidelity, and many more. Merja Aakko and Mika Ronkainen both did a tremendous job as far as the screenplay is concerned while Ronkainen is also the director and the man responsible for the spectacular optics of the show. This is a must-see for all those who crave something more than a simple whodunit or a fast-paced, action-packed story that the viewer forgets a few days after watching. It is one of the most unique Nordic television productions of the last few years and it is worthy of our full commitment."

The NYT review: "As portrayed in the series, the sect's strictness combined with its belief in the absolute power of forgiveness make it a good match for a story involving ritualistic murders and church-enforced cover-ups


Ex-Laestadian Humor on Insta

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Poem: En Pointe by Karen Tolkkinen

Published by permission from the poet, Karen Tolkkinen, a former member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church, who lives and writes in Minnesota. 


Photo: Grace in Winter 2, by Jeff, Creative Commons 2.0

En Pointe

Karen Tolkkinen

Who am I?

Who am I?

Who am I?

What do I want?

What do I want?

What do I want?

Once upon a time, I wanted to dance

en pointe, en chaine, entendu.

But they said dancing was sin.

And I hated myself for wanting it.

Once upon a time, I wanted to act in

plays and movies.

But they said no, acting is sin.

Plays are sin. Movies are sin.

And I found myself most wretched for wanting it.

I might have enjoyed watching a Twins game

But that was sin.

I might have enjoyed your company

But I wasn't allowed friends outside church.

I might have enjoyed debate, or speech, or National Honor Society

But they would draw me away from church friends.

So when I moped around the house


My mom would grow impatient.

Read a book, she'd say.

So I would.

Books about ballet. 

And actors.

And normal kids befriending other normal kids.

And no-one to tell them they were wrong.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Notable Extoots: Johanna Hurtig

Johanna Hurtig

(Google Translation to English)

11/29/2018 1:40 PM - Meri Toivanen | Homeland
Johanna Hurtig

Last Sunday the inauguration of the priesthood and diaconia took place at Tampere Cathedral. Among the initiates was the familiar name of many who followed ecclesiastical and religious debate.

Dr. Johanna Hurtig, Doctor of Social Sciences, is known for her research in raising early childhood sexual abuse in the Laestadianism..

Hurtig received a priestly ordination as a temporary expert in social ethics and human rights at the Church Council. Her employment will last until the end of 2020.

The Church Board is located in Helsinki, but Hurtig participated in the inauguration in Tampere based on his home town of Hollola. The area will move to the Diocese of Mikkeli early next year. However, as Hurtig does not hold a parish office, she remains a priest in Tampere.

- The ordination was significant, Hurtig says a few days after the inauguration by telephone from her home in Kärkölä.

- Particularly at the fair was how people queued up for us when we shared a communion with another ordained priest in the hallway of the cathedral.

But how did this come about?

Johanna Hurtig says.

Master of Social Ethics in Moral Activity of Conservative Lestadian Adults

Some years ago, Hurtig began to feel more and more called to be called. She noticed that the priesthood seemed an interesting idea.

Could I go on a new one at this point? Hurtig asked herself. Born in 1960, she felt she had gained a lot in the academic world. Most recently, Hurtig worked as an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Lapland. In 2014, she received the State Information Disclosure Award for her research on abuse.

On the other hand, the fire for academic work had become fragile. The university world started to feel like a stranger.

In 2017, Hurtig applied for a postgraduate program at the University of Helsinki, based on her previous studies. The studies have been rated for two years, but Hurtig completed them in one and a half years. After graduation, she applied for a year's job and during that time returned to her former job at the university.

Hurtig's Master of Social Ethics was based on material she had collected during her earlier research. In Graduate, she looked at the moral authority of adults in the Conservative Lestadian revival movement and the importance of the religious community to it.

Hurtig stated in her thesis that the Conservative-Laestadian movement as a community does not seem to recognize the ethical potential of its membership. Unused or underutilized individuals' moral capital cannot grow or develop.

The encounter of dishonesty led to the priesthood

Johanna Hurtig says she has repeatedly asked herself why? Why did she still want to be a priest at this age and at this stage in his life?

There are many reasons, Hurtig says.

- But somehow they connect with my research years 2009-2013.

For Hurtig, investigating sexual abuse in her own revival movement was not just an academic process. It affected her spiritually. She says she understands that something she encountered in those years deeply upset her.

According to Hurtig, it was not so much about people doing bad things to each other, nor about how ugly things can be.

- It wasn't new. I wasn't young then.

Hurtig says she was shocked by the dishonesty she faced during her research years.

- Those who believe in themselves did not recognize dishonesty in themselves, in one another or in the community, even though the signs were clear and easily visible.

People are mistaken, weak, and make mistakes, Hurtig says.

- Then the conscience tells you that that was not true, that act was wrong. There must be responsibility, repentance. It was somehow terribly sad to watch for so long that truth, light, compassion, and honesty disappeared, and hid somewhere in the community I was researching.

Hurtig disassociates herself from the Conservative Lestadism and approaches "Church Faith"

After the investigation, the sadness deepened. According to Hurtig, it aroused a kind of longing, the expectation of counterattack.

- I missed goodness, love and honesty. I felt that nothing else was strong enough to counteract the darkness I encountered except God.

Hurtig says she has come closer to "believing in the church." She attended the fair and became a steward in her home church. She had already exited the Conservative Laestadian movement.

- I value knowledge and research, but now I am delighted to be able to serve God as a priest, to share His miracles, love, and goodness. Only He has the power to turn evil into good and darkness into light.

"The movement has begun to understand that criticism cannot be completely superseded"

Johanna Hurtig calls Conservative Laestadianism a breeding ground. She now sees her relationship with the movement as straightforward. In recent years, she has repeatedly attended a summer event for the Conservative Laestadians in the Summer Clubs.

- I wouldn't be here without that background. Spiritually, I have moved to the common church. I'm not in the sect, but there are a lot of people I love there.

Other women consecrated to the priesthood from a conservative Laestadian background are close friends with Hurtig.

In recent years, Hurtig has followed the development of the Conservative Laestadian movement as a whole. She notes that the crises of the movement have been a big issue for many for whom the movement is a refuge.

Within a short period of time, a number of issues that were difficult for the revival movement were addressed in public: the role of women and their relationship to pregnancy prevention, women's priesthood, abuse scandals.

Johanna Hurtig says she can't say how far the business has gone or whether everything is behind her.

- But it seems like something has happened. The revival movement has begun to realize that the criticism of those who left it cannot be completely ignored.

Photo: Diocese of Tampere / Jussi Valkeajoki

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