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

Monday, June 27, 2005

Virginia Writes

I'm pasting this recent comment up here so you won't miss it. Thanks, Virginia, for writing so compellingly about your experience. Please come again.

Virginia said...
Hi, I am an ex-OALCer (NOT ex-"Christian" as "they" would consider me) and thrilled to have discovered this blog. My sister found it, actually. We are granddaughters of Sandra Simonson Uskoski (Axel's second wife), nieces of Walfred and Eino Simonson, etc, etc and grew up in Hancock - so anyone doing even a bit of sleuthing could easily figure out who I am. And to reply to your question only (as I could write books): As a teenager, I discovered that I just did not believe. I could not believe that every last Asian and African and South American and Australian (to say nothing of 99%+ of Europeans and Americans) who was older than 7 years and 1 day at death was destined to eternal hell and damnation. Even tho it scared me to death, I knew that God "saw into my heart" (that teaching, at least, rang true) and He knew that I didn't believe, so I had to take my chances "in the world" because I was destined for hell anyway. There is no way to force oneself to believe. So I went through 20+ years in the "Dark Night of the Soul," looking but finding no substitute for the all-encompassing-ness of the OALC. In the meantime, I became first a computer programmer and then a medical doctor (OB-GYN), was married, divorced, re-married and had 3 children. At age 40, as I had foreseen, I received an "awakening" into the reality of who we ALL are, which is children of God and heirs to His unconditional love. (No, God is not an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a cloud in judgment, but it is easier to use the male pronoun rather than "its" ). The only purpose for all that focus on sin, hell, devil, etc is "crowd control." Of course, I still have an occasional "what if they're right" worry, but those are few and far between now, and I know based only on fear. It isn't easy to leave, emptiness of one sort or the other bound to follow. Staying isn't necessarily wrong either. Integrity, listening to OUR OWN hearts and following their dictates, is what counts. No one can go wrong there, because that is in fact what God reads - not whether we follow someone else's rules. "Love God and Love Your Neighbor" - that's it, no contingencies. I'll leave the topic of forgiveness for perhaps another posting. Many blessings to you all. May God shine his light of acceptance and understanding and tolerance and, yes, love, on all the suffering ones. Virginia


  1. LLLreader sez--Well, this is interesting, I'm a step-granddaughter of Sandra Simenson Uskoski.

  2. To Virginia: I appreciate your input. One question, though. You say that hell, devil, etc are means of crowd control. While I understand what you are saying, I wonder if you have thrown the baby out with the bath water. In other words, do you now not believe in the Devil, hell, etc, or are you saying it is now not the encompassing fear that drives your life's decisions?

  3. Well, Roger, that's a touchy one. What's the "baby", anyway? What have I thrown out? Everylasting salvation? No, I have not thrown that out. The camaraderie of "Christian love?" Frankly, growing up in Hancock, there was a whole lot more back-biting (generated mostly by the most stalwart "Chrisian" families, including preacher's daughters) than there was truly evidence of "Christian love." So I didn't throw that out. So what have I thrown out? Do I NEED sin, evil, the devil, hell or do I NEED to focus on loving God and my neighbor? You can't focus on both. So you tell me which to choose to focus on. It's really as simple as that. Virginia

  4. Roger,

    "The only purpose for all that focus (emphasis mine) on sin, hell, devil, etc is crowd control."

    It seems to me like Virginia's post speaks for itself.

  5. Someone once made a similar comment and told me "not to throw out the baby with the bath water". Problem is, one cannot separate the two in the OALC!

    Virginia, you're not alone out there. I would enjoy emailing! I'm a former OALCer and left in my 40s.

  6. Hello, Virginia!

    I, also, am an ex-OALCer. It's so comforting hearing other's stories and knowing I'm not alone. I believed my doubts while in the OALC were simply because I was "such a poor Christian". Stop by and drop a line at http://lefttheoalc.blogspot.com when you get a chance.

    God's blessings and peace to you!

  7. Roger ~ While I can't answer for Virginia, I can tell you my experience... For me it is exactly that " it's no longer fear that drives my actions". When you are told your whole life that we're the only Christians, then where does that put us when we're in a situation with out "true" Christians around us? IN FEAR! Or if we're in a situation with a small group of "true" Christians among "the world" that same fear (and guilt, depending on the activity) is there in the background. Incidently I'm from a different branch of the AL church. Doesn't that just prove how crazy this "we're the only ones" belief is, when we don't even include the other branches of our own denomination??!! I guess growing up, I understood that some of the OALC were saved. Probably because we have relatives in that church.
    God Bless

  8. I should clarify, that I still attend an AL church, but things are WAY different than before. There are still those who belive that way (see previous post), but MANY who don't.

  9. OK, forget the baby with the bathwater deal, which meant that while throwing away the fear [water] she was throwing away belief in demons, etc [baby]. I was only inquiring as to whether Virginia was in some way saying that she no longer believed in demons, the devil, angels, etc.

  10. Since I am posting similar ideas on two different pages regarding the spiritual world, I'd like to consolidate on this page to limit my typing! :) The following is my response to Free2bme regarding the Bible and it's words on demons, etc.

    Free2bme: Thanks for your response and clarification on your belief in the Bible. The topic just brings up years of study on the subject, the exhaustion of which I care not to repeat. But on the surface, it sounds like you have to decide on the truth / validity / inspiration of everything you read in the Bible. That's a slippery slope. No doubt, my belief in the blood and sacrifice of Jesus, my repentence of sin, and my turning my life over to his rule is all I need to know/ believe/ practice. But for more understanding of my Lord and my desire to get closer to Him, I am lead to reading His Word. In doing so, and trying to understand His world/ realm/ methods, etc, I have to put some thought and study into it. That being said, how am I to understand the spiritual battles in Revelation if I take a casual stance on the spirit world, both angelic and demonic? How am I to understand the very words of Jesus as He calls satan by name, speaks of him as He does, and interacts with him? And what about hell? Is Jesus really trying to scare us into salvation? I say 'no'. That would go against the nice ideas everyone has that He is nothing but a loving God (He is way more than just that). He wouldn't need those tricks. Anyway to share from my humble studies, I just can't give in to the idea that those were just symbols the Lord used for us to understand (or worse, to scare us into His love). Regardless- keep loving the Lord and living for Him!

  11. Pardon me one last time. I re-read your (free2bme) post this morning and I would like to respond to the quote you gave as copied below:
    "As for my view of the Bible, I believe it is inspired, historical, metaphorical, flawed, beautiful, poetic, lyrical, tedious, radical, transformational and spiritually "true." I am definitely not a literalist. To quote Marcus Borg:
    "For people who are literalists and see the Bible as a divine product, having a divine guarantee to be true, if that set of beliefs isn't getting in their way, if it's not causing them intellectual problems, and if they're not using those beliefs to judge other people and beat up on other people, then I have no need to try to change them. The spirit can work through Biblical literalism. Most often, of course, it does lead to a division of the world into the “saved” and the “unsaved .” But basically, if a literalistic way of seeing the Bible is leading to a life that is more and more filled with the spirit and filled with compassion, I have no problem with people staying in that place."

    My assumption is you adhere to Mr. Borg's tolerance of people who are literalist. Allow me to comment on his quote. Borg:"... if [literalism] is not getting in their way... causing intellectual problems...". Me: Are you/ he saying that understanding / knowing God should be free of intellectual wrestling? Is my intellect capable of completely knowing God and His mysteries? Are His ways and teaching so easy that I need only use common sense to understand God's world and qualities? I'm sorry, but if you are not wrestling with those "intellectual difficulties" in the Bible I can only assume you are not getting to know the whole God.
    Borg: "...if they're not using those beliefs to judge other people and beat up on other people...". Me: Surely we should not judge others in regards to their eternal state and beat them up over it. But I am allowed to discern, know, and correct if my brother has sinned (after I take the log out of my own eye). Do I go to war over my convictions? No. But can I call a sin a sin? Yes.. when it is clearly defined in the scripture. Is that judging? Not when done in love and with a heart to restore. So can I judge/ discern? Yes.

    Borg: "Most often, of course, [literalism] does lead to a division of the world into the “saved” and the “unsaved .” Me: Well, is there not a saved group of people and an unsaved? Sure, it may not be as narrow as the OALC may have you believe. And it doesn't mean I look down on or condemn or go to war with those whom God has not chosen (oooh, I just opened a can of worms there). But if your belief in the Bible is watered down because you don't want to admit there is a division in a saved and unsaved populace... well, give me a literalist view.

    Borg: "But basically, if a literalistic way of seeing the Bible is leading to a life that is more and more filled with the spirit and filled with compassion, I have no problem with people staying in that place." Me: My whole feeling of the tone of his quote, and by extension your view, is that literalists are not enlightened to the "higher" ideas of academia and intellectual common sense. To wit my only response for sake of time is that I choose to give God, a spiritual being, the benefit of the doubt as to His power over the earth and His people in it, and that I can't begin to apply my puny brain of common sense and intellect to His unimaginable complexity and mystery. God is God! He gets all the praise, glory, honor... He is a God of love, justice, power, righteousness, wrath, judgement... and on and on. To Him be all praise for who He is in all His complexities.

  12. I really have to question of motives of people like Roger. Maybe Roger himself doesn't hold bad motives, but I've read many posts like his from others who would rather go on a heresy hunt than meet criticism head on.

    People like Virginia post about their experience, and make the critique that perhaps the FOCUS of the Christian gospel is not, and was not ever meant to be, on hell, the devil, etc...

    ...but instead of responding to that criticism, folks like Roger would rather try to call into question the "orthodoxy" of the person raising the criticism. They go on a heresy hunt which is really nothing more than the religious equivalent of a smear campaign.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Roger really is just afraid of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If so, that's Roger's problem, not Virginia's. If so, Roger should deal with his own problem instead of trying to cast aspersions on others.

  13. Well, that's okay wth me, Roger, if you are on a heresy hunt! You will find one here in me. I think you are probably just trying to understand better, and good for you for asking questions. Keep it up. We can all learn from each other.
    Now, may I rant: the whole emphasis on "right thinking" in the OALC and other groups has led to a distorted view of the Gospel and a lot of tail-chasing, angel-counting, demon-cursing, self-seeking diversions. What does this have to do with loving our enemies, feeding the poor, and visiting the sick?
    Yes, it is condescending but I do think Biblical literalism is immature.
    But what is more important than agreeing on the age of the earth, or who wrote Romans, is living -- and loving -- in grace.

  14. Thank you free2bme for seeing correctly that I am just trying, once again, to get into the mindset of the OALC folk and TRYING to carry on a dialogue about some doctrinal issues... noting more, nothing less. No condesension intended on my part. I am not a member of the OALC and never have been. But as ALWAYS happened in the past, and is happening now, when I try to talk to someone affiliated with the OALC, past or present, my inquiries and attempt at doctrinal issues are not recipricated. I am either passed on to someone else in the church (who then passes me on again or dismisses me in some polite way, or I am on a witch hunt (according to Tomte). I thought for sure on this site there could be some dialogue about doctrinal issues. But I was wrong. Free2bme, thanks for your politeness (though calling anyone who is a literalist immature is a slap in the face) but you didn't really respond to my thoughts on the difficulties of your stance on the Bible. If I am backward in my thinking, could you not readily explain why? Or (allow me some sarcasm) are you too busy focusing on the love of God and doing charity that you don't have the time to correct an errent brother's theology? Oh Well, enough said by me. I'll attempt to find a site where honest doctrinal discussion is not frowned upon and is engaged in for the purpose of learning and growing. God bless you all.

  15. I guess the thing that gets to me the most about Roger's attitude is the arrogance. Who puts him in authority to "correct an errant brother's theology?" He tries to portray Marcus Borg as elitist for bringing the tools of the academy to bear on biblical interpretation. Yet Roger implies that those who disagree with him "water down" the Bible.

    Roger also implies that Marcus Borg doesn't struggle with faith issues, seemingly because Marcus Borg isn't willing to argue with and implicitly condemn people who happen to disagree. I find it very telling that for Roger the evidence of spiritual struggle is the willingness to argue with others about spiritual matters. It almost sounds as if the more struggle Roger has internally, the more loudly he will trumpet his views to others.

    If you have an opinion, share it. But you are not the judge and jury for anyone but yourself.

  16. Tomte-
    I believe Roger was asking free2beme to correct his errant theology, not calling hers errant...

    I am sorry to see you go. You're one of the view who will speak up and defend bible literalism.
    I'm glad this site is here to support those struggling with the OALC. It gives them a safe place to inquire and learn, as do the links provided here.
    I personally take offense to "Yes, it is condescending but I do think Biblical literalism is immature." I didn't perceive your dialogs here to be argumentative, but perhaps that's because I'm a literalist, too. I think a lot of those who leave the OALC might just give up on God altogether. Some find more liberal churches, but some do stay conservative. They just go by His teachings rather than the words of man...
    Have you checked out the first 2 "Laestadius-related links" on this site?
    Don't stop conversing because of differing views. You never know who else your conversation might help.

    God bless and keep us all in His love and peace.

  17. My apologies for any offense in calling literalism immature. By this I meant "unripe" (not bratty or insolent). It is a mild word, actually, considering that Biblical literalism has inspired centuries of self-inflicted suffering (Jesus told his followers to cut off their hand if it led them into sin, Matt 5:30) and violence against others in the name of God (eye for an eye, etc.). How did Christians defend slavery but with literal texts?

    Maybe we need to define what it is to be a literalist.

    You probably don't identify with that Baptist preacher in the news-- the one who demonized Matthew Shepard at his funeral -- who is now showing up at soldiers' funerals, saying that God is punishing us for our sins (as the OT Jehovah did, literally, countless times).

    Even those who call themselves literalists Christians make exceptions. They have ripened in viewing the Scriptures as metaphorical and symbolic, rooted in a prescientific era, with contradictions, errors, etc., while containing spiritual truth.

    While (so-called) creation scientists are still beating their drums, no one is making claims for a flat earth sitting on pillars anymore (1 Chr 16:30, Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6).

    Anyhoo -- while debate about these issues can be interesting -- is it possible that the pursuit of "right thinking" is a distraction, a red herring, a false idol? Knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. Belief in the written word is not the same as faith in the Living Word.

    Intuition tells me there is no "formula for belief" -- only the ongoing acceptance of His love, even when we doubt. I'm want my faith to mature, to cling less to opinions, care less about consensus, grow more humble and receptive to the Spirit in each hour of my day.

    I make mistakes. I offend people, and for that I'm sorry.

    For a more intelligent discussion of the dangers of Biblical literalism, see:

  18. I guess I am a little confused. Why wasn't Roger's view treated with love and tolerance? Aren't we just going back to what we're fighting against when we attack him because he disagrees with a certain viewpoint.
    As far as Biblical literalism goes, clearly there are some points in the Bible that are allegorical and/ or poetic. But if it is up to us to decide individually what we believe is true and what isn't, aren't we sitting in for God?
    I am not talking about questioning the theory of divine inspiration. I believe that each of us must ask God that question, and then seek out the answer. I personally read and studied many things before I was convinced that there was no other explanation for the biblical texts than that they were inspired by God Himself. Once I came to that conclusion, can I be intolerant of others that are not there? Clearly not. I can only encourage them to ask of Him likewise, and have an open heart. If they do that and come to another conclusion, that is their affair. But grace must be applied to all.
    Is it loving not to tell someone with bloody clothes they are swimming in shark-infested waters? I believe that was Roger's intent when he pointed out that we have a very real enemy, things are not what they seem. This is a world at war and there is an enemy who wants to confuse people, discourage hearts, and whom we must fight. Just because we choose not to engage in the war doesn't mean there isn't one (e.g. Sept. 11, 2001). The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.
    Let's focus on love, and not compromise it because someone else has a literal view of the Bible.
    Soon when there is a literal return of the King, all who believe in Him will be with Him. Let's get along now.

  19. The original topic had little to do with either the devil or biblical literalism. Virginia posted about her experiences with the OALC, questioning the EMPHASIS on hell, the devil, etc. She didn't talk much about definitions for those items.

    But instead having a real discussion about what the emphasis really should be in Christianity, Roger decided to start questioning Virginia about her particular beliefs regarding hell and the devil.

    I questioned Roger's motives in doing so, because I have seen this type of questioning used as a tactic countless times in on-line, and real life discussion. Instead of talking about the issue at hand, it is a common tactic to change the subject and try to find some belief or view that your opponent holds that you hope others witnessing the conversation will find offensive. Once you've identified such a belief, then you use that belief to make your opponent lose credibility on the original issue.

  20. exoalc-
    Thanks for wording it so lovingly.

    Perhaps you and Roger could email to discuss your differences?

    I hope you'll continue to talk with us.

  21. I guess I read all of Roger's other posts, and didn't see that type of spirit or motives.
    I agree whole-heartedly about the emphasis on Satan, like he is somehow much more powerful than God and we should always laud his power instead of God's.
    One word: whacked.

  22. With so many people disagreeing with my take on Roger's posts, I'm starting to think that I was oversensitive, misreading his intent, and too quick to rush to judgement about Roger's motives. If you're still reading this Roger, I'm sorry I jumped all over you.

    exoalc wrote: "As far as Biblical literalism goes, clearly there are some points in the Bible that are allegorical and/ or poetic. But if it is up to us to decide individually what we believe is true and what isn't, aren't we sitting in for God?"

    I think the vital issue is summed up in a single word, "clearly." Literalists think the Bible is very clear on certain points. Non-literalists also think some things in scripture are quite clear, but the two camps use different means to obtain clarity, and disagree about what parts are clear.

    I submit that things are often not as clear as they seem. I don't think we're sitting in for God when we recognize that it takes hard work and discernment to fruitfully interpret the Bible's meaning.

    One big difference between literalists and non-literalists is that in many cases literalists don't believe that they are interpreting the scripture. They believe that they are just "reading what the Bible says," or "doing what the Bible says." Non-literalists mostly don't believe that such an approach is really possible.

    Another way of thinking about the difference, I've often heard literalists say, "The Bible says what it means, and means what it says." The non-literalist believes that what the Bible says and what the Bible means are not the same thing, and meaning is especially difficult to determine as it is influenced by a variety of issues outside the text.

  23. Hello again, I have been following your "spirited" discussion with some interest and posted a note yesterday addressing the issue of demons etc but it disappeared into cyberspace so will try again. I would like to reconstruct it before Roger disappears! So here goes: I suppose I do believe in demons, etc altho I rarely think of such things (there's that concept of "emphasis" again). There is no reason that evil beings should not exist in the spirit world just as they do on Earth (Hitler and Pol Pot being two familiar and notorious examples). We should recognize and acknowledge that evil can and probably does exist in the spirit realms so we don't do something stupid. But we can let it go at that. Evil has absolutely no power over us unless we invite it in. It can't just jump in and take over. We can easily protect ourselves: "God is my shield (literally) and my strength." So we should keep our eyes on the road (God) and relax and do his will. Simplicity, once again. Excessive pre-occupation with evil, including sin, will paradoxically open us up to the very thing we fear - there's the "demon" actually, fear itself.
    I am not a literalist by any means, except for the parts that I KNOW in my heart should be taken literally: Love the Lord your God and your neighbor; the Truth shall make you free; Seek and ye shall find; the Lord is my shepherd; I will send you a Comforter.
    There is great peace to be found in these truths. Many blessings to you all. Virginia

  24. To Tomte--LLLreader had exactly the same reaction to Rodger's post that you did. I am very good at keeping a check on myself when I say or do things that might have an effect on others. "What is my intent?" is my ongoing question to myself. Dispite what Rodger's intent may or may not have been, some differences in our views on the Bible have certainly been brought up. Many of us have left the OALC because we couldn't stay in a religion that demanded such conformity. Some of us that left are going to go towards churches that preach literalism, others will only find spiritual wholeness in fellowship with non-literalists. Our journeys will be different and that's OK with me.

  25. Being a literalist or non-literalist is not where our salvation lies, so being either one should be fine. It's only when we start to include our own personal convictions, with the message of salvation, that the problems start.

  26. Hi, I feel compelled to add my 2 cents to the literalist-nonliteralist discussion. Last night as I was pondering this issue, I suddenly received the following inspiration ("inspired" comes from "in-filled by spirit", interestingly):
    I tried to find this story in the Bible and could not, and as my Bible CD is in storage, could not look it up, so will reconstruct it as best I remember it.
    Jesus said to the priests (or similar group), "I will destroy this temple and build it up again in 3 days."
    The priests said (I paraphrase): "This man is planning criminal activity. We should haul him off and kill him. But how could he rebuild the temple in 3 days, when it took us 25 years to build it?"
    So I ask you: Who is the literalist here? And whose example should we follow?
    Many blessings, and may they include wisdom and discernment. Virginia

  27. Salvation is not by correct belief, but by grace through faith. Correct belief is important, because we live our lives based on what we believe. Faulty or immature beliefs lead to faulty and immature Christian living. But correct belief is not directly a matter of salvation. And for that, we are all thankful!

  28. Amen, anonymous. If there was anything pietism screwed up, it was taking the focus off of God and putting it on us.

  29. From previous post:

    "But is it up to us to decide
    individually what we believe
    is true and what isn't,aren't
    we sitting in for God?"

    Well,someone in your belief and
    all other churchs is certainly
    doing just that!

    Need I mention the Inquisition,
    burning of 1000's of witches
    and heretics at the stake etc.
    all based on someones interpre- tation of the Bible.

    In modern times ,suicide car
    bombings,savage beheading etc.
    all based on someones interpre-
    tation of the Koran.

    Your trusting someone else to
    interpret the Bible for you?
    What or who gives him that
    ability? Is it safe to turn
    your brain over to someone you
    believe is somehow more gifted
    than you?

    Another post:
    "It is only when we start to
    include our own personal con-
    victions,with the message of
    salvation,that the problems

    The very fact that you make
    that statement is "a personal

    In other words,we are contin-
    ually making our own inter-
    pretations and have personal
    convictions in all aspects
    of our belief.

    The only question is to what
    degree do you trust yourself
    versus someone else.

  30. Hi ~ First.. All the "anonymous" posters are not the same person.
    I had the "personal convictions" post. Just to clarify, what I was wanting to get across, is that our salvation is in Christ, and only him. Everything else beyond that (meaning our daily walk as a Christian) is subject to our personal convictions. My problem with some people, is that they want to add to the message of Christ by saying for example "a true Christian" or a "real Christian" shouldn't/wouldn't do "xyz". People who want to push their own convictions on everyone else don't understand(or think that because someone elses walk is different from theirs that they can't possibly be on the right path) that God does give us all a discerning spirit of our own. To answer your question .. Ex1AP.... We HAVE to trust ourselves. Christ died for each of us individually. Not for a group of us.

  31. I am a former professional
    engineer (an applied science}
    which contributes to the
    following rant:

    From post earlier by literalist:

    "I can't begin to apply my puny
    brain of common sense and
    intellect to His unimaginable
    complexity and mystery"

    This is the favorite reply of
    all strict literalists when
    backed into a corner on scien-
    fic questions and contadic-
    tions in the Bible.

    It can be used to justify any-
    thing you want to believe.

    They seem to live in a nether
    world (underneath reality).

    Yet they fully use and enjoy
    all the modern conveniences,
    scientific and medical dis-
    coveries but cling to every
    word in the Bible.

    Some of the comments above seem
    to think these strict literal-
    ists are benign.

    I disagree.

    They are now attempting to
    sabotage scientific teaching
    and knowledge in our public

    Don't these people realize that
    the very existence and survival
    of this nation will be depend-
    ent on the continuing develop-
    ment of the most powerful and
    technologically advanced mili-
    tary in the world.

    Do you think we could of re-
    sponded to 9-11 with bows and

  32. Come on Roger , you're just
    covering all the bases.

    If you can't take it literally
    you take it allegorically, if
    you can't it allegorically, you
    say its a mystery beyond the
    puny human mind to understand!

    Apparently to you the Bible does
    not mean was it says.

    You are going to pick and choose
    what is believeable and cover
    the rest with the above


  33. Thank you Roger.
    I appreciate your comments.
    If such a view labels me ignorant, that's quite all right.
    I'm the child of the King of Kings.

  34. Perhaps the real issue at stake for the future of Christianity isn't literalism but the myth of original sin. Darwin showed us there never was a "perfect creation" from which we "fell." Life is constantly in flux. If the sin/salvation story doesn't work for many modern minds, it's because we simply know more than our ancestors. We can't help it! We know about germs now too. And cholesterol, and global warming, and that a child dies every three seconds in Africa.

    We will adapt our myths. It will take longer in some than in others, naturally. We cannot help but evolve; it is our destiny.

    What if we saw Christ less as a "rescuer" from our bad selves than as an enlightening agent, calling us to a deeper fuller humanity, to our true selves, and to a profound connection with all other life? Some progressive christians are trying to do this and also some eastern thinkers, bridging an historical divide.

    Those afraid of change will fight for a return to the old myths which give guidance, comfort and also superiority over the unfaithful. This is true of fundamentalists everywhere, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. and explains why in a period of rapid change and globalization and information overload we are seeing a rise in religious fundamentalism worldwide. It's a perilous time.

    It is a mistake to see science as conflicting with spirituality. Science is based on consensual reality and spirituality being personal is not verifiable nor does it need to be. WHen science and "religion" come in conflict, however, it bears serious scrutiny because the consequences are serious. Ask Copernicus. Will future generations look back on our ages as enlightened or dark?

  35. RE: Brain vs Faith

    If you have't done so , check
    out "Journal About Doubt" for
    a more comprehensive discussion
    on subject.

    As far as as the description of
    Roger's brain being puny, it's
    his take not mine.If he is
    qualified to be teacher I am
    sure it is not.


  36. Hello, I feel compelled to respond to Ex1AP who criticized Roger for "covering all his bases." For one thing, the Bible does NOT "mean what it says," since it quite inarguably says contradictory things. So we all, if we are Bible-followers and honest with ourselves, know that pick and choose what we think is important and decide what we think it means. We should remind ourselves that doctrinal arguments, altho sometimes entertaining, will never bring us one millimeter closer to our Creator. God's language is not the language of "doctrine" but of love.
    And for you, Roger, how can anyone put TOO MUCH emphasis on loving their neighbor, caring for the sick, etc? Is that not exactly what Jesus told us to do? Is that not the example he left us? Your comment seemed to fall into the "Yes, but . . " category. I suspect that Jesus had little patience with "Yes, but." Let's give our left brains a rest (or at least see if we can't employ them as Jesus would have us do). We cannot serve two masters, and I'd like to suggest that the left brain is a very insistent one.
    Many blessings to you all. Virginia

  37. PS "Anonymous" said she/he would like to email, but how do you email someone who is anonymous? And I did not and prefer not to post my email address either. V

  38. If you would like to email each other, you might want to set up a temporary account (Hotmail or whatever) and then post it here without using any symbols (to foil those blasted spambots). You can reach me at extoot (at symbol) earthlink (dot) com. No spaces of course. Virginia, are you in California? If so, I'm heading your way tomorrow. A week in Mendocino . . . I already feel the tension slipping away . . .

  39. LLLreader is looking again at who this site is intended for, and what it is intended to accomplish. While it is stimulating for some folks to polish up their take on Christian doctrine and debate points of belief, it doesn't do much towards reaching out to those people who are struggling with leaving the OALC. Just my opinion.

  40. To Virginia;

    Of course you have to "pick and
    choose "

    The differnce is the literalist
    when they
    come to a problem they don't
    dismiss it but try to rescue it
    to retain their overall belief
    in the Bible by the methods
    Beyond Human Understanding

    To LLL;

    This Blog Letterhead Says:

    This blog is intended.....and
    other kinds of Laestadianism.

    I'm going fishing in Lake
    Superior to rest the left side
    of my brain as suggested!

  41. Hi Ex1Ap, I think I misunderstood you (I think I often don't quite get what some of you are saying). And I wonder if you are a "former" engineer, then what are you now? Are you also a "former" Tech-student-style "toot" (we called them "toots" also).
    Frankly, I envy your fishing trip to Lake Superior. The last time I fished in Lake Superior (probably the only time) was with my dad out at Portage Entry a couple of years before he died. I went to keep him company, neither of us being serious fishermen (he was of a mechanical bent, more interested in the boat motor and the rod-holding contraptions he rigged up so we wouldn't have to actually hold the poles). He was also rather impatient and we were whizzing along, much too fast to actually catch anything, I thought. I was dreamily watching the wake when my rod started to bounce. I was so shocked I didn't know what to do and Dad started yelling, "Reel it in, reel it in!" That coho salmon may be the only fish I ever caught, now that I reflect on it. Dad caught a pike and I cooked them up for my folks along with some fresh corn on the cob and served them under a blossoming cherry tree.
    If this sounds kind of like Lake Woebegone, well, at times, it was.

  42. On the literalist versus non-literalist topic, I was reading an article in the Christian Century recently that very succintly denoted the major difference, stating that literalists "believe that they can approach the Bible without any metaphysical presuppositions."

    As a non-literalist, it is extremely difficult for me to dialog with a literalist because of this issue, and I think it causes difficulties on the other side as well. If I start mentioning my metaphysical presuppositions (which is only honest) then I'm automatically a step down, "twisting scripture" if you will. However the literalist will not admit to any metaphysical presuppositions, although I will continue to believe that they have them hidden and feel that they are not conversing in good faith.

    In the end, I find that what literalists and non-literalists share is a common lexicon of words. We commonly affirm God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation, and many other words. But the moment we start giving these words meaning, we will profoundly disagree on the meaning. And not only the meaning, but the process by which the meanings are determined.

  43. I would love to correspond with anonymous who addressed the issues of rescuer vs enlightening agent, sin and salvation, and fundamentalism. I have been doing a lot of reading in the last 5-6 years and need someone to discuss these thing with. Anonymous, how can I contact you? Do you have a separate email account?

  44. I agree totally with Tomte's
    experience in discussions with
    literalists. They seem to live
    in two different worlds.

    The 1AP Church I left actually
    had 2 preachers that were
    engineering graduates.

    I went to engineering college
    with one of these preachers.
    We sat in physics,geology and
    astronomy classes together. We
    were taught that the universe
    was 13.5 billion years old.

    Later when he became a literalist
    preacher I asked him about the
    enormous discrepancy between the
    Bibical account of a 6000 Year
    Old universe and what he learned
    in college.

    He became extremely agitated and
    tried to change the subject. I
    never got any sort of answer.

    Your right ,it causes immense
    difficulties on their side which
    they can't or will not face.

    Of course this is only one of
    100's of discrepancies in the

  45. Hi Ex1Ap, I have two brothers who attended Mich Tech and are faithful OALC members. I have puzzled long and hard over this inconsistency. (It is not something open for discussion, of course). I finally concluded that they, perhaps all of them, live a dichotomous, compartmentalized existence. There is the world that we know, scientific facts and all, in which they function in a fully practical, common-sense way. Then there is the world of the OALC. There is precious little overlap, and they don't seem to require any. The OALC world "just is" and they accept it lock, stock, and barrel because to do otherwise would raise doubts, the biggest threat to believers. I was in the food line in the Kalispell church chatting with one of my brother's friends, when he said that it's good to stay really busy so we don't have time to think (he was serious). They expand on "idle hands" to include an empty mind into which they are sure the devil will jump. It would seem to me that living such a non-integrated existence would cause enormous psychic strain. Maybe it does for some but many seem to manage just fine, bless them. Perhaps they focus on being loving and don't fret about the rest, an approach that works in virtually any situation.
    Many blessings. Virginia

  46. LAESTADIANISM AND HIGHER EDUCATION: Reading what Ex1AP wrote about the two engineering graduates turned pastors made me reflect a little bit on the people I know of Laestadian background who pursued higher education, and while it is hardly a scientific sample, it seems to me that higher education in engineering and other "hard sciences" seems a lot more compatible with keeping that kind of faith than a degree in something like English or the other humanities.

    This seems counterintuitive at first, but I think that the "soft sciences" like Linguistics, History, Sociology, and Psychology have greater potential to call the literalist belief system into question because language studies will inevitably raise questions about how the Bible came to be written and can be understood, while the other fields I mentioned will raise hard issues about how religious groups, ways of thinking, and philosophical ideas have changed over time, calling into question the notion of unbroken continuity.

    While the Laestadian who pursues education in biology or engineering will inevitably have to face scientific ideas like evolution, I think that the "hard science" way of thinking seems more binary in its approach, dividing the world into neat categories, and this is actually pretty compatible with the Laestadian way of thinking, at least on a "macro" level.

    I think there is some truth in what Virginia notes about compartimentalizing as well. I know that when I was a youth attending public school I dealt with the disconnect between life there and life in my church by compartimentalizing --I saw the two as totally separate worlds, with different and incompatible "rules." I did not ever try to reconcile the two. One was "the world," and you did what you had to do in order to get by, but it was the other world that had "the truth."

  47. Perfect. My experience exactly. It's when you try to reconcile the two that you hit the wall. An interesting observation re "hard sciences." And re "truth," what a colossal irony. V

  48. I found the last couple comments very interesting. I had similar experiences, except that higher ed was exceptible if you knew what you were going for, and if of course it was the "right" profession.
    I knew that I wanted to give my children better answers than "that's the way worldly people are". So it starts one thinking WHY. Why all the rules and what exactly do they mean? Once you start leaving those things behind, it would be difficult to go back to "it's against my religion" type answers. Here's a couple of instances. When my daughter was in 1st grade she wanted to wear nail polish. My answer was no, you're too young. She of course didn't like that, and gave examples of all the other kids that were allowed to. So I decided to mention some of the OALC s in her class and asked if they wore it. She said "no, but that's because they think it's a sin" Interestingly enough the reason of age worked better, than the answer of sin I was given. She didn't push for it again, and now she can if she likes, and hardly bothers to.
    Another time (talking about separating church life from school etc.) she was told by an OALC friend that she was worldly because we had a TV and radio. Then she said to me "but Mom, isn't she worldly too, because she watches movies at school." I was amazed to see how neatly she had the whole situation figured out. That was enough to make me really glad that God was leading me down a different path.

  49. I agree about the compartmentalizing and drawing a dichotomy between "spiritual" and "natural", or-- better defined: reality.
    As one of the more conservative people on this site, I will hold to the statement that no question is too big for the Lord of Lords, who is the Creator God.
    If anyone has questions or doubts, that is not sin. There is One who created your brain. Although He will not answer to you, He loves you enough to give you answers. And they don't defy all logic and science.
    They work together.
    And love should rule over all.

    One thing I never could reconcile about being an OALCer is that I had to turn my brain off.
    Virginia, yours is not an isolated experience. There are a lot of people keeping themselves so busy that they don't have to think. And willing to say it.

    I love thinking. I love being alone just to do it.

    And I love articulating to them that that's what I'm doing.

  50. Yes, it is compartmentalizing without thinking. Early on I questioned why we weren't supposed to think. Don't teens recite on Confermation Sunday the Creed which says, in part, I believe God....has given me a body and soul,eyes, ears, and all other members, KNOWLEDGE, REASON, AND GIFT TO DO ALL THESE... (Italics mine). Again an example of mouthing words but not living by them.

  51. Sisu, I'm not familiar with that creed. Which one is it, and can you post the whole thing?


  52. Sisu, I found it. It is from Luther's Small Catechism (I guess that confirmation class was too long ago :)

    I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

    What does this mean?

    I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

  53. Tomte, yes, that's the one, though your wording is slightly different than my book. If memory serves, the Creed was written and the exact wording agreed upon during the Council of Nicea (400s or 500s?). It was during this council that The Trinity became an integral part of Christian belief, differentiating it from Gnostism and other heretical groups.

  54. Ooops, sorry. My first sentence above didn't make sense. Leave out the last part "...and then trust what other scientists say...". God's Peace be with you!

  55. Of the three major creeds, Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasian, the Nicene Creed is the oldest, written in the 300s AD. It's also the only creed that pre-dates the major splits in Christianity, espoused by the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and most other Protestant denominations:

    The Nicene Creed

    We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
    and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    The Athanasian Creed came next, in the 400s AD:

    We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the Father is one; of the Son, another; of the Holy Spirit, another. But the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit.

    The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being. So also there are not three uncreated Beings, nor three infinite Beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being.

    In like manner, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet there are not three omnipotent Beings, but one omnipotent Being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God only. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord only.

    For as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each person distinctively to be both God and Lord, we are prohibited by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords. The Father is made by none, nor created, nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is not created by the Father and the Son, nor begotten, but proceeds. Therefore, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

    And in this Trinity there is nothing prior or posterior, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal and coequal to themselves. So that through all, as was said above, both unity in trinity and trinity in unity is to be adored. Whoever would be saved, let him thus think concerning the Trinity.

    Most recent is the Apostles creed. Although some say it can be traced back to the 200s, the earliest it is found in its current form is the 500s.

    As far as I know, all the Laestadian groups affirm all three creeds.

  56. Actually, I have to correct one point above. The first big split in Christianity is between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics around 1000AD. So all these creeds pre-date that. However I believe that the Eastern Orthodox only use the Nicene creed, and not the other two creeds.

  57. I guess I wasn't very clear in my comments. I didn't mean official splits in the church. I was referring to the early years when there wasn't a central, cohensive Christianity, and various areas around the Mediterranean had their own ideas as to what it was. Picture Apostle Paul going hither and yon trying to get the early churches to follow some semblance of agreed-upon belief (if that weren't so, why was he writing his many letters to the congregations admonishing them on "doctrine"?). Anyway, this is how I'm viewing some of the early church actions.

  58. Tomte is right about the Nicene creed being the only one in use in the Orthodox church, but it doesn't mean that the other two creeds are rejected. The reason they are not used is that they were never formally accepted by any ecoumenical church council (the word 'ecoumenical' means here councils that encompassed all the geographical areas of the church, not just a certain part of it).

    The Nicene creed was formulated by the ecoumenical church council of Nicea in AD 325 and the ecoumenical council of Constantinople made some additions to it in AD 381.

    However, it should be noted that the Roman Catholic church and most churches that derive their origin from the Roman church, incl. Lutherans, do not use the Nicene creed in its original form. The local Spanish church council of Toledo of AD 589 made an addition to the Nicene creed and said that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but also from the Son. From Spain this addition gradually spread also to other areas within the Roman church and became one of the main disagreements between the Roman (=western) church and the other (=eastern) churches resulting in an open split in the church in AD 1054 (Roman Catholic and Orthodox). The Roman church formally added the "and from the Son" to the creed at the council of Lyons in AD 1274, and it has since then been used everywhere in the Roman church, and after the protestant reformation also by its "daughters", while the Eastern Orthodox churches continue to use it in its original form defined by the ecoumenical church councils of Nicea and Constantinople without the addition "and from the Son".

    In fact, there were even earlier splits in the church before the split between the Roman church and the Eastern Orthodox churches in AD 1054. There were some minor splits that have not survived until our days, but there are at least two earlier splits the results of which are still visible: the Nestorians and the non-Chalcedonians. The remnants of the Nestorian split can be found in the Assyrian church of Iraq and surrounding areas, while non-Chalcedonians include i.a. the Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian churches. All those churches are found also in America due to immigration from Middle East and Africa. The non-Chalcedonian churches had negotiations with the Orthodox churches in the 1990s and an agreement was finally reached, and the disagreements were defined as merely terminological rather than theological. However, there is full communion between the churches on "grass root level" only in some areas, it all takes time to heal after centuries of separation. I don't remember the time of the Nestorian split, but it was before the non-Chalcedonian split, which happened around the time of the ecoumenical church council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

  59. I forgot to tell the reason why the Eastern (Orthodox) churches did not accept the Roman addition to the Nicene creed. For the first, it was not accepted because it was made only by a local church council, and not an ecoumenical one. And for the second, it was considered theologically incorrect. The eastern churches would have considered it correct to say that "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son" or that it "proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son", while the Roman addition made it sound like the Holy Spirit had two origins, which was considered to distort the "balance" of the trinity.

  60. Thanks for that clarification, theoforos.

    As an aside, there has been a move in the Anglican church for some time to revert to the original form of the Nicene Creed, without the filioque. I guess if we can ever get another prayerbook revision done, that version will contain the creed without "and the Son."

  61. That's interesting Tomte, I don't think I had heard that before! If the "and from the Son" is deleted, then you will have eliminated both of the main reasons for the AD 1054 split between East and West (from the Eastern point of view): the pope and the addition to the creed. ;) Of course there are other questions as well, but I'm sure it will help in the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue. In fact, my bishop has been very involved in the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue, so I might ask him how the dialogue is going next time I see him. My general impression is that the Orthodox and the Anglicans stand quite close to each other in many issues.