"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Exclusivity: A Theory

Monday, September 19, 2005

Exclusivity: A Theory

One of my cousins (from a "worldly" branch of the family tree) is a psychologist. She has a theory that our grandparents joined the OALC during the Depression because it made a virtue out of their sudden poverty. Well, I was stunned to hear this. Could it be true? Or did their joining the OALC prevent further decline?

Apparently our grandfather, a kind and generous hardworking giant who played the accordion (it reportedly paid for his passage from Sweden) lived near apostolic Finns all his life. He was not compelled to join them until the hard times hit. Was this his way of keeping the kids (and any OALC workers) down on the farm? His older children had already left for the city. If so, it worked. The younger children became -- and still are -- avid OALers.

I bring this up because I've been pondering the psychological basis for exclusivity. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism. If you have made a painful sacrifice (giving up intellectual and spiritual growth and inquiry, higher education, travel, music, sports, art, freedom from unwanted children, an egalitarian marriage, whatever), your psyche will want to defend that sacrifice against all criticism or doubt. The LESS faith you have that your sacrifice was warranted, the MORE stridently you will defend it, and to denounce outsiders as "other." The LESS secure one is, the MORE needy of affirmation, which is received by others in the group.

What I see in the message of exclusivity is a little child begging to be assured that he/she is special.

That's my two-bit theory. What do you think?


  1. I think you are right-on. In many, many situations, the more strident one is in defending one's position, the more unsure and insecure one is. At least that has been my experience. And I would put matters of Faith and Belief in these situations: all the defending and arguing, it seems to me, are used to drown out one's own doubts and fears. I think that is why you, free2bme, come across as calm and serene. You have dealt with your fears and beliefs and found a strong measure of Peace.
    Bless you.

  2. I was at a relatives funeral at the OALC and saw something that has stuck with me. A beautiful women with curled hair, makeup, and an attractive dress was standing outside. Another women, about the same age, although she looked much older, was staring at her. She was dressed in the approved OAL style. There was sheer hatred in the face of the OAL women. It went on for a long time, and I really wanted to know what was in the mind of this angry young women. I think this incident goes along with what Free2be is saying.

  3. I knew an old apostolic lady who got really hung up over the issue of divorce, especially divorce and re-marriage. She was in most senses a fun-loving lady who loved to laugh, told hilarious stories, and always welcomed visitors to her home with delicious homecooked meals and gracious hospitality. She seemed to accept the troubles of others with compassion, humilitity and and grace and rarely seemed judgemental--unless the particular trouble was a divorce that was occuring between some fellow christians, and most particularly if a re-marriage occured at any time thereafter. She had been married for over 50 years to an exceedingly difficult man who was not a "Christian" either and who resented the church and worked against her and the church as often as he could. He was not, from what I understand, a very nice man--neither to his children nor to his wife, by either "christian" or "worldly" standards, and her life with him was pretty miserable. She stuck with him because she felt like it was her duty and her pledge to God, despite the fact that he at various times closed down bars, beat her (she was feisty enough to have beat him back), emotionally abused her, and reportedly even run around on her. She believed she had to stay married to him becuase of her wedding vows, so she did.

    I believe that is why she was so particularly lacking in understanding toward the divorcing because they were able to do something she must have often wished she could do, but couldn't. Perhaps they had more economic freedom or more family support than she. She became very focused the last few years of her life on this matter, even refusing to greet or attend weddings of christians who were re-married.

    The ironic part was one of her daughters married a divorced man, but that was okay with her because he had been divorced before he converted.

  4. My theory on exclusivity- The thing that makes exclusivity so convenient is that a person can judge if someone else is a Christian simply by knowing if they go to your laustadien church or not. If a person goes to your church then he/she is a believer. If they don’t go to your church then they don’t know God. You don’t even have to look at their fruits of faith. It makes it very easy to judge others, and humans love to do that.

    I think that people are attracted to exclusivity because it gives them a sense of importance, or a feeling that they are better then everyone else. If you think that only your family and congregation is what makes up God’s flock, then you must be pretty important. You are defiantly better then everyone around you that have never attended your church. Thinking your better then everyone else is also something that humans love to do. This is the same reason Hitler got so much support before WW2.

    Control. Since people believe that the words of preachers is divine inspiration, they can preach whatever they want. If you don’t believe what a preacher tells you, then you are considered an unbeliver (I know this first hand), and not many people are going to disagree with a preacher when Heaven and Hell are at stake.

    I don’t think poverty and lack of education has much to do with exclusivity. Education is encouraged in the LLC. The youth don’t spend their time watching TV, and their gaming time is limited, so they read books and study instead. Then a significant amount of them continue on to higher education. If you took a group of LLCers and a group of “worldlys” and gave them all IQ tests, I would guarantee you that the LLCers would beat the worldys with flying colors.”

    Most of the people in the LLC also seem quite wealthy. Most families live in a big, luxurious house, and still manage to buy nice expensive toys for themselves. I think this is because most LLCers are better workers then the average person, plus their education eventually pays off.

    Another difference in the LLC then other Laustadien churches is that people are allowed to read the bible, but most LLCers rely on the words of the preachers more then relying on what they read for themselves. The scary thing is that the preachers themselves are very knowledgeable with the Bible. It seems that they have not only actually read it, but know it inside and out. Yet they still teach exclusivity. How can they just ignore John 3.16, the book of acts, and the many, many places that say whoever call upon the name of Jesus will be saved? It really makes me wonder if they actually believe what their teaching, or if they have a hidden agenda.

  5. Dear exLLC,

    I can see that you have thought about exclusivity for awhile. You bring up many important questions about how people can believe that way. The human mind is very complex, and even well-educated people filter what they perceive as truth and ignore the rest. You may enjoy reading "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. This book has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with how we think and judge. I highly recommend it, along with his other book, "The Tipping Point".

  6. Dear exLLC,

    I can see that you have thought about exclusivity for awhile. You bring up many important questions about how people can believe that way. The human mind is very complex, and even well-educated people filter what they perceive as truth and ignore the rest. You may enjoy reading "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. This book has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with how we think and judge. I highly recommend it, along with his other book, "The Tipping Point".

  7. The laestadian's preach to be away from the worldly people to avoid sinning. If you only hang out with "church" kids, then one of them will remind you that your behavior is a sin. Being friends with the worldly kids "after confirmation" is too a sin. Thus, the children are taught to only be with "the church" kids. Safe guarding against all kinds of behaviors that teens do without thinking.

    It is not a perfect plan, but it does work with keeping a large percentage of children away from
    drugs, alcohol, and a ton of sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe more churches should look at having their children all hang around together, and giving them places to go together.

    Although, it does breed hatred to outsiders. It is preached in the church. It causes fighting in the schools and it greatly hurts the kids who do not have the support from family and church that these kids have.
    Suddenly the Apostolic children are told to not hang around with their old friends from grade school. Name calling and
    biting comments are exchanged. It
    adds up to some big problems.

    Obtaining an education is not encouraged in all the churches. A one or two year degree is alright.
    The people from these groups do have huge home and many toys. They help each other build their houses.
    Then charge the worldly outrageous prices! But, they do good work. So of course, we hire them.

    I think all of the LLC churches could be a great doctorate study.
    The practice still works today.
    The people live and work amoung us,and it is the year 2005 and they still will wear long dresses, hair in buns, and tell their children that we are from the devil. And they believe it.

    Gods Peace to all of you!

  8. "it does work with keeping a large percentage of children away from
    drugs, alcohol, and a ton of sexually transmitted diseases"

    I used to think that was true, but now I wonder. In my experience, sex was a taboo subject, meaning I never received info on anything, from abstinence to birth control. (Other than preachers speaking against fornication from the pulpit). Many kids did live double lives or just up and leave the church, often living wilder than many "worldlies."

  9. The ones who do leave do seem to live wilder lives than the "worldies." They are left with great scars from the practice of shunning. The majority do stay and live out their lives with the church. And yes, many do have sex outside of marriage. My grandfather used to say "the first baby comes anytime. The rest take nine months"

    However,just because it works with protecting their kids from some horrible evils. It kills them spiritally. Jesus said to "Love God above all else, and to love thy neighbor as thyself."

    Any time Hate is preached, the spirit dies. Jesus meant us to Love one another.

  10. Anonymous above my comments: you are SO stereotyping! I do not feel that I've lived a "wild" life, as you put it. And I have always resented the common belief that anyone who leaves the OALC automatically turns to all sorts of vice. This just goes to show you that many inside the church have no idea what people on the outside are really like. To me, this is similar to nations portraying their enemies as evil, not-quite-human, so that it is much easier to hate. It is much harder to accept that they are people just like us, trying to make/keep a decent life for themselves and their loved ones.

  11. "Hang out with church kids to avoid sin", Sorry, but we are sin. That sounds like we don't sin among church people. No among the young? No anger among any age? No among the men? married or not? No gossip among the ladies? We wouldn't need Jesus if we could stop sinning. And sure you need to be careful who you pick for friends, but that should mean you're careful no matter where you're picking from. I'm from a conservative/strict ALC home, and had very similar exclusivity teachings.I would say though that it was a sin to even hang around with "worldly" kids, not just that we would sin with them.
    I have kids in school now who are good friends with kids from the OALC. I'm curious to see how their friendship continues. There aren't a lot of kids from either branch so perhaps that is why they stick together. It is nice for my kids to have friends with similar values. My daughter enjoys having a friend who isn't interested in "going out " with boys yet.

  12. I meant to say, "apostolic lifestyle" not "alcoholic lifestyle", though I am sure there are families who practice both simultaneously.

  13. Exlusiveness is nothing new. Islamists, protestants, jews, and many more all beleive that they are in the right faith. What gets me is how bothered some of you are who know the OALC-ALC-FALC-LLC or where previous members about this. It must pull on your heart strings somewhat. I know many families that have different religions in their siblings or parents. It is obvious that the people in the same religion get along better. It is a fact of life that when more is in common, the easier it is to relate to each other. Shunning anybody who is not in your religion is never correct. A belief is a belief and if you believe that your church/faith is correct and others aren't, then you can only speculate because no one can tell you that you are going to Hell- Only God on judgement day. Many people are mistakenly following man(in other words, the pastor) "Never follow the pastor - only use his words as guidance, but follow your heart and God."

  14. "The most successful families I've seen shared two things in common..". I think you are right on with that comment. My intention in posting is not to encourage anyone to leave the OALC (if it works for you and you are happy) then that's OK with me. What I would like to do is help folks recongnize that we all, as children of God, have the right, and duty, to worship the Lord in a way that makes sense and is meaningful to us. I don't think we should say, "Well God, I didn't really believe in the church I went to, but it was more important to me to please other men then it was to be able to honestly open my heart to you". It really bothers me when parents abandon their children when they leave the OALC. I think that's terrible and is a demonstration of the harm a rigid belief system can cause.

  15. Reading the comments on exclusion has helped me to understand what has happened to me and my siblings.
    An aunt of ours was in a nursing home for years. My aunt was a very strong OLAC member. I would see her very regularly (almost weekly).
    Although when her birthdays arrived, we would not be included by the members of the OLAC. And,as she was dying, many people were called.
    I was not, even though I saw her weekly.

    I have many religions in my family.
    We have OLAC members, LLC members, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, the traditional Lutherans, and members of penecostals churches.

    I am excluded more from the OLAC members. The others, well....
    we have great conversations.

    Exclusion is not love!

  16. Maybe you should try putting away your feelings, and think about what your families are feeling instead. It's all about ME, ME, ME. If you feel shunned, go talk to them, tell them how it hurts you. If they won't listen, at least you tried and you don't have to worry about it anymore. Pain heals with time, a wounded conscience doesn't.

  17. many trails home10/27/2005 07:46:00 PM

    I can't resist responding to "Anonymous ME, ME, ME." Are / were you OALC? I wonder.
    As I see it, it isn't a matter of "feeling" shunned, it is a matter of BEING shunned. And as for the people in OALC that I know, talking to them would be completely pointless: I know by bitter, painful experience. "At least I tried" did not help at all; it was a complete failure, and made things worse. And I don't think that the pain of being rejected by your own family ever heals, no matter the passage of time. One eventually comes to terms with it and accepts it, but "heal?" I don't think so.

    So why are "they" like this, when the shunning is so damaging? That's easy. ALL that matters is the condition of our souls, whether we are repentent and thereby "saved." If we have left, we are assumed to be damned. Their only interface with us, then, is along this solitary line. They don't care about how we feel, as that is irrelevant. They must drag us back into the fold, if in any way possible. If we are immovable, we are best avoided as it magnifies their failure, and the error of our ways might in some way rub off on them. I understand how they feel. They don't care how I feel. We stand on opposite sides of this un-bridgeable crevasse. MTH

  18. Thanks "many trails home"-you said it for many of us!

  19. Poor Many Trails Home. :( What a miserable life you must lead.

  20. Many Trails Home10/31/2005 05:20:00 PM

    Dear Anonymous "Poor MTH": That's actually rather funny. I guess I should clarify myself, as I certainly do not deserve your sympathy. I am not shunned; I am only speaking for those who are, and observing. I certainly could be, and would be, if I handled things differently.
    But I have definitely experienced the futility of talking to staunch OALC family members, with the outcome that I mentioned. And I was not even asking to be understood or accepted, I was just trying to get my mother off the hook for responsibility for my soul!! Back-fired, big time.
    I know how they feel / believe. They certainly don't care how I believe and, by church teachings, don't officially care how I feel, but they do care about me as their "big sister" and we all love each other and get along, whether in or out of OALC.
    HOWEVER, this is all predicated on the fact that the 3 of us ex-OALCers NEVER say anything overt about our "ex" status. If we did, things would be very, very different. Since we don't, the active OALCers don't have to acknowledge it or deal with it and we pretend the issue does not exist. I believe there is no possibility of harmony with any other approach. If anyone has another experience, I would love to hear of it. MTH

  21. To the person who wishes to slam any one of us who have left the OALC and feel the pains of being excluded from family for our choices-what exactly is your issue here? We are using this site to express our feelings. To talk with others who have grown up in a church that did not meet our spirtual needs, once we read and studied the Bible. That is all we are doing here. We do not live miserable lives. I feel that I live a great life. Many of us who have left the OALC are trying to live Gods word. Please keep in mind that Jesus commanded us to Love God above all and to Love thy Neighbor as thyself. He did not say to only Love OALC members. We try to live our lives with Love-and we do feel the Shunning because we left this church that does not teach us to Love ALL! This site is for us to
    express and work through the hurt that we feel. It is hard to teach your children to Love all and then have them be excluded because we left the OALC.But yet as we teach them to be Christians, they hear that the children who Shun them call themselves Christians. We try to answer their questions, but it is confusing to a child. One adult family member peaches to love all and the other adult family member says that that "Christians" are only OALC members. And those "Christians" preach to their children that they are not to hang around the children not from their church.

    So instead of telling those of us who write that we are leading miserable lives. Try loving all-

    In fact-this commandment is harder than wearing a scarf to church and not watching TV, or not joining
    sports. Some days it is really hard to Love One Another!

    When Jesus was asked by his disciples, what commandment was the most important one, he said to Love God above all else and to Love thy Neighbor as thyself.

    Because it is hard to do and God knows that we will fall short, he sent his only son to die for our sins. For whoever believes in Him will have eternal life!

    You see God loves all of us! And he will give all of us eternal life because we believe in Him.Because we have the Holy Spirt within us, we will keep trying to do as he asked. And-we will keep praying.

    Last of all-for everyone who reads this site-let's try saying

    God's Peace to Everyone!

  22. Many Trails Home11/04/2005 12:13:00 PM

    Bless you. God's Peace to you, and God's Peace to Everyone. MTH