"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: August 2005

Monday, August 29, 2005

It's No Joik

One of my more tender childhood memories is harmonizing with my dad on car trips, not only Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art but Red River Valley and other folk tunes. I was dismayed to learn that the OALC has dropped Amazing Grace from its repertoire. It is a lovely song. However, this antimusical action is very much in keeping with Laestadian tradition. Here is an excerpt from a master's thesis by Rebekah Moore. You can read the whole thing here.

"As an adult, Læstadius blended together elements of Sámi cultures, such as the four Sámi languages in which he was fluent, as well as supernatural figures from Sámi spiritual practices with Christian spiritual practices. He conducted extensive research on Sámi spirituality, and used the knowledge he gleaned to attack the “old ways” in his teachings. As a Christian leader and a Sámi, Læstadius affectively criticized the Sámi worldview because he understood it. His activities were exceptionally successful; to this day many Sámi are still practicing Læstadians. Læstadianism had a great impact on the performance of joiks. In fact, joiks were the central cultural expression attacked by Læstadius. Many Sámi today still view joiking as a sin. . . . "

". . . . Læstadius and his followers successfully alienated joikers from the 19th century forward, which subsequently led to a decline in the practice of joik. In the 1960s when Arnsberg, Ruong, and Unsgaard set out to make a collection of joiks they encountered many Sámi who were also Læstadians and condemned the practice of joiking; but they also encountered Sámi Læstadians who practiced joik in secret. They met one man in their journeys through Swedish Sápmi who refused to perform when he heard there was a chance the joiks would be broadcast. He said he was a strict Læstadian, and would have been willing to do it “for scientific purposes,” if his joiks were not made public. Evidenced in this encounter is the fact that, despite the absorption of Læstadius’s teachings regarding the joik, this indigenous music-making survived underground. Additionally, hymn singing in Sámi Læstadian parishes, as in other denominations, maintained many of the aesthetics of the Sámi joik, even as the actual tradition was condemned by worshippers."

If you want to hear some joiking, listen to clips of Marie Boine (photo). She was raised in a strict Laestadian home.

No doubt Amazing Grace will continue to be sung in strict Laestadian homes. Here is a nice folk version.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Translation Please?

Please, would one of you brilliant bilingual types translate the Finnish post (click on above)?
Muchas kiitos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lutherans Do Vary

Tonight we joined some friends from church for a Los Lobos concert at the zoo, where we and oh, a thousand others picnicked on the meadow in front of the stage, and then sat or swayed or danced to a rocking show. The children were so much fun to watch. At one point I found myself in a conga line.

With Lutherans. It was a splendid moment.

Sorry about the mess-up with the comments (they were unreadable earlier today). Next time I'll try to show the names of the archive posts without destroying any other functions.

By the way, I've been invited to an OALC wedding next month. I don't think there'll be any conga lines.

Lurkers Please Post

I'm feeling so much better. Thanks for the prayers. Now if any of you are feeling a strange "stitch in the side" that lasts for months on end, please go get it checked out. My surgery and recovery would have been easier a year ago. (Doh!)

This week the children made recycled-paper fish in church camp. (In addition to being a Christian symbol, these "koi nobori," symbolizing courage and endurance, are traditionally flown on Children's Day in Japan.)

SPECIAL REQUEST: Now that the site is getting spammed regularly, I would like to know how many of the 70-plus daily visits are actual live human readers. If you've been lurking but not posting, would you please write a line today? Just a hello is fine. Anonymity guaranteed.

Muchos gracias.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Here you go, MTH.

And thanks for the suggestion.

On a personal note, I barked at my son today over some egregious error on his part (I think he was slow in getting his seat belt on). The sound of my own voice appalled me. I apologized to him and kissed him and he looked up at me with his beautiful brown eyes and said, "Oh, Mom, even when you don't say you're sorry, I forgive you." This set me to musing about all the ways we say we are sorry that go beyond words. Overemphasing the words can mean that contrite behavior gets short shrift.

Hello, all you deep thinkers. I think the subject of forgiveness of sins deserves a heading of its own, it being the "KEY" on which the entire exclusivity of the OALC (and apparently other Laestadian churches) is based. I had an epiphany on this subject some time ago, namely: We were taught that "Christians" held the keys, and "whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained." So therefore, in order to be forgiven and have a shot at "eternal life," we had to have our sins forgiven by another "Christian." Period. But this forgiveness is hollow, if the forgiver does not also have the right to refuse to forgive. By this reasoning, mere humans have the right and power to consign other humans to everlasting hell and damnation. Poppycock, I say. That cannot possibly be the correct interpretation. God forgives. We ONLY need God to forgive us. And we can ask him directly, as you say. Of course, if we wrong someone, we should ask their forgiveness AND ATTEMPT TO RIGHT THE WRONG (not part of the OALC teaching, and an error, in my opinion). But this wailing and carrying on on the necks of other "Christians" about "being such a poor example, hardness of heart" and whatever are the "generic sins du jour" is, well, mostly a contrived attempt to guarantee entrance into heaven. In my opinion, there is very little true remorse, even less real sin, perhaps some self-indulgent purging, plenty of mis-placed guilt, an escape from consequences, and a diversion of our attention away from LOVING EACH OTHER. It may sound extreme, but I think OALC has elevated the forgiveness of sins into a false god. Repentance uber alles. What about loving our neighbor, visiting the sick, alms to the poor, inviting your local prostitute to lunch? Do we REALLY do what Jesus enjoined us to do? Not by a long shot, but we think wailing and carrying on gets us off the hook. (As a classic Laestadianism, my sister-in-law said that God knew we could not actually carry out the injunction to LOVE EACH OTHER and so he gave us forgiveness of sins as an alternative way to get into heaven).
I could go on and on. I would be curious to know your thoughts on this most central subject.
May we be blessed with great wisdom and forgiving hearts. MTH

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



They drew a circle that shut me out -

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win -

We drew a circle that took them in.

(Edwin Markham)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Randy Korpelians?

This is from an essay about author Mikael Niemi, whose "Popular Music from Vittula" was an international hit and is apparently the only novel available in English that features Laestadians. (You can read more by clicking on the link above).

"Lestadianism is known for emotion and charisma. Laestadius took this Sami tradition skillfully in the use of his religion. Niemi says emotion is more introverted and melancholic nowadays. The women do not jump and scream as before, but cry their sins copiously. Strong sexuality, which is connected with the Korpela movement, lives on only as a rumour of people with a strong need to look for love and ecstasy in sex."

Let me say right now that I have no idea what that last sentence means. Perhaps our Finnish friends can tell us?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Turn of Faith

OK, I've been feeling a bit uncharitable toward my OALC relatives, but this morning when I opened the New York Times Magazine and found this essay (by a former Jehovah's Witness), I got a needed reminder that many actions are based on fear not malice, and they are more to be pitied than scorned. In church today, our seminary intern told an Ole and Lena joke: Ole tells Lena how much he adores children, their children, all children, and what a blessing they are. Out of the blue, a pack of neighborhood tykes run through his flower beds and over his newly-poured patio. When Ole is done cursing, Lena reminds him of his "love for children."

"Ya, sure, I love them in general," he says. "Just not in the concrete."

God help me love people in the concrete. Warts and all.

August 14, 2005
Turn of Faith

Adopted at birth in 1967 by a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, I was asked from an early age to behave as much like an adult as possible. Three times a week in the Kingdom Hall in Miami, my brother and I strove to sit perfectly still in our chairs. Our mother carried a wooden spoon in her purse and was quick to take us outside for beatings if we fidgeted.

At 5, I sat onstage in the Kingdom Hall in Surrey, England, where my father's job had taken us. Nervously pushing my memorized lines into the microphone, I faced my mother, who was seated across from me. We were demonstrating for the congregation exactly how a Bible study with a ''worldly'' person, or non-Witness, should go.

I had played the householder before -- the person who answered the door. That was easy: you just asked questions that showed you didn't know the Truth. Portraying the Witness was harder: you had to produce the right Scripture to answer any questions the householder might ask.

But we had written our parts on index cards and rehearsed repeatedly at home. I was well dressed and shining clean. I said my lines flawlessly and gave looks of concern at the right times. Finally, the householder agreed with everything I had said: her way of life was wicked, and the Bible clearly proved that Jehovah's Witnesses were the only true Christians who would be saved at Armageddon. Her look was grateful. Then she smiled, becoming my mother again. Everyone clapped, and she glowed with pride. At last I could go out in service.

From the age of 5 until I was 14, I knocked on the doors of strangers each week with memorized lines that urged them to repent. I didn't play with worldly children. I didn't have birthday parties or Christmas mornings. What I did was pray a lot. I knew the books of the Bible in order, by heart, and could recite various verses. My loneliness was nourished by rich, beautiful fantasies of eternal life in a paradise of peace, justice, racial harmony and environmental purity, a recompense for the rigor and social isolation of our lives.

This bliss wasn't a future we had to work for. Witnesses wouldn't vote, didn't involve themselves in worldly matters, weren't activists. Jehovah would do it all for us, destroying everyone who wasn't a Witness and restoring the earth to harmony. All we had to do was obey and wait.

Shortly after our return to the States, my father was disfellowshipped for being an unrepentant smoker -- smoking violated God's temple, the body, much like fornication and drunkenness. Three years later, my parents' marriage dissolved. My mother's second husband had served at Bethel, the Watchtower's headquarters in Brooklyn. Our doctrines, based on Paul's letters in the New Testament, gave him complete control as the new head of the household; my mother's role was to submit. My stepfather happened to be the kind of person who took advantage of this authority, physically abusing us and forcing us to shun our father completely.

After two years, I ran away to live with my father. My brother joined me a tumultuous six months later. We continued to attend the Kingdom Hall and preach door to door; the Witnesses had been our only community. Leaving was a gradual process that took months of questioning. I respected all faiths deeply, but at 15 I decided that I could no longer be part of a religion that condoned inequality.

After she finally divorced my stepfather, my mother moved out of state and married another Witness. Our occasional correspondence skates over the surface of our strained deténte. I feel for her struggles. A smart, capable woman, she subjugated her will and judgment, as the Witnesses teach, to her husbands'. If she damaged my brother and me or failed to protect us, she did so out of fear and belief. She wanted to save us from certain destruction at Armageddon, from a corrupt and dirty world. She wanted nothing less for us than paradise.

I love my mother, but I also love my ''worldly'' life, the multitude of ideas I was once forbidden to entertain, the rich friendships and the joyous love of my family. By choosing to live in the world she scorned -- to teach in a college, to spare the rod entirely, to believe in the goodness of all kinds of people -- I have, in her eyes, turned my back not only on Jehovah but also on her.

It's strange when Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door now. I know discussion is futile; they have a carefully planned response for any objection. Finally, I say, ''I'm an apostate,'' and their eyes widen at the word: someone who has willfully rejected Jehovah, far worse than a worldly person, who is simply ignorant of the Truth. A threat to the faith of others, an apostate deserves to be shunned, as we were forced to shun our disfellowshipped father. The Witnesses back away from my door.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Gall

Dr. Juha Pentikäinen
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
Did anyone go to FinnFest this week? I'd love to hear about it. Esp. Dr. Pentikäinen's lecture. Here's his photo again for the fan club.

Now, in the "it only hurts when I laugh" department: I'm currently on a steady drip of ginger ale and percoset, recovering from a recent cholecystectomy. That's when three or four impressively-credentialed but frighteningly youthful persons put you to sleep, incise your abdomen in several places, pump it up like a balloon, and with expert timing and prestidigital magic (one imagines), extract a mad-as-hell, stone-throwing gallbladder.

Which, as the source of one of the "four humours," was once considered the locus of anger and even sin. So its removal would seem to assure a more peaceful future. Free cholecystectomiess for everybody.

Starting with the toddlers. Our sweet four-year old is getting more skillful at expressing herself. Recently she brought me a post-it pad and asked me to help her write her brother's name. I did. Then she asked how to spell "STU."

"The name or the food?"

"The name," she said.

She wrote it carefully per my instructions.

"OK, Mama.' (Her pen poised like a reporter's.)


"How do you spell PID?"

I did not want to laugh, readers.

Now here's the real gall: her grandparents, who have never (not even once) paid her a visit in her short life, are flying all the way to Delaware to see the Elders again before their return to Sweden. I won't call those priorities stupid, because I have better manners than that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Passion of the Reformed?

Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
I'm reposting Virginia's latest message here so it won't be missed. My understanding is that LLL's father was an alcoholic. From his letters, it appears he himself took only the occasional drink, but decided to quit for fear it would cause others to stumble.
Virginia said...
Hi all, I would like to share with you a description of Laestadius from the Saami Spirit Calendar 1999 (tomten publications, Bloomington MN). This is from a Saami cultural organization, not a Laestadian group. I will quote it completely, as it is not very long (the caps are mine):
"By the 1600s missions were established throughout northern Scandinavia and the Saamis were heavily pressed to abandon their ancient customs and convert to Christianity. Young Saami men were educated by the state to become priests, and one of these was Lars Levi Laestadius (1800-1861), a man many credit with saving Saami culture. A powerful orator who wrote and preached in the Saami language, Laestadius founded a christian revival movement in the 1830s which spread quickly throughout Sammi. He attracted a large following by preaching a message more in tune with Saami temperament and tradition. Scorning modernity - especially the use of alcohol - and the authority of church and state, his followers held fast to social traditions and language at a time when the Saamis were being strongly pressured to assimilate into modern Swedish or Norwegian society. LAESTADIAN REVIVALS WERE FIERY AND CHARISMATIC, AND PARISHIONERS OFTEN FELL INTO WILD STATES OF ECSTASY AND SPOKE IN TONGUES. Laestadian churches were established in the United States by immigrants from the Scandinavian countries, where they become known as the Apostolic Lutheran Church."
I thought this was pretty wild. Can you imagine "states of ecstasy and speaking in tongues" now? When I originally read this, I had the suspicion that Laestadianism was initially quite lively but that element got squelched when the Finns got hold of it and turned it into a morose, self-flagellating enterprise. Incidentally, my sister says that Laestadius was an alcoholic, and that's why he has the passion of the reformed. I'm not sure where she got that info.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Lovely in Eyes Not His

We're off camping, so I won't be reading or posting for a while. Please feel free to start a conversation without me and don't worry about keeping on topic. There are very few rules in blogland.

Here's a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins you might enjoy.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
     As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
     Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
     Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
     Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
  Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is—
  Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
  To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Garden Musing

Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
What you don't see in my garden photos is the bright turquoise wading pool, the yellow inflatable duck and blue whale, the purple tricycle, silver bicycle, pink doll stroller and a red wagon. These lurid objects, courtesy of our children, distract considerably from the tranquility of our urban sanctuary. It looks like a daycare.

But yesterday, as I drew an exasperated sigh over the abandoned menagerie of stuffed animals, plucked a Tinker Toy from the lady's mantle and freed a Hot Wheel the birch tree, I saw the future in a flash: my husband and I will be taking our ease in a lovely, serene, plastic-free garden. And we'll be talking about how much we miss the kids.

Do you have fond memories of childhood? I have no memories of the activities my own children enjoy. Because there were no "Christian" children in our area, I never had a playdate or sleepover. No bicycle or scooter, no lessons of any kind. I didn't visit a zoo or aquarium until I was an adult.

It puzzles me: how did I spend the days, especially in summer? Sewing? Baking? Reading? Nothing memorable, apparently.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Christian Paradox

Here is a paragraph from "The Christian Paradox" by Bill McKibben, in this month's Harper's magazine.

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.