"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Why Laestadianism Never Apologizes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Laestadianism Never Apologizes

If you're waiting for any official branch of Laestadianism (either in Finland or in the United States) to apologize for the sex abuse and the subsequent cover ups, their exclusionary theology, or the way in which dissent is quelled and dissenters expelled, you may have to wait a very very long time.

At least such is the preliminary finding of new research by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki in his new paper entitled "Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies." (Click here for a link to the paper as a PDF file)

Dr. Ketola compares and contrasts two different conservative Finnish revival movements, the Finnish Lutheran Mission and SRK Laestadianism. Both have engaged in past behaviour that reasonably could prompt an official apology. The Finnish Lutheran Mission made such an apology, but to date SRK Laestadianism has not apologized. According to Ketola, Laestadianism's exclusionary "congregational doctrine" is primarily to blame. When you believe that your congregation is the true kingdom of God and all other Christians are on the road to hell, it doesn't lend itself to humility, accurate self-assessment, or apology.

Dr. Ketola's research paper is in English, only 13 pages and well worth the read. In addition to the topic of official apologies, Ketola also touches on the role of the internet in giving current adherents and ex-members a chance to express their dissent anonymously. A quote:

In cases like the SRK-Laestadianism where the community itself does
not encourage or tolerate criticism, an outside forum where criticism can be practised anonymously is almost the only viable channel through which to pursue change.

In addition to Dr. Ketola's research paper, there is also an in-depth blog post at Freepathways that provides an excellent summary of the research along with a photograph of Mikko Ketola.

Links: Apologising for Past Errors: Two Finnish Religious Revival Movements and Their Different Strategies, (PDF) by Dr. Mikko Ketola of the University of Helsinki, Department of Church History and current (2010-2015) president of the CIHEC (Commission Internationale d’Histoire et d’Etudes du Christianisme)

No Apologising for Past Violence of SRK-Laestadians Healing Meetings, by Freepathways


  1. I was Raised in the OALC. I can honestly say that I had such a horrible experience there that I hope No one ever has to go through. I think that alot of the people there are completely brainwashed and have never known anything different. It sickens me that so many wonderful people, including my parents and relatives believe such BS! If the preachers words are from GOD, Then why would the head preacher in the whole USA tell a 15 year old who has never even kissed a boy, that she is worse than the worst whore? This is what happened to me. It was that day that I saw the light and the truth became very, very clear. I always wondered since I was a wee little child playing with my dolls during church services how any of what I was hearing could be true.. How come we are the only ones going to heaven? How is my name written in the book of life? How does anyone know that my name belongs there? Why isn't everyone in the world in that book? It isn't true. I know that forsure. It's been years and years but I will never understand how anyone can believe that way. Doesn't matter what you wear, what you say, or even what you do in your free time. What matters is who you are and how you treat others (That means everyone)
    Sometimes I want to ask GOD how he can just watch all the suffering and injustice that happens in the world and not do anything about it... I want to ask him, but I am afraid that he would ask me the same thing.

    PS. Thank You so much for starting this Free2bme!! What a wonderful thing to do!! It has been So very helpful to me and many others. =)

  2. Dear Happyme,

    I love your "Sometimes..." comment. Yes, I think He would ask us the same thing. That is why he gave us "Eyes, ear, and all other members, knowledge, reason, and gifts to do all things..." We all helped to create the mess we are in, and we should all take responsibility to help get us out of it.

    This is a heavy weight for me because I Think but don't Do. What will God have to say about THAT?


  3. And having been raised in Laestadianism and out for more than 25 years it is STILL hard to admit wrong doing. That is a very destructive place to reside in life. It is good to admit wrong quickly be forgiven and move on. Strange for a church that is always 'asking forgiveness' not to apologize.

    Happyme, I don't really think we can blame God for the mess people make of the world He created. He is in His heaven, He is Justice itself. He will come and make all of the crookedness straight. Your question is asked many times in Scripture (and answered) start with the book of Habbakuk!

    Yes, I was also told I was a whore (with no objective evidence) and because someone of Laestadian authority said it, my family members believed it, because it was a revelation of the Holy Spirit! What a bizarre accusation.

    Anyway, Happyme, may you find peace and rest for your soul, answers in Truth for your questions. Bless you!

  4. I was also treated like I had to be kept a close watch on or I would surely be a whore, though my sisters were not. It seems that kind of scapegoating is very common in Laestadian families, and when I studied dysfunctional family systems along with alcholism and drug and sex addiction, religious fundamentalist families exhibit the same addiction structures than the other problematic families. My heart breaks for my teenage self. Not popular in school for being too straight nor with the church fold for being too intellectual, when I did find friends to do things with, I was subjected to sort of a breathalizer treatment when I got home to make sure I wasn't drinking. I'd never even tried alcohol. This is personal, but I'll share it here. When I was 15 I developed a Hunner's Cyst, which is a cyst which forms in a female's nether regions. I was afraid to tell my mother not only because it was so personally embarrassing, but also because I knew what conclusions she'd come to, that I had a venereal disease from "whoring around." At that point, I had only kissed a couple of boys, and they were church boys at that. I was told that I had probably contracted VD and that I should cease using the family's towels and to hylex the tub after every use, until I could see the doctor, which to me seemed to last an eternity but may have only been a few days or a week or two. I worried endlessly that I got something from a toilet seat, and that I would never be able to live it down with my family, there was one more transgression to be added to my weighty list of "sins."

    Looking back, I was any parents' dream come true. I got good grades, never used drugs or alchohol, remained chaste into my 20's (far longer than any of my Laestadian friends actually), cooked and cleaned without being asked. But because I spoke the truth and held up the mirror to the injustices in the family, I was made bad. I feel so bad for the two women here who were called whores at a tender young age, but you weren't the only ones treated so.

  5. Hello extoots friends . . . on this Thanksgiving holiday, I just wanted to come say hello and express my gratitude for all of you and the many, many things have learned through this blog. Huge thanks to Tomte for keeping the site alive and a great resource for anyone seeking information or support.

    My life is ridiculously full and happy. Our kids are growing quickly, and while my extended family remains remote, I no longer agonize over it. We have a loving community of friends and meaningful work to keep us busy.

    Recently a reader reached out to me via Facebook and said how much the blog had been of help to him on his journey. I am happy to hear that.

    "When the student is ready, the teacher appears" is a Buddhist saying that I like, because I know that when I am open and receptive, every experience holds a valuable lesson.

    While I may feel like I'm "over" Laestadianism (and the subject often bores me silly), I'll never be done learning about humanity and why we do the things we do. I hope to return often and learn much. Be well!


  6. Apologies...shmapologies. There will be none because THE most important but unspoken doctrine of the OALC and others AL groups is that you belong to their group. A person can have the most cork screwed, lame brained and even dangerous religious ideas and it does not matter so long as one goes to their respective Apostolic Lutheran Church. Being truly born in Christ and having one's life as a testimony thereof is irrelevant in modern Laestadian circles so why would anyone expect an apology to be forthcoming? Old AP

  7. It is very "fashionable" nowadays to apologize for past wrongdoings, be it a church or some other organization. However, I'm not sure what to think about these apologies, they are not necessarily a good thing. Everyone should of course apologize for their own wrongdoings, but I'm not sure if it's ok to apologize for something someone else has done, even if the wrongdoer(s) belonged to the same organization as you.

    As for this blog, it has opened my eyes to see that my contact with the OALC has been with the more "benign" elements of it. There seems to be a lot of more evil things going on there that I wasn't even aware of.

    1. I completely agree with you. Organizations shouldn't have to do public apologies just because some wolf in sheep's clothing did something bad.

      Ex Laestadian Lutheran here, by the way. Considering going back after 6 years. Been considering it for a couple years now. It's hard, man.

  8. I can't see how an official apology would hurt anything, and it might actually help some of the people who were wounded by the institution, and set an example for individuals to follow.

    On another note, I always wondered why Apostolic Lutherans would call themselves 'APs' for short, instead of 'ALs.' But the longer linked article above explains that the Finnish self-designation of some groups translates into English as 'Assocation(s) of Peace' --thus explaining the 'AP' abbreviation.

    I learned something new today!

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  9. Well, I know that I was called a whore by the preacher because somebody wrote a boy at my school some notes or letters. The boy's mother was a friend and neighbor of the preacher. The mother disapproved of the notes and brought them over to him. For some reason he believed it was I who had written the notes, So he came to my house and told me that I was worse then the worst whore. I asked to see the letters and he told me that he burnt them in his fireplace because they were so horrible. Well, I KNOW THAT THE NOTES WERE NOT WRITTEN IN MY HANDWRITING... but he had burnt the proof!! So what did I do? I took the easy way out. At 15 years old, I asked for forgiveness for something I did not do and I lost all faith in GOD in the same moment.
    It never really bothered me that he believed that I wrote the letters, and that he thought I was a Whore. He meant nothing to me. As an adult I sometimes wish that I would have had the courage to argue with him and tell him that he was so wrong! I don't think that he would have believed me anyways...

    A strange thing happened to me once. I was at a garage sale and I was looking at things on a table. I was totally into whatever I was looking at, when all of a sudden something happened.. I had no control over my own body, It just moved! Next thing I knew I was balancing on my left toes with my whole body leaning across the table. My left arm was stretched really far out past the other side of the table, and I was stuck in that position. I remember that I was surprised. I looked at my stretched out arm to my hand and I was holding a very large wooden Step-ladder! I had the top of it in my hand, and the rest was pointing straight up. I knew that the step ladder was extremely heavy by looking at it, But I felt nothing, No Weight! The ladder was completely balanced in my hand. It did not wiggle one bit. I just stayed there like that for a little while staring at it and physically unable to move. The woman having the garage sale came up and said "Thank You! Thank You!" As she took the heavy step ladder from my hand, I saw a newborn baby on a blanket directly under my hand...

    When the woman said "Thank You." I did not respond. I knew it wasn't me who she was thanking, because I didn't do anything!

  10. I feel that my sins are forgiven in blood and name of Jesus. I have believed it also today. My friend who is also believing preached me today all my sins forgiven. I have peace.

    Do you feel the same? Are you sins forgiven? If you would die now, would you go to Heaven? What do you think?

    Repent, God's kingdom is here, above the earth. It's preaching forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name and blood. To all, who want to believe that. And all, that believe it- they get their sins forgiven. They come believers. Sinners turn to saints. But if you don't believe-anything happens to you.

    If people dies without believing his own sins forgiven, he don't get them forgiven. Then he will go to Hell. God want's that you dont go to Hell, but that you repent now! Don't close your ears when God is calling. The axe has been put next to tree. The tree is your life. Axeman is waiting would you repent, would that tree produce good fruits? If not, axeman takes that axe and cuts that tree away. And that tree is burned in hot fire.

    Somebody could say this is spiritual violence or something, but let them say so. Even Jesus talked stories like this. And why? Because God's will is that everybody, everywhere must repent.

    Go to services, lift up your hand and believe the gospel of forgiveness of sins.

  11. If I were to die today... Would I go to Heaven? Would my sins be forgiven? What do I think?

    I think that I don't think about that very often.
    Maybe I would go to Heaven.
    Maybe I wouldn't.

    How can you be so sure?
    Because your friend is a believer and he forgave you today?
    What if you did something bad and died before you were able to ask for forgiveness? Would you still be forgiven? Because you said if people believe their sins forgiven they will go to heaven. So, Can I just believe my own sins forgiven?
    Do I need a friend?

    I'm kind of confused about the axeman story. Does it mean that the axeman is waiting for me to repent and if I do not, He will send me to hell?

    Should I repent to the preacher who called me a "Whore" or to one of his followers?

    Is this truely the only way?

    I think Not...