"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: More Musings by Oven Mitt

Saturday, March 02, 2013

More Musings by Oven Mitt

Oven Mitt emailed me this response to Freethinker, concerned that it was too long for the comment section. I am publishing it here as its own post. (Readers, please consider submitting a guest post on any topic. Challenge our thinking!)
Left to Right: Frank Zappa, Oven Mitt

Dear "Freethinker,"
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. You say "The vast majority are placing their faith in the 'confirmed reality' of the Bible." On one level, I would concede your point. In a way, if you were to poll people, statistically speaking, what you say about the majority is perhaps true. But only in a way.

One consideration is that in every faith tradition there are people (who are not the majority) who are deeply spiritual, for whom every element of their lives is informed by religious meaning and who are better people for it. But there are also, in every faith tradition, I think, individuals who relate to their tradition as a way to stay out of trouble and solicit good luck. Often, this takes on the flavor of a transaction, of something like commerce:

If you, the worshiper, do this (where "this" could be pray, offer sacrifices on an altar, give to the poor), then I (the fabric of the universe, or the god of my profession, or the unique and all-powerful god) will make your flocks flourish, or get you a raise, or save your soul.

Several years ago, on the bus I rode to work, there was a fellow rider who was an immigrant to the United States, who didn't speak English well but loved to talk. As I got to know this rider better, I found her to be kind, considerate of other people's ideas, and possessed of a prodigious desire to work. A good person. She was telling me one morning about New Year’s rituals in the her family, rituals that came out of a religious tradition. These rituals were for luck and prosperity. "Only for luck?" I asked. She gave me a look that said, "What? What other reason would you have for a ritual?"  My question was apparently uunnerving, even absurd. And yet she had been formed in this tradition and was a good person, perhaps even an excellent person. 

This fellow rider lived a life informed by a religious tradition, didn't seem particularly pious, and thought of rituals as a try for luck.

For such an arrangement with the divine to work, the other party has to be real. If you are doing a deal, the other side has to exist; you want to be able to do this deal, so you insist on the reality of the divine other. 

I don't know of a religious tradition that doesn't have this aspect.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that, whether the individual is a luck seeker or an oceanic devotee, he or she is almost always raised in a particular tradition. Not so long ago, there was effectively no option for the vast majority of people to adopt or explore other faith traditions—children belonged to the church of their parents. So, given whatever kind of person you are—practical, full of heartfelt feeling, whatever—the overwhelming likelihood is that you are going to express your religious or spiritual life in terms of the tradition you were brought up in. Nowadays, people do migrate out of the traditions they were born into, but this is a very modern thing. Martin Luther (or Laestadius for that matter) wasn't a devout Christian because he had compared Islam and Christianity and Buddhism and found Christianity to be the best. He was a devout Christian because he was devout and he happened to be Christian.

I think there is a feeling in all the faith traditions that, if you give yourself over wholeheartedly to the faith, you will find release and ultimate fulfillment. And part of what you give yourself over to is that foundational deal with the divine. You don't want to be denied the opportunity to fulfill that deal (whether you are looking for salvation or just better luck), so outsiders who question your faith pose a threat. But there is always the possibility of a threat from within your belief community as well.

You can be shunned. You can be excommunicated. You can be exploited in any number of ways and kept within the community so long as you accept certain things or accept certain things being done to you. For this reason, religious authority, whether formal or informal, although it can be and often is used wisely, is extremely dangerous.

Religion is dangerous.

Extremely dangerous, but many things we use every day are extremely dangerous. We use kitchen knives. We let our teenage children drive automobiles. These things can be used responsibly and to great benefit, but they can also be used in ways that harm. Life is full of things that are hazardous and that involve leaps of faith: Join the army. Get married. Have a baby. Start your own business. Any of these things can be intoxicating, and any of them can be disastrous. And religious involvement is not different. What is different is that religious involvement, because it usually starts so young, is done with less knowledge of what you're getting into.


  1. Oven Mitt,

    I am thrilled to read your post. I had briefly worried that I had offended you in some way, since there was no response to my original post for nearly two weeks (an eternity in this modern Information age!).

    I will respond in depth to this soon, once I have had a chance to absorb it several times and formulate my thoughts. Thank you again for this chance to expound my mind.

  2. When we speak about religion, we are often speaking about the family, for like Oven Mitt says, it is not something we choose, but rather something we were indoctrinated in as a child. AND, in the religions that are spoke about on this blog, it will mean shunning if you decide to go and explore alternate ways of being with God. To question the religion is to question your parents and their lifestyle...which is relatively hard for a child, no matter how old they are.

    And, in the case of these religions, it is not acceptable to wander and explore other avenues to be in a relationship with God.

    I believe that our generation and those behind us will be less and less likely to remain unchallenging to their parents ways of life...and seek to find individual ways to be spiritual.

    Many believe that if they find the Right Church, then they will become right.

    What we all know, is that in any group, you will find a composite of many personalities and energies. One building and a bunch of people listening to one preacher preaching, doesn't make them all alike.

    The application of religion and how you use it needs to be questioned. How does it affect the lives of your children and others around you? How does it change you or enhance your spiritual life or your life period?

    I know, that I never considered how my beliefs affected others...how it excluded many and how my beliefs put me in the judgment mode. By eliminating religion from my life, has opened me up to a vast landscape of seeing many spiritual walks.

    It truly doesn't matter how you walk as long as the context of the journey is spiritual and loving.

    Religions more often than not divide people, not bring us all together as humans on a journey called life and finding our own ways to be connected to the Source (God). Instead we believe each church is more special and the people who enter its doors special by being there. It doesn't call for each to be upheld on their own.

    Being a christian or calling your self a christian or a church member, is often seen as enough. No matter how you interact or not act with others. It is like many are on a narrow path blind to how their ways of getting to heaven will affect those around them.

    It is time to not only discuss how religion came into your life, but how its application is felt to the world at large and how it depicts the energy of love or indifference.

    What is our natural state? How would you act if you didn't have the fear of breaking the rules of the church or family? Is it a path to God (love) when it excludes so many?

    You have to even wonder who we are in a natural state, for we have been raised in the church and have never, for most, ever considered another spiritual path.

    What is the need for religion? What does it actually do in its application? Who would you be without it? Is it helpful to peace and love in the world? As a person are you more loving and peaceful with religion or without it?

    To me it isn't the content of the religions that matter most, but what it does to the people who belong to it.

    Very interesting to explore...

    Beth Jukuri

  3. Beth, I couldn't agree with you more. I am spiritual, and I listen to Christian radio on my way to work and back. I don't attend church and don't feel the need to...even though my parents are out of the church they are still devout christians and want me to attend a community church or something. I get sick of listening to it. I am a good person, I have a happy life, my kids are loving and respectful people. Walking into a church building wouldn't change that.


  4. I know this isn't a comment on the above story, but I just recently found this site and am wanting to get in contact with other ex-ers in my area.
    I left the OALC in 2002. I live in the Lake Norden area. Please feel free to email me at ericren@itctel.com (even if you aren't in my area but just want to talk)
    I am so happy to have found a place where I can be understood!

  5. This is off the topic but can anyone tell me who/ what the"readers"were in the time of Laestadius? They are mentioned in a few books about LLL but the books don't go into detail about them except naming them"readers". Thanks!
    - Inquisitive

    1. Inquisitive-
      Here is a blog post from a few years ago that might help you out.