"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Another look at Shunning

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another look at Shunning

An anon commenter beat me to the punch on this post:

I read this in the Wall Street Journal today, and couldn't resist posting about it here. I knew that some Laestadians were into shunning, but I never imagined that the practice took place in some other churches as well, and that it seems to be growing in popularity within some quarters:

Banned From Church

71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" and expelled her from the congregation. "I've been shunned," she says.

It's an interesting read, which raises many issues. On the one hand I was gratified that the civil authorities finally put an end to this nonsense in Mrs. Caskey's case. On the other hand, shouldn't churches be able to conduct their internal affairs as they see fit, no matter how wacky it looks to outsiders?



  1. Are churches considered private or public? If they are private, then they should be able to conduct their internal affairs as they see fit, as long as there is nothing illegal of course.

  2. In my opinion, they should be able to conduct their internal affairs as they see fit as long as there is nothing illegal....but you wouldn't think they'd expell someone from church. Aren't churches supposed to be welcoming?

  3. I totally agree with you cvow, I never thought of it like that. It just seems so cruel to expell someone from church, but you're right, they have the right to protect their loved ones from what they think is evil.

  4. Many Trails Home1/22/2008 12:29:00 PM

    Thanks, cvow. That was a very helpful commentary. It expressed a nagging feeling I had, and had not seen expressed, that most "shunning" in the OALC was not from some evil motive but rather to protect themselves. No point in making it any worse than it is. MTH

  5. This is kinda off topic but,I think it goes a little overboard when little kids are taught that "worldlies" are bad, and the kids take that as "be mean to them". I've seen this alot..where laestadian kids make fun of the other kids, and tell them that they're not going to heaven, or won't let them play with them. The kids should be taught to treat everyone the same. It's sad to see. I just hope that when our kid goes to school that they won't get treated badly by the laestadian kids, and that if they are, I'll know how to deal with it. Anyone have this problem? Any advice? (I won't need it for awhile, but just wondering.)
    And to totally go off topic here, I can't imagine how anyone could keep having baby after baby. I'm 6 months pregnant, and really didn't realize how tiring being pregnant is until now, and can't imagine how much more tiring it would be with a little baby to care for.

  6. Just imagine having baby after baby if you have severe morning sickness, particularly if yours doesn't quit after the first few months.

    It happens, and you are just expected to deal with it. Imagine the toll it takes on your body. Imagine the dread you feel every time you get pregnant, knowing what you are in for, and knowing that you cannot do anything about it.

  7. Geez i feel like a dummy among a bunch of smart folks. One thing apparent from this blog is that people have done a lot of research and put a heck of a lot of thought into their choice to leave a Laestadian community. Well I guess if you assume your soul depends on it then you probably should, as it's the most important decision you'll ever make.

    Back to the issue of having many children. Perhaps the only thing I agree with the OALC on is the issue of birth control. But by my own admission I love being pregnant, and only get morning sickness for the first month. But I still gotta beleive no one regrets a single one of their children, whether they were planned, unplanned or just happened.

    The model of unregulated births only works with strong community and fellow mother support - this is another area where MOST OALC communities are strong. But if you are not popular, outcasted, have few siblings, or otherwise don't have access to a large handfull of mommy helpers - yes, that life of unrestricted motherhood could be truly hellish.

  8. I totally disagree on the birth control issue. I had more than the average number of children that most "normal" people have when I left the church eighteen years ago and have not had a single child since. By choice. And I don't want any more. But that is the thing. Each of us should be free to choose. You may choose to agree. I choose to disagree.

    I wouldn't give up my children now because I love them, of course. But if I had thought I had a choice, I would have stopped after child number three.

  9. I guess it would depend on how your body can handle being pregnant, how many older kids you have to help out, and your support system. I don't doubt that they all love each child, I just think that it must be really tiring on them to have that many so close together. It'd be different if they were all 2-3 years apart, but some of the women have a baby every yr, if not under a year. The one I know of has around 9 kids and the oldest is about 10 (and she's probably pregnant again by now)...you'd have to be a strong person keep up with that!

  10. Very interesting posts, Cvow and Free. I liked both of your responses. I have always felt, as Cvow says, that OALCers feel as hurt by one's leaving as we feel by their rejection. There are bitter tears on both sides.

    But I also agree with Free, that things can be said out of malice. I think those comments are sometimes made out of a sense of self-preservations, but often they are just plain mean. I wonder if it simply depends on the person saying it. In any group, there is often an irritating person who is too fired up, takes things a little too far. That is how I see Free's negatives list, as people who are self-righteous about their own position. It may hurt, but I try not to make their problem my own. I can't change their viewpoint. They can't change mine.


  11. I wonder what the men would do if they were the ones having all the kids? would they be able to handle what the women do? I wonder if they'd decide that it was too much and they could decide the amount of kids they want...

  12. I have to clarify something, and also admit to being a hypocrate. I beleive the IDEAL marriage to be one open to life and willing to have as many children as God provides, with outstanding community and mother support. This is the IDEAL case for model Christian living. This is my beleif. MY beleif. I would never wish to force or impose such a lifestyle on struggling women and families.

    But I am not a model Christian, nor do I have a model marriage. My children have been spaced, 2-3 years apart, using both natural and artificial birth control means. I am not proud of this, nor am I proud of my many other personal shortcomings.

    Ideally we make decisions that are pleasing to God. But we all have free will and have to live with our choices. I did not mean in any way to trivialize the struggle of women bearing many children or to criticize the choice to use contraception. I was simply presenting a Christian IDEAL. Every day I come up short, dont we all.

  13. Bunless, you said something very important. :) The failure to achieve the ideals is often used to compromise on the ideals themselves, although the right thing to do what be to acknowledge, just like you, that the ideals are what they are, but often we just miss the mark and fail to achieve the ideals. Actually, the ulmimate ideal is to be like God in all, which is of course impossible to achieve in this world.

  14. Many Trails Home1/23/2008 03:02:00 PM

    Bunless, I was just wondering: what IS "The Christian IDEAL?" And who gets to decide what it is? And is it engraved in stone forevermore?
    For instance, the prohibition against contraception supposedly comes from the Old Testament statement: "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth." Hey folks, haven't we been "fruitful" and "multiplied" now into the billions? Aren't we beyond "replenishing" to the point of unsustainable excess? If someone tells you to "eat" do you just keep eating until you explode?
    Some scientists have calculated that the Earth can reasonably SUSTAIN a population of about 3 billion (I don't remember exactly.) We are way beyond that now. So do you think God wants us to keep propagating, a dozen children per woman, until there is no place for them to live any more? Until we have chopped down all the forests? Destroyed the fish populations in the oceans? Until they are starving, suffering, dying (as they are in Africa?) I think God wants us to have some common sense and protect the Earth he provided us so that our grandchildren can have a decent life here. What do YOU think the prospects are for our grandchildren? Our great-grandchildren? Frankly, as I watch the news even today, I am concerned for my own children. Blessings. MTH

  15. Ah, what the heck -- I haven't enjoyed enough thrashing yet, so I'll weigh in on the family size thing. I'm going to depart radically from both OALC and Catholic teaching here and suggest that God gives us free will and an intellect to use his gifts wisely. I believe that procreating like rabbits without a very good plan is not very wise -- for most people. For others that think it through carefully and choose that path, well, that's just fine, but there be dragons here, methinks.

    That said, to each his own. I know many very large families that are as happy as can be, and there is always "enough" of everything to manage. What disturbs me about that model is that even out of the happy large families, it seems that few of the offspring get the chance to enjoy life, get an education etc., and seem all too often to be doomed to a downward spiral, with succeeding generations not doing as well as the preceding one. I've heard too many of those children told that they could not go to college, or something else, "because it's too expensive" -- which of course is a load of bohunky and is a peripheral issue -- but you get the point.

    BTW, just to set the record straight, I certainly am happy that I do not have to bear children, and admire women greatly for what they do. No arguments here -- I feel great sympathy for those who are forced to have children like automatons, and all too often have to do absolutely everything with regard to raising them and running the household as well because the dipstick husband is too proud to do "women's work".

    And now I can hear all of my feminazi friends going "crap! He kind of redeemed himself there at the end..." :-)


  16. MTH - those are all valid points. We do need to regulate birth rate on this planet. But IDEALLY this can be achieved by abstinence and more people choosing celibate life choices (we could use more nuns and priests). And even by going for adoption versus biological children via IVF, that sort of thing. IDEALLY controlling population doesnt require artificial contraception. Natural family planning, for example, can be 99.9% effective (if you follow it). The problem with many contraceptive methods is that they operate after conception (IUD's, morning after pill, etc.) which is why most Catholic OBGYNs only prescribe barrier methods, out of respect for early life.

    Again I am speaking for the IDEAL case and we all have free will. Not to mention that we have to live with the consequences of other people's free will.

    Note that you can use your same argument to promote abortion. Abortion is never OK. MY beleif is that every human life created was predestined by God to fulfil a role on earth, and everyone no matter how young deserves a chance. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "God is pro-choice, but some choices are always wrong."

    Plus abortion hurts women. Everyone I know who had an abortion did it for the wrong reasons and now has painful regret. Every single woman I know who has been through the procedure, this is the case. I even know fathers of abortion that feel this way. Tragic from every angle. I am still on the fence over legally banning it completely but I have seen nothing good come of it.

  17. I don't beleive in abortion either, or the morning after pill. If someone is stupid enough to sleep with someone that they don't want a baby with, thats too bad for them, its what they chose! I don't know about the pill...I just can't decide what I think about it. If its used for the right reasons then I think its ok, but if its so they can go sleep around..then I dont think thats right.
    Cvow, you sure did redeem yourself with the end of your comment. My Dad was pretty good about helping around the house with the kids and the cleaning(usually only when a family was coming to visit and he was running around frantically with the broom trying to make the house look presentable!) and I'm lucky that I have a husband who cooks..

  18. tmh, even in this day and age there are women and girls who view men as having dominion over them. Maybe YOU could say NO and feel independent, but many don't. They are tied to men for their survival. You don't say NO to that.

    We need to educate our girls. In the meantime.....

    I read somewhere recently that the way to change the Middle East is to educate the girls. The men and boys who carried out 9/11 were educated, but none of their MOTHERS were, and therein lies the problem. SISU

  19. Bunless, I appreciate your contributions here, but some of your comments send me around the bend.

    I hate how the issue of reproductive choice gets simplified.

    Each year, a million American girls and women choose not to carry out a pregnancy to term. Each of those situations is unique.

    Of course abortion "hurts." It just hurts less than the alternative for a lot of women and girls.

    The key to ending abortion is to make it unnecessary.

    Over 60% of women who choose abortion have one or more children to support. Look at the divorce rate. Look at the poverty rate for divorced women. Ponder how abortion is often the sacrifice a devoted mother makes for her existing children. A choice for life.

    "Natural family planning" is birth control, by the way. Just not as effective. If you use aspirin to control a headache, or exercise to control your weight, you are fooling with nature.

    Rant over.

    (Sisu, the stats seem to bear you out. The best return on investment in the 3rd world is education of girls.)

  20. Thanks Free. I wasnt planning on delving into abortion issues I just got sidelined. I have long understood its a no-win argument and all sides of the issue have real and passionate concerns. I only participate in "pro-life" activities that are actively supporting mothers choosing life (pregnancy centers, etc). I do not march in protests nor do I support abortion banning legislation.

    I don't really understand your comment about NFP being birth control- of course it is. I never suggested it wasn't. But it is considered "Natural" as opposed to "artificial" hence the name. And I dont get the aspirin or exercise comment. Huh? It should come as no suprise to you that I think NFP is a good choice of birth control given that I am a Catholic, this is the church of my choosing, and this the form of birth control that my Church supports. Feel FREE to beleive something else.

    Lastly, women choosing abortion because of poverty, because they have no insurance, because they have no support - these are perhaps the saddest abortion cases out there. Most of these women, deep down would have their babies if they thought they could, and if they thought they had a "real" choice. These are the women who need the most help. And instead they get ushered by their familiy, friends, ex-husbands and practitioners to an abortionist. Instead of getting real help.

    When I have shared my opinions on birth control, family size, and abortion I have been very clear that I present IDEAL cases for family and marriage - the WWJD version. I am not so naive to think this is realistic for all humanity.

  21. I get your point, Bunless, and kiitos for responding. I am distracted by two squabbling children and a dog who needs exercise, and I admit the aspirin comment looks weird. What was I thinking?

    In my mind, I was continuing an argument with a Catholic friend who thinks NFP is "more natural" and thus godlier, than say, the pill. Or a vasectomy (love, love, love that vasectomy, hubby).

    I apologize for not being clearer.

    But you were not arguing the logic. You were simply stating your belief, as a Catholic.

    I would like to appeal to your rational side, though, because deferring to church positions on an issue is, well, no different than saying "cuz the elders told me so."

    I find that Catholics disagree with each other and the church quite a bit. I like that about you guys. :-)

  22. Yes, absolutely. I do not defer to church positions blindly "cuz the pope told me so" - as you point out that is exactly the kind of thinking that I spent a good part of my life trying to escape.

    Truthfully I am, as we speak, practicing artificial birth control. As I mentioned earlier I fall short as a human being. But I have researched this issue at length, arrived at my own conclusions, and I do beleive NFP to be "Godlier" for lack of a better term.

    Here's why: until 60-100 years ago, NFP is all we had, as humans, to control birth rate. OK, there was also "outercourse" and homosexuality (not to imply a choice there, only that it is a mechanism of population control). And lets throw in back alley abortions for the heck of it.

    So the inventions of abortion & birth control (as we know it) including sterilization are fairly new to the human race.

    Previously, marriage, sexuality and having children were 3 closely intertwined entities. People chose to get married fully expecting the possibility of having many children, as there was nothing really to prevent it. Children and marriage were viewed as one in the same. People who did not want children, they did not get married! Sexuality had far more consequences than it does today, thus it was accepted as something to be practiced only within the context of marriage. People did not "have a right to be sexual beings" as they do today, because the consequences of such actions resulted in having children, among other things.

    The separation of those 3 entities: marriage, sexuality and procreation - is a direct result of "artificial" birth control and abortion, and is also responsible for the explosion in divorce rates and other anti-family forces, such as pornography.

    My beleif, consistent with the Catholic Church, is that the healthiest marriages are open to having children. NFP is an "ethically" acceptable way to space out children during times of hardship while still allowing marriages to be "open to life". Once you take the possibility of procreation out of the sexual act - well, it just changes things. It becomes solely about the enjoyment, not the responsibility. Most people today dont think thats such a bad thing, as we all beleive we have "the right to be sexual beings." Especially if we are married. And by my own actions I would (regretably) fall into that category. But that is not the most "Godly" way of approaching marriage. Sterilization completely eliminates all possibility of life originating from the marital act. You have to admit - for better or worse - its still different.

    Not to mention that, along with barrier methods, NFP prevents conception, as opposed to preventing implantation, as most hormonal methods and IUDs work. To me this is more respectful of early life, and thus another "Godlier" aspect.

    On a more practical note, there's nothing particulary appealing about having to incorporate plastic, rubber-smelling, spermicide coated devices into the romantic act of lovemaking. Sorry it's just not me. But you know if thats your thing, have at it.

  23. Many Trails Home1/28/2008 12:24:00 PM

    Bunless, I really went around the bend on this one. I wonder how many MEN would buy your version of the history of marriage, sexuality, and procreation. I suspect that men have always (perhaps with some exceptions) felt they had "the right to be sexual beings." It is WOMEN who did not. We could go into the history of that at some length . . .
    I think your "marriage-family-procreation" history is also rather naive, as humans have and always will have the urge to have sex - completely separate from any interest in creating children - because that is built into our physical nature BY GOD HIMSELF. To judge one approach vs another as "godlier" is just so much religious manipulation, in my opinion.
    Last week I read an article in the paper re the death rate among children in Angola and Sierra Leone: it was more than 250 per 1000 by age 5: That is more than ONE OUT OF EVERY 4 CHILDREN does not survive. I think that is horrendous. However, if we just "saved" all those children, God (or "nature") would have to figure some other way to knock them all off, because there are simply too many of them. Do you want to import a few hundred to live in your backyard? And feed them and their 6-to-8-children-each offspring until the end of time? Is it better that they should starve to death rather than die of infectious disease? What do you think the Hutu-Tutsi genocide was all about? They killed every last child and infant in the family SO THERE WOULD BE NO SURVIVORS to lay claim to the farm. They were all starving, and in that situation, the rational target is "THEM", whoever they might be. We usually don't kill US.
    Anyway, it was your "NFP is Godlier" comment that got me going. Under the conditions in Africa, ANY form of population control (short of infanticide) ought to be promoted, and considered GODLY. The same could eventually apply here, if the population keeps climbing to the point that we no longer have to count "fat grams" anc "carbs." MTH

  24. Geez I am being hammered here. People come on this blog and rant about women cutting their hair and how we're all going to hell. I come out against abortion and favoring NFP and I get blamed for deaths in Angola. Tough crowd! I promise I am not the insensitive moron you think I am. I am clearly misunderstood here. I promise I'll redeem myself the next blog... give me one more chance and then I'll drop the topic...

  25. Dear Bunless,

    Don't take MTH's rantings personally...it is a hot topic for her. You are discussing abortion from an individual vantage point. She is looking at it on a global scale. Those are two different things, really, although, of course, our actions certainly influence the global outcome.

    In case you hadn't read old postings, MTH is a medical doctor and takes this issue to heart.


  26. Yeah, Bunless, what you find on this blog is that people wear their hearts on their sleeves! I think we all were repressed from intelligent thought in those narrow LLC channels, and now that we've found a voice, we tend to be honest about the things that are near and dear to our hearts -- and sometimes that comes across as being harsh. Being in a multiple minority here (male, conservative, Catholic), I think I've been dragged across the carpet more times than you can count for being a knuckle dragging cretin, a redneck, lacking in critical reading and education (that was really a laugh!), had my college insulted, and I don't recall waht all -- but that's ok. At least we are all passionate about our beliefs, and for the most part don't deliberately set out to hurt anyone. Sometimes it takes thick skin though....

    Just keep on firing away. We are all friends here for the most part, even when we squabble.

  27. All right, Cvow, rub it in.......
    We like you in spite of your "deficiencies", like being male. Hehe.


  28. By the way I can handle critique. Anyone who grew up OALC and had the guts to leave has built up skin thickness 3X the average.

  29. Bunless, this is excellent. I did not want a large family for many reasons, and if I could do it over again I'm still not sure I would - maybe my faith is not strong enough! But I applaud what you've written here. It is certainly a caring, Christian worldview. Absolutely, set our sights high. We have the ability to end poverty, but greed and selfishness along with corruption are the true sins which cause untold suffering. I am in agreement.

  30. I think there are many embellishments of the truth here...not all, but many. The way I see it is any of us can be a bomb thrower on here in an anonymous way so we can twist the truth any way we want to. How easy is that? Think of those people that have to stand or sit behind the pulpit and speak the truth knowing that some or many may not want to here it....or that maybe even does not sound so good to their own ears. They are the ones that must speak to everyone as a whole....not just individuals...this would apply to this matter of birth control as well as many other matters. They could not look over the crowd and say so-and-so looks like they are probably fit to have many children and this other so-and-so will not be able to handle as many. The matter is spoken to the group as whole. I don't think birth control is not allowed by these churches....it is handled on a case by case basis. I know personally of people that have been advised not to have any more children for a large variety of reasons. It is handled in a small, discrete, individual way. This advice is given with the understanding that it is for them and them alone. If you have a question or wonder about things you go and ask someone who you firmly believe knows the answer. Much as a child would ask their mother or father a question about something. I'm not trying to convince or sell anybody on anything here...just my two cents on the way I see things...If you don't see it my way than that's OK with me...I can't force what I believe on you. I can only do what I believe is best for me and my family and if I don't know what to do about something I go and ask someone and have followed that advice and it has gone well for me....simple as that.

  31. Many Trails Home1/29/2008 12:43:00 PM

    Free2BeMe, where are you when I need you? Anyway, the other posters are right, Bunless. This is not personal. And I am also passionate about what I observe and feel. And I do not completely (altho I do partially) separate the individual from global perspectives - that does factor in. I would never suggest that we are each individually responsible for what happens in Angola, but then (as we are all one and children of the same God in a spiritual sense), what happens in Angola does in fact impact us. It certainly impacts the overall health of the planet - and we all have to live here. I am going to Uganda in March so will report back then.
    To Norah: We do not "have the ability to end poverty." Even as Jesus said, "The poor will always be with you." According to the UN, we have actually lost ground, as I recall. Any ability to end poverty is purely theoretical. Yes there are the greedy etc (I suspect they will always be with us also) but to get around the problem of poverty by blaming the greedy is short-sighted.
    What I think we need is an affordable baseline life support available to each person - we could practice up here in the US first - and the ambitious could go on from there. But life in these United States is no longer affordable, and those of us working have to work harder and longer to pay for the expensive baseline that is now standard, for those who cannot provide it for themselves. But on a global scale, we cannot make a dent in poverty if we don't control population - as the "Green Revolution" has proven in spades. The poor are no better off than they were before the "Green Revolution" except that there are now billions more of them (thanks to the Green Revolution that made this possible), producing multiples of billions more, and where is the magical solution that is to feed them all? Because we cannot multiply the resources of this finite planet. Period. We can only use them wisely.
    Am I ranting again? Well, so be it. But I will end with a little prayer: may we all grow in wisdom, compassion, understanding. MTH

  32. Oh, I'm here, MTH, weighing thoughts and words. One of my qualms is whether it is helpful to "the seekers" to read our disputes. Our audience, in my mind's eye, is an OALC teenager in the library, surfing the internet and wondering what to do with all his/her doubts about "the one true Christianity."

    Isn't this blog just "too much information" sometimes? Is it fanning the flames to respond to some of these posts?

    I don't know. I do know that pluralism, the deeply intuitive realization of the diversity of our species -- is the knowledge that propels out of Laestadianism.

    It is the same knowledge that rejects tidy explanations of sexuality.

    In animals and humans, sexuality is diverse. Expressions in different cultures can vary widely. Margaret Mead's work in Samoa pretty much blew the lid on the universality of the nuclear family and the preliterate, patriarchal property arrangement we call marriage.

    So Bunless, while I respect your candor, your idealism, and your efforts to make sense of the vast inequities of circumstance, I find your summary of history inaccurate and dispiriting.

    As long as men (via doctrine or law or force) have control over women's bodies, there is no true consensuality in sex, nor is there equal human status for women.

    I say this as an unapologetic feminist who is raising a daughter and son to value the sacredness of their bodies and of sexuality in a culture that fights the sacred at every turn. "Scientific reductivism" on the one hand, crass commercialism on the other, patriarchal pietism on the third.

    Personally, I would never look to the church, with its long, tortured history of the repression of women, to define the meaning of sacred.

    That we must work out, each of us, gay or straight, man or woman, in fear and trembling. It's a life's work.

  33. Question I have been dying to ask the team. Not sure where to post it so I'll stick it here for lack of a better location. Now that you have left your LLL community how do you handle the customs - the secret handshake, asking forgiveness and all that. I just find it so darn awkward. I don't want to convey that I am still a participant in their religion. Yet what's the harm in wishing someone Gods peace? And what the heck, if someone wants me to forgive them, sure, I can be forgiving. And should I teach my kids the Gspeece greeting? My spouse? So that they fit in? So that they don't appear to be rude? What the heck! Please tell me the best way to deal with this. I have done so well creating a new life for myself and accepting my OALC history and family but I just can't nail this one down.