"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The Kautokeino Rebellion

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Kautokeino Rebellion

Matt Perkins has a new blog post out this morning reviewing the movie Kautokeino Opprøret (The Kautokeino Rebellion). The movie and the review are both worth a look:

The Kautokeino Rebellion

It's been a couple of years since I've seen this film, but I will always be struck by how I felt sitting in the movie theater, coming face to face with Lars Levi Laestadius on the big screen. Even though he only makes a short appearance, I felt goosebumps seeing and hearing him thunder from the pulpit.

The film also reminded me of something that it's very easy to forget as an ex-Laestadian: that the movement in its early years spoke to real issues and real needs among its adherents. Temperance might seem like much ado about nothing to me today, but for the Sami in Lapland it was a real issue, and Laestadianism provided not only spiritual renewal but the justification to take on the established Lutheran church and other "powers that be."

At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder what the film says about the danger of populist movements getting out of hand. Luther had the Peasant's War, and Laestadius had Kautokeino.

SEE ALSO: Laestadian Films on Extoots

The Kautokeino Rebellion on Wikipedia

Other posts about Laestadianism by Matt Perkins


  1. It's funny, I was just thinking about Matt Perkins (I never met him but I visit his blog every now and then) when I typed extoots.blogspot.com in my web browser, and then there is a post about a post by Matt Perkins here. :)

    I watched the movie when it came out, I guess it was a couple of years ago. Matt Perkins makes some good remarks about Jesus not being mentioned by Laestadius or his followers, and the messsage of Laestadius being made more acceptable to the general public, while the Christian message is put in the mouth of the state church. I didn't think about that when I saw the movie.

    When I saw the movie I found some parts of the movie a bít fake. A service led by Laestadius would never have been like the service led by Laestadius in the movie. Neither would the meeting of the Sami Laestadians have been anything near the meeting that was in the movie. The scenes in the movie were closer to the style of contemporary evangelical Christianity than 19th century Laestadianism. I had sometimes the same feeling as when watching some Americanized Jesus movie - kind of "plastic" i.e. not genuine. ;)

  2. Hey Tomte,
    Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed the movie. Glad you're still blogging! I check in from time to time. God bless you.

  3. There is internal disagreements with the portrayal of the Kautokeino Rebellion in the Sami community in Norway. The screenplay was co-written by Nils Isak Eira, Nils Gaup and Reidar Jönsson (My Life as a Dog). I don't think Reidar is Sami but his wife was a Sami and Finnish American. Nils Isak Eira grew up Laestadian as did Nils Gaup. They were from one of the Lyngen factions. The Lyngen group does not have fellowship outside of Norway, I believe. Nils Isak Eira had a different take on the cause of the Kautokeino Rebellion. He did not believe that alcohol was the major cause for the rebellion. He blames it more on the closing of the border between Finland, Norway, and Sweden, which made it difficult for the Sami to shelter the reindeer in the Swedish forests in the winter and then drive them over the border to Norway along the coast in the summer. The state priests were viewed as a cog in the whole government wheel that suppressed the Sami and was endangering their way of life. There has been some scientific evidence that the Sami don't actually have an alcohol problem on the level of other indigenous groups, and perhaps no more so than Finns and others in the Lapland region.

    Nils Gaup, the film director, saw alcohol as more of the culprit. It has been suggested that his family had more alcohol issues. However, when I spoke with him about this issue at a film screening, he suggested that it was difficult to transfer the difficulties of a border closing on the screen and show its impact.

    Yes, viewing Laestadius onscreen didn't seem "right" to me. He seemed a bit too smooth. I had not noticed that the message was less Christian than the message by Stockfleth, the parish priest.

    Interestingly enough, after the Kautokeino Rebelion the Laestadian movement almost disappeared from Kautokeino but was revived in the mid 19th century.

    --Stranger in a Strange Land

  4. The Lyngen faction in fact has presence outside of Norway, there are two women living just across the border in Northern Finland, so they sometimes arrange meetings there. ;)

  5. I meant to say the Laestadian movement was revived in Kautokeino in the mid 20th century.

    I stand corrected Hibernatus, about the two Lyngen women over on the Finnish border.

    From what I understand, there are also OALC people in Norway along with the Lyngen groups, which have split into threes.

    I wonder how many Laestadian groups there are now operating in the world. In America I've heard of at least three groups which number under 100 people.

  6. The Laestadianism in Norway originally split into three factions: OALC, Lyngen and ALC. They all had their own geographical areas where they were dominant. After the split, most of the places only had presence of one faction, either OALC, Lyngen or ALC (this means that the local community never split, they just stopped having contact with some other localities that went with a different faction). But there were also some areas where all three had presence.

    I guess no-one knows the exact numbers, but my guess is that the OALC in Norway has some 4 000 - 5 000 members, the Lyngen about the same, while the ALC is slightly smaller. The Lyngen faction split into three in the 1990s: two big groups, the "liberals" and the "conservatives", and a small "ultra-conservative" faction. The Lyngen faction is very similar to the OALC in many regards, except that they are more Lutheran in their sacrament theology and most women don't wear scarves (some do though), also short hair and jewellery is more common than in the OALC, especially among the "liberals". This information is based on my "field study" 10 years ago. Then there were great hopes of the three Lyngen factions being reunited again when the younger generation takes over as leaders, but I haven't heard any news of reunification, so the situation is probably still the same.

    In addition to OALC, Lyngen and ALC, there have also been a few New Awakenists (a small branch of Laestadianism, mainly present in Finland) in the northernmost areas of Norway, and also the LLC has some presence in Norway now, mainly due to recent work-related immigration from Finland.