"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Ex-Laestadians and the search for meaning

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?



  1. Many Trails Home8/07/2006 12:03:00 PM

    Tomte, you have asked the question so lucidly. I suspect that, for most of us, this has been THE central question of our lives, and one of the reasons we participate on this blog. (The other two primary questions or life challenges facing most of us are or have been finding a mate and life's work or purpose).
    As for me, I spent 20 yrs pursuing questions 2 and 3 while feeling a tremendous void because of question 1. I didn't have much choice: I could find no answers, no substitutes, no replacements, and there was no going back. It's a very uncomfortable place to be, yet extremely rich in learning opportunities. Thank God 40 finally came and I turned a corner. "All in God's time," some might say, and even in the dark times (in retrospect), I can see God's hand in action and a purpose for it all. That's my take-home lesson: ask, ask, ask and it shall be given, knock, knock, knock and the door will be opened - even if it takes 20 years! But the delay, if there is one, is more often due to our own unreadiness. Faith, trust, perseverence, just plodding ahead when there is nothing else to do, and ask, ask, ask, knock, knock, knock. DO NOT "indulge" in despair. That's my "recipe" for post-OALC survival. Worked for me. Many blessings to you all in your individual quests. MTH

  2. Tomte,

    These questions were issues I struggled mightily with upon leaving, and am still working on answers to.

    "What gives your life meaning and purpose?"

    This question took me over a year to find an answer to after leaving. The biggest problem wasn't so much finding the answer as realizing that I needed to find an answer at all. In the Laestadian mindset, such questions don't typically arise. It was only after leaving that I even realized there was a question, much less that it needed an answer. For a time, I felt adrift, but eventually I began to realize that it is up to me to answer that question. Once I realized that, it wasn't as difficult to begin finding what gives meaning to life for me.

    "Who are you, now that you are no longer Laestadian?"

    This question is something I still haven't answered. I no longer have an automatic identification as one inside the LLL fold, but there is still much Laestadianism ingrained within me. Even now, I don't feel fully like "part of the world." One thing that gives me some peace in this question is realizing that there is no such thing as just "the world." While Laestadianism gives everything outside the bounds of the church the blanket designation of "the world," I have come to realize that there are many different identities in the world. It is not a shapeless monolith of which someone either IS or IS NOT. Rather, everyone in the world still must find their own identity. Realizing this, I know my own search for identity is common.

  3. Many Trails Home8/07/2006 03:11:00 PM

    Ilmarinen, the "Who are you?" question I eventually answered for myself like this: "I AM a child of God." Of course, even if we come to this conclusion, we still have to decide what it means. And what it means to me is: I come from spirit, I am first spirit and secondly human, and my spirit provides me a (direct) connection to my Creator. Therefore I am never alone, I have value and can never not have value, I am loved and will always be loved, no matter my failings. God's love (OALC and other Christian beliefs notwithstanding) is unconditional.
    The corollary of this is: everyone else is a child of God as well. Sorry folks, no exclusive claims allowed. Also, there are responsibilities attendant upon being a conscious child of God, expectations of compassion, justice, honesty, gratitude, kindness, etc, etc. As a basis for living, this to me has turned out to be the secure "bottom line."
    Many blessings to all you questers. MTH

  4. Good Question..

    I have answered this question on two levels… one secular and one religious.

    By my late teens I had given up two notions that up to that time had given me some defintion. One dealing with my uniqueness and the other dealing with my identity with my mind. I realized that, though unique, I was more like everybody else in more ways than I was different and special. This was a very liberating experience to let this go and I remember thinking at the time that it took a lot less energy to live and enjoy life this way than to be fixated on some special quality that made me different. At around the same time, I developed a self defintion that disconnected the personal “me” from what I thought or how I thought. The best I can describe this is that I am a collection of experiences with a soul and that intellectualism is at best… a great hobby(and one, I might add, that I enjoy very much). The important part for me is that I am not my mind. This was equally liberating for the same reason.

    Leaving the OALC came later for me and this has posed another set of questions which have only been partially answered at this time. Research in the history of the church has convinced me that Laestadianism developed from 2000 years of debate about what constituted a “Christian”. I consider myself a “Christian” at the moment without having to have the OALC define it in their special way. I recall thinkng about the special nature of the church and how it was to be a member, but during the time I was a member I was always disconnected on some level. So, as tough as it was to leave, a part of my identity had already left years before.

    What gives my life purpose at the moment is being grateful for all the small moments and not worrying about that over which I have no control. I do, though, think about what it is that gives one salvation, what is the ultimate role of the mind in all of this, what defines the soul, is there a God, what makes for a good society and are dog lovers infinitely better than cat lovers. The rest is simple.

  5. No wonder why so many of the youth stay in this church that is so controlling! Did you really feel superior because you were the chosen one?

    I used to sit back and admire the people who could calmly accept their faith.
    I used to think that they were humble. Then I began to suspect the "superiority" amoung the members. And as in every group of people, some feel that they have more of a right to belong to the group than others. Then you see the pecking order emerge. Those at the bottom feel they still must stay "in the church" or they will actually go to Hell! Ouch!

    I guess leaving was easier than always feeling like I was at the bottom of the pecking order. I had no identity in "the church".
    Having an identity outside "in the world" was found through accomplishments and work.

    How can you have an identity in a place where everyone's quest is to be the same?

    My purpose in life had to be more than having children and not helping the child next door because his father is a drunk.

    The journey to the worldly pursuits was not easier. It is easier to to cover your head with a scarf and follow man made rules, than it is to actually work on loving my neighbor. That is the hard rule to follow. Think about it!

    My purpose I always thought was to love my neighbor. I actually chuckled, (quietly) during confirmation when the peacher said, to Love thy neighbor, but do not associate with the Catholic neighbors because they gamble in their churches.

    With that said, having a church/religion identity has been harder to find. I am asked what religion are you? That is the question I ponder. I read too much, study too much, ask to many questions. This makes it real hard to find the one church, the one chruch that works for me.

  6. I've expressed many times (ad nauseum, I'm sure the regular readers would agree) things about my leaving the OALC. I married outside the OALC and perhaps that's when the light began to dimly shine for me. We were young and idealistic and going to expose our children to both faiths (my wife is a cradle Catholic). About that time, the poison spewing from behind the altar at the local OALC seemed to take on Catholicism in particular (don't know what that guy thought he knew or didn't know about it, but I'm sure he wasn't letting the facts get in the way of a good story). I stopped letting my wife attend church with me, while I stayed awhile and saw the situation worsening as time went on.

    So what was I to do? Well, I just stopped going to any church at all. I'd make the obligatory appearances at Mass during the years when the children were difficult to handle, but I played a lot of Sunday morning golf too. Much as I enjoyed those one on one conversations with God on the links (and I did have them), there was something missing.

    Finally I just started attending Mass on a regular basis, and after some years (we Finns don't want to leap into anything too quickly you know) I joined the Catholic church and am happy and contented and assured that I am in the right place for me. I think the RC church appealed to me because it still is pretty conservative with their views on everything from abortion to marriage to you name it, it professes a faith that is steeped in history and tradition, it doesn't just try to make everyone feel good about everything by having great cookies after church (it still preaches and teaches responsibility and adherence to scripture) -- and those things make it a comfortable place for me to be.

    As a professional engineer and educator, I know that the way you really get to understand something is you go and teach it to others! ...so I became involved in teaching the RCIA program -- Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults -- the program of exploration of the Catholic faith. I've got many years of that behind me now, and love doing it. Every class has people from different faiths who are searching for a new answer, and the greatest thing is I learn from each and every one of them. I've heard about every kind of heartbreaking, difficult, and even sometimes funny experience along people's paths that you can imagine. As adults, we grow in the sharing of these stories, as we always find something of ourselves woven in the fabric.

    My answer works for me. It might or might not work for you. That's OK. But if you ever want to learn about the RC faith, give me a whistle -- oops, that's right, whistling is a sin, isn't it...

  7. CVOW...
    Whistling is a sin... I thought that I was the only one that heard that one.

  8. "I was one of God's select few chosen people."

    I still am. But not because I grew up in or because I still attend the ALC (not the Old). Because Christ loved me. That's why, and that's the ONLY reason. And it's not exclusive to the Laestadian movement.

    "I knew the meaning of life."

    The meaning of life? To praise and glorify God, something I'll admit that I'm not very good at. God created man for His good pleasure and look what man has done to God. Thankfully, Christ still loves me anyway.

    "It was about sacrificing the here and now for eternal rewards later."

    Sorry. It's about Jesus Christ's sacrifice two thousand years ago that we might even have a chance at the eternal rewards later. My pietism isn't for my salvation or eternal rewards, it's to make life easier for me here. Trying to go against God's will never profits us. And it's not a reward (something we merit) but an unconditional gift.

    "Leaving Laestadianism has involved giving up a lot of those comforts."

    I didn't leave Laestadianism; that's not where the comforts are. I found them in Christ, and anyone who thinks they have found them elsewhere is fooling themselves.

    "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?"

    You cannot come up with them on your own; they must be revealed to you by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God which is Jesus Christ. If your community could not help you find them, I applaud you for leaving it. But once you find them, it is your duty to return to the community and be their light.

    I have been blessed to be among a community of Laestadians who helped me find the true meaning and purpose of life. They are my friends, and I pray that they remain so forever.


  9. Love this thread. Love you guys. What a gift this blog has been to me. (As well as a huge time drain!)

    Who am I, now that I am no longer a Laestadian?
    Free. Free to follow my own conscience. Free to love my neighbor. Free to be large, to contain multitudes. Free to be happy.

    What gives my life meaning and purpose?

    Everything. This. Relationships. Beauty. Suffering. The easing of suffering.

    As for my purpose, maybe it is simply to be. To love and be loved. To be useful. To live each day as if it was my last. Ideally, I would like to live so that it doesn't occur to me to ask the question.

    Like s.o. and hp3, it wasn't so difficult to leave the OALC, as I didn't feel like I belonged there. Round peg in a square hole.

    If Adler is right and we all long for belonging and significance, the pickins were slim and the forecast grim. Unless I wanted to "belong" by pretending to be what I was not, and to be "significant' by making Herculean efforts to concentrate on my unworthiness. To compete in an Olympics of humility.

    My first ten years post-OALC, I was often lonely, inconsolably lonely, crying myself to sleep lonely. My sublimated anger found all kinds of outlets, mostly in depression (anger turned inward) and failed relationships. I tried different churches, I tried atheism and agnosticism and humanism and Buddhism and nothingism. When I stopped looking for others to define the spiritual for me, I began to experience profound grace. It was a homecoming. Words don't work here.

    My bitterness and anger are ebbing.

    I like "Floater's" compassionate post:
    "I do not wish to take my experience and make it a formula solution for everyone. We are all individuals, created differently in God's sight for different purposes. How he uses us and leads us will be on different paths for each of us."

    I'll always be an outsider. In my 20's I was a chameleon, changing colors wherever I went. It was a necessary exploration and fruitful. But I am not a joiner (whether it is a church or political party) and am suspicious of labels and jargon, which all groups by necessity use.

    Maybe some of us are called to be outsiders. Outsiders challenge the status quo. They are the still small voices that halt groupthink. THey see the forest. They make good lookouts. (And lightning rods.) But that is a label, too, and ultimately meaningless.

    Every now and then I DO get a sense of tribal belonging, but it is transitory. I've felt it sitting zazen, taking communion, gardening, singing, nursing babies, and working with others. Last night I felt it at Green Lake in the moonlight, where we joined hundreds of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, atheists, and others. lighting lanterns and setting them afloat

    I have an ever-increasing sense of the fragility of our lives. We are here so briefly, like those lanterns on the lake. Let us burn brightly while we can.

  10. LLLreader: The question of meaning, to me, relates to postings in another part of this blog. I didn't get any feeling of being Finn from my OAL relatives. All of my "Finnishness" came from the other side of my family. Being FINN is a large part of my identity. My Grandma never did learn to speak English, so when we were together my Grandma, Mom, Aunt, and I, spoke Finnish. When they all died within 4 years of each other, it was a real loss. A few years ago I was involved with showing a group of touring Finnish teachers around. One of them asked me how I have kept such a "Finnish soul" when I wasn't even born there. I love the sound of the language, the music, and I think Finnish women are the most beautiful in the world. I have many items from Finland in my house, serve Finnish food on Finnish dishes, love Finnish jokes, art, and "all things Finn". I have never thought about the "why" of this, but just now realize that it gives me a feeling of knowing who I am. My Grandma was so dear to me--I stayed with her lots and she would give me coffee with cream and suger in it in bed in the morning.

  11. Off topic here, or maybe not: I'm making a cd of hymns for a homebound Laestadian, and thought it would be fun to see what your favorites are. When you vote, you are directed to a website where you can see the results. Kinda fun.

  12. Many Trails Home8/08/2006 09:16:00 PM

    Floater, I have a radar for what seem to be pious judgments and I have to challenge you on this one: "I found them (comforts) in Christ, and anyone who thinks they have found them elsewhere is fooling themselves." How about finding them in God? What's wrong with going to God the Father directly? In fact, I would suggest that Jesus himself advised us to do just that. For you to say that people are "fooling themselves" is a judgment you are in no position to make. MTH

  13. MTH...

    Forgive me for butting in on your question.

    However it evokes the history of the church and specifically the doctrine of the Trinity. One of the big arguments in early Christianity (37 AD or CE up to 325) was deciding whether the Historical Jesus was human or divine and whether he was God or the Son of God or both. It was determined at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and confirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 that he was a part of the trinitarian God (God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost). All three were separate and yet there was only one God. This remarkably paradoxical doctrine came about for the most part by the early church fathers trying to squeeze a monotheistic faith out of the reality of Jesus incarnate. They were forced into this by defending themselves against a number of ultimately heretical views of Jesus, i.e. adoptionism, docetism and Gnosticism. The trinitarian doctrine won out in the long run because that was, among other reasons, the view of the church in Rome.

    After that point one could say that going to Jesus was the same as going to God because they were one and the same... homoousia is the principle. I understand the point you are making in your question and it illustrates that much of the doctrine as we knew it came about from much argument... i.e. "debating the faith". This has been fascinating to me.

  14. Good stuff, Stylux. For me, the whole thing is irrelevant, but I think Western minds could learn something from Eastern minds about this. Buddhism has an analogy for life called the Great Pearl, in which everything exists and seamlessly connected. It is also called Indra's Net. Indra is the creator god of Hinduism, and in that sense he is like Yaweh, although he is not the most "important" Hindu god. (All gods being contained in The Great Pearl.) Indra's net is connected at the cross points with jewels, each of which reflects each of the others in an infinite hologram of mirrors. Physicists now use this analogy to describe the universe. (If it seems incomprehensible, try googling it for a better description!)

  15. Mth, You said..

    "How about finding them in God? What's wrong with going to God the Father directly? In fact, I would suggest that Jesus himself advised us to do just that."

    No Mth, Jesus did not advice that!

    10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
    10:8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
    10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

    Former president Kekkonen said: "Tämän pitäisi olla selvää tekstiä".

    H. Finn

  16. Many Trails Home8/09/2006 11:33:00 AM

    Well, of course you are right, H.Finn. I'm surprised you did not quote "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me." But what did he mean by "I AM" and who is "By Me?" I think we read it all so shallowly and literally, and I am not about to get into a Bible-quoting contest as that is inevitably fruitless.
    I fully expected to be "called on the carpet" for that one but posted it anyway, as I have come to the absolute conviction that nobody REALLY EVER knows what is right for someone else. Period. MTH
    PS hp3: I admire your openness and honesty and courage. I tend to be rather bold in my pronouncements and also fully expect to be "called on the carpet" when appropriate, even if I simply misunderstand. Many blessings. MTH

  17. Free..

    The particulars of the development of theology provide great intellectual substance but for the most part remain irrelevant to most people’s lives (mine included). That, by the way, is why canons arise from the debate. About that I agree with you. However there is a larger picture and that is "what provides the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people". Then the argument tends to transcend individual sects and goes on to whether "ethical monotheism" is such an organizing philosophy for humankind.

    MTH... I share your reluctance to getting involved in Bible quoting. For me it boils down to "not debating faith". I am more interested in the consequences of what it is that we believe and how we got there (or here) as the case may be. I thought your comment was a reasonable one.

  18. MTH said (in part)"as I have come to the absolute conviction that nobody REALLY EVER knows what is right for someone else. Period."

    Bravo. You hit that nail square on the head. Good on ya!

  19. Thanks to everyone who has read and responded to this topic. It's neat to see the number and variety of responses.

    s.o. asked, "Did you really feel superior because you were the chosen one?" Well, the answer is no and yes. No because in fact I felt quite beaten down by the world when I was growing up Laestadian. I remember being in (public) school and hearing some other children cussing. I remember feeling personally contaminated through the hearing of those coarse words. It is a scary thing when other people, worldy people have the ability to contaminate and pollute you like that. I think my reaction then is a small example of what drives many Laestadians today to be so obsessed with keeping "the rules." That fear turns to hate, and feelings of moral superiority as a defense mechanism. So in that sense, Yes.

    hp3 wrote, "It wasn't quite so hard for me to let go of the 'old secure beliefs' because I hadnt really been secure to start with. I always asked too many questions and had nagging doubts from a rather young age." I had some doubts at a young age too. The biggest one was seeing good people attending good churches, and knowing that my denomination taught that they were going to hell. Knowing how few Laestadians there actually were in the world made it seem incredible that God would create a world full of the damned. Far more "secure" for me was my belief in biblical literalism, which I didn't question until well into adulthood.

    cvow, I was raised on Catholic-bashing. I remember my confirmation class and the two main examples cited as "bad examples" or Christianity gone wrong were the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and Roman Catholics. Although looking back on it (and I don't mean this in a bad way at all) I can see a lot of similiarities between LCMS, RC, and Laestadianism. Do you think that maybe some of the vitriol was fear that people leaving Laestadianism might be attracted to these other expressions of the faith because of some of the similarities? I mean my pastor never wasted his time bashing Buddhists or Hindus --that went without saying. He only spent time bashing faiths that might be tempting to his flock. :)

    Speaking of Buddhists, I'm currently reading a book by a Buddhist monk called "Creating True Peace." I think it's interesting for a couple of reasons. 1), I think that I've been on a quest for inner peace most of my life. 2) a quote on one of the very first pages leapt out at me because it so elegantly describes what I think is most wrong with Laestadianism,and why:

    The conviction that we know the truth and that those who do not share our beliefs are wrong has caused a lot of harm. When we believe somthing to be the absolute truth, we have become caught in our own views. . .When we are caught in our own views, we are not seeing and understanding in accord with reality. Being caught in our views can be very dangerous and block the opportunity for us to gain a deeper wisdom.

  20. I haven't read that book, Tomte, but if you are interested in Buddhism, I strongly recommend "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Steven Batchelor. There is also a good article here about "Christian Buddhism" that reflects some of my own experiences.

    Funny, the old Laestadian fear of "offending" is so ingrained that I still fret that the young readers out there (Floater?) will turn away, frightened. Let me assure those of you on a traditional Christian path that there is nothing to fear.

    Seek and ye shall find.

  21. Yeah, if you would have ever told me as a young Laestadian that I'd be reading books on Buddhism as an adult, I would have run away screaming for the hills. :-) I guess it's a good thing that we don't know what lies ahead in life until we're ready for it. All I could say to that younger me now is to remember, "perfect love casts out fear."

    Thanks for the link, Free. This book is my first foray into reading about Buddhism by a Buddhist (Thich Nhat Hanh). I have dabbled in contemplation along the lines of Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton (to name just two Christians who have gained insights through Christian-Buddhist dialogue), and also enjoyed Taize style worship, which has meditative qualities to it.

    I picked up Creating True Peace because I was interested in peace. It's been an added treat to learn more about Buddhist meditation and also realize the similarities at the heart of both Buddhism and Christianity.

  22. Many Trails Home8/09/2006 08:57:00 PM

    So you like the Taize service,do you, Tomte? I love it and have attended one locally for years altho not so much recently. I even visited the Taize Communite in France for an over-nighter when I visited Paris a few years ago. It was an incredible experience, altho not much like the services here. When the throng of teenagers sang "Jesus, Remember Me" as they exited the hall, I could have curled up in a corner and cried for hours. Blessings to you, Tomte. MTH

  23. ..."nobody REALLY EVER knows what is right for someone else"...

    Well, how does the promice below sound for You?. Does it sound good and right?

    "he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."

    (hope this is not too much bible for You)

    Please, select one of the following answers:

    ( ) YES, sounds good.
    ( ) NO, thats not rigt for me.

    H. Finn

  24. Free!

    Thanks for this blog! Its important to ask "whats the meaning".

    H. Finn

  25. This was an interesting topic!

  26. So, H. Finn, sure that statement works for me. However that isn't what the comment "nobody REALLY EVER knows what is right for someone else" is all about. Of course I accept that the Lord knows what's right for me. What I do not accept is you or anyone else on this planet knowing what is right for me. If any other human thinks they know what is right for me (or anyone else other than themselves), then I write them off as arrogant idiots - people to whom I give no credit or attention whatsoever.

    Even as parents, we might think we know what is right for our children, but in reality we don't. It is not our right, privilege, or within our ability to make those kinds of judgements.

  27. free2beme: feel free to download anything you want for your hymn CD from the Hockinson ALC Convention Music Archives. The file "suggested playlist.txt" lists the best recordings; I particularly like "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Oh - the number in the filenames correspond to the hymn number in the ALC's Hymns and Songs of Zion (blue book).


  28. In response to MTH's comment at 9:16pm: Stylux said at 11:08 pm what I wanted to say and said it better than I could have.


  29. Thanks for the music tip, Floater, but this cd is for an OALCer, and organ simply won't do. I'm looking for acapella or lightly-accompanied hymns and have found a few on iTunes.

    Maybe I should check out the Mennonites . . . I remember hearing a cd with lovely part singing.

    BTW, I couldn't fit more hymns on that survey or I would have included "Tempted and Tried" -- very memorable from my OALC days.

  30. ..."Even as parents, we might think we know what is right for our children, but in reality we don't. It is not our right, privilege, or within our ability to make those kinds of judgements"...

    Yes, yes, but...

    Do You have kids? Have You sometimes tried to tell them something about Jesus and God?

    If yes, what is the logic there? I cant see it. (about knowing what is good for someone else)

    If not, its also kinf of judgement from Your side, isn't it?


  31. Yes, Huck, I do have children -- three of them and they are all grown and doing well and starting their own families, and I am inordinately proud of them. Of course we tried to guide, mentor, and nourish them as they grew up, taking them to church, living our faith, and showing them by our example what our core beliefs and our morals were.

    You can encourage children, and teach children, and you can even set rules for them to follow as they grow up under your care, but -- and this is a big but -- you cannot dictate what they will believe or choose to do with their lives.

    Of my three children -- all of whom have been raised from the cradle as Catholics -- the oldest son is married to another cradle Catholic and is solid in his RC faith. Our daughter is in what I think of as a "searching" time in her life. She is married to a man who was the child of a "fallen away" Catholic father and a "fallen away" Mormon mother, and to whom religion is not very important. He believes in God and identifies himself as a Christian, but has never attended church very much. My daughter has expressed some discontent with the RC faith, so she and her husband are seeking something, although not very rigorously. Our middle son and his fiance have both decided it's all about science -- that there is no afterlife and when the bulb burns out, it's out. (That said, they are the nicest, upright, honest, and kind people you could ever meet.)

    Does my children's faith or lack thereof concern me? Of course it does, and I pray every day that they will all find the way that is right for them -- and here is my point: I do not know what that right path is for them, nor would I be arrogant enough to assume I do. If they want to talk about faith, I am always ready to do so -- and sometimes we actually do. However, I don't push my faith down their throats and I don't question what they choose to do. It is their life. I will always love them regardless of their choices.

    I teach adult religious education to people who are exploring the possibilities of the Roman Catholic faith, and I carry this attitude with me into those classes as well. I will tell people what I believe and try to explain why. If the Lord deems it is right for them to accept that guidance, then they often join the church. If it doesn't resonate for them, they don't. It's their choice and their journey and their faith.

    I don't think that attitude is judgmental at all. As a matter of fact, I think it's about as far as you can get from being judgmental.

  32. Many Trails Home8/15/2006 11:53:00 AM

    You go, cvow. I have observed that some of the Finland Finns have funny logic, and this is an example of that. At least I don't get it. Someone a while back got all uptight and accused me of being racist when I made some comment about "Mormons, gypsies, and other insular groups." As if it is not permissible to even OBSERVE differences in people or groups. That attitude sounds frankly dangerous to me, potentially leading to abuse by sub-groups.
    I wonder if some of our Finland posters would consider addressing this issue. MTH

  33. Hey, I'm not a Finland Finn, but I understand Huck's logic.
    His question is: if you in reality, really, do not know what is best for your children; then why would you try to guide, mentor and teach them by example?
    And if you don't (guide, mentor and teach them by example) than isn't that a judgement on your part. That it would be wrong to do so?
    (Please correct me if I'm wrong H F)

  34. While your children are young, they are under your care and you are responsible for their care and nurturing. During that time, of course you will try to guide them in the way you THINK and pray is best for them. That's a long leap from KNOWING what path they should follow on their personal journey through life toward an eternal reward -- and for goodness sake, when they are grown, step out of the way!

    Perhaps you think you will become reincarnated as the next Dalai Lama. I personally don't THINK you will, but I don't KNOW that you won't. All things are possible through God, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't need me to interpet his wishes for other people, or tell him what he can or can't do!

    Here's a practical example: I knew a boy whose father used to have him driving a farm tractor when he was six years old. Old Dad tied him on the seat so he wouldn't fall off. The father, a good upstanding man by most accounts, probably thought he was doing a good thing for his son, teaching him from early on the value of hard work and the skills of farming. If asked, perhaps he would have said he "knew" this was ok and good for the boy. Would you agree he "knew"? Miraculously the boy did survive and probably has raised his own children secure in the same "knowledge". BTW, that's a true story. I remember being really jealous because my friend got to drive a tractor and my mean old father wouldn't let me.

    I think this is one of the fundamental faults with the fundamental churches, including the OALC. There are too many people who seem to think they KNOW what is right for everyone. If you believe that, you might as well join the Taliban -- they seem to be really secure in their "knowledge".

    We might as well stir the pot a little...

  35. Cvow, you sound like a wonderful dad and I hope your children appreciate the distance you've travelled from the OALC mindset.

    Huck and Joy, I agree that parenting involves making judgments about what is good for our kids.

    But as cvow demonstrates, this does not require us to be "judgmental" of others, which connotes an attitude of arrogance and self-righteousness.

    Semantics, perhaps.

    It's also possible we have more to learn from our children about God and spirituality and mindfulness than we have to teach.

    Readers, how would you have responded to this question (from our 5-year old daughter, asked in a sad, tremulous voice):

    "Mom, why are boys specialer than girls? You know, like baby Jesus. How come there isn't a girl Jesus?"

  36. Next month you can celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    You could explain that the Bible is marred by the sexism present in the authors' societies. Or you could explain that men are given headship in the natural order designed by God, and women should be fully satisfied with their state of submission incurred by the Fall. ;)

  37. Free, your daughter asks very perceptive questions. :-) I don't envy you trying to help her make sense of that one.

    joy, I think everyone thinks they know what is best for their kids (I think. ;-) I doubt there are any parents out there who don't have strong opinions about how to parent. ;-)

    This bleeds in a little with Ilmarinen's recent post about authoritarianism, but I think the biggest difference between how I am trying to bring up my child in the faith and how I was raised myself has to do with the role of authority.

    Sure, I exercise a kind of authority over my kid, but I'm trying to teach my kid to have her own resources to draw on to work out the issues in her life. I was taught to always look to some external authority for "answers" to life's questions, be that authority a charismatic preacher, a fundamentalist church, or an inerrant reading of the Bible. This kind of spiritual formation creates incomplete people in my view, unable to function without that strong external authority.

    I want to help my kid to be a complete person, able to seek God without having to subsume herself to the authority figure.

    The link below is an example of "Godly Play," and this is the kind of Christian education I'm talking about. Notice how the instructor doesn't dictate answers; the instructor is creating an environment or a story in which the answers can be sought out by the children, and the instructor trusts the children's ability to make sense of the story on a spiritual level.

    The Parable of the Great Pearl

  38. Nice post Tomte. Thank you for sharing.

  39. In addition to the Feast of the Nativity of Virgin Mary mentioned above you could have celebrated her Dormition (Orthodox) or Assumption (Catholic) yesterday August 15. In the Orthodox church (and I assume also in the Catholic church) there are several feasts connected to Virgin Mary: the most important ones are her Nativity, Annunciation, Dormition and Protection. The first three probably don't need an explanation, the last one is about her role as our protector through her intercessions (=prayers to God).


    MTH mentioned something about the negative attitude of Finland Finns towards observing differences between ethnic groups. It made me think about a Swedish book called "Gamla tanter lägger inte ägg" (=old aunties don't lay eggs), which is all about funny sentences collected from small kids who sometimes say aloud things grownups usually don't dare to say or don't even notice. One of the sentences in that book was something like "some people have black skin but it is impolite to say it aloud". :)

  40. ...I pray every day that they will all find the way that is right for them -- and here is my point: I do not know what that right path is for them, nor would I be arrogant enough to assume I do...

    I believe that if You have yourself found "the way" (not my word), You sure want Your dearest persons also find it. You sure want to share the most valuable You have with Your kids?

    Why should the kids go thru all possible black holes of life while searching "the path". Yes, I know, the journey is their own.

    And about life in general, I think for a father its just impossible to avoid carry forward something of his values to his kids, whatever the values are. Sure do the kids also battle against dad's values but still something goes thru.

    H. Finn

  41. ...some of the Finland Finns have funny logic...

    Yes, verry true.

    But I saw once a t-shirt with text: Shit happens even in Minneapolis.

    H. Finn

  42. So Huck, it is pretty clear that you and I are not communicating. I don't know how to say it any more clearly that we tried to set an example in front of our children that reflected our beliefs. We encouraged them, but we did not force them. Since they're all pretty bright people, I doubt they jump into "every black hole" they see but rather avoid them -- not because that was dictated but rather because it makes sense to them.

    It sounds to me like you really don't want to let go of the ability to dictate what children (and other people) do in their lives. Rather than nitpicking here, why don't you share what your beliefs are with regard to "knowing" the truth.

    BTW, I didn't see what your last statement about the crude comment on the t-shirt added to the conversation.

  43. Cvow, I'm with you here on this discussion regarding children. My husband and I do not attend church, and we didn't while our kids were growing up, either. Yet, all three, now married, attend church on a regular basis. Go figure.

    Our son got married recently, and at the rehearsal dinner, he and his fiance both gave speeches. Our son got all choked up when he looked at us and said how we raised them to be independent and how that has helped make him the person he is today. Lots of tears in the room. I had to get up from my table and go over to give both of them a big hug and kiss and say I loved them. Lots of tears from me, too.

  44. Sisu! Welcome back!

    It sounds like you've got some neat kids! Isn't it great when they turn out so well even though we didn't have an operator's manual bringing them up? Unless you were one of those "Spock" families, but then your kids would be screwed up...


  45. I am happy for You cvow and sisu because your kids are "pretty bright people" and they "attend church on a regular basis".

    Sounds perfect. I do myself sometimes worry for my kids.

    H. Finn

  46. Many Trails Home8/17/2006 05:07:00 PM

    We all worry about our kids, H. Finn, no matter how great they are. Not a one of them is perfect or has a perfect life. Many blessings to you and your children. MTH

  47. Hi H Finn,

    yup, sometimes things are a bit more complicated than we'd like, aren't they.

    Hey, were you kidding when you sent greetings from Mississippi? I've been taking that literally, but then, sometimes I'm kinda slow LOL.


  48. all these blogs are truly wonderful, if I grab a cup of tea before sitting down, I can imagine I am in a roomful of friends chatting the evening away :) :)

    Ive decided that if my kids love me enough to continue a relationship with me, after they have to, then Ive done the best I can do with them. They will each chose thier own path, which may or may not be influenced by me. I want them to know I love them regardless. Of course I have my preferences, and beliefs, but I can only share that, not force it on anyone. I want to look back on my life and see a continuom of love, through the generations, as I hold my great-great grandchildren. (if I live to be that old of course :)

    Thats about the extent of meaning in my life immediately. I am searching for how I can further serve Christ while Im here, but rather than one 'huge' meaning or task, Im content with daily life (sometimes thats plenty thank you)

  49. Norah, Mr. Finn's river is entirely literary, as is his pal Tom Sawyer.

    By the way, I want to share with you how I answered my daughter's "how come there isn't a girl Jesus" question. I told her that in the time and place Jesus was born, only men could preach, but one of the things Jesus taught is that God is for all of us, everyone, everywhere, no matter what we look like or where we are from. As I attempted to recite "neither Jew nor Greek" she cut me off, patted her chest and said "Well, inside I'm a boy AND a girl; that's my God part." And ran off to play. That was too easy!