"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Healthcare & the OALC

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Healthcare & the OALC

I just received this email and am hoping we can help. I've asked the writer to read this blog for your responses.

Hi, I am a nursing student at Clark College. As a class, the students here are doing projects about the importance of adapting health care to different cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. The main purpose of this project is to create awareness and improve future health care delivery. I am writing this email because I would like the opportunity to learn some of the values and belief of the Apostolic Lutheran faith that should be considered by health care professionals when providing care to members of the church. For example, some religions abstain from the use of pharmaceuticals, birth control, and life support. Any information that is willing to be shared would be greatly appreciated. Again, the purpose here is to increase awareness and respect for all patients in a health care environment.

I have tried to contact members of the OALC, but I have had little success. I was reading your blogs and thought you might be able to provide some beneficial information.


  1. Sorry for the anonymous post, I'll have to get around to signing up one of these days...

    Anyway, as a rather part-time attender of an ALC, I can speak to this a bit.

    I can't think of very many specific considerations which apply to laestadians across the board, of course in nursing school you are always taught pretty general things to take into account about muslims, orthodox jews, etc etc. Which always felt to me a little too much like stereotyping..."Hmongs don't want to be told about a terminal diagnosis..." It's all in the name of cultural competence, though.

    I can really only speak to the attitudes of those in the IALC, and would venture a guess that most attitudes range on the more conservative side, at least with older people. I know that the IALC has a pretty lax stance on most things and doesn't set official "rules" as is the case with some of the other churches, so I don't think there are any real attitudes about things like birth control (within marriage, anyway) anymore...as opposed to conservative laestadians in Finland, where it is definitely forbidden. Of course, premarital sexual activity is very much frowned upon.

    One thing I think would be interesting to point out is that I would guess, although there are always many exceptions, that most ALC people might refuse chaplain services of any kind while hospitalized, since these hospital chaplains would be lumped into the pool of "worldy people" or "nonbelievers".
    In my experience IALC ministers and or other "brothers and sisters in faith" usually visit hospitalized church members in order to give them communion and company, especially the old/terminally ill.

    Older IALC people often LOVE to have tapes of sermons and song services to listen to, I have noticed.

    No special considerations having to do with nutrition, medications, blood products, or life support, that I can think of. All of these things really come down to the individual, as with other populations.

  2. I am of the feeling, too, that most Laestadians would prefer not to linger forever in a vegetative state as they would prefer to go "home" so I don't see family members trying to keep hopeless cases alive out of some sort of pro-life stance. Correct me, anyone, if I am wrong.

  3. I think most ALC (Federation) people are like most of the people in the US.. very individual. You'd have to ask each person their preferences. They would probably tend to be like other mainstream Christians and be conservative about some things, but there are always exceptions.

    Some people follow their physician's advice when it comes to chemotherapy, etc..but others choose alternatives to traditional treatments. Many are very health conscious and try to stay as active as possible even into their later years.

  4. "I am of the feeling, too, that most Laestadians would prefer not to linger forever in a vegetative state"

    This may very well be true. It remind me of a true story I have been told, when an elderly laestadian was at hospital, and the doctor said that the only thing we can do is pray for a miracle. Her laestadian relatives corrected the doctor by saying the true miracle would be if this elderly woman finally can go home (die).

  5. Speaking only to my experience as a lifelong member of the ALCA (Apostolic Lutheran Church of America), I have to concur with those who have posted before me. In terms of medical care, there isn't any strong teaching of how we should practice it. There is an undercurrent that discourages birth control and encourages natural methods, but by and large those decisions are left to the patients and their families.

    Care of the body is not considered a salvation issue. The soul and flesh are considered separate but coexisting; that which happens in corruptible flesh does not necessarily affect the eternal soul, and it is the state of the soul we are most concerned with. Because of this, we are very wary about mental health care, as that can come very close to affecting the soul.

    One thing I can say confidently, though, is that most Laestadians are not afraid to die. In fact, many of them look forward to it and don't see it as an end to life.

  6. I agree with your post, Il Coro, except the part about mental health care. I believe in it as much as physical health care.

  7. BTW, if you click on my Nick, you can hear the Finnish SRK (LLC) choir sing an old psalm and a few pictures from the last LLC autumn services in Kokkola 31.10 - 1.11.

  8. Hi, I'm also a Clark College student working on this project and this is all very interesting and I thank you for all of your input. I was wondering if, il coro, or anyone else could expand on the comment about mental health. Thank you.

  9. I also want to comment that some Laestadians are very open about alternative medicine: I know several Laestadians who are practitioners in accupuncture, cranial-sacral therapy, and food therapy. A little surprising perhaps for some people to hear!

  10. Many Laestadians run their own businesses and some don't have health insurance, meaning they may not be able to afford extensive medical care, even though congregations will often hold collections to support those going through medical difficulties. Some can also be skeptical of expert opinion and subscribe to conspiracy theories. These two factors are both important in understanding why some Laestadians use alternative medicine.

    Some are opposed to vaccinations. Many (most?) are opposed to birth control, and some prefer home births. Large families are common. Sex education most often is limited to beating the abstinence drum, and abortion is anathema.

    As far as mental health, the religion can encourage a sense of guilt and worthlessness, which can be a risk factor for depression and other mental difficulties. Many will prefer explicitly Christian counselors if they need mental health counseling.

  11. My theory is that the reason why alternative medicine is so popular among Laestadians is that Laestadians are used to being different and in opposition, which makes it easier for them not to be mainstream also when it comes to medicine.

  12. Another reason alternative medicine is popular is the endogamy rate of the Laestadian population. "Folk cures" from the Finnish peasantry and from our Sami roots were brought to the new world. My grandmother believed in witchcraft, said she once knew a woman who claimed she could make a broom sweep across the room (though she denounced such phenomenon as evil). Even if these folk cures are no longer practiced and/or remembered, it's recalled that they existed, and probably contributes to the overall legitimacy of alternative medicine.

  13. I guess I meant to say that my grandmother knew a woman who could, through her mind, make a broom sweep across the room on its own. She said she had never seen it done, but she seemed to believe that the lady was able to do it, and renounced those things as witchcraft. The link I was trying to make with alternative medicine is that I think Laestadians at least used to, believe more in the link between body and spirit. Sort of like Haiti, which is considered to be 90% Catholic, 10% Protestant, and 100% voodoo. Actually, I see Laestadians now as being more skeptical than before in alternative medicine but there is an openness to trying alternative cures that I see most frequently in my hippie friends of the world and in my Laestadian friends. I know several people in my LLL church who take themselves and their children to chiropractors and holistic medicine practitioner before they will turn to traditional western medicine. When I asked one about that, she said her parents and even her grandparents did the same. (I only went to traditional doctors growing up).

  14. Hi, I was wondering if anyone haad any information about Laestadians and personal space. Do they like to be touched during health care, do they only like to be treated by a nurse of the same gender, postition on eye contact? Are these things consistant with the religion or is it personal preference? Thank you

  15. "Do they like to be touched during health care"

    If laestadians if USA hang on to their Finnish/Swedish heritage, they probably don't like to be touched.

    People in Scandinavia are very reserved and don't like when others come into their personal sphere.

    Perhaps they have adapted to US lifestyle. I don't know.

  16. I was also wondering are Laestadians orientated to the past, present or future? I know they hold their heritage and beliefs strong but are Laestadians more focused on what happened yesterday, what's happening now, or what might happen in the future?

  17. I was also wondering are Laestadians orientated to the past, present or future? I know they hold their heritage and beliefs strong but are Laestadians more focused on what happened yesterday, what's happening now, or what might happen in the future?

  18. "I know they hold their heritage and beliefs strong but are Laestadians more focused on what happened yesterday, what's happening now, or what might happen in the future?"

    If you compare to other Christians i guess laestadians live in whats happening now. I guess most think God will care for them, but rarely pray to God for miracles etc.. Laestadians do not believe in prophecy and special messages for their future.

    Try to read a little about amishes. There are many similarities. The mindset is quite similar according to my opinion.