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

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Unity, Laestadian Unity

What is the basis for Christian unity? We all know how unsuccessful Laestadianism is when it comes to unity. What started as a church-within-a-church in nineteenth century Finland quickly splintered into differing and competing groups both there and in the United States, where acronyms like ALC, FALC, OALC, LLC and more denote the many groups --most of whom think they are the only true church.

Of course, all the Laestadian splinters are but a microcosm of the even greater disunity throughout greater Christendom. Depending on which historians you read, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism either parted ways in 1066 or were never one church to begin with. Then in the 1500s the Anglicans split off, and poor, naive, Martin Luther opened the floodgates for split-offs and spin-offs by translating the Bible into the vernacular, effectively allowing each reader to be their own priest, preacher, and theologian. He actually believed that if each person could read the Bible for themselves they'd all agree with his interpretation!

I'd like to start a conversation here about what keeps us together as Christians, as ex-Laestadians, as human beings... I'll start by quoting this excerpt of an article I read in another context but which I found illuminating...

If we are to restore unity amidst our differences, I don't think we will find it in the Bible. After all, the expression of the Word of God par excellence for Christian people is not the Bible. It is, rather, Jesus himself – the Word made flesh. At the heart of our faith, we see Jesus as the most sublime expression of the Word of God, and we are convinced that Jesus as the Christ is not locked into a particular period of history, but is a living presence in the life of the church today and in the life of each of us who seek to be his followers. The Bible is a tool – and an indispensable one – in coming to know the Christ, as are tradition and reason. But the tools can ever only be tools – none of them can ever replace the One whom they help us to find.

St. Paul has been much maligned over the years. He is regarded by many as a misogynistic conservative. But it is closer to the truth, I think, to acknowledge that whatever else St. Paul was or might have been, at heart, he was a mystic whose own conversion to the Christian faith was rooted in an encounter with the Risen Christ that was difficult to put into words. As Paul himself says, when it happened, he couldn't tell whether or not he was in his own body, and after it was over, he had seen things that were impossible to describe. But the result of this encounter with the Risen Christ for Paul was radical transformation – the kind of transformation that made Paul, the observant Jew, able to say – quite astonishingly – that in Christ, there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." This leads me to conclude that in Christ, there is also neither conservative nor liberal, Global South or Global North, straight or gay. Rather, there are only human beings made in the image of God, baptized into the Body of Christ, each seeking to be transformed through our own encounter with the Risen Christ. Our life in Christ lies exactly there: in Christ. Not in the Bible, nor even in our tradition. And Jesus reminded his followers many times that life in Christ was often an unpredictable and personally crucifying experience.

After making this post, I ran across this funny cartoon on CartoonChurch.com regarding some of things that divide us, so I'm making this update. ;-)



  1. Oh, that one's going to ruffle a few feathers in this crowd. I can hear it already. I love the quote, by the way.

  2. There are many good things in the quote, indeed, although I probably would express it a bit differently. And of course, I don't know what the ideas behind that quote are. I might not be able to subscribe to all the ideas behind it, but the quote itself is pretty good.

    However, the mentioning of the different branches of Laestadianism made me think about the parallel with Mormonism. I think it might be beneficial for recovering ex-Laestadians and especially doubting Laestadians to read about the different branches of the Latter Day Saints movement and see the similarities. Laestadianism is not unique in any way, although its adherents are made to believe it is.

    To start with you can take a look at this Wikipedia list:

  3. That is a beautiful and insightful passage!

  4. "Laestadianism is not unique in any way, although its adherents are made to believe it is."

    Very true. When I left, I thought I was the only one who'd ever gone through such an experience, but I've learned that there are so many others out there--Baptists, Mormons, Haredi Jews--who've had experiences almost identical to mine. Some of the basic parts of my experience are mirrored in the experience of almost any small-town kid who grows up and moves away.