"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: A Teacher's Lament

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Teacher's Lament

"Jeff" posted this over at the OALC Discussion blog:

I find it very hypocritical to want large families and then need assistance to support them. My wife and I would have loved to have a large family but knew that we could not adequately support the children emotionally and financially. I cannot afford to drive the nice cars or travel extensively that the majority of these families are capable of doing while still qualifying for governmental support.

In my experience, I have seen many young mothers suffer great depression and advised from the church elders not to pursue assistance or counselling as this would be a weakness of their soul. I think they may be afraid that the women may find that counselling might expose the family to some "errors" for lack of a better terms in their beliefs. Would this be accurate?

As a teacher, I have witnessed a level of disrespect that is unbelievable and parents unable to guide (what most people would consider discipline their children) their children when they provide no financial or emotional support for them. It is very evident that the students feel that they do not have to respect us "worldly" people as we are called. The students on the playground are confronted and told they are going to hell because they believe in Santa Claus. How can a Christian even begin to criticize the premise of Santa Claus. I would be the first to admit that Christmas is excessively commercialized. But the generous spirit (not giving your kids expensive gifts) is a very Christian value.

Learning to be tolerant and work together with others motivates students. Jesus did not exclude anyone that believed, yet I often see a great deal of racism and exclusion.
Participating in sports can be fun and rewarding and when taken in context can build character within students. I don't understand why they may not participate.

I do not intend any of these comments to offend anyone and admire their christian beliefs. Even though my frustration is very evident - I just seek greater understanding.


  1. I am from a different LLL faction and I have heard women complaining about being depressed, mainly because of having so many children. They're not cut out to have so many children. These women are told (by other women) that if they go to the doctor and say they are depressed because they are overwhelmed by thier children, it is wrong (wrong is code for sin). It is wrong because it would give the church a bad image. It would give the doctor a bad impression of the church. So, in that faction, women put the pressure on other women, to leave out the too many kids part, when talking to thier doctor about depression.
    Free speech, anyone?

  2. As far as sports goes, they say it is the competitition that is wrong. I think, what they are actually afraid of, is LLL participants associating with people that do not attend the church; it makes it easier to leave. They are afraid of it for two reasons: 1) you are more likely to be exposed to differing beliefs and 2) by having a social network outside of the LLL church, it makes it much easier for the LLL church participant, to leave if they should choose to do so.

    The LLL chuches teach thier participants to only associate with outsiders when it absolutely neccessary. If a person develops a close relationship with somebody outside, it is reason to be suspicious. That persons own faith is questioned. It is all to keep people in the church. They are told that there is no "real" love anywhere expect in the LLL church. If a person leaves, it is very tough. Families many times shun the person that leaves. They are just following the churches teaching that the person that left is now an outsider; a person to avoid. They are families are taught that there is not much of a bond, unless it is a bond of faith. They believe it, so they change the relationship with the one that left. So the person who left probably has no outside social connections (due to church teaching) and now has lost the bond with family and friends (due to church teaching) and ends up depressed, because they have no real connections. Often they end up going back to the church saying such things as "There is nothing out there" and "There is no love out there, only here." The person is really only feeling that way because of the shunning and lack of social networks and come back just because they seek the belonging that we all want. The shunning works, just as intended. The person comes back, which reinforces the LLL believers belief that there is only love within their walls. Or the person gets depressed but doesn't come back to the LLL church, which reinforces the LLL believer belief that there is no love out there, except with them. "Why did so and and so get so depressed after he left?" "He must be depressed because he does not have true faith...true happiness" And so the cycle goes...

    The reason for not participating in sports, is because of the desire to keep LLL participants away from exposure to anything than thier own agenda. If they do not know anything else, they do not question its (LLL church) beliefs as much. If they have outside social connections, they are not as dependant on church connections. People stay because of it.

  3. You hit the nail on the head. I have heard from people that have gone back that there is nothing out there, its cold, dark, etc. So have they searched for a new church, have they found new friends, do they have a relationship with God. The first year or so is difficult because you do not have that social connection anymore. You pretty much have to start all over and its hard when you're an adult. But in time it does get easier and for me got alot better when I found my relationship with Christ and found a healthy church family. I still sometimes long for that social connection with my old friends, but its just not to be. I am not willing to sacrifice what I believe to have that social connection. They do have a good sense of community and bonding, I give them credit for that. There is alot of love amongst the members and it feels good to belong. You can also find that, gasp, "out there" and the world outside the walls of the LLL denominations is not cold and dark and scary. You can find peace, love, fellowship with other believers and friends. There are loving, caring people who love the Lord and love other people outside the LLL church. Imagine that! I personally could not have alot of children. I would go crazy! I am not cut out to handle that many. Some people can, but I know from talking to family, they don't want that many kids but feel like its their duty to be obedient to God in that way.

  4. Wheres the free speech when you need blog owner approval?

  5. Pretzel, the only comments I delete are those that name names and/or slander individuals, something I am sure you would appreciate if you were the target. Unfortunately we get a few bad apples. While I regret the inconvenience, I simply don't have the time to monitor the blog 24-7, so comment moderation fits my schedule. Of course you are welcome to start your own blog and do things differently.

  6. Will you go back and remove the places where names were named? I believe there was a long discussion and arguement about naming names here before and the posts were not removed. Changed your tune did yah?


  7. A name itself is not the issue but the context in which it is given, and each post must be considered on its merits. If you find something offensive in the archives, please bring it to my attention.

    Pinchie, what do you seek in this dialogue? You seem angry.

  8. I left the LLC six years ago. And of course I have little to no contact with people I knew since childhood. The other night I dreamed about all my old friends. I dreamed I was yelling at them, telling them that even though I was no longer a Laestadian, I was still ME. And they just blocked their ears to me. There's no way I could ever go back; they trust in their own behavior and attitude to save them and not in the grace of God. But I really miss the cameraderie, the ability to just hang out and laugh and be silly. I've found friends outside the church, but still my heart just hurts sometimes for those who now ignore me.

  9. I know what you mean Karen. I miss the "community", the old friends, the relatives. Its a wonderful place to be if you agree with the beliefs, you have lots of friends all over, close knit group of people, a sense of belonging. I miss that part, but cannot sacrifice what I believe about God to go back and pretend just to have all the friends and community feeling back. I have friends now, but its still not the same. Theres something about the friends you grow up with and have known for years and years. And its hard to let that go and experience the pain of their rejection of you. I guess it would be hard to be close since my beliefs are different now. I enjoy going to weddings and funerals to see people I haven't seen in a long time. I used to go to services with my family on Christmas, but I no longer do that. I can't listen to the lies anymore. What is interesting to me is that all the "dead" faith churches we were taught about are actually not dead at all. In fact, from a few I have experienced they are more alive than the LLC was. They have lots of ministries that help people. Charity, food for the poor, community service, mission trips for example. I still think the LLC is probably better at the fellowship part amongst themselves, but they don't reach out much to the people outside of themselves. Its really hard for me to see my family blinded by this church when I see something so beautiful beyond that. Its crazy!

  10. I agree with you both, I sometimes miss my old LLC friends, but it's not the same anymore because I'm not one of them. I have lots of dreams where I'm yelling and swearing at my old friends, and telling them they don't see the big picture, and that I'm not going to hell. They'll never beleive that.
    I was just thinking about it this morning actually, that if I went back to the Laestadian church I'd have alot more to do, and more friends to do things with. But it wouldn't be worth it, because I could never beleive what they teach. I could never truly be happy in their religion. So then, I would never have that feeling of "belonging" that I had before, because deep down I would know that I wasn't the same as them. ...

  11. mia from the llc11/29/2008 11:03:00 PM

    I think I miss the camaraderie, but I don't miss the conformity. One thing I don't miss at all is sitting in church with my kids. Expecting them to sit there for two hours and do nothing was a recipe for total frustration, both for them and for me. And people would look at you if your kids even made a peep. And heaven forbid you brought crayons or a little toy for them to play with. That was simply not done then. A baggie with some Cheerios was pushing it. They were lucky to get a piece of gum halfway through the sermon. The focus was on the wrong thing, in my opinion.

  12. I don't miss sitting throught those long sermons either. Those benches were pretty hard too! (at the one I went to..) Even now I've never seen anyone bring toys for their kids. I recently went to a wedding at the Laestadian church, and I brought a toy for my baby. It was evening, I thought MAYBE a toy would keep her happy. (although it didn't) You can't expect kids to just sit happily for that long, it just doesn't happen!

  13. Waddayamean, Kids? I remember one year when William Erickson started preaching at 7:15 in the evening and stopped at 10:45. It was more than just kids that had lost all feeling below the waist by that time!

    Even William sort of ruefully commented afterward that he supposed we all thought the evangelization was never going to stop...

    What was really bad was the fact that those of who are bilingual got a double dose.

  14. The church I go to now has special bags the children can use during the service. It has books, color crayons, a little Jesus activity card and paper. Thought that was pretty neat!You think they are not paying attention, but you'd be surprised what they pick up even though they are coloring!

  15. Ahhh! Shunning! Why can't see that the people who leave are not "thinking" any different than they did for a long time before they left the church. To them, people are suddenly different if they actually admit that they do not believe the same as they (Laestadians) do, but if they don't say it, then everything is fine. I have heard people saying "now that so and so has left, I don't feel comfortable anymore, we don't have that common bond of faith." As if that was the only thing bonding them before. The people I know spend about 1% of their time together talking about faith issues, yet suddenly don't have ANYTHING in common with the person who has left, as if faith was 100% of the relationship. They have only known the person for (probably) most of their life. They only share a similar background, upbringing, heritage. Anyone can see that there is a ton in common. Yet, to them there is nothing in common. It doesn't make sense, yet they can't see it. It is an ILLUSION. If two people do not agree about faith issues, even if they keep thier mouth shut about it, they do not share a common bond of faith; at least the way the Laestadians interpret it. Yet, to them if a person is in the church (whether you agree or not) it is okay to be friends, if a person leaves to be in line with thier actual beliefs, it is no longer okay. What gives?

    For those that have left the church...you speak of your heart hurting, and having a longing for the relationships? My question is, in which lifestyle do you feel you are happier? Why? I ask because I have considered leaving many times. I don't feel as much a part of the group, because I know I believe differently, but I cling because it is where almost all of my social connections are. I am afraid that I would not make friends outside of Laestadianism, and that I might not even know how to go about making them outside. Is it necessary to have those connections that go way back to be happy? What about your families? How has that been? I am very curious to see what you all have to say.

  16. I think you've hit it right on. When a conflict in beliefs is unspoken, things are fine. When that is put into words and voiced, suddenly everything changes.

    When I left, I felt a huge sense of relief, mixed with the bitter realization that things were going to be different with my friends and family from then on.

    I think it's normal to feel grief over the loss of those close relationships. Anyone would, regardless of the reason they left. Even children who are abused still want to be a part of the family. Often they don't tell anyone because they don't want to lose those relationships. Not that I'm saying I was abused...I'm just saying that even in extreme cases, people want relationship.

    That's why shunning (or whatever you would like to call it) is so effective. You are withdrawing something that is important to people, and implicit in that withholding is the promise that if they come back, they can have it all back again. If they don't comply, they risk losing it altogether.

    I think I had to be at the point where I needed to be true to myself more than I needed to have that closeness with people. And people from church are still friendly to me, but it's just not the same.

    And to answer your question, I am much happier now. I would not have it any other way. I learned to make friends outside the church. I think it's a mindset more than anything.

    You can't do it for someone else, though, and still be happy with yourself. You have to do it for you. You have to be willing to go through the sadness that you will probably feel, and yes, even the loneliness. If you've only had friends from church up until now, it's going to be a little tough on you. Open your eyes to the possible friendships in the different areas of your life...school, work, neighbors, and yes, even a local church, if you so desire.

    My family (siblings) are mostly still in the church, and I'm sure nothing would make them happier than if I went back. I love them, but I won't do that for them, either.

    Anonymous, you already have the answers. You just have to be ready to figure them out. None of us can tell you what they are. This is only what it was like for me. But you will find a warm welcome and a lot of support here, regardless of your decision. We have no vested interest in your decision. There are many different points of view here. It's a great place for learning, listening, and sounding things out. Welcome!

  17. I think you've hit it right on also! I didn't "believe" in what the Laestadians taught for over 2 years before I left, and they still felt a "bond of faith" teehhee! Sorry, it just seems a little funny! I left for a few weeks when I was about 16, and then joined back, just because it was WAY too hard to live at my parents, and have them not trust me (because I didn't "believe"), and friends not treat me the same anymore. It was kinda amazing how much differently everyone treated me after I had my "sins forgiven". I still didn't believe anything they taught, but was just pretending I did to be excepted, and it worked!
    I would never go back, and I am happy with my decision! It took awhile for my family to accept me, and that's only my mom dad, brothers and sisters. I barely see my aunts/uncles and grandparents, or cousins, and I can't say that I really want to. Anytime I see them they lecture me, and I'm too shy to tell them what I think. (one of these times I will get brave!) It depends on the family how they treat you after you leave. I know families who barely talk to the one who has left, but also know families who treat the one who left the same as before. It has been hard to make friends outside of Laestadianism for me. I have a really hard time opening up to people, and trusting them. I had really good friends in the Lastadian church that have nothing to do with me now that I'm no longer in their church. They stopped answering my emails, so I stopped writing, and moved on to try find new friends. If a friend can quit being your friend because of something like that, they are not a true friend! I agree with Daisy, it has to be for you, and nobody else. Above all, you have to live your life to make you happy, and not to make someone else happy. I know that my family would be so happy if I joined the LLC again, but I never could, because I couldn't be happy there.
    I hope this helps you!

  18. Hello Anon,

    I wonder if we sit next to each other in church. You and I are in the same boat. I have not believed in Laestadianism for over 7 years but have not left yet.

    After studying how the movement started and what went on back then- plus the beginnings of the Lutheran movement, I came to the conclusion that the doctrine we believe today is a far cry from the what original Laestadians and Lutherans believed. And they say doctrine is unchanging. They are right, the Lord's doctrine does not change; but Laestadians, Lutherans, Latvians, Mexicans, and all other individuals change all the time. We are humans after all.

    After studying the movement's history I turned to the Bible for more answers and found plenty of additional evidence that showed that there are some serious flaws in the Laestadian church. Laestadians are very good at making the Bible match their beliefs. But in the Bible it states that it should be the other way around.

    If someone finds peace and the Holy Spirit in the Laestadian church I am happy for them. There are many great things about the church if one can accept all the beliefs and traditions. The long term deep relationships are great if you are one of the fortunate ones that has many of them. But I do think many people might worship the fellowship more than Christ.

    Personally I find the church stifling about half the time and I enjoy it the other half. I have to approach many things with an inner sense of humor or else I would get very depressed. There is so much more to life than trapping oneself with people who have a shared ancestry and then constructing imaginary, unnecessary walls to keep everyone in and others not like us, out.

    I know I'll eventually leave some day when the time is right. When I came to that conclusion, it became easier to deal with goofy things about the church and to enjoy the pleasant things. I often wonder how many others I see every Sunday are in the position. To many frauds in the church could really screw up the sequential nature of the forgiveness of sins ritual and send everyone to hell!!!
    I bet a good statistician could figure could out the damnation tipping point caused by phonies within the church.

    I say find peace within yourself first, and then leave after that. If I would have left a few years ago when I was very depressed about the whole thing, I would have been a total wreck for a long time. Nowadays I know it would be difficult for a while, but my sensitive psyche would stay intact.

  19. We just may go to the same church. How many more are there like us? I was just thinking on, as you put it Anonymous, the "sequential nature" of the LLC interpretation of forgiveness of sins this week. If a person obtains forgiveness from someone that either doesn't believe the LLC doctrine or has sins on thier conciense, and therefore does not have the spirit, the forgiveness is not valid. It isn't valid, they say for the same reason two people who went to a movie together cannot ask eachother for forgiveness; because they don't have the spirit, they must find someone with the spirit to perform the ritual. How many people have sins that have not been forgiven because the inadvertantly asked someone "without the spirit." I suspect more than they care to think about. For me, it is yet another piece of evidence that Laestadianism is in error.

  20. mia from the llc12/12/2008 09:54:00 PM

    It sounds like the Pharisees who had so many elaborate rules and rituals that they had to follow in order to be "right". If you do it this way, it's right. But if you do it that way, you're not forgiven. It discounts the power of Christ's sacrifice.

    It's like throwing it back in His face. Like we could do ANYTHING to add to his sacrifice. It's like saying, "Well, He died for me, to rescue me from my own sins, but if I don't ask the right person for forgiveness, I'm still going to hell." ??? I think not.

  21. I would say I am way, way happier now than I was while in the church. I was conflicted for many years before telling my parents that I was no longer a Laestadian. They took it hard, of course. They believe I'm going to hell.

    I'll be honest; it was difficult for me to make friends outside the church. Different norms govern the outside world, particularly among educated folks. There's less judgement, much more open-mindedness and a different vocabulary. I remember I used the word "vegetable" to describe a brain injury patient who was in a life-long coma and the people I was with looked at me in horror that I would describe a living, breathing human in such terms. Laestadians commonly use the derogatory term "Jew 'em down," or its derivative, "chew 'em down," to describe bargaining over a price. Well, that's a no-no in the outside world.

    So, it's a major learning experience. If you decide to leave, I would recommend reaching out to others who have left. They will understand what you are going through. I never felt a need to cut loose and party etc. after leaving, but that's my personality. If you want to go that route, find an ex-Laestadian who can guide you around potential pitfalls.

    For my own path, I'm a born-again Christian. I asked God to lead me as he saw fit, and that's where he brought me. However, I don't toe any line; I'm pretty independent and a feminist and I think for myself. I just happen to believe that God is amazing and can lead you to joy unspeakable.

  22. The sequential nature of the forgiveness of sins is: the only thing that holds Laestadians together, Laestadianism's biggest doctrinal difference from other churches, and Laestadianism's most non-biblical belief.

    It's funny that the belief that holds us together, the belief that will bring us to heaven according to us, is the belief that would most likely send us to damnation for how non-biblical it is.

    The forgiveness of sins (as Laestadians see it) is not mentioned in the thousands of pages of Luther's writing, is not mentioned in any of Laestadius's early post conversation writings, is not mentioned in early Laestadians' written personal stories of their own conversion (many of which happened while meditating alone), and is not mentioned in the Bible unless you twist your interpretation and ignore certain parts of the bible.

    To top it all off, there is many indirect and direct references by early Laestadians of when the "foregiveness of sins" actually started. It was many years and thousands of conversions after the movement began. Early leaders of the movement did not see it as a "must have" to attain salvation. They saw it more as a way to reassure ones faith, in the same way that Laestadians of today see baptism and communion.

    Most Laestadians are unaware of these historical facts. Those that are aware ignore them or subvert them because to acknowledge them would mean a monumental crises within the church.

    I've heard ministers many times say that we don't need to understand everything and then give a black and white answer to a question for simplicities sake. I think this is intended, harmlessly from their point of view, to keep people from asking to many questions. This has resulted in many Laestadians thinking that what you do & don't do, rather than what's in your heart, is the the true mark of a believer.

    It saddens me when I see Laestadians do things that are ethically wrong, but not illeagal or blatantly wrong. Stealing for example occurs all the time amongst Laestadians. I've noticed that non-Laestadians have a much more clear understanding of the true meaning of "stealing". Many times what Laestadians view as wrong to do to each other, is not an issue if its done against someone from the world.

    Laestadians of course are not perfect and need Christ as much anyone else, but they also do not posses anything that others outside the group do not posses.

  23. In doing some research on the history of Laestadianism, I also found (like other anon) that for earlier Laestadians, the ritual of asking another Laestadian, rather than God directly, for absolution that is now required for salvation, was not required back then. Where and why did they start teaching the tradition as a requirement rather than a comfort? I find it interesting that it is preached all the time that God's Word never changes, yet this major piece of Laestadian doctrine has changed dramatically. Its gone from a ritual that can bring comfort to a believer, to a requirement for salvation. When they preach that God's Word never changes, it means that Laestadianism never changes because one must believe in Laestadianism to believe in Gods Word. To a Laestadian, it is one and the same. They do not realize that one can believe in God and be saved, without being a Laestadian. It is as though they are worshipping Laestadianism rather than Christ.

    1 John 4:1 speaks of testing the spirit to see whether it is from God. How do we do that? Check what is taught against the Bible.

    Acts 17:10-11 (New International Version) also speaks of comparing what is taught against the Bible:

    10. As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.
    11. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

    1 Corinthians 14:29 (New International Version)

    29. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.

    I do not think that the Laestadian teaching on forgiveness or their belief that they are the only ones with real saving faith; that mainly Finns are going to heaven, stands against the Bible.

    Although the correct teaching that there is nothing we can do on our own for salvation, is spoken of from the pulpit, that is not what is put into practice within the Laestadian church. The church is bound up in rules and regulations, yet they say they are not. They judge a persons faith by whether or not a person is abiding by these outward rules, few of which are biblically based, yet the Bible teaches not to judge by outward things and that God alone will judge the heart. They are caught up in traditions of men that cannot be supported in the Bible, and feel as though these traditions (they call sin) must be followed to obtain salvation. Is the Bible the authority, or the Laestadian church?

    As far as your thought regarding Laestadians unbiblical belief sending us to damnation, I too have had thoughts like that. With the Laestadians teaching and believing unbiblical doctrine, is it possible that that we are the ones with "dead faith" that is always preached about?

  24. All of you anons who posted comments, thanx. I wonder how many of you are stil attending the LLC? Hv any of you found each other out?

    Sort of like when ur sneaking in some shopping on Sunday and u meet someone else's doin the same...

  25. When I was in the LLC I knew a couple others like myself and they are still in the LLC I'm sure. I'm sure there are many others as well.

    I had a set of criteria I used to seek these people out. I kept to myself for the most part when I was there so its not like I was actively looking for others like me, although I did broach the subject on occasion.

    The people I knew identified themselves as, I'm paraphrasing here, "Christians on the inside, Laestadians on the outside". Unlike me, they were at peace with being in that situation and enjoyed the Laestadian life.