"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: "You've Just Got to Keep Your Mouth Shut"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"You've Just Got to Keep Your Mouth Shut"

Readers, I hope your summer is going well. Ours was supposed to be "lazy" -- no camps for the kids, lots of sleeping in and going to the beach -- but somehow we've managed to pack tons of activity into the past two months. We've taken road trips, hosted out-of-town visitors (including three former Laestadians), attended Sami-related events, and travelled to a family reunion. All of it very enjoyable, including our stay on an urban farm in Portland where we were wakened by roosters. (The sound was charming at first, and then . . . frankly, annoying.)

Our family reunion was a blast. We had at least 160 relatives, lots of beautiful babies, long conversations with siblings, good food, and warm hugs. I got to share my research on our family history and show my dad the Tormanens' slideshow on Laestadius. Even our kids had fun (there was a swimming pool!). For some reason I no longer felt like an outsider, but rather a family member who just happens to be different. Is it because I've mellowed, they've mellowed, or because the "non-OALC" component of our tribe now has critical mass? Probably all three. 

I've promised our youngest that THIS week will be lazy and devoted to reading and bicycling, her favorite sports (and mine). So far, so good.

My first book was We Sinners, by Hanna Pylvainen, which I received in the mail on Monday afternoon and stayed up to finish that evening. Is this the first novel about the Laestadian experience in America? It is certainly the first I've read, and I enjoyed it immensely, in spite of some editing errors (including repeated paragraphs -- shame on the publisher!) and the fact that it reads more like a collection of character essays than a novel. 

Despite surface similarities, the author's Laestadian family and church are not at all like mine (musical instruments, oh my) and it was fascinating to note the differences in how they lived out their faith (e.g., they used those keys frequently). Pylvainen's ability to differentiate eleven personalities, to portray them with compassion and a eye for the telling detail, is impressive. Even if I knew nothing about the subject, I would have been fascinated. But, selfishly, I wanted more . . . I wanted her to tell MY story. I read faster and faster, no doubt missing important details — how did they go from dirt poor to American Girl dolls and $60 jeans? — but by the last chapter, which is set in 1840's Lapland and may be the most riveting, I was eager to start over again, and read more carefully. 

Highly recommend is Pylvainen's revealing audio-review of her book (did she say "tenement" for "tenet" or am I hearing things?). She seems like a truly lovely person. I hope she writes a dozen more novels.

P.S. Today's article in the New York Times struck me as relevant. An evangelical pastor loses his faith, is "outed" when a relative reads his Facebook status, and subsequently suffers economic, marital and social woes. A friend, a pastor, tells the man "keep your mouth shut." 

Which made me think of those roosters in Portland. A rooster's got to crow. A person's got to talk. Sometime, to somebody. Or not?

Do you think apostates who "keep their mouths shut" have it easier than those who talk?



  1. Free said, "Do you think apostates who "keep their mouths shut" have it easier than those who talk?" My observation is that if some one leaves but they have a well grounded & mature personality along with firm and well thought out alternative Christian beliefs they will be left alone by and large by the Apostolic Pharisees. The reason is that the Pharisees themselves are founded on shakey religious and personal grounds so if they bump into a 'rock' they usually become silent. However, if one leaves and their personality is kind of shakey and they are not living a 'sound life' then they will be easy fodder for the Pharisees as they will quickly seize on any sign of weakness to try to break down one's defenses and in turn try to lure the person back into the fold. If you are solid in your convictions and beliefs you can afford to be hospitable to the Pharisees as they are no longer a threat. In fact they may actually fear that the person who left might have found a much better life and they may wonder why they are still there themselves grovelling under the rules! Old AP

  2. When I wrote the wikihow article: "How to Leave the Old Apostolic Church," my first step was "Don't tell anyone you are leaving."

    That was based on lessons learned, as I told my family I was leaving and why, and I paid for it, with a harsh response that still hurts to remember. It has taken me a long time to forgive.

    Years after leaving the OALC, a friend was asked by preacher (who happened to be my uncle): "Do you still believe?"

    My friend did not want to argue, and moreover, felt his beliefs were his own business. He thought for a few minutes, and then asked the preacher "Do you think Gandhi is in heaven or hell?"

    This upset the preacher so much he became angry, and accused my friend of sowing doubts in the faithful. The two never spoke again.

    If our true desire is to be compassionate (not to "be right" or superior), the circumstances will always need self-awareness and other-awareness. Sometimes we'll want to be silent, and other times, ask a thought-provoking question, or share our own experience. There is no recipe that is right for every situation or person, and there are certainly no guarantees of a good outcome, but if we practice compassion, it gets easier. I love the Dalai Lama's advice:

    "If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self-worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.

    I believe that at every level of society - familial, tribal, national and international - the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.

    I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion."


  3. Free said she wrote the wikihow link, "How to Leave the Old Apostolic Church," my first step was "Don't tell anyone you are leaving." The link piqued my interest as I knew that it had to have been written by an insider. Free then said, "I told my family I was leaving and why, and I paid for it, with a harsh response that still hurts to remember." Do not feel like you are alone Free as I had several former friends tell me to my face I was going into the fires of hell for leaving. Prior to leaving I had come to realize that Bible verses were being used in the church to excuse bad behavior and bad choices. I remember an Apostolic Lutheran relative of mine whom I knew (I was not supposed to have known what had happened to her) had been molested repeatedly as a child by her cousins and how she would say, "It was meant to be" whenever something adverse happened in her life. In other words there was no culpability on anyone's part, no acknowledgement of the consequences of decisions that were made nor any desire to consider 'cause and effect' let alone holding anyone accountable. Everything was considered to be 'washed in the sea of grace' yet I knew she was devastated inside by what had happened but since the cousins had asked forgiveness everything was now supposed to be okay. I have since thought how there is a strong dirge of fatalism amongst Laestadians. After I left I saw so clearly how by and large (99%) our lives are defined by the choices we made-whether they were good or bad-and if we had the courage to follow through on our personal core beliefs about our lives and our faith. In other words things ARE NOT just magically 'meant to be' but rather things are largely determined in our lives based on our choices and consequences of those choices. The fatalistic voodoo-type beliefs of the Laestadian pharisees are in a sense really only relevant if one chooses to remain in good standing in the congregation. I wonder what would happen if people threw off the legalistic shackles and they actually started standing up for themselves.....what would happen in their lives if they finally made an actual choice? Free, your the one who needs to write a book. Old AP

  4. Readers of this web site may want to consider reading, 'Emotional Blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you.' By Susan Forward, PhD

    Make some notes during the next sermon you hear and about some of the Pharisees you know and then compare your notes to the book. It might be a real eye opener. Old AP

  5. Thanks for the tip, Old AP. I would go so far as to say most Laestadian preaching is characterized by emotional blackmail. If you "love the living Christianity," you will never question it.

    The promo for the book on Amazon:

    "If you really loved me..."
    "After all I've done for you..."
    "How can you be so selfish..."

    Do any of the above sound familiar? They're all examples of emotional blackmail, a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.

    Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.

  6. The glue that holds living Christianity together is the Spirit of Christ which exhibits itself in love, patience, tolerance, forgiveness etc... That same Spirit recognizes the universal call to Christ. As I recall the glue the holds Apostolic Lutheran Laestadianism together is guilt trips, fear, fear of being rejected, exclusivism, fear of being an outcast from the group, fear that God will kill you and you will burn in hell unless you comply with the manipulator, fear about confessing sins, fear about not confessing sins, the fear that the sins you confessed will be spread around and the fear that you will lose the love of those close to you. As I grew older I realized that the more I learned about Apostolic Lutheran Laestadianism the more I realized it was the OPPOSITE of the teachings of the Bible. Psss....I will let you in on a secret-it is really sort of an anti-Bible church. Old AP

  7. I agree with you, Old AP, that in so many ways it's an anti-Bible church. They use the same 12-20 Bible passages to preach from and then poke fun at other churches that "cherry-pick".

    I also agree that being able to ask for forgiveness is a comforting thought if one has sinned against another. I believe that goes on everywhere in the world, in any religion or no religion. I object to the contrived wailing and gnashing of teeth that goes on in public in the OALC. I see it as an attempt to manipulate God into doing our bidding (getting through the Pearly Gates), and making sure everyone else sees the level of our penitence. SISU

  8. 'Do you think apostates who "keep their mouths shut" have it easier than those who talk?'

    Easier in terms of interacting with the Laestadian community, yes. But maybe not easier in terms of mental health - feeling true to oneself.

    Like you said, it's better to first focus on becoming independent before leaving. Make sure you have outside financial support and friends before going public. If possible, moving to a new area first can make your life easier.

    Once you're independent, you have the power to start setting boundaries.


  9. "Given the sensitive nature of discussing a religion that discourages questions and can penalize those who ask them, contributors and commenters are welcome to use aliases. The need for confidentiality is understood and honored." What a fitting quote to have on the homepage of this blog & for this discussion subject of 'keep you mouth shut.' When I first started raising questions about the fundamental beliefs of the Laestadian church to the speakers I quickly discovered I had stepped on live wire. Little did I know that I would prove to be no match for the Pharisees & I made a decision to leave the church. Interestingly enough other ex-Apostolic Lutheran types have related the same types of stories to me. The 'lie and put-down machinery' soon went to work against me. In other words if one has dissenting views about Laestadianism one appears to be safe if one sort of brings it out privately in personal conversations but be very wary if one says anything to an acolyte! Interestingly enough, when I have discussed religion with guru's and priests of the Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhist, Catholics, Moslem or Jewish faiths I can get calm thoughtful, logical and well thought out answers. Often enough, many of them are quite informed of the tenents of the Christian faith. I paused when I read one of Ghandi's quotes where he stated, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ" and he also stated, “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” I listened to Hanna Pylvainen's interview and I read how she said she was trying to bring Laestadian literature into the mainstream instead of just relying on documents produced by the Laestadian groups about themselves. I have to say that publishing her book took some real strength on her part.

  10. Hiya! I am curious if you have a lot of traffic on this weblog?