"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Farewell to Marian

An accident took the life of Marian (Niska) Halberg yesterday morning when her car hit a tree on Risto Road, east of Battle Ground. The road was icy and Marian was rushing to pick up a friend who needed a ride to the airport. (Go here for the obituary and messages in the Columbian.)

I never met Marion but I am told she was a lively, intelligent, generous woman who was very active in her community. A former OALCer, she leaves not only her large family but an enormous circle of friends.

Readers, if you knew Marian, please take a moment to comment below. I know some of her family read this blog.

All Is Well

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household world that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.

By Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

From "CVOW" --

It's been quite a year, with a lot of interesting twists and turns. As life always is, there have been the moments that made us glad and those that dismayed. The topics on this blog have certainly run the gamut and let us discuss and argue and fuss and laugh -- and at the end of the day know that it was time well spent, even if we didn't convince everyone of our own positions. In the spirit of being thankful at this time of year, I'd like to extend my thanks to Free for providing this forum and I'd like to thank all of you who have participated so enthusiastically, regardless of the subject, and I'd like to thank all of you for putting up with my grumpiness!

It seemed that since we've sort of been going hammer and tongs lately, it might be nice to have a topic here that is uncontroversial, but rather is centered around our traditions and memories of Christmas. I find that as I grow older, the memories I have of Christmas are the good ones -- the things that made us laugh the first time they happened and made us laugh again each year as the tales were retold, usually with just a bit of embellishment in each telling.

I spent a good chunk of my life (more than half, but that percentage is all too rapidly approaching a tipping point...) on a ranch in North Dakota. Surprisingly, we didn't have a lot of immediate family in the community, as we had a small family. I had only one uncle and his wife and one first cousin that lived nearby, so there was always room at the dinner table! I did have an aunt that lived in Detroit who to the best I can recall came to ND to visit us each Christmas. She was my Christmas "täti", that always arrived on the train in Jamestown, ND around midnight on the NP Empire Builder. That was always great excitement to get to go meet her, and snuggle up next to her and her biggest darn mink coat I've ever seen! (She was a BIG woman and it took a lot of mink to make that coat -- and boy, was it warm! Christmas dinner was usually at our house as I recall, but Christmas Eve was at my uncle's. After opening a few gifts, we'd all bundle up and go the United Church of Christ Congregational for the children's Christmas play (which my cousin was always in). Amazingly, by the time we got back to their house close to midnight, Santa had ALWAYS been there for my cousin, but for some reason it took him until the next morning to make it the 8 miles out to the ranch.

Farming and ranching in ND had its downside. We had milk cows until I was a teenager, and consequently, I never did get to go to Christmas meetings in either Minneapolis or Detroit. Those darned cows had to get taken care of, and it was really hard to get anyone to do those kinds of chores. I think my Mother may have gone a time or two, and my sisters as well, but my Dad and I always had the herd!

As I think of it, I cannot ever remember going to church on Christmas! Perhaps it was because many people did go to the meetings and the ones who were left elected not to warm the church, or perhaps my memory is faulty. That is a curiousity that did not occur to me until now... Hmmm, now I will have to ask my sisters about that. It was a pretty small congregation.

We always had a little tree that stood on the parlor table. I recall it was always sort of a tussle with my Dad who thought the tree was beautiful just as it was, and we children wanting to cover it with so many ornaments and tinsel (don't forget the tinsel!) that it would be almost unrecognizable. When my Mother passed away, I asked for the old "bubble lights" -- a string of 12 that always went on the tree. Darned if they didn't still work when I plugged them in, and they have to be 50 to 60 years old. The price was still on the box -- $1.40, which was awful spendy at that time, I'm sure! I still put them on, even though the bulbs don't all bubble very well...

Christmas dinner was always a lot of fun, and we knew that at some point during the day my uncle would again tell about my sister getting a pair of panties for Christmas as a little girl and running all over yelling "My pantses, my pantses." For some reason that just irritated the heck out of my sister -- even well into adulthood -- which made it even funnier to the rest of us!

I remember going "into town" as we referred to it, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and waiting anxiously at the Legion Hall for Santa to arrive -- in the town fire truck -- and hand out bags of candy and peanuts to every single child. We all stood patiently -- well, maybe not so patiently -- in line, to go up to Santa, sit on his lap and tell him our dreams, and get our bag! As we got a little bigger, we did spend some time speculating which of the local farmers Santa really was! The things you can do when you live in a place where you know every living soul inside of a twenty mile radius -- and no, I am not exaggerating.

After I got married and we had kids, we put up a creche. (We are Catholic, after all!) I remember having to hide Baby Jesus (in the organ if I recall correctly) until Christmas morning, and then watch to see which of the kids found him first. I have to admit we usually didn't keep the wise men away until Epiphany or Loppiainen.

So that's a few of my favorite memories. What are yours? What traditions did you have? How did you celebrate your faith at Christmas (I guess we didn't do so well there...)?

Dear friends, may the transcending peace of Jesus, the Christ and King be with all of you throughout the Christmas season and the New Year. Hauskaa Joulua ja Onnelista Uutta Vuota!

Happy Finnish Independence Day

MTH wrote: Happy Finnish Independence Day. I wouldn't mind it if we got back to discussions of whiskey merchants and whoremongers!

Ok. Hope this helps.


"Naah, we don't need no electrician here."

"In principal you shouldn't smoke so near the ammunition"

"Lets study the safety instructions later"

"The side effects of lot of alcohol are hugely exaggerated"

"Damn life vest - I'm not wearing it"

"Look! Whats that bear cub doing alone in the forest?"

"Sure quick to drill the ice when it's this thin."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Remember the Teens

Here is a recent post for you to chew upon. Let us know your thoughts.
Anonymous wrote:
My child recently became so upset over the war after a playground discussion, that he wrote to George W. and told him to stop the war.
He is eight. He is saddened by the killings and people dying. How sad that he has to be even thinking that there is a war, but he has a decent home and a parents who can provide for him. Thank God for that!

I work with teens in a rural community. It is hard to believe, but we have homeless kids. They come from families with little money. When we try to get help for these kids, social services will tell us their money woes and claim that this is a court issue. It's a court issue because the kid has run away. The court will says they have no money and they don't. We have had students crying for mental health services, begging on the phone. Guess what happens? Mental health will evaluate these students on the phone and say "sorry-you are not ill enough." This procedure of screening the youth over the phone was developed to screen out the medicade clients. So, what happens to these kids? They go untreated, self medicate, fight with their families, some cut themselves, some die in car accidents, some are having babies, and continue this horrible cycle.

When 9/11 happened, I looked around our little school and thought, the children of poverty will be hurt the most by this event. Are they as hurt as the children in Iraq or Afganistan, NO!

But, we elected GW and he is funding a war that is killing people. The lack of funding that used to help our most vunerable population is disappearing.

This Christmas look around your towns. The teens who look the toughest and are wearing their jeans half way down their butt, and their hoods are up over their heads are hurting. Reach out in any way you can. Offer them food. If you buy gifts and give toys for tots,

Please remember the teenagers.

God's Peace to all of you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Introducing Real Live Preacher

There is a blogger I've enjoyed reading for some time. His voice resonates with me, and I hope some of you will enjoy reading him as well. This blogger goes by the name of Real Live Preacher. Despite the funny name, he is sincere and thoughtful and challenging in a wonderful way. He is also a Christian.

I've pulled a few excerpts I thought are especially good from his blog. First is his journey of faith:
I looked in the restroom mirror and said, “I do not believe in God.” I knew this was the truth and felt the need to say it out loud. I was on the other side now. I was an unbeliever. It was like waking up in Tokyo and noticing to your great surprise that you've become Japanese. You weren't raised in Japan, and you have no idea how to use chopsticks. What the hell are you gonna do with yourself?
You can read about his journey of faith in parts one, two, three, and four at his blog.

The next excerpt details his struggle with depression.
This is why there are no heroes with depression. On the day you snap, you are just a guy who snapped. You get no credit for the weeks or months or years that you were being heroic. No one knew that you were holding all that inside. Sorry buddy, there are no bonus points for being a hero. When you snap and start yelling at your kids for no good reason, you are just a guy who yells at his kids for no good reason.
You can read more about his thoughts on depression in his archives.

The last excerpt is on what RLP thinks of fundamentalism: it hurts.
Never confuse fundamentalism with a particular set of beliefs. Fundamentalism is a methodology. It is a way of relating to people. There are fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and don't forget the politically correct zealots. You will meet fundamentalists in every walk of life.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

What a Woman Thinketh in Her Heart, So Is She

When I was 18, just out of high school and newly liberated from a stifling homelife, I visited a comparatively liberal OALC family whose daughters would become my first housemates. On their coffee table was a pamphlet titled "As A Man Thinketh." Browsing through it, I became rather excited by its focus on grace, which seemed so at odds with the OALC, but fit perfectly with the loving, joyful spirit in that family. Emboldened, I offered to recite my graduation speech for them, a meditation on "love your enemies," which was very well received. So well, in fact, that I gave those impossibly kind parents my only written copy, confident that I could never forget the words of my first real public performance.


They are long forgotten, As was the incident itself until hp3's recent message.

hp3 said...

I attended a church that I really liked (an Assembly of God). The pastor said he refused to preach about 'details of sin.' His philosophy was that wherever your thoughts and focus were at, thats where you would end up too. (imagine that!) So instead of focusing on what NOT to do -and ending up there; he preached that you should focus on what TO DO. if you turn TOWARDS Christ you automatically turn AWAY from the world. Imagine you can only literally face one direction at a time and the opposite direction is at your back. So his focus was on turning towards Christ. That was his response to addiction, struggles with sin and how to live one's life. I loved it and have never felt so nourished in my faith and had it be so easy to commit a little less sin (I'm making no claims to perfection :)

MTH and I responded with loud amens. But what do you think?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Responding to An Addict

My otherwise eloquent husband has an inelegant expression for bores. He says "Man, he tires my butt."

Laestadianism does that to me. For a school project last week, our daughter needed a heavy book in which to press some colorful leaves. I gave her a Postilla and smiled to think it was actually being put to a good use. Laestadius the botanist might have approved.

But Laestadius the preacher? Who cares? He tires my butt. If I never read another word of his, hallelujah.

Which is not to say that Laestadians themselves are butt-tiring. Not all. For example, I just heard third-hand about an OALCer of advanced years who called his "worldly" daughter and asked her to forgive him for not greeting her with God's peace (euphemism for more general shunning). She did. He cried in gratitude.

He is not the guy, I'm sure, who keeps visiting this site and voting for "The One True Christianity" on my silly poll. No, that person is, shall we say, butt-tiring.

But beloved all the same, of course.

Recently I came upon this website and found it apropos. Here is an excerpt:

"The real issue with these people (fundamentalists) is not their specific faiths. It's their addiction to thinking they are right. It's an addiction to believing they have a corner on the market of truth. In other words, it's an addiction to a "made-truth," that is, to a belief that the truths they've created in their minds are indeed absolute truths and that everyone else must be made to believe in the same truths lest they perish.

They are addicts. And like other addicts, they do not respond to logic or sound arguments. Like other addicts, in order to feel good, they must believe that their made-truth is the only reality, and they must, therefore, defend that truth against any outside influence. Like other addicts, anyone who threatens to keep them from believing their made-truths is seen as a threat to their own good feelings - or in other words, to be opposed to their brand of made-truth is to be a threat to their personal value as humans, and thus they will attack with ferocity anyone who even questions their veracity. If you don't believe as they do, you are considered "lost." If you oppose their political positions, you are considered "blinded by the Devil." And if you have the gall to argue against their made-truths, you will be called nothing short of "demon possessed" or a "tool of Satan."

But, as with any other addict, you should not take their attacks personally. These people are not to be feared; they are to be rebuffed. They are not to be taken seriously; they are to be pitied. They are not to be counter-attacked with anger; they are to be helped out of their addiction by replacing their need for made-truth with the healing touch of human love and kindness."

Anyone want to comment on what that "healing touch" looks like? Is it possible on a blog?

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Hello friends. Markus over at Finding a Home for the Journey needs our support, having been recently diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps some of you have been through that valley before, and can help him find rest beside the cool waters.

While I am preoccupied with other things this month and won't be updating as frequently, I encourage you to comment on any subject you like and keep the community going. (I've added a quiz just for fun, and updated my profile photo.)

God be with us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Random (Clean) Thoughts

MTH wrote: Say, Free, I wonder if we could have a running topic heading called something like "Random Thoughts," on which we could post our . . . random thoughts. For instance, in the middle of a very busy weekend, I had a thought about the phrase, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." Now, I don't in any way condone sloth, but I did have the suspicion that this phrase was invented by some compulsive neatnik as a put-down for her less obsessive sisters. Or perhaps some poor husband with a slovenly wife could get nowhere so consulted the local imam and got permission to invoke God on his behalf.
As a corollary, why don't we have a phrase that says, for instance, "Charity is next to Godliness?" A more fitting expression, I would say.

cvow replied: Sorry MTH, but that phrase cleanliness is next to Godliness was more likely coined by a neatnik wife who was trying to shame her poor husband into dusting and vacuuming and cleaning his office and shop. I do those things but stop short of the bathrooms and kitchen, where my cleaning talents would be woeully inadequate. Oh man am I gonna get it . . .

MTH, as a casual housekeeper, I've always rebelled at that phrase and was amused to discover that originally, it was directed at personal hygiene. Personal hygiene is nice. While I relax my standards on camping trips, I kind of like the American obsession with frequent bathing. Perfumes not so much (it really should be illegal to ruin someone's enjoyment of a movie or opera by soaking oneself in Eau de Moufette beforehand). But soap and water are very good things.

"Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God." Francis Bacon, "Advancement of Learning," 1605

"Let it be observed that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this nor any text of Scripture condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly, this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness." John Wesley, "Sermon 93: On Dress," 1791

While their words sound nutty today, they may have been motivated by public health concerns, not just delicacy. Hygiene back then being what it was . . . scant. Imagine Wesley preaching to a rank congregation, fresh from the morning chores, in go-to-meeting woolens that never saw soap. Unshaven, pipe-smoking, tobacco chewing farmers taking communion from a common cup. With a farmer's disdain for fancy ways ("neatness of apparel" bah!).

But "Godliness"? Puhleez.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


After the recent posts about Halloween, I thought I'd start a new thread on the subject. My OALC family celebrated Halloween, and I have happy memories of home-made costumes and trick-or-treating in our suburban Minneapolis neighborhood. There were houses that thrilled (full-size candy bars) and houses that didn't (sticky candy popcorn balls in wax paper). We had pillowcases for treats, and after we little kids came home tired, the big kids made their rounds. Later, we would tally and trade. I loved Smarties, but thought Necco wafers tasted like chalk. Still do.

One year my older sister and I were Indian princesses in "buckskin" (brown cloth) and long braids. One year I was an angel in a repurposed pillowcase with gold rickrack. A big brother (now an OALC preacher) took a photograph of me flying on the picnic table. Another year I was Pippy Longstocking with a coathanger wired through my braids. The brothers were usually cowboys or hoboes, with coffee grounds for whiskers. It was more of a carnival than a parade of horrors. I don't remember anything scarier than ghosts.

WIth our own children, we've tried to emphasize that carnival aspect, and until recently made their costumes (a favorite: our tubby, tuneful 1-year old dressed as a Wagnerian opera singer, complete with with breastplate and helmet and gold braids). As with their birthday celebrations, we've emphasized imagination and discouraged Disney or other commercial characters.

This year our daughter (after a few years of princessy ideation) is yearning to be a big, white dog (inspired by her little, white dog). I get to be their veterinarian, pockets stuffed with kibble.

Our son, who has avoided all things ghoulish in the past, asked this year if he could purchase a skeleton costume (a black bodysuit with plastic bones on it). Given the alternatives available, it was fairly tame, and I thought his rationale profound. He said "I get really, really scared, but if I look scary, then I can scare away the scary stuff before it gets me." Having had death on our minds so much lately, I think this is also his way of being brave about it. I bought the costume, and darned if he isn't the cutest skeleton I've every seen. Of course I didn't tell him that.

And I hope it isn't a trend. There is a difference between looking scary and looking gruesome. Some of the costumes I've seen make me question the wearer's sanity!

We'll go trick-or-treating while my husband tends to the parade that shows up at our door, and afterward, the kids will tally and trade, save a dozen pieces, and sell the rest to daddy, who will take it to work for his candy-loving coworkers.

I'm looking forward to Halloween. Like with so much else, what WE make of it is what matters.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Let Me Keep My Mind On What Matters

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Favorite Movies?

From a friend in Finland:
I was asked to start a thread about favorite movies, so let's talk about favorite movies then! :) I like the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. In fact I happened to see his latest movie "Volver" last Saturday. I maybe don't agree with all of his opinions, he seems to have an axe to grind with the Catholic church, which I don't have, and he seems to have a rather negative view on men (although he's male himself), but he takes up difficult themes in his movies and opens a view to the life of people you don't normally meet. For example, I can't remember one single movie of him that didn't have any prostitutes in it.
In general, I tend to like historical movies, especially WWII movies, or any movies that handle about human tragedies. I'm not interested in war as such, but rather on its impact on human lives and human fates.
When talking about movies on this site, it maybe should be mentioned that the world's first movie made by Laestadians was released in 2005 when a group of young people from the Finnish OALC equivalent decided to make a movie with a medieval setting and a Christian message. In my opinion, it turned out pretty well, considering it was done by amateur forces. The reactions among the Laestadians varied a lot, some condemned it and demanded repentance from those involved while other were very positive. It was shown on a few occasions in some small movie theaters and later a dvd was released (with Swedish and English subtitles). The movie has its own site (in Finnish): http://www.kaksivaltakuntaa.fi

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Death – the Unbidden Guest – a Friend or an Enemy?

Death is rarely talked about in the modern western society, but it’s still something we all have in common. This makes one wonder what it is that has made people so alienated from it… What do you think? Cemeteries and dead people are considered something scary. However, if I compare Laestadians and other people, it seems to me like Laestadians typically have a healthier attitude. In this part of the world many people don’t even want to open the coffin of their loved ones, while Laestadians typically do that before the funeral (but they shut it again for the funeral, here it is only the Orthodox that keep the coffin open throughout the funeral). Well, actually I wasn’t going to start a thread about funeral customs. I was more interested to hear your thoughts about death as such. Do you think about it, and what do you feel about it? Has your attitude changed over time? Any difference OALC vs. ex-OALC?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scripture Favorites

What's your favorite scripture passage, and why?

I'll start with a couple of passages from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Philippians 2:5-12, because the idea of working out ones own salvation resonates with me, as does the idea of kenosis:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Another favorite is Colossians 1.15-20, which speaks to me about the connectedness between Christ, us, and the cosmos:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Building Memories

First, a shout out to "exoalc," who I had the pleasure of meeting today, along with her splendid children. Our time together was too brief, but we felt like old friends, having shared the past two years online together. (Thank you, ex, for being a brave truthseeker.)

Every now and then I do a google search on the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church. Yesterday I was surprised to discover an online article about a synagogue, Bet Shalom, in Minnesota. Turns out Bet Shalom bought a former OALC-occupied building in Hopkins and stayed there 17 years before building their new facility.

Now the old Hopkins OALC building (described as long and narrow) is home to an Anglican group called Church of the Cross.

Shiver me timbers. When Bet Shalom took over the former church, they reportedly removed crosses and stained glass windows.

Doesn't sound very OALC, does it? Is anyone familiar with this building?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is American Christianity Powerless?

Not long ago, I had a chance conversation with an OALC preacher who lives in farming country. He told me how agribusiness is destroying the family farm, creating health crises (e.g., mad cow disease, obesity) and making it harder to buy local food. He seemed to suggest that the free market has taken us places we don't want to be. This suprised me. I had always assumed that he was a die-hard conservative, and maybe he is. But it was apparent that a web of negative consequences had revealed itself through the trials of the people he loves.

I wonder what he would think of this jeremiad by Jane Smiley. After detailing recent corporate crimes and abuses, she asks:

Are these CEOs and CFOs and COOs and managers and researchers and stockholders so beyond human that, let's say, the deaths in Iraq and the destitution of the farmers and the tumors and allergies and obesities of children, and the melting of the Greenland ice cap and the shifting of the Gulf Stream are, to them, just the cost of doing business? Or are they just beyond stupid and blind, so that they, alone among humans, have no understanding of the interconnectedness of all natural systems?

One thing you have to ask yourself, faced with American corporate culture, is, what is it about Americans, in particular, that makes them so indifferent to consequences, especially the consequence of doing harm to others, over and over and over? Why did those big tobacco folks persist, for fifty years, in poisoning their customers and attempting to get more customers? Was that what Jesus told them to do?

I bring up Jesus because many, if not most of these companies are headquartered in red states, states proud of their Christian heritage. Big tobacco is (or used to be) located in the south, big oil in Texas, big ag in St. Louis, Minnesota, and Iowa. If Christianity abounds in these states, and people working in these corporations, and running them, are professing Christians, and these people give themselves a license to steal and destroy every day of the year, what does that say about Christianity? Let me tell you. It says that Christianity, especially American Christianity, is the religion of death. Or it says that corporate culture is one thing and religious belief is another, and the religious side is powerless to confront any of the deadly sins perpetrated by the corporate side.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Age of Reason and Religion

Most people know of Isaac Newton, the great 17th century revolutionary thinker. He is, of course, credited with helping to usher in the age of science with his co-development of the calculus and his laws of gravitational attraction. What is not so well known is that he was intensely interested in religion and spent nearly all of this life reading scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. Is this a contradiction? The “age of reason” is often portrayed as a battle against religion.

Rodney Stark in his insightful book “The Victory of Reason” makes the following case. “ The rise of the West was based on four primary victories of reason. The first was the development of faith in progress within Christian theology, the second… …faith in progress (as) translated into technical and organizational innovations.” The third that reason, thanks to Christian theology, caused responsive states to appear in medieval Europe. The fourth “involved the application of reason to commerce.” In other words we in western culture became advanced in large measure due to the specific characteristics of a theological doctrine, Christianity, that encouraged thinking.

Now, this is completely opposite of how I was taught to think about faith in the OALC. Realizing this fact was like a door opening and letting in the fresh breezes of knowledge and understanding. Christianity in all of its manifestations was actually a religion to be understood by thought and not simply by acceptance of dogma. On a larger level, I could celebrate the religion as a faith of progress rather than one of introversion. This concept appears to be paradox to the tenets of the OALC but also to the elitism present in our culture with respect to religion in general. It is my belief that faith is an important component to not only individual lives but also to society in general and that our educational system would be well advised to support this view because it is a tradition with a positive legacy. Your comments would interest me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sacrament of Communion

One of the things that I've puzzled about is in regard to communion in the OALC. The host and wine are distributed, with the statement that they are the "true" body and blood of Jesus Christ. I've heard OALC people talk down about some of the "worldly" churches because they say something about the wine "representing" the blood of Christ, while in the OALC they serve the "true" blood. I’m not sure how carting the bottle of Mogan David surreptitiously to the altar accomplishes the transformation, and when the bottle with the remnants is carried back out, is it transformed back to just wine?

The Roman Catholic Church professes to distribute the true body and blood as well, accomplished through the blessing and transubstantiation of the bread and wine by the Priest at every Mass. The RC teaching in this regard is that through the blessing of the bread and wine by the representative of Christ, they become "substantially" transformed into the body and blood of Christ, so that his presence is there in the elements -- the host and wine. Once these hosts and wine have been consecrated, they are treated with reverence until such time as they are consumed. Any remaining consecrated wine is either consumed on the spot by the Priest or a Lay Eucharistic Minister, or in some cases returned to the ground via a “dry well”. The consecrated hosts are stored in a tabernacle to be used at the next Mass.

What do you think or believe? If we get past the details of what constitutes a "blessing" or not, and if belief is present in the congregant, then is the true presence of Christ there?

Also, does anyone know what the official position is regarding this sacrament (whether OALC, or any other faith)? I always found the explanations I heard in the OALC to be pretty vague.

On a related note, some churches (many denominations) have chosen to start distributing wine in individual cups, rather than the common cup. (The RC Church rejected that idea completely.) I was present at the OALC down in BG many years ago -- can't recall why since I haven't been there that many times -- when the issue was brought up. Apparently some parishioners had expressed a concern, perhaps for health reasons, about the common cup. The preachers brought it up in church, and said something to the effect, that while it would incur an extra cost, they were willing to start doing that, but in order to keep communion orderly, they asked that those who wanted individual cups wait until the rest were served. Also, to help them plan for the impact, they asked that all those who wanted individual cups raise their hands. Not a hand was raised, and the preacher said that it appeared the problem had gone away!

One can argue that if you have a strong and true faith, you could drink from the common cup, and surely the presence of the Lord would prevent any disease from being transmitted through this medium.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Strong Drink

Leaving Laestadianism means questioning and re-examining a lot of the "rules" that one was raised with. Sometimes this is painful, scary, and even funny. Here is the story of my first experience with "strong drink" for your entertainment.*

As I've previously mentioned, I was raised Laestadian. As I haven't mentioned, however, I was very good at following all the rules. I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, I didn't chew tobacco, I didn't swear, I didn't have sex, I didn't listen to rock and roll, I didn't play sports, and most importantly, I didn't approve of those who did. :-)

I mention this not to boast, but only to assure everyone that my credentials were in good order. Like the apostle Paul, who was the perfect Pharisee and was thus was in the perfect position to criticize the Pharisees, I was the perfect Laestadian --nobody can accuse me of justifying giving in to my fleshly desires. I wasn't just drinking and looking for theological justification to do so.

The whole thing started with the woman I was dating. She was also a Laestadian (see, I was even following that rule :-). Despite being a Laestadian, she casually mentioned one day that she didn't see anything wrong with having a margarita every once in awhile. This just floored me, shocked me, offended me in that unique deep seated way that Laestadians get offended over the sin they perceive in others. :-)

I searched the Scriptures in frenzy. Found lots of verses about drunkenness, but none forbidding drinking in moderation. Still, I was very upset. Didn't she see that as a drinker she could become an alcoholic and ruin her life, hopeless addicted to the devilish substance? I very seriously considered breaking up with her.

Then she said something to me that was truly amazing. She said, "You know, drinking or not drinking is not that important to me. It's really a minor thing, and I don't see anything wrong with it. However, if it bothers you that much, I'm fine with not drinking while we're seeing each other."

I was so moved by the grace she extended toward me on this issue that I started to re-examine my fears and concerns with alcohol.

I had a lot of questions. Was drinking really a moral issue? Or was I just ingrained with something as a kid and not wanting to let go? More insidiously, was my attitude toward drinking just a way that I could feel superior to others?

What does drunkenness mean in a biblical context? Does it mean no alcohol at all? Does it mean you can drink, just don't get drunk? Does it mean you can drink moderately and even get a buzz once in awhile as long as you are not a chronic abuser of the substance?

After much soul searching, I decided that I needed real experimental data. :-) So at age 23 I entered a liquor store for the very first time. I was very self-conscious. Did that lady behind the counter think I was some kind of drunk being here? No, she works here, she must be used to seeing customers come in all the time. Heaven forbid I run into anyone I know!!!

I had decided in advance that I was going to purchase a bottle of wine for my experiment. After all, Jesus turned water into wine. But what kind of wine would Jesus drink? After looking at the bewildering array of champagne, whites, reds, domestic, and imports, I finally decided that Jesus would be most likely to consume a five-year-old bottle of domestic red, a cabernet sauvignon priced at $20. No second rate stuff for Jesus, right? ;-) I paid with cash and left in a hurry clutching my brown paper bag and feeling like a wino. I was shocked that I was not asked to display ID.

I brought the wine back to my apartment and attempted to open it. After a major struggle with the corkscrew on my Swiss Army knife I got the bottle un-corked. I didn't have a wine glass, so I filled a ceramic coffee mug half full. I smelled the wine, and swished it around in the mug. The odor seemed evil and boozy.

I remembered reading somewhere that the ancient Romans of Jesus' day would mix water with their wine. I poured some cold water into the coffee mug, filling it. Half wine, and half water. That seemed fitting. Now the odor was not as strong, although the color was still blood red.

I was almost ready to try my wine. I felt that a good precaution would be to move to the bedroom and lay on the bed while I drank the mug of wine. That way if I was to pass out in a drunken stupor I wouldn't hit my head on the floor and get a concussion. :-) I fully expected the room to start spinning, and wasn't sure I would be able to get to the bed in time if I merely stood by the bed while drinking the wine.

Lying on the bed, propped up with a pillow, I took my first sip. I didn't like the taste at all. It tasted like smelly, bitter, sour grapes. How could anyone enjoy drinking this?!? However I was determined to experience drinking, so I forced myself to drink half a mug of the substance. Then I set the mug aside, satisfied that I had consumed enough to feel some effects.

I lay there on the bed for quite some time, waiting for the room to start spinning, or to feel woozy. All I could feel was my heart hammering in my chest.

After awhile I stood up and took a few tentative steps around the room. I didn't feel dizzy, or tipsy. I could smell a bit of wine on my breath, but otherwise the same old me. No demon rising up from the wine bottle to torment me. No irrational and insatiable desires to guzzle the rest of the bottle in an alcoholic, addictive, frenzy. Just me.

As I stood there, I began to feel very deflated. My whole life I had been taught to loathe and fear alcohol. Now that I'd tried some, the reality did not live up to the hype in the slightest. I remembered all the times I had condemned others for choosing to drink. I remembered all the times I declined party invitations and avoided social events when I suspected alcohol would be served. I thought of the love that I was willing to deny myself over the issue.

What a waste. Enough to drive a person to drink. ;-)


*Author's Note: I posted an earlier revision of this story to the XLLL Yahoo Group last February.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Fundamentalists: Present and Former

Sara Robinson, guest-blogger for Orcinus, uses her recent post to describe how people become fundamentalists and how they leave. Before presenting a list of seven common exit-routes, she powerfully expresses how difficult leaving can be:

We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them. Leaving the safety of the authoritarian belief system is a three-to-five year process. Externally, it always means the loss of your community; and often the loss of jobs, homes, marriages, and blood relatives as well. Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you've ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity. On the scale of relative trauma, it's right up there with a divorce after a long marriage; and it requires about the same amount and kind of grieving.
Many notes in this post ring true to my experience, but I need to make a few exceptions. First I would never characterize my upbringing as abusive. Second, I'm skeptical of pathologizing political opponents, and Sara may be falling into this problem when she echoes thoughts from James Dean's recent book Conservatives Without Conscience, which is "ideological comfort food" in the words of Nick Gillespie.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What is Laestadianism?

What does the word Laestadian mean to you? This question was raised on a post at the site ALC Discussion, where the poster took offense at the how describing negative aspects of Laestadianism tars the reputation of all Laestadians, even those who may not share those negative aspects.

To create a working definition, we need to take into account the history of Laestadianism and the strong influence of conservative Laestadians in the movement. My attempt is as follows: a strict Pietist form of Christianity descended from the movement created by Lars Levi Laestadius in the mid-19th century and characterized by a focus on the inherent sinfulness of humanity and the practice of confession and absolution.

The challenge in defining this term is the heterogeneity of what it tries to describe. The Laestadian heritage is characterized by a history of splitting and changing over time, creating at least five distinct groups in the US (the country I am familiar with). Further heterogeneity exists due to the geographical and cultural differences between groups. With the Scandinavian origin of the movement, the widespread emigration of early Laestadians, and the more recent missionary work around the world, there are Laestadians on every continent but one (anyone know of Laestadians on Antarctica?). With such a heterogeneous group, what unites all the members under the label Laestadian? Are we fair to smaller Laestadian groups when we use the word Laestadian to describe characteristics shared by the majority of Laestadians but not by the smaller group?

Taking this question a little further, is it possible for us to break Laestadianism into healthy and unhealthy groups? Based on the experiences of the majority of us here, we are fully aware of the unhealthy groups, but are we aware of any healthy Laestadian groups? In my experience, there are a few churches that have made some progress in distancing themselves from the unhealthy traits of Laestadianism. These groups include the ALC churches in Painesdale, MI and Lake Worth, FL as well as the Grace Apostles church near Minneapolis, MN (see the previous post FALC Issues).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ex-Laestadians and the search for meaning

Many thanks to Free for inviting me to post an article on this blog. :-) This gives me an excuse to ask a question I've been thinking about for some time: Do any other ex-Laestadians struggle in their search for meaning and identity since leaving the church?

Being Laestadian was never easy for me, but there were a couple things about it that always gave me great comfort.

One was that I knew who I was (identity). I was one of God's select few chosen people. Especially in light of "the world" and its depravity, this seemed a great honor that made me feel unique, special, and superior.

Another was that I knew the meaning of life. Life was all about maintaining one's purity and superiority in the face of temptations and contamination, both from within and from "the world." It was about sacrificing the here and now for eternal rewards later.

In light of these two truths, life was certainly hard, but it was also simple and crystal clear.

Leaving Laestadianism has involved giving up a lot of those comforts. Life seems more nuanced now, but that means it is harder to see things clearly. Acknowledging that God has no favorites destroys any exclusive claim I might have upon God's favor.

Who are you, now that you are no longer Laestadian? What gives your life meaning and purpose? Has it been hard to come up with these things on your own now that you no longer are part of a community that defines them for you?


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lapp Blood Will Out

Carl Jung called it synchronicity. I call it wonderful.

Last year with Theoforos' help, I corresponded with the utterly charming writer/professor/linguist/former Laestadian Bengt Pohjanen. He is the founder of Sirillus, a cultural center in Overkalix, Sweden. A prolific and protean talent, Poijanen has written several several novels and treatments of Laestadius, but alas, they are not yet translated into English. One title is Ropande röst or Huutavan ääni (Shouting Voice).

Shortly after we began our correspondence he wrote: "Your e-mail has started fantastic things. Two days ago a laestadian called me in an quite other affair than my novel, but he told me in the end of our call that he had heard about a laestadian preacher from our area, who hade preached and smoked cigars when Titanic was sinking. I didn't say a word, but I was exited because I have a laestadian preacher on Titanic in my novel. It is the first time when I looked on net for Titanic. I found Mr William Lahtinen, the preacher."

It's a good story. You can read about it here.

Later, Pohjanin wrote: "In my novel Pleasant Devils I have written about a totem that some relatives of mine and boys from Kuivakangas and Sattajärvi took from Haisla-Kitamat. Now I have found the tribe on (the) net. It is uncredible! The boys sold it to Mr Hansson, a Swedish diplomat near this area. This morning I found the facta about my story. I am happy! When a storyteller sees that he told true stories without knowing they were true, then he feels laestadian extasis."

The Haisla were selling t-shirts online to fund their repatration efforts. This was not one of them, but highly recommended for certain readers of this blog. You know who you are.

At FinnFest, I told this story to the Finnish-Canadian composer Ari Lähdekorpi (he wrote the score for the recent documentary Letters from Karelia. (Our conversation happened before I saw him perform in concert, and a good thing, as afterward I would have been stunned into silence by his other-worldly talent on the guitar.) He told me that the totem pole had been returned to the Haisla.

And so it has, just recently. The Swedes assert that the pole was taken via negotiation. The Haisla tell a different story, that it was stolen. A film Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole tells the story of the repatriation project.

How can we get Bengt Pohjanen works in English? Could we importune Börje Vähämäki at Aspasia Books . He did a fine job with Laestadius' "Fragments of Lappish Mythology." If you haven't already, read the great review.

On a side note, I enjoy the pow wows at Discovery Park each summer, especially the grand entry where "united Indians of all tribes" dance in their resplendent costumes, from button blankets to apache feather crowns, with thundering drums and chants swirling among the tall firs and cedars. It is a rousing good time and has always moved me beyond words. I wondered recently if it would be acceptable to don a Sami outfit and enter the circle! To quote the freedom-seeking Lena Lingard in Willa Cather's My Antonia: "I guess that's what's the matter with me; they say Lapp blood will out."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ievan Polkka by Loituma

Hello! For my first post, I'd like to bring a little Finnish fun to the blog. This silly but hypnotizing song is Ievan Polkka, performed by the group Loituma.

I'm a former Laestadian, hailing from a group associated with the Federation but similar in many ways to the OALC. Free has asked me to share my thoughts and experiences with you in our ex-Laestadian community here.

Monday, July 31, 2006

My Summer Vacation (Long Version)

It's our first day back and I'm staying up w-a-y too late, so pardon any incoherence or flubs. Our vacation last week was a fine one, alternating between nature and culture, family and friends, rest and activity. On Monday we drove south to Astoria, set up base (a KOA cabin), and ventured the following morning south on Highway 101. Terribly scenic. We stopped in the charming seaside town of Manzanita to enjoy the beach and build sand castles in the marine breezes. We toured the Tillamook factory and watched thick orange blocks being diced into bricks and weighed and wrapped and conveyed in a mesmerizing display of machinery. Further south, we visited my vacationing sisters, dined on homemade shrimp pizza (surprisingly good) and Betty Crocker birthday cake (ditto), then rewound our route on the dark, empty highway, listening to Leo Kottke's 12-string virtuoso while the children pointed out constellations. Actually, just one constellation. Over and over.

The next day, I attended R. Cecil's lecture, arriving a little late (the signage at FinnFest left much to the imagination). Cecil was a warm, engaging personality, eager to share her considerable knowledge of the Saami with her rapt audience. She shared photographs, artifacts, and some recorded yoiking. She described the political history of the Saami and their "disappearance" at U.S. customs, where their country of taxation, rather than their nationality, was recorded.

For Americans wondering if they have Saami ancestry, Cecil provided a list of indicators. Topping it: a family history of Laestadianism.

Given the enormous cultural losses of the Saami, Cecil suggests that part of the appeal of Laestadianism was that it helped them recover a semblance of that prior, simpler life of harmony with each other and nature. This was a novel concept to me. I've read that Laestadius is credited with saving the Saami from alcoholism, and could imagine his legalism as a kind of prophylactic against illness, poverty, neglect, etcetera, but had not considered that his rejection of the state church offered his adherents a return to identity. Perhaps this is a stretch, but could not the new communities of Saami converts be a return to the cooperative siida of their parents and grandparents? Could LLL's legacy of exclusivism be seen in its most positive light: a desire to hold on to the siida?

Cecil also has an idea about the Saami apropos of our depression discussion. Those who are familiar with the history of Holocaust survivors, Native Americans, Hmong hill people (the "sleeping sickness"), and other displaced peoples will recognize the term: intergenerational trauma. She asserts that the Saami continue to suffer from it, having lost their land, livelihood, religion, communities, language, and sense of self.

On hearing this, my thoughts cascaded thusly: Laestadius, depressed himself, forms a sect imbued with negativity, which is taken up by the depressed Saami, for whom it validates a sorrow-full life while also providing the balm of community or "like-mindedness." Peasant farmers sign on for similar reasons. It spreads, attracting in rural America the poorest Finns, for whom it validates a simple life and offers a reward for following its ascetic rules: cooperative community.

Case in point. Two of my Finnish immigrant ancestors apparently had no interest in the church until desparate financial need required that they reach out to Laestadian in-laws for help. Was "repentance" a condition of that help? I would guess so. And it must have seemed a good bargain.

I know of a more recent case in which a Laestadian girl who had left the church as a teen returned, playing the prodigal daughter long enough to get much-needed help in raising her children (she was a single mother) before leaving for good. She is not embarrassed about the bargain she made; it was a matter of survival.

Well, moving on. In addition to Cecil's lecture, I saw the Suomalainen Sisters, a delightful comedic trio in huivis and aprons and luscious UP accents. "One rutabaga shy of a pasty" is one catchy line. "We don't dance with poikas with black shiny shoes" is one of their ditties. Yukking it up afterward, I promised to send them some inoffensive LLL material (not an oxymoron, I hope). Certainly something could be made of hidden radios and TVs? Or smoking outside church?

While wandering around looking for nonexistent signage, I ran into two Gackle sisters I'd met years ago at a family wedding, and decided to join them for a kantele concert. They are in their 70's and very classy ladies, but that didn't keep us from belting Edelweiss and improvising silly lyrics. It was great fun. I think a certain kind of Finn shows up at these cultural events, and it isn't the shy ones. The kantele player, Wilho Saari, was skillful, even though he played a lot of corny unFinnish tunes. His wife quoted from the Kalevela something along the lines of "if the kantele doesn't fill you with joy or put you to sleep, throw it in the fire." Well, there is a third alternative, "make you laugh til you weep," but that could be due to Rogers and Hammerstein.

Thursday afternoon, we went to Fort Stevens to see the shipwreck and I captured this family in a huddle. They were looking at a sea creature or praying, or perhaps both. I half-expected them to greet me, as the girls had long hair and an air of LLL.

Earlier that day, our kids had run in from the playground shouting "our cousins are here!" and sure enough, we discovered OALC relatives camping at the same KOA. The boys, who see each other once a year maximum, bonded instantly and ran all over the campground in high spirits, having a grand time. The girls hung back and watched quietly, already little ladies. (I gave them some M&M's and they disappeared and brought back a bag of hamburger meat and buns. What is potlatch protocol, I wondered. A blanket next? I settled on more M&M's and that seemed to go over well).

I was impressed when our son checked to make sure it was okay to show his cousin a home video on my laptop "because, you know, he can't watch tv?" I assured him that it was not the same as tv, and he looked at me like I was splitting hairs, and I suppose I was. They cackled maniacally while watching, over and over, the kids' "science experiment" with Diet Coke and Menthos, an explosive combo.

That night we went to see "My Only May Amelia" at the River Theater under the lovely Astoria Bridge. We'd just finished the book and the characters were still fresh in our minds, and the kids were rather disappointed that their stage versions did not match up, that there were no dogs or pigs on stage, no log dams, boats, or Naselle River. There was some splitting of kindling, however, and when our son was asked by an actor for his favorite moment, after the show, he said "the axing." He had to repeat himself a few times before it sunk in. I felt kind of sorry for the actor, who had to memorize all that dialogue.

On Friday the whole whizbang moved to Naselle's high school, where we had the guilty pleasure of taking a free, open-sided trolley to and from the parking lot immediately across the street. A matter of a few hundred feet! Methinks we Finns could use a bit less trolley and a lot more walking, if you know what I mean. They otter spend that trolley money on signage next year. We did manage to find the room in which Jennifer Holm, the author of May Amelia, was holding court. She had some Finn-Am aunties with her to help answer questions about the old days and her aunt's journal, on which her novel was based. Per usual, I asked a lot of questions, and Ms. Holm graciously answered all of them, even my thickheaded inquiry about the probability of a farm girl having enough free time to have all those adventures. Ms. Holm said something to the effect that "chores are not very interesting to write about." Oh, yeah, fiction. You'd never know I studied it in college!

Technology was iffy at Finnfest but I lucked out with my cell phone and succeeded in meeting "Anonymous from Minnesota," as she asked to be called on the blog. She is a kind, funny and thoughtful "former" who helped me understand the differences between the OALC and the Federation, and gave me some good pointers on LLL resources on the web, as well as on the hoof, as it were. She pointed out a tall man in the Tori as the professor who had translated LLL's "Fragments" (from Swedish to English), and encouraged me to chat him up.

Which of course I did. Börje Vähämäki has some ideas about Laestadius' psychologically subverted affection for Lapp Mary that would not fly in the OALC (if indeed it could be understood but which to my admittedly inexpert ear ring authentic. Rereading the history around his conversion event is recommended. I'll post it here soon.

I asked the professor how one could reconcile LLL's obvious intelligence with his superstitions (crows, earthquakes, etc.) and got the rather unsatisfactory reply that any book of mythology, whether the Kalevela or the Bible, must be understood symbolically, "as poetry." When I suggested that LLL manipulated (artfully or deviously, you pick) Saami and Christian mythology in his postilla, he wholeheartedly agreed. One cannot underestimate the intelligence of LLL. I haven't verified this yet, but Vähämäki seemed to say that LLL considered himself to be THE apostolic successor to Luther. I had thought this was his adherents' aggrandizement, not his own! Can anyone enlighten me? (If a preacher were to claim such today, would he be called delusional, or a narcissist?)

On our way back from Finnfest, we managed to sneak in lunch with my parents (very pleasant) and an overnight visit to our church's campout at Millersylvania State Park, where we pitched a tent, gathered around the campfire for songs and s'mores, played some mean Scrabble and Uno, washed a ton of dishes, held babies, watched a skit, and slept like logs. After a quiet morning watching sunbeams through the stately firs, we had "church" around the campfire, and a great sense of peace prevailed. As we sang our last hymn, "Shine, Jesus, Shine," there was a sudden shower of rain. That laughter, as we ran around gathering hymnals and kids and taking shelter, felt so right. The siida, the sangha, the body -- what is it but soul food.

That evening, when we returned to the city and bought a newspaper and scanned the headlines with dismay, I was glad we had "come away to a quiet place" and I look forward to going again. Even if it's just to bed. Like right now.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More on Depression

I'm here in Astoria enjoying ocean breezes, sunny skies, and sporadic internet access. As I type this, I'm sitting on a stack of logs at our campsite, pointing my laptop in the direction of a wifi antenna and squinting to read the screen. FinnFest is in full swing, and I snuck away from my family for a couple of hours this morning to hear Ruthann Cecil. Her lecture provided an overview of Saami culture and included an intriguing idea about the appeal of Laestadius, about which I'll post later, when I'm not sitting on a stack of firewood.

Ironically, it relates to depression. Her idea, I mean, not the firewood.

Following are some posts that were buried in another topic, so I'll repost them here.

sisu said...
Dear Stylux and MTH,
I would like us to have more discussion about depression. I believe all my siblings and I suffered from it at one time or another, and I have attributed it to genes. I'd like to follow up on this possible OALC connection. I hadn't thought of that before.

Stylux said...

I have suffered from depression all my life and officially have been diagnosed with dysthymia. This is a fancy word for a constant low grade "sort of all the time" form of the disorder. I researched my family and its patterns and found a number of varieties existing in various members from "manic" to "bi-polar" and others. To the extent that I could I included deceased members as well. In addition there exist examples of attempted suicides, hospitalization and such. So it is an ongoing and large problem and one that is not often discussed for various reasons. This has changed in the past 20 years in a positive direction so things are easier today. One of the perplexing things about depression is that it is often accompanied by anxiety in all of its forms as well as ADD and ADHD. The PET scan literature on these conditions is interesting. I am not sure if there is any proven connection but it is anecdotally connected in my family both immediate and extended. So what to do... I can tell you what I have done. I have taken various med's such as the SSRI's etc., amphetamine derivatives and other combinations (not all for depression but most for depression and anxiety combined). I have been to a host of counseling sessions etc. and been involved in various types of therapies specifically for depression. I have become a firm believer in the field of "cognitive therapy" as espoused in the famous book "Feeling Well" by Burns. Basically the approach involves reprogramming irrational thoughts because they (University of Pennsylvania) feel that depression is a result of irrational thinking. In my case I agree with this assessment. Now to the OALC. I have come to the conclusion that in my case my depression is mixed both psychogenic and physiological or genetically acquired and learned. The doctrinal approach tends in my case to exacerbate the condition. Growing up in a critical family has an impact as well. I have to be careful here... Folks, I am not making the case that the OALC causes depression. I am speaking very specifically and these things are hard to tease out and isolate. I have been helped enormously by using cognitive therapy and no longer take meds. The basic research from Burns demonstrates that the therapy combined with meds is far more efficacious than meds alone. The secret to the Burns approach is writing, writing and more writing. The book is available in any bookstore in paperback and is a considerable step above the pop psychology level. I live with the problem and do better some days than others but feel grateful for the progress that I have made and encourage anybody who suspects that they suffer this way to start asking and doing. As I have often written… Depression hurts.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Depression: Let's Talk

Some of you interested in talking about depression and it deserves its own heading. I'm on my way to Astoria, so I don't have time to talk about my own struggles, but suffice to say that I know the beast.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Summer Reading

If nothing else, our last exchange yielded some reading recommendations. Here's a list:

Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann, Neale Donald Walsch, and Joseph Chilton Pearce
Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble by Lester R. Brown
The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies by Richard Heinberg
The History of Christianity by Paul Johnson
Modern Times by Paul Johnson
Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton
The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine series by Jaroslav Pelikan
Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius

That thar is some heavy lifting, folks. I'm eager to order a few of those books from our library, although they will probably sit on my nightstand gathering late fees while I wallow in fiction. I'm in an escapist mood. Currently I'm reading Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm to the kids, as we're going to the theatrical version during FinnFest. (It's about a Finnish-American girl with seven brothers on a farm in Washington state at the turn of the century, and her struggles with tradition and freedom.)

Let's talk about books. What books have been especially important to you?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ruthanne Cecil: Finns, Saamis, and Laestadian

That last topic didn't get its full day in the sun, so please weigh in before it gets too buried. Just had to post this photo and link, because I finally got around to registering for a few FinnFest events, and one of the offerings is a lecture titled "Finns, Saamis, and Laestadians: Delving into our Past" by a Ruthanne Cecil. If she is one-and-the-same as the Ruthanne Cecil I found via Google, what an interesting and knowledgable person, with a J.D. Law, UC Hastings, and a job at as "a well-known expert on financing sustainability." She "speaks widely on how fiscal policy options can create the necessary funding pools for urgent global needs" according to the Center for Environmental Economic Development. She also wrote the source material for the Saami of Alaska exhibit I saw at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle last year, about which I posted here. Doesn't she look Saami?

(The catalog doesn't say whether her lecture falls on Wednesday or Thursday. Either way, it's a must-hear.)

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country

Thank you, friends, for heating up this blog, which had become kind of humdrum. If you are new here, please don't be put off by all the disputation (how's that for an LLL word?).

My view is that in conflict we clarify our own views and explore new ones. So join the fray, just be respectful of differences. I also encourage you to read some of the earliest posts to get a sense of the range of topics we cover here, and then to suggest a new one if you get bored with the status quo.

For the person who asked for the derivation of "toot," is from the Finnish word for Christian, and apparently not as common as I thought when I started this blog. Growing up, it was slang for anyone who belonged to the OALC. The other slang word was bunhead, which others tell me is still in currency (for males, too?) although it sounds derogatory to me. Hereabouts, a bunhead is a ballerina.

I had the great good fortune last week to receive a nonvirtual visit from Sisu, someone who already seemed like a familiar friend from our online correspondence. I confess I was a bit nervous in anticipation but it was as easy as falling off a log and much more rewarding. And warmer. Sisu, remind me to ask you why you left the OALC! Funny how that didn't come up with all the things we talked about. I hope that was the first of many visits. And next time I'll serve you a proper meal.

Speaking of . . . if you want to meet at Finnfest and haven't already done so, email me your cell number at extoot (at symbol) earthlink.net (no spaces, of course, I've included them here to fool spambots). I'll call you with a time and location. At this point, it looks like Friday midday. Don't be shy about meeting . . . I will not publish your identity and we'll all be as discreet as you wish. And feel free to just be yourself, okay? Whether you are Ex- or still LLLish, whether you are fattish (like me) or thinnish, greenish or reddish, Rightish or Leftish, there is a place for you at the table, and a slice of pulla.

Finally, our topic. You can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy. Can a tiger change its spots? Of course. But Is it easier for women who leave LLLism to make fundamental changes in their worldview? Because LLLism is so patriarchal, is it possible that women who leave tend to question not only LLLism but the patriarchy beneath it, while men are less inclined to go that far? Let's explore that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

FinnFest is a'Comin'

Hoo. What a crazy week it has been. Relatives visiting, cars kerplunking, noses sniffling, plans unraveling. It was a little too much. To get away from it all, I saw two movies recently. They were of such disparate quality that the first is among the absolute worst I've ever seen, and the second among the best.

Both had top-flight actors. But Bill Murray could not lift "Garfield" from utter crassitude (although the kids thought it was hilarious), while Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Lily Tomlin gave beautifully-crafted turns in "Prairie Home Companion." It was a real treat to see Jearlyn Steele and Tom Keith and the other familiar voices from the radio show, and although Garrison Keillor has a face made for radio, he did not ruin my fond feelings toward him and the whole PHC universe. Beneath the movie's humor (often occasionally crass) and musical bits, a poignant theme gathered power: Savor this life, as soon we'll be leaving it. (It is a movie made by a director on death's door.)

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

Oh, and you friends who know this song so well, when you hear "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling," it will get you good. Bring Kleenex.

On another note, Finnfest is fast approaching: July 26-30. I'll be there for the kantele Mass on SundayThursday and possibly Friday. If you are going and would like to meet up, please send me an email at extoot (at symbol) earthlink.net (make sure there are no spaces and extoot is singular).

Maybe we can break pulla together.

Is the Tide Turning?

This following is from a CBS news story:
At a church in Washington, hundreds of committed Christians met recently and tried to map out a strategy to get their values into the political debate. But these are not the conservative Christian values which have been so influential lately. This is the religious left.

"Jesus called us to love our neighbor, love our enemy, care for the poor, care for the outcast, and that's really the moral core of where we think the nation ought to go," Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches told CBS News correspondent Russ Mitchell.

The National Council of Churches represents about 50 million Christians in America — the majority of them mainline Protestants.

"Jesus never said one word about homosexuality, never said one word about civil marriage or abortion," Edgar said.

He calls this movement the "center-left" — and it's seeking the same political muscle as the conservative Christians, a group with a strong power base in the huge Evangelical churches of the South.

But the left has its own Evangelical leaders, such as the Rev. Tony Campolo.

"We are furious that the religious right has made Jesus into a Republican. That's idolatry," Campolo said. "To recreate Jesus in your own image rather than allowing yourself to be created in Jesus' image is what's wrong with politics."

The Christian left is focusing on:
Fighting poverty
Protecting the environment
Ending the war in Iraq

"Right now the war in Iraq costs us $1 billion per week," said Rev. Jim Wallis, a Christian activist. "And we can't get $5 billion over ten years for child care in this country?"

To try to attract young voters and the attention of politicians who want their votes, leaders of the religious left are promoting issues like raising the minimum wage.

"Nine million families are working full time," Wallis said. "Working hard full time, responsibly, and not making it."

Three decades ago liberal religious leaders had a powerful influence on politics.

In the 1960s and 70s they led demonstrations against civil rights abuses and the war in Vietnam. But when those battles were over, the movement seemed to lose energy, while the Christian right had become well organized and committed to having its voice and concerns heard.

After years of sitting on the sidelines, it will take more than meetings and talking points to make the liberals into a political power again.

"The Christian right has a ground game," said Mark Silk of Trinity College's religious studies department. "Thus far the Christian left mainly has an air game: they want to throw positions, they want to talk to the media, but do they have the networks in place on the ground to get people out to vote?"

So, it remains to be seen whether there's any action behind the words. But there's no doubt they're on a mission.

"I've watched a generation die. And I watched them shift from idealism to a 'me' generation that was only orientated to consumerism and it hurt, and I wondered whether we ever would come back." Campolo said. "But the pendulum is swinging."

Well, what do you think? Here in Seattle, so-called mainstream churches are struggling to deal with homelessness (from prevention to tent cities), even as their congregations are dwindling. Meanwhile, suburban megachurches with that charming God-wants-you-to-be-wealthy gospel are adding hair salons and basketball courts and other amenities as their congregations swell..

I see no evidence that the pendulum is swinging.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Poverty and LLLism

Following are some considered and compassionate observations by Ilmarinen, who really ought to be hosting this site!):

Perhaps this has been covered before, but a topic I would find interesting to discuss would be poverty and the LLL community. Growing up, I didn't think too much about the folks around me actually being destitute, but the more I think about it now, the more I realize how close to the poverty line many families fell. The government figure for the 2004 Poverty Threshold was $37,983 for a mother, father, and seven children. In the 90's, I remember the husband/father of a large family saying he considered $35,000 to be a good wage.

I saw many families apparently doing well: new vehicles, huge houses, nice clothing. But I wonder how many are struggling to keep up with their uncontrolled fertility? Are the ones doing well getting the most attention, while those doing poorly are overlooked? Are the apparently well-off really doing that well, or are they spending everything without retirements or insurance? Some families despised welfare, but I know many qualified for it and some used it.

Realizing that many of the most conservative LLLers were impoverished helps me understand the vehemence and frustration I witnessed. Perhaps they could not understand how the young would scorn the life they had struggled to provide. They only saw that through hard work, they were able to feed and clothe their children, and they took pride in that accomplishment. It was beyond the scope of their culture to realize providing for nine children, on the one salary of an often uneducated man, was simply a lifestyle choice, not a commandment to be followed by all. If I believed the LLL dogma and was doing all I could to provide for a large family, I'd be sorely offended to hear people dismiss my grinding efforts as simply a choice, or worse, to hear people say I was doing a horrible job of raising my family. The difference in perspective is so great, I'm just now coming to realize how difficult it must be for LLL true believers to fathom my mindset.

Monday, June 26, 2006

When I in Breathless Wonder

Last week we went on an orca-watching tour in the San Juans. Here's a photo from the trip (see the dorsal fins of the orcas beyond that research vessel? You might need to click on the photo to enlarge it).

What does this have to do with Laestadianism, you may ask. Nothing much, but I'm plumb out of ideas and energy at the moment. Hope you are enjoying your summer!

(Does anyone want to discuss our changing views of nature? I grew up catching and eating sealife, not observing it, for example.)

"Orcas are at the top of the marine food chain, and have large, complex brains. The Puget Sound orcas have a unique greeting ceremony, and the matrilineal pods have languages all their own. They feed about half the time — but also indulge in all kinds of play: chasing, splashing at the surface, breaching, fin slapping, tail lobbing, head standing, rolling over other animals and playing with objects, including kelp and jellyfish."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

From Taboo to Wahoo!

What is your favorite LLL no-no? Reading scripture on your own? Reading People, or Jung? Wearing earrings? Going to the movies? Enjoying a nicely-aged cabernet? Hanging out in an art museum? Volunteering at a foodbank? Joining a political protest? Exploring other religions?

I know some OALC think people leave to seek "worldly" pleasures. That's (1) hogwash and (b) a cop-out. It protects them from confronting their own doubts about the church. The truth is that we leave for a wide variety of reasons, and "worldly pleasures" are the least of them. (If that's what we were after, we'd stay put and repent every seventh day, like so many others.)

That said, it seems to me that strict churches (and parents) actually promote compulsive/extreme behavior, simply because they do not foster moderation and ethical self-reliance. I've known a few who left the OALC and went off the deep end. Sometimes, it seems, the pendulum swings far enough away in order to find its rest in a reasonable middle.

That was not my experience. Nonetheless, it took me years to learn moderation. Exposed to TV, music, movies, art, theater, parties, travel, and other religious and cultural traditions for the first time, I had a good time exploring them. I loved daytime talk shows (such a wide variety of heretofore unseen humanity!). My college roomies found this odd but endearing. They took me to movies and out dancing, exposing me to many kinds of music. (Finnish at the core, I found myself drawn to the blues, the sadder the better!)

Oddly, I did not like theater at first, because I was embarrassed for the performers for their physical and emotional exposure. But later, I fell hard for Shakespeare and never recovered. There is a kind of truth that can only be shown on stage.

Because my first few years of experience in the world were full of loving, wonderful people, I remained naive about danger. I dismissed normal, instinctual fears as OALC-induced paranoia, and took risks I would not take now. For example, one of my jobs during college was waitressing at a Chinese restaurant near the airport. The lounge was pockmarked with bullet holes from gangfights. Years later I would learn -- with a shiver -- that the route I bicycled or walked home each night was where a serial killer found many of his victims.

What else did I explore? Movies. A movie-loving friend (who found it appalling that I had not seen the classics) introduced me to old movies, mostly on VHS, which I liked for the ability to control the volume. Even now, I feel physically sick if a movie is too loud, or there is any threat of violence. Later I became a huge fan of indie movies, especially quirky stuff from other countries. One of my favorites is "Man Without a Past" by the Finnish director Aki Kourasmaki Kaurismäki. I like to think that my late exposure to cinema makes me less inured to its delights. I weep, I cackle. Certainly there is a kind of truth that can only be expressed in film.

There used to be a billboard on Hwy. 99 entering Seattle. It showed a musical staff without any notes on it, and asked "What would life be without art?" Laestadian, perhaps? was my silent answer.

But enough about me. Tell me about you.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dating & Marrying as a Former Laestadian

Thanks to Ilmarinen for suggesting this topic: "What was your family's reaction if you dated or married someone outside the LLL church? Did you worry about not having the same type of relationship your parents had (more or less divorce, different gender roles, different ideas on reproduction, etc.) How did your worldly significant others react to your family, the LLL church, and the Laestadianisms still within you?"

I'll set the tone here and answer in detail, which makes much juicier more interesting reading.

At 16, I became besotted with a "worldly" boy, the handsome college freshman son of our neighbors. My parents forbade me to see him, which a parenting expert might have told them (they wouldn't have listened), is counter-productive. I snuck out. I lied. I invented "special projects" that kept me "at school." That first love was so intoxicating, it is a wonder I was able to finish high school, because I thought about him constantly. He felt similarly. He was a good boy, and was really tormented about seeing me against the will of my parents, even though all we did together was hold hands, gaze at each other soulfully, study the Bible, take walks, and listen to the Commodores. "Three times a lady" seemed dangerously exotic to my inexperienced ears.

He tried to ingratiate himself with my folks, offering to help haul firewood and whatnot. They were civil and I suspect they actually liked him (my grandmother positively melted when he showed up with a dozen red roses on my 18th birthday), but he was absolutely not welcome in our home. His family adored me, and the contrast was not lost on me.

Finally, I was allowed to see him one weekend, to bring him to church. This required a long drive and an overnight stay, with me, ostensibly, at a cousin's house and him in a hotel room. Need I say more? Risky, defiant, exhilerating, memorable. And stupid. If I had become pregnant, I probably would have married that young man, who was so eager to make me his wife. My life would have taken a very different course.

That same year, in some kind of weird quid pro quo, I agreed to go out with an OALC boy on a date arranged by our mothers. What a disaster. I can't remember what we did (restaurant, bowling?) but I remember in detail his brand new truck and how the evening ended, with me fending off his sudden lunge and demanding to be dropped off. Years later, I would find out that my older sister had experienced something similar with his older brother! Turns out these boys had reputations my parents probably knew about, but given the stakes (heaven/hell), they had decided they could live with.

I never dated another boy from church and rarely talked to any, as we lived so far away. From a distance, they all seemed too wild or too backward. Unfair generalizations, and I suppose I had already made up my mind. But surprising even myself, after I left home and started college, I broke it off with my forbidden paramour. Why? Ironically, he was too . . . OALC! By that I mean traditional. He wanted lots of kids, soon, and did not think it was necessary for me to go to college and travel and explore the world. As I proceeded to do, with fits and starts.

After that, I dated just about whenever I was asked (not often enough) but rarely spoke about my upbringing. I was worried, I suppose, that it would be a great turnoff, and furthermore, I hadn't processed it very much. A guitarist I befriended in a church youth group became closer than most. He dashed my hopes by marrying someone else (a decade later, he kindly came to my wedding as a surrogate brother!). I am still good friends with a Finn (extract, that is) whom I dated a few times before we realized we were too alike for sparks to fly. He is now godfather to our kids. His large family had never heard of Laestadius, and they like to think of me as "the country girl who came to the city."

While I defiantly dated outside my race, religion, and class, and enjoyed friendships with a wide variety of people, I despaired of finding anyone with whom I could really connect. I was a stranger in a strange land. Just when I had resigned myself to solitude, I met someone whom I couldn't (resist though I tried) get out of my head/heart. It felt like destiny, and after a while we moved in together, prompting some very upset phone calls from the folks. He wanted marriage, but why did it terrify me? I was afraid of ruining what was the most wonderful relationship I'd ever had. Eventually I would introduce him to my folks (a funny memory: he was going to put on a suit and tie to meet them, but I insisted that he wear his old jeans, knowing that fancy would not make as trustworthy an impression as axle grease!). We were together so many years that everyone assumed we were married, and finally I knew we must be. (When I try to remember exactly what I feared about marriage, I can't. A therapist once suggested it was fear of losing my identity again to an institution. Maybe.)

Sadly, when we sent wedding invitations to my OALC kin (with postage-paid response cards), they didn't reply. Their silence spoke volumes. (Later, when I opened a wedding package from my parents, inside was an OALC hymnal. I already had two . . . but you can never have too much of a good thing, right?) Fortunately, my exOALC sisters and their children helped us celebrate that day, and pledged -- as we asked all our wedding guests to do -- their support through the ups and downs of our marriage. They've honored that pledge.

As for my spouse's reactions (to my family and whatever shreds of Laestadianism I retain), they have always been mild, sometimes bemused, sometimes upset on my behalf, but always encouraging of a respectful relationship with my family. He finds my history unusual and interesting, but no more or less so than his own. He willingly visits my family but doesn't invest emotionally in what would be a very one-sided relationship. It is not really an issue for us.

Except in this: I've often thought that just by being in my husband's loving presence over the years, I've gained an immunity to unhappiness. By osmosis, I've absorbed some healthy attitudes that serve as antidotes to all that Laestadian fear. Perhaps this would have happened without him. Regardless, I feel blessed.

Okay, your turn!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Disco in the Holy Language

Just in case anyone missed this kneeslapper by RhymingBlue on the Yahoo site, here it is:
Ol' Laestadius making you spastic on the dance floor? Feeling your inner beat wanting to squirm past the "sorrowing sinner" filter? Look no further: dance instructions in Finnish. It sounds like Finnish, so you'll have some comfort to cling to as you venture one foot out into the world.

(The above was based on my personal experience of much sitting under translated sermons from Finnish, until there was an automatic connection between the Finnish language and the Laestadian tradition.)

Thank you, RB. I just watched it again tonight for some comic relief. That demonstration of the hip bump is priceless.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old Apostolic Funeral

I saw this bit online and thought I'd share it. It was written by a teenage girl about her aunt's funeral in the OALC. I was moved by her pain, and it sent me to some dark places. I'd be hella pissed too. Someone should start a ExOALC Anonymous to help people deal with these things. (Meanwhile, we've got this blog . . . I sent her the link.)
. . . Old Apostolic Lutheran Church.

Do those words mean anything to you?

If not you're lucky. I've heard them since the day I was born. It defines who my dad's side of the family is. Old Apostolics are pretty much a cross between Mormons and the Amish. The women don't wear makeup or pants and they must wear scarves on their heads when in church and they can't have birth control (Mormon comparison) so they all have like 1571258712357 kids, no seriously, I have a cousin who has 13 kids, can you say ouch? And pretty much, if you leave the church, you're shunned (Amish comparison).

Well, when my dad turned 18, guess what he did?

Yep, he left the church. And so, of course, he was shunned.

Well, I mean they still talk to him, but it's way different.

And today, when the pastors were talking about (aunt's name deleted), supposedly. They kept mentioning how Apostolic is the only "true faith" and they hate to see people that were brought up in the church "turn their backs" and run away. I almost got up and punched that pastor in the face. That is not the time to try to re-recruit the people that you pushed out.

I'm sorry. I was hella pissed.

Oh and I really don't understand how EVERY SINGLE song can sound the exact same. I mean we sang like 5 songs during the service and every single one sounded exactly the same. The same, long, boring monotone. The exact same dull drone as the Pastors when they were supposedly "talking about Annie."

That was bullshit.

I'm not sorry she's dead. I know that sounds horrible, but it's true. She messed up my family and I'm glad she's dead. I feel for my dad, he hadn't seen her in 4 years because he couldn't get over it. It tore him apart today, so I was crying, but not for (aunt's name deleted). I refuse to shed tears for her. It's not her fault, I know this, but I can't help but blame her.

My family has issues, and they need to learn that there are more people than just Apostolics in the world. They all marry each other and stay in this little crazy community and don't even try to get out and see what else is out there. It makes me mad.

I hate my family right now. I don't even care.

I love them because they are my family, but I hate them for what they've done to my mom, dad and I.

It's not fair. None of it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Laestadian Lingo

Okay, this a thread where you can weigh in on any special terminology used in your Laestadian church. If you click on the link above, it will take you to a very early discussion on this blog of OALC terms.