"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: They Will Know You by Your Love

Saturday, June 21, 2008

They Will Know You by Your Love

It's always interesting to hear what outsiders think of Laestadians, especially when they know next to nothing about them.

One day when I was in 6th grade in the little country school where my siblings and I were the only OALCers, I was surrounded in the school cafeteria by a group of angry girls. They accused me of saying that our classmate Michelle (a pretty but vapid girl whom I disliked) was going to hell because she was . . . Catholic.

I cried; I denied it. I had never said such a thing, and that much was true. Perhaps I felt bad, knowing that our religion taught that Catholics had "dead faith." But of more concern to my 12-year old soul was how did my classmates know? As far as I knew, nobody in town knew anything about our church.

Perhaps they knew enough. It was in all we didn't say, and all we didn't do, in the years we lived there. One's character is legible in one's actions.

I found an old thread on a mothering.com board about the OALC in Battle Ground. A member had inquired about affordable places to live. (If you aren't familiar with Mothering, it is sold in health food stores, and features articles on midwives, breastfeeding, nutrition, and healthy family living in general.) Here is a sampling from the thread:

From "AmyMay":
There is a large apostolic lutheran element out here, lots of women with lots of children (5-6 is not uncommon), wearing dresses (don't get me wrong, they look pretty chic to me, but frighteningly similar to each other), long hair, no makeup...again, nothing wrong with that, but it is a little disturbing to me, and I wonder what they are taught and told to look a certain way to "fit in" and be obedient to church rules and expectations....

In school, the apostolic children group together and can be very mean to outsiders coming into the area. It's taken my kids almost a year to feel like they are finally fitting in and making friends. There was lots of teasing because my son had long hair, and none of us go to church. Anything different and unusual to the local kids was up for discussion and teasing about. It was pretty hard on my sensitive, liberal-minded kids.

From "FlyingSpaghettiMama":
BUNHEADS! Dude, so few people know about the sublime religion that is Old Apostolic Lutheran. I hate to generalize, except when I do, and boy, they tend to be an intolerant, inbred (no really, they have to marry inside the church, and all the church members came over about 100 years ago, and all the names are very reused - check it out) grouches who hate pants-wearin' women and other liberals of all stripes. They really, really hate gay people. And like to run them down with their MONSTER TRUCKS. They terrify me, honestly, and they appear to enjoy terrifying others as well.

I would try to get your son outta there by high school age or have him transfer to a Vancouver school. Trust me. It only gets worse and more violent. It's rough going out there.

But Battle Ground (and environs) is very beautiful, for sure. Except for the AL problem . . .

. . . they're originally from Finland. It's too bad, you'd think a community that left in search of religious tolerance would be a lot more tolerant themselves. Like the mennonites!

From "kxsiven":
Mostly from Norway side though. The movement has at least 8 different branches here and none of them is that scary what you are writing about the 'American version'(fundamentalism is pretty much unknown here anyway). If I have understood right, small group got in disagreenment with the main group 100 years ago and they left. Today the movement is very very tiny and probably will have a natural death in coming years.

There is obvious stereotyping here. I suspect some accusations of "meanness" may be due (just as it was for me in 6th grade) to what is NOT being experienced. No invitations to playdates, birthdays and barbeques, no donations, no volunteering, etc. But OALCers being human, their doctrine may provide cover for some less-than-Christian behavior. I remember reasoning that it was okay, even preferable, to avoid Michelle. Only later did I realize how jealous I was (she was blonde! a cheerleader! popular!). My "beliefs" made it easier to dislike her than examine my own prejudice.

Isn't that how all prejudice works?

(The photo was taken by our 7-year old at the farmers market last Thursday. She fell in love with and used her allowance to buy the hand-made doll in the blue sweater, at right. She named her Madeline. The skin colors of the dolls was a complete non-issue, and I found myself surprised at my surprise that she didn't choose the one that looked most like her. Kids like her are going to change the world.)


  1. I remember telling the other kids at school that they were going to hell when I was younger. I feel so bad about it now! We didn't know any better. I remember once in about grade one my cousin and I forced another little girl to "have her sins forgiven", and told her that if she didn't she would go to hell. It is sad that this is what we did, and that we didn't know any better. We should've been taught differently. Now I'm scared that when my daughter goes to school the Laestadian kids are going to tell her that she's going to hell.

  2. I can say that I also saw some of those same behaviors when I was a child. Now, as an adult, married with two children of my own, it was some of those bad experiences I had growing up that strengthened my decision to not raise my kids in a LLL/apostolic church, or even live in a community surrounded by them.

    We live in a world that has so much hate and injustice. I felt that if I was to raise my kids in one of those churches, I would be teaching my children to hate. Children are not born to hate. They learn it from their parents, and from those around them. Thankfully, my children will be raised differently than I was. They are learning that all children are children of god, regardless of the circumstances they were brought up in, or the color of their skin.

  3. (Digging up another old post. Didn't know where else to put this.)

    Contrast that with this recent post (6/2010) on the ALCA's Foreign Missions website (emphasis mine):

    One of the myriad lessons that foreign mission work teaches us is that we are not exclusive, that God is much bigger than the personal boxes we tend to place him in. Too often missionaries have stepped into foreign lands with the idea of conforming culture rather than working in that culture to present the gospel in ways that the local inhabitants can empathize with and grow thereby. There is a very good reason Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 that “I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.”

    Read the rest of it here. I especially love how he closes:

    Pray the Lord of the Harvest that He will grant us His Spirit of wisdom and love and that we would recognize always that we are in a foreign land and that the songs are different here, and that we need to continually be sensitive to them.