"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Technical Difficulties

Monday, April 12, 2010

Technical Difficulties

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  1. Last night, I saw Forbidden Fruit with a friend who left a different Laestadian group than I.
    I was disappointed in the film. There were some critical details that were at odds with what I know to be Laestadian religion and culture. I was a little upset with the way the filmmaker portrayed Laestadians. Although I have no experience being a Finnish Laestadian, my friend and I collectively have over 90 years of personal experience, have met people who are practicing Laestadians from other countries besides our own, and are puzzled by a few things in this film. (Neither one of us were OALC).
    The main character, Raakel, receives a necklace with a cross of gold from her mother when she sets out to Helsinki to look after her friend Maria who has gone astray. As far as I have ever heard, ALL Laestadian groups are opposed to the display of the crosses on their person, and to varying degrees, crosses in their houses of worship. I was under the impression that most services in Finland are conducted in meeting houses that are devoid of crosses and ornamentation, except for the occasional services held in the “state” church that are used for communion services and weddings.
    The film portrays Laestadian dating life very unrealistically. Both Raakel and Maria appear to be engaged, but their fiancés won’t kiss them because it’s “wrong.” The girls and their fiancés were lectured after a joint bike ride where Raakel attempts to kiss her fiancé and he refuses. This is a very unrealistic view of Laestadian youth, in my opinion. Dating fellow believers was encouraged, and premarital kissing and petting were generally very well tolerated, in my opinion, even if premarital sex and cohabitation were not.
    In an early scene, Maria’s sister is asked to remove her make-up before attending a family wedding. When she refuses, she is thrown out of the festivities. I think most Laestadians would not be as harsh as Maria’s family. Maria might be rebuked and asked to repent, but she would not have been asked to leave an important family function. Most Laestadian familes have “unbelieving” members.
    When the girls move down to Helsinki, a small contingent of male elders come to check up on the girls. As far as I can see, most Laestadian men have jobs and children and I can’t see them traveling so many hours to check on these girls, who were attending services at a Helsinki branch anyway. They would have sent a local contingent, and likely the girls would have had relatives there. Laestadians do their fair share of rebuking, but generally, in our experience, a girl gone astray would be talked to by a female relative, such as a cousin or an aunt, etc. rather than dispatching a group of male elders. Perhaps that is just the difference between Laestadian groups.
    In any case, these inaccuracies could easily have been remedied had the filmmaker consulted with anyone who was raised Laestadian prior to the scriptwriting.
    Some of the general feeling of leaving Laestadianism is captured very well. Like a lot of Laestadians who leave the church because of “temptation to the world’s pleasures” Raakel has difficulty distinguishing between “safe” worldly people and unsafe people. She asks a strange boy to kiss her at a party and he’s a nice young man. The second time with another young man she also escapes danger as the young man is an unschooled fellow virgin. The third time, plied with too much alcohol, she is nearly gang-raped by a group of unsavory older men. She sees in black and white and cannot distinguish between the good and bad out in the world, finding it all “just ordinary.” When it all goes too far, she goes home and repents. I’ve seen this scenario countless times. It has even been said that it is far easier to get a Laestadian back who has veered to the “left” than it is for one that has gone to the “right” and who continues to try to live an upstanding moral life.

    --Stranger in a Strange Land

  2. I have heard the same thing; that it is more likely that a person will repent back to Laestadianism if they left just so they could be "wild" for awhile than a person who left because they no longer believe as the Laestadians teach.

  3. In the Finnish Laestadian Movement that the movie is portraying, crosses are not regarded with a negative attitude. I was given one for conformation.

  4. Is it the SRK (LLC) that is being portrayed? In my experience in the LLC although crosses are not thought of as "sin" if one wears one, they risk being thought of as self-righteous.

  5. After some consultation with Laestadians who grew up in other groups, we came to the conclusion that this film was portraying the LLC. At first we thought it was OALC, but the church scenes lacked the requisite hyyvee. The ALC'er in our group recalled that wearing crosses were not uncommon. In the FALC and IALC, we noted that crosses were considered more or less "wrong" and "worldly" but not exactly sin. If you wanted to fit in, you'd have to lose the cross. I remember one young girl who was given a gold chain with a cross for her confirmation by a non-Laestadian relative and she was not permitted to wear it.

  6. The LLC's attitude about wearing a cross is basically the same as that of the FALC and IALC as described in in previous post.

  7. Nowadays, it is relatively common among the OALCers in Finland to wear cross necklaces, but traditionally the attitude to cross necklaces has been negative. However, the traditional negative attitude has not been about the cross as such, but about wearing it as a necklace. Most OALC prayer houses in Finland have a cross somewhere, either on the roof or on the wall (outside or inside or both).

  8. I've maybe mentioned it before, but there's an interesting geographical difference in the OALC: in Norway cross is ok but flag is not, in America flag is ok but cross is not, in Finland both cross and flag are ok (but in Finland the flag is used only on special days and only outdoors, never inside the sanctuary as in America).

  9. Btw it may be interesting for American oalcers who have never been to Gellivare to know that the old OALC prayer house in Gellivare had two crosses on the roof, one above the main entrance, and one behind the preachers in the sanctuary. I don't know if they have crosses in the new prayer house though. The new prayer house was taken into use last year.