"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: To leave isn't freedom . . . or is it?

Monday, August 27, 2012

To leave isn't freedom . . . or is it?

Yesterday, my sister called as I was playing tour guide to visitors from Lapland. She said she had heard an interview with a Laestadian on NPR. That's a first, I thought.

Later, I picked up my husband from the airport and he said "did you hear the interview on NPR?"

I came home and found it here. Have a listen.

It is Hanna Pylvainen, talking about her book with NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

"When I left, I was treated by my friends outside of the church as if I was liberated . . . I was free, I had thrown off the shackles of this oppressive church . . . actually I was going through tremendous mourning. It was this exact feeling . . . that to leave isn't freedom, that made me want to write the book."

Of course it's a short interview . . . with much left unsaid, but, "to leave isn't freedom?" 

Pylvainen left.

Is she "just being literary" in that interview, or does she truly feel as if she left one kind of prison for another?

If so, I hope she finds her way out of mourning and into freedom. The forgiveness she celebrates in the interview is available outside of her church, not only in other faith traditions but in the secular world, and most importantly, most profoundly, between individuals. It does not look like liikutuksia, but it is there. 

(Check out my response to a reader's question about liikutuksia here.)

That said, I appreciate her impulse to value the gifts of her childhood faith and community. 

Have you read "We Sinners"? Do you plan to? 

Please share your thoughts.



  1. Hanna Pylvainen said (as quoted by Free)"I was free, I had thrown off the shackles of this oppressive church . . . actually I was going through tremendous mourning....leaving isn't freedom." Hanna's comments mirror my own feelings many decades ago. I thought that I was the only person out there who had left Laestadianism. I went through a period of mourning in solitude wondering about all that I had left behind with a thousand ponderings about where was I going, had I made the right choice, what was my future going to be? I soon realized I had only cast off one set of problems but in turn I had inherited a new set but I knew there was no going back. Making choices on my own was difficult to some extent as we had never really been allowed to do any critical thinking previously. Fortunately, I was busy in a career & one good thing led to another and yet another. One day I came into my own-I had found a church that had true faith, I had the job I wanted and living in the place I liked, the family I had hoped for, the friends whom I had chose etc... So in a sense an ex-member throws off a set of PERMANENT shackles for a TEMPORARY set of shackles which are in reality all the choices one must make and things one must do in order to have a life of freedom. The burden of the temporary shackles was much less than wearing permanent shackles for me. As I stated in another post freedom involves making choices based on one's gut feelings and living with the (good) consequences. Old AP

  2. Leaving isn't a panacea. If you, like me, were very isolated from the outside world before leaving, you will likely experience a few rough patches for a time while adjusting to a new environment. But a good therapist and time are a big help.

    I'm glad I left, but sometimes I miss the tight sense of community. That's mostly rose-tinted nostalgia, however, because the actual community was full of power struggles and cliques plus classism and sexism. I was never really tightly integrated even when I was a member.


  3. Ilmarinen said, "a good therapist and time are a big help." Well spoken. A person might start out by telling their therapist that they are probably suffering from Post Tramautic Stress. The psychological state and bitterness expressed by many whom I have spoken to who have left makes me believe that most who leave are suffering from a PTSD (Pulpit Transmitted Sin Disorder) to some extent or another. What an epitaph on one's childhood; "My church & my parents gave me a PTSD." What a legacy to live with. Old AP

  4. I just listened to the NPR piece about "We Sinners". I find it so interesting that even those of us who leave often continue discussing it as Christianity vs The (Secular) World. I am far enough removed from it all to not make that distinction. We are ALL the world. We all live in it.

    I also noticed the author did not talk about any other churches. It's Laestadianism or nothing. SISU

  5. I found it to be a wonderful book: authentic, heartfelt, and a joy to read. Despite being classed as a work of fiction, it is clear that its author wrote from life experience as a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church. I only detected a single false note in the narrative, the family being without a place to stay for the night in an early chapter. Say what you want about Conservative Laestadians, and probably the other varieties as well, but they are good at taking care of their own. I fondly recall a case of that from one snowy night in Seattle years ago when the power went out across town. We got a phone call from an older couple in the church inviting us to stay and keep ourselves warm by their woodstove, which we did, gratefully.

    But that is a minor detail, which I mention only to highlight how utterly authentic the rest of the book seems to me. (Who knows, maybe something like the night of homelessness actually happened. Nothing surprises me anymore.) All the financial struggles, the forbidden loves, the guilt trips about the tiniest infractions, the woman’s possible sacrifice of her life to yet another unrestricted pregnancy. (For that last one, the author makes a very poignant parallel to the knife episode with Abraham and Isaac.) They’re all very real parts of life in this odd little sect that Hanna and I both lived in, and loved, for so many years.

    And, yes, I can relate to the sense of loss she describes, too. There is a closeness in the group, the sense of contentment and warmth of well-known companions huddled around the campfire against the world’s shadows. She expresses very well the misgivings of the reluctant apostate, the one who has decided, despite it all, that she cannot any longer pretend to believe what she knows just isn’t true.

  6. I read the book and was really moved by it. I couldn't put it down. Mostly because I could have been the author of most of those chapters. I also grew up in the same odd little sect of Hanna and EOP - just in a different midwest location. I recognized so many truths within this book. I felt as though it described so many life experiences of mine...Hats off to Hanna or writing this book. I'm sure it came at it's own cost, but know you have a fan in me for having the courage just to publish this, let alone being a brilliant author.

    To leave isn't freedom necessarily. One one hand it is simply so you can lead the life you want and be free of the oppression, but this 'freedom' comes at a significant cost as it relates to your immediate family and people you have known your entire life, so it is really free? In my mind no. Amy, ex LLC

  7. The ones still in the church who believe, genuinely grieve over the one who left, and the one who leaves experiences the loss of the relationships with all the friends and relatives who, despite their love for the person, no longer treat them as they did prior to their departure. It's inevitable. And I think the loss of community for the one who leaves is itself like a death. Until you work through that and allow yourself to experience those stages of grief, you may well find yourself stuck in limbo, no longer in your past life, but still feeling anchored to old habits and traditions, and feeling the knee-jerk reactions of panic or withdrawal when faced with unfamiliar territory.

    There is a sense of security to be had within the close fellowship of others who believe the same way and who understand the uncomfortable places in life when outsiders look and wonder at your lifestyle and choices. That security, however, slips away and is gone when you leave, and you feel painfully exposed, your cover ripped from you like a bandage pulled sharply from a wound not yet healed. This reminds me of one my favorite quotes from Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” There's life and hope and recovery out in this big wonderful world, but you might not be open to finding it if you are still trying to wrap yourself up in the tattered shreds of the life you left behind.

    I always imagined the worst that could happen if I left...why did I never imagine the best? I didn't know it could happen. Nin also said, “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” How profound.

  8. Daisy, how could you imagine the best? While I acknowledge that there was preaching about a "glorious hope", the vast majority was centered on what hopeless wretches we all are, how we are nothing, how we are not worthy to even crawl on our bellies to approach the cross of Jesus.

    I always really struggled with that, because it seemed that I, as a creation and child of God, was in effect telling him that he hadn't done a very good job with me at all. I was recently in a blog discussion with an old friend who happens to be a preacher somewhere in the Baptist persuasion. He was professing how everyone is a "loser" until God redeems us and takes us home. I didn't think it was correct to tell God he had created a "loser". Yes, we are all sinners, choosing at times to ignore God's wishes, but does that make us "losers"? I don't think so. I think we are all "winners" because we do return, time after time, remorseful about our shortcomings, but confident in the overpowering love of God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  9. CVOW, you have a generous, kind, authentic faith. I enjoy your comments, and your recent posting as well.