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

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Finland Diary

Robert G. Kaiser, in an interactive diary in The Washington Post, has some interesting observations about Finland. He says "for a patriotic American like me, the Finns present a difficult challenge: If we Americans are so rich and so smart, why can't we treat our citizens as well as the Finns treat theirs?" I look forward to reading his diary entries and the blogger comments.

Here is an excerpt of his interview with Finnish philosopher Pekka Himanen:

Q. American society is divided on a number of contentious issues. Can you tell us briefly what the situation is in Finland in regard to:

* Abortion?

A. The Finnish view is that women have a right to decide on their bodies. There's no controversy on abortion.

* Euthanasia?

A. Passive euthanasia--that is, not keeping people alive hopelessly--would be acceptable to many Finns. Active euthanasia would be more divisive.

* Prayer in schools, and the separation of church and state generally? Does religion play any role in public life?

A. No prayer in school. Finnish politicians don't refer to religion. You would never hear a Finnish politician say "God bless Finland." Finns want these things to be separated.

*The teaching of evolution or creationism in the schools?

A. All schools teach the evolution theory, the Christian theory of creation is naturally also taught but not as an alternative to science but rather as an allegorical story.

* Gay marriage, and gay soldiers in your military?

A. Gays can marry but not in the church. They don't yet have all the same rights as heterosexuals do. No issue on gay soldiers.

* The death penalty?

A. Finland is strongly against death penalty, which is not part of our system.

* Gun control? Can citizens own rifles? Pistols?

A. We don't think that owning a gun is a constitutional right or that it would have something to do with individual's freedom. The Finnish thinking is that the number of guns is linked to having a more violent society. But you can own guns on certain conditions, for example, for hunting, which is quite popular in the countryside.

* Immigration. Do you have immigration? From where? How are immigrants treated? Do foreigners seek to become citizens of Finland? Is that possible?

A. We have immigration in relatively small numbers so compared to the US Finland is a very homogeneous society, which I think is a limitation. Immigrants can become citizens of Finland but here our attitudes should get much more open.


  1. Yes, it will be interesting to read. Could I ask a question here? What is the practice of "shunning", and does it actually happen?

  2. Sure. This subject is treated at length in earlier posts (see Shunning the Sun). Briefly put, shunning is limiting or ceasing relationships with those who leave the church. It may mean no longer visiting them, neglecting to invite them to family functions, discouraging others from socializing with them, boycotting their weddings and other events, cutting them out of the will . . .

  3. . . . and yes, it actually happens! It is still happening to me, my husband and children. For example, none of my five brothers (two of whom are OALC preachers) have ever phoned or visited me. They boycotted my wedding, not even responding to our invitations. If they see me, they are cordial, but you can bet they would never allow their children have a playdate with mine.

    I am definitely shunned.

    What you didn't ask is whether shunning is effective. It is, very much so. There would be a mass exodus if the social cost was not so high.

  4. Is shunning encouraged, and if so, by whom? Also, do you think the majority of people shun those who leave? Thank you for your candidness! I am sure it helps more people than you can realize! BTW, I live in Finland and met the WP journalists. They were very interested in Finland, and Finns were very proud to show off their country.

  5. I can't really answer those questions. I suspect it is encouraged by some preachers and not others.

    Maybe our readers can help us out here?

  6. It may be added to Pekka Himanen's interview that all schools are supposed to teach evolution but in practice it depends on the school and the teacher. I went to a private high school with rather conservative values and my biology teacher just simply skipped that part of the text book which dealt with evolution. She said that some people believe the evolution theory is correct, while others don't and she suggested that we read that part of the book on our own if we wanted to.

  7. Isn't there any controversy over abortion in Finland? Just wondering.

  8. Abortion is not a big issue in the Finnish politics, but of course there are groups in the Finnish society that are strongly opposed to abortion, mostly different religious groups, including Laestadians and also the Orthodox church I belong to. It just doesn't show on the political scene. I guess the percentage of the whole population is too small.

  9. Comparing Finland and America - I'll make it a point to post here that Finland is the #1 most competitive economy in the world - exposing the lie to America's "cheap labor" notion that the violent rape of the poor by the rich is needed to be economically competitive. Finland has high taxes (income and corporate) and a large social safety net, as well as free education.

    Another point of comparison - Finland is the least corrupt democratic republic that actually serves it's people while America is a severely corrupted kleptocratic plutocracy that views it's people as expendable resources.

    Finnish blood is precious, while American blood is profitable.

  10. 2 questions...

    Why this interest in Finland? Mr. L.L.L. lived and worked in Sweden.

    Theoforos, what do You think about this:

    "Ortodoksisuudessa on monia tapoja sovittaa itsemme Jumalan kanssa..."
    ( FAQ www.ort.fi answer number 9)

    Is there some kind of self-service in the Orthodox church?

    Huckleberry Finn

  11. Yes, he lived and worked in Sweden, but Finland as well - and most Laestadians are in Finland (about 200 in Sweden, about 10 000 in Finland, I think, for OALC anyways)

  12. Anonymous at 8:30 PM -- "violent rape of the poor"?? "American blood is profitable"?? What have you been reading?? Time to let in a bit of fresh air and find out the truth, hon! Subscribe to some different newspapers and get yourself well-rounded! :-).

  13. I am not a communist, rather a still practicing Laestadian, but Mr. Anonymous makes an excellent point, and is probably as well-rounded as anyone. Most of us Finns today are so comfortably middle class that we've lost touch with our ancestor's struggles and believe we got here by hard work. We've forgotten the struggles of the poor and the fact there is little to no safety net for the poor in America as there is in Finalnd. Think New Orleans, "hon."

  14. Hi there - yes, it's true that many of us have become quite comfortable, but I and my husband have also been poor and relied on nothing but hard work to make it, and watched our parents and grandparents struggle also. Yet, for those who are truly needy - especially those without good health, I do believe there is a safety net. There are many governmental and private organizations who work very hard to assist those in need. The US is a very compassionate nation, but our problems are much more complex than those of Finland as Mr. Kaiser, the writer of the original article, stated. This complexity has been brought to light by New Orleans, and I believe this is a good thing. As for Finland, future generations will show whether or not the entitlement/social welfare system is the best .. generations of young people who have not known any other way. This was brought out quite well in the Washington Post article also. (BTW, as an American of Finnish descent, I am very proud of the accomplishments and character of the Finnish people and of our Finnish - and Laestadian - heritage!).

    Signed, Hon :-)

  15. Huckleberry Finn, I don't know what Fr. Raimo Sissonen means by those words, but I can imagine he might be thinking about the different means of grace. Confession is not the only way to be touched by God. God's divine energies work in us in many ways, also for example when we participate in other sacraments, read the Bible or when we are in prayer either alone or together with others. But to be honest, the quoted sentence does sound a bit strange also in my ears.

    To get more of the context I translated the whole chapter.

    "What is the purpose of confession?
    In Orthodoxy there are many ways to reconcile ourselves with God, to study the condition of our faith and to develop spiritually. One of them is the sacrament of confession. It means making repentance, and literally the Greek word for repentance ’metanoia’ means ”change of mind”, turning around or changing. When we confess our sins, we ask God for forgiveness, and reveal the darkness within us to the light of Christ. It is the experience of being cleansed and healed, and it acts as a base for growing in faith. When we confess we begin turning actively to God."

    Short Q&A articles are not the best way to get to know Orthodoxy. There are many good books available for that purpose. For example if you'd like to know more about repentance, sin and confession, I'd recommend to read a book by Nektarios Andonopoulos. The Finnish title of the book is "Paluu".


    As far as I know there are slightly under 1 000 oalcers in Sweden and 10 000 - 15 000 in Finland. If you include all the different Laestadian groups, there would probably be some 5 000 in Sweden and 100 000 - 120 000 in Finland.

  16. "Hon"

    My husband and I, too, have also been very very poor, have lived in government-subsidized housing, receiving food coupons through Women's/Infants/Children (WIC), medical assistance, and visiting food shelves when ends couldn't meet for a family of 4 earning under $14,000 a year. For 5 years the only new clothes I ever wore were my underclothing and socks bought at Wal-Mart. We had no safety net, since I was raised by parents who believed that since they made it they weren't spending their retirement money that way, even though they owned several homes and usually spent the month of January in some warm locale. His parents were dead and left him no money. The only thing that saved us was Pell Grants and other government "hand-outs" so we could further our educations. Today we live in a comfortable 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in a nice suburb of a major metropolitan area. Without government "hand-outs" or "hand-ups" as I refer to call them, we wouldn't be where we are today. When I read the Finland articles several months ago, I thought, what a sane, compassionate system. Going through what I did, and you have no idea how hard it was, I will rally behind any endeavor that makes it easier for young struggling families to get a leg up. Even if I have to pay more taxes. I won't have the attitude, "Well if we did it, they can TOO." Especially when the cost of higher education skyrockets and good jobs become scarcer and scarcer to find. I admire the collectivism of a country who gets behind the right ideals to serve the common good of the society.

    Off my soap box (for now).

  17. High Preistess of the Clorox Box10/05/2005 02:34:00 PM

    And, I might add, the days we struggled were only 10 years ago, if it gives the $14,000 a year any better perspective. Think two babies in diapers and 2 non-subsidized day care bills. Was on county subsidized day care list for 2 years and when my number came up, the laws changed and our state would not give out any more subsidized day care for college students, only to "working" adults. In other words, to subsidize the Wal-Marts and other low-paying organizations by providing what their organization does not (living wage), but not for people who were trying to work their way out of menial, low-paying jobs. I worked 15-20 hours a week in addition to a full-time course and caring for two babies load at a nursing home. Hubby worked at a local discount retailer and took training to become an EMT.

  18. I'm going to throw in my evil conservative view point here for our finish friend. I am 100% for financially helping people truly in need (such as N.O. refugees, handicap people, single mothers unable to work, etc) and 100% in favor of kicking able bodied people in the kiester for expecting financial aid from the government or anyone else. A "safety net"...yeah right, a large percentage of people will go immediately to that "safety net" instead of earning a living on their own if the safety net is made too easy. We've become a large nation of whiners, always complaining about the government or big business or the rich not paying their share of taxes. This is a GREAT country we live in. We have lots of opportunities to work for others or we can start our own business and work for ourselves, where our benefits are directly derived from the amount of work we want to put in and the amount of risk we are willing to take, because guess what? A very very large proportion of the successful(read wealthy) people in this world started out just like the rest of us.
    I grew up in a very large Laestadian family, was never encouraged to attend college, was never given any career advice by my parents and I have ADD. I worked in a blue collar profession for many years with the goal in mind of someday being able to own my own business, after many years of 60-70 hour weeks, working for a relatively small salary with a growing family I was able to purchase the business after proving to the owner that I would be capable of paying him for the business in installments by running the business properly. It is now a successful business. I am very thankful to God for blessing my hard work and for giving me the vision to know that success is achieved with hard work over a very long time. I'm not pointing this out to brag, I'm just trying to point out the sacrifices I have made to get where I am. I work 50-70 hours every week, I take enormous financial risks, I spend many a sleepless night worrying about making payroll, vendor payments etc. If I need to give most of it back to the government so that we’re all middle class and I make the same as the 9-5 guy/gal who works for someone else then I’m going to pack it in, move to Finland and feed off the public coffers……….nah, just kidding, I couldn’t make myself do that…

    evil, under taxed, conservative

  19. Hi all ~ Figured I'ld hop on the soapbox that someone else vacated. I agree a lot with "evil conservative". I don't want to put down those of you who had a tough row, but just think YOU DID IT!! and that is GREAT. But there is nothing wrong with starting out poor. It makes you appreciate what you've worked for.
    As far as not having new clothes for yrs. I will admit I buy maybe 1/2 of our clothes new now, but the rest are used. What's wrong with that? Especially for the kids. I'll even buy gifts for them used. They've enjoyed both equally.
    Another subject.... My husband worked in the past in the "hard labor" end of construction. He was the foreman of a crew so he had the "hiring/firing" job. Let me tell you, some people just don't want to work... Late, hung over, "sick", etc. He started telling guys when they applied that there would be a test. Funny, they didn't come back. Where he works now, if they need to lay off for the winter, they just start random tests. That takes care of the problem. And this is a company that pays well, AND gives benefits. Go figure.
    Sure our Country has problems, but it is also still a great country. God has blessed us here greatly, and to say otherwise I think is ungrateful to say the least. If our country is so horrible how come we have such a problem with illegals coming in? Find pictures of what life is like for the average citizen of other countries. Yes, N.O. was an eye opener. But nobody was forced to live there. Why weren't the local gov't more concerned to begin with?
    Finally, our taxes are HIGH ENOUGH!!!!!! They just need to spend it appropriately. Look at all the gov't waste. Good example.... Local public transport.... huge buses, NEVER full. Make sense?
    Time to get off the Tide box.
    another conservative

  20. my post above is missing the word dr ug by the word test.

  21. I do not find the logic in paying Haliburton $500 apiece to supply hammers to the US Military and then whining about people on welfare. We pay plenty of welfare--military "welfare," "corporate welfare," subsidies for sports stadiums...and then we trample those who are collecting welfare payments. Yes, there are those abusing the system. Yes, there are those collecting several fradulent county welfare checks, and yes, there are those who refuse to work. But among the many conservatives I know, I just don't hear them address any issue but that of welfare. And anyway, some single mothers are able bodied and can work, but have you ever tried to hold down a job with 2-3 small children who get sick and if you miss more than 1-2 sick days a month you're fired? I have a friend whose husband walked out on she and her 2 children when they were both under 5. No child support, husband nowhere to be found. This is a college-educated woman--a real good woman, a smart woman, and a great worker. She was fired from several good jobs because of her kids being sick and she had no family to help her out. Daycare doesn't take kids who have a fever or have recently vomited. If she would have lived in Scandinavia, the government would have paid her company for the days she had to be home with her kids, and she could never have been fired for being home with sick kids. The Scandinavians consider it the job of their society to take care of their children, and consider their children their most precious comodity.

  22. The problem isn't the gov't. It's the Dad who isn't fulfilling his responsibility. It's because so many people in this county have lost sight of Christian principles and morals. Quite frankly, I don't think that the people in gov't, who would institute a plan such as you mentioned above, would do it that way. Valuing children ... letting the parent take care of them. It's more likely that they would institute a plan that would make daycares accept sick children. Which would help out the single parent, but isn't best for the child.
    Also, I can think of a whole bunch of people in "society" whom I wouldn't trust to take care of my children. I'm not talking about the basics food, clothing etc. I'm talking about the baggage that comes with it.... this is the best way to discipline, teach, reward, etc.
    I'm not saying that she shouldn't have been helped. Obviously she should have. But I also think just as much effort should be made to try to keep that same scenario from repeating. Don't let society dictate that we shouldn't try to keep morals and principles around.
    Hopping off my Tide box again. :-)

  23. Hi Clorox, Tide and Evil.. I agree with all of you. I think we are examples of the kind of people who have not been born into money but haven't been dependant on the government except perhaps in the short-term (unemployment benefits in our case due to seasonal employment - definitely a lifeline!), and can still say we support the free-enterprise system. No, it has not been easy.. but that's the stuff of life, isn't it! Struggling at times, overcoming adversity, working together (family support is so important too, which we had), doing without.. Many people turn to gardening, bartering, home businesses, and alternatives to the 'buy and spend' cycle that we now find ourselves in. But our system still makes us the land of plenty.. there is more than enough to go around, as those in the areas affected by hurricanes have found out.. We can all share what we have with others, and still have more than enough to meet our own needs! It's amazing when you think about it! The media likes to paint a different picture of life in the US, but poverty here most likely means having only one television. I hope that doesn't sound cold.. but true gut-wrenching poverty exists in so many places in the world, nothing like what we would define as poverty. Who is to blame for that? Also, the breakdown of the family puts great demands on government to take the place of breadwinner, doesn't it! But is the answer a system of social welfare? I don't think so.. it surely has not worked up to this point here in the U.S. and N.O. is a prime example of that.

    'Hon' :-)

  24. Lefty Laestadie of the Clorox Box10/06/2005 02:49:00 PM

    Believe it or not, I *used* to be a conservative, too. Then I wondered, how the heck does one legislate moral issues anyway? Yes, I am all for keeping the daddies at home. Good daddies are good for the home. Daddies leave for a variety of reasons; some pay their child support, and some don't. Daddies leave for a variety of reasons, and they are as often as not kicked out for legitimate reasons. Even in laestadian homes! I wish there was some way we could make all the daddies in the world take care of the women and families they promised to love and cherish and support and protect, but sometimes, they don't. It would be really nice if we could find a way to make daddies stay, and don't stray, and live up to their marriage vows that they are to "forsake all others" and to "treat their wife like Christ treats the church." But in many, many cases, they don't, and the same could be said of some women, too. So, in light of the fact that we can't always make the daddies stay and make the daddies stay, how can we best help provide resources for the most vulnerable of our population, including single mothers with children. Grandma and grandpa ain't living next door anymore.

  25. Hi its Tide again... I don't have any practical answers for the post above, but I do know that gov't solutions don't make a lot of sense much of the time. For example... the school lunch program... It's either free, or 40cents. The regular cost is 2.00 - 2.25. What makes no sense to me, is the huge jump. What about those people in between? I'm sure that there are families who could afford 1.00 for lunch, but not 2.00 on a regular basis. I just think that gov't does things inefficiently. If more of the programs were privatized, (like Goodwill, Salvation army) we'd all be better off.
    I also think people should be held somewhat accountable for their actions. If you're a single parent, you shouldn't be adding more children to the family. And what about all the unhealthy life styles? I get frustrated thinking about it. I don't mind my taxes going to help people who truly need it, but shouldn't I(meaning taxpayers in general) be able to set some guidelines without being called prejudiced by general society?
    We also need to as a society start placing more value on Dads.

  26. Lefty Laestadie, Clorox Box Constable10/06/2005 08:13:00 PM

    Yes, and while we're add it...let's privitize the military! Then maybe we don't have to pay Haliburton $500 for a Haliburton hammer or a case of Coca-Cola! (joke)

    It seems the answer for everyone who wants to get out of paying taxes is to privatize, privatize, privatize. I for one am scared to death someone will privatize my social security and am glad I work for the government and (hopefully) my pension will remain intact and not be gobbled up by corporate raiders.

    I'm with you on the school lunch thing. I'm not getting any breaks on that one. This year they instituted a $200 per child bussing fee. You have to be eligible for reduced or free lunch to get a break.

    A postscript on how I achieved an education and got a nice home in the suburbs--I'm still there, sans "daddy." As you can see, its a rough spot and also a sore one. Daddy pays child support with the intervention of a state agency and I have a decent job. But Tide, I've seen so many guys quit lucrative jobs, hide assets, and work under the table to avoid paying their child support. I knew one guy (yes a Laestadian) so controlling he bought special food for himself and locked it in the cabinet so he could enjoy it all himself (while his wife and kids ate boxed mac and cheese)spent THOUSANDS on hunting trips even leaving his wife alone to deliver there 4th child while he was hunting up in the arctic circle. She finally got fed up and divorced his sorry bottom...with the blessing of her family of course. Then, he quit his job to avoid paying child support but is known to have some kind of interest in a company for which he employs mostly illegal labor. He used to come to church but quit after his relatives started in on him for not supporting his kids...though someone mention he has resurfaced at another congregation in another state sporting a new fiance. Hmmmmm. If you speak to him, from what I understand, he is full of resentment for not being valued enough as a father, and does not understand why he was divorced, and never sees his kids. Meanwhile, wife and kids are struggling by with her job alone and support from her somewhat well-off parents and the grace of God.

    I believe dads do make a difference. They are extremely important. Still don't know how to force their involvement, however.

    I'm getting by...without help. But standing from where I'm at, I can't help but wonder how others are making it who are less fortunate than I am. I don't chastize anyone and say, well, if you'd put in the years of poverty in order to get an education, you could be as well off as I am. God gave me a brain and my parents gave me a work ethic, and I wish there was more help for those who were less blessed than I.

  27. 1 more question to Theof. and all...

    Do You think that it is possible for us to "begin turning actively to God" as was mentioned here?

    What kind of experiences about this you guys have?

    Huckleberry Finn

  28. To Huckleberry Finn's question:

    It is impossible to be saved without God taking the initiative. God became man so we would be saved, and he is offering this salvation to us. But it is up to us to accept the salvation. We either let us be saved or we reject God's offer; we either turn to God when he calls us or we continue going our own way. The same applies also to our life as Christians, not just the beginning of our life in faith.

    The essence of repentance and confession is that we turn to God, regret our bad thoughts and deeds and make new promises to live in Christ and never to sin any more. In practice, we probably will sin very soon again, but true and sincere repentance means that one wishes never to sin again.

    It is also important to note that repentance is something that should happen all the time, not just at confession. Confession is just a concrete point of time devoted specifically for that purpose.

  29. Theoforos,

    Your answer sounds partly self-service to me... God takes the initiative and You take yourself care of the rest?

    I have heard that evrything is once totally paid, not so that I should add something of myself there.

    I think this is very important question. Maybe I understand this wrong?

    Huckleberry Finn

  30. Huckleberry Finn,

    Yes, it is self-service in the sense that you have to take your knife and work and eat the food on the plate you are served. No-one is going to force it down your throat. But the food is ready, you don't have to make it. And it is nourishing enough, you don't have to add anything.

  31. Hi ~ Just wanted to clarify my "Dads' need to be valued more in society" comment. I'm not referring to the ones who aren't doing their job. I guess I'm thinking of the cases of the "good" Dads who are getting the short end of the stick. Of course our opinions are going to be based on past experiences and others' we've heard about. Each situation is different.
    I find it interesting though that the lady in your story divorced him. I've gotten the impression that it is "okay" for the right reasons in the OALC??
    I know of some cases similar in the ALC, but those women would(nor will) never have dreamed of divorcing him. Interstingly enough, their "religion" is closer to the OALC than to mainstream ALC.
    We probably won't change each other's minds will we? :-). But that's okay right? Afterall this IS America!

    God Bless You.....

  32. Hey Tide...Clorox/Lefty here. I'm not OALC. My "group" has had a number of divorces attributed to the fact that the women got fed up with men not being so nice to them. People are initially shocked as the guy "seems like such a good guy" but then the stories start to come out. Yeah, she left him but not the only one to do so. And right you are about the nice daddies, too! I constantly praise my sister's husband and hold him up to my kids as a role model--Uncle "Bill" does it like its supposed to be done--watch him. Seems to me a bit more preaching could be done about treating your wives like Christ treats the church, rather than the old "obey your husbands" standby, which I really don't hear emphasized, but there is an undercurrent... Oddly enough, seems supported by some of women to keep other women in line. I see many really excellent fathers in the church, however. Yes, we can agree to disagree, and I love a good intellectual debate myself. I have "red" friends, too...kind of funny that red used to be the socialist color and now its the republican color. I try to see the grays in the world, too. And I try to love other people. I never considered myself a strong person, or a role model, but my experiences have caused me to grow. It's always surprising when others reach out to you and to find that you actually have something worthy to contribute.

  33. As I am reading the comments about taxes and government help. I find in my community that the Laestadian church members are subsidizing their life styles with many government handouts. It is a conversation by many people, including the doctors,
    that the members of the these churches have many babies by using
    government paid insurances. This does not help the doctors out because they only get paid a certain amount when they deliver babies that are paid through the medicade insurance plans. Many are considering leaving because of this. These same families will
    also collect WIC and food stamp cards to make ends meet because they cannot afford the large families their churches insist they have. So much for separation of church and state.
    Here we are supporting "The Church"
    via our tax dollars.