"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: An Update from 24

Monday, April 08, 2013

An Update from 24

Thanks to "24" for this update about her experience leaving the OALC. If you would like to share your story, join a support group, or suggest a book, please send me an email at extoot (at) gmail (dot) com.
It has been two weeks since my first guest post and I’m pleased (surprised?) to say that I’m still alive! There have been some good times along with some not-so-good times.
Following my initial announcement of leaving the OALC (3 weeks, 4 days ago—feels like years), I think my family decided to pretend nothing had changed. Due to a death in the family and having some company in town, I ended up spending a lot more time with them than usual. An all-around busy week with work, school, and family, I was exhausted by the weekend. 
Deciding to pamper myself, I got a motel after work on Saturday and spent some much needed time alone. Sunday morning I treated myself to some cozy reading at a coffee shop before attending an Easter dinner with a friend. 
Last week went well—until Thursday evening. It was our congregation’s weekend for Easter meetings, and everybody felt like it was their duty to convince me to come. I dealt with some tears and fears, sadness and anger before I decided to just turn my phone off. Sigh. Everybody’s ideal start to the weekend, right?
I spent Saturday doing some homework, taking a bath, and calling the police (when I felt my neighbor’s fighting had gotten out of hand). All in all, a success. 

Today, Sunday, a friend and I found a great crepe restaurant and had brunch. Followed by some good walking and talking, coffee and shopping. Again, a success.
I guess what I want to say is that it IS possible to leave the church. Easy? No. Possible? YES. I have been seeing a therapist, and plan to continue seeing her weekly. You need to find support, and have some backup—you will need these people (I sure have!). And though I’m not sure what my beliefs are right now, I found myself turning to prayer Thursday evening when I was feeling pretty down.
There will be ups and downs. I’ve had days where I think a rollercoaster would likely be a smoother ride than my emotions. These days pass. Like I said once, leaving the church is easy—it’s separating from the group, the family, that is so difficult. Be strong, keep your chin up. Enjoy exploring life with eyes newly opened. Don’t feel pressured to determine exactly what your beliefs are—this is part of life’s journey that we are now able to join in. Be free.


  1. Over a period of about twenty years, I considered leaving the church several times. I had some pretty solid concerns about doctrine as well as fear that I could not make it out in the "world." I did not wish to live a worldly life, I was just tired of the petty, mean-spirited idle talk, mostly by the women, that did not seem to uplift anyone. My mom and aunts are horrible gossips and social status-quo enforcers. I always tried to sit far away from them at family reunions because they enjoyed talking about other's sins and misfortunes in ways I perceived as cruel. There was always someone they thought was "weird" or not following appropriately in "our traditions." (But some of their own family members' sins were protected and never discussed if that person was in good favor).

    When I finally told my mom I had it, this was her answer, "You cannot really be part of our family unless you are part of the church." I felt so sickened by that answer that I declined going to some family events to get some space. (Not all of them). They took that as that I will never attend any more gatherings, ever again. But actually, it goes off and on. Last summer I seemed to be in "good enough" again. Then, if I try to set appropriate boundaries for myself and my family, I'm dropped off the invitation list. If I dare criticize the church I'm off the list for a while. I suspect it will be this way for some time. I have a cousin who promises she will let me know if something serious happens with my parents or siblings since she still goes to the church. But its possible that I'll not be informed. I'll have to live with it.

    Sometimes, I find myself growing a bit crusty and bitter, whereas I was a very forgiving person before. Too forgiving, perhaps, and I had poor boundaries and let people walk all over me. I just haven't found that happy medium. I can see why some women get to be militant feminists (but not there yet). --Punahilkka

  2. Punahikka,

    I can't understand why your mother would say that she/your family will excommunicate/exclude you because you quit going to church. I really ponder if that is a true effect of being part of the church, or if that is a personality trait of her own..
    The reason I mention that is, I still go to the LLC but have/am considering not going anymore, because i don't believe their the only church going to heaven (if there is one) one bit..and I openly tell my family this. I don't get any backlash at all and I truly think I'll be treated the same if I quit going. I can see certain families react the way your family did, but I don't think that is as common as it used to be years ago and people are starting to understand that is not right.
    I haven't stopped attending because I do have good friendships that I enjoy but think they will fizzle out over the years if I quit going. Most people can agree, if their being honest, there are many quality friendships within the church.

    - Questioner

  3. *Punahilkka-

    I feel your pain. The militant feminists comment strikes a chord with me. I've been fighting suppression my entire life, and now that I'm ABLE to, I want to conquer the world. We'll see how far I get :)


    From hearing stories of others, and beginning my own journey, it seems that shunning/excommunication is quite common with those who leave the OALC. Perhaps the church you attend is not as strict/rigid as the OALC but I am unable to attend at all, as a majority of their teachings (ruling) go against what I believe. Some of my friendships were severed instantly, others are trying to make it work. Even with my family--although they do not shun or look down on me through words, there is much that is communicated through actions/body language. I will leave after spending time with my family and feel angry and looked down on, even when I cannot pinpoint exactly what was done/said that grated on me. I absolutely agree that there are quality friendships in the church--the relationships that I am losing is partly what has kept me with the church for so long. But, new relationships can be made, and as EOP said in another post, though there will be difficult times, the journey I'm taking will be worth it when I look back in 10 years.


  4. Punahilkaa cocisely summarized the built in Apostolic Lutheran type shunning system that is in all Laestadian groups when she said, "Then, if I try to set appropriate boundaries for myself and my family, I'm dropped off the invitation list. If I dare criticize the church I'm off the list for a while. I suspect it will be this way for some time." I grew up seeing the same system in place 50 years ago which seems to be culturally inbred and understood without ever having to be written down. Growing up in Laestadianism is akin to being brought up in a BF Skinner 'operant conditioning chamber' with his theory of 'radical behaviorism' rigidly applied using rigid and legalistic Laestadian rules. I realized at a young age that the social structure was not going to change and it would be far better for me to get out on my own versus 'wasting' my livelihood trying to live within the tangle of rigid rules and also having to keep pace with the ever changing 'understood rules' all my life. 'Militant feminism' might provide a temporary outlet to vent one's anger but I realized years ago that it was usually the matriarchs versus the partriarchs who were the biggest enforcers of the social status quo. Personal self-fulfillment and development seemed a better path for me but that in itself took some time as I had to figure out who I actually was once I left as the 'ego' is crushed within Laestadianism. Old AP

  5. Great comments here.

    Y'all rock.

  6. I would say that leaving in the LLC is just as difficult for most ex's as it is for 24 leaving the OALC. I was fortunate enough to have a family that cared more about me, (and my siblings that left,) than their social status within the group. It took awhile, but eventually they realized they'd rather have us as we were. I'm sure it is still uncomfortable for them, I know people gossip and say they weren't good enough parents because they have so many kids that have gone astray. (Even though I think that this makes them better, that it implies they know that faith is personal and cannot be forced.)I have always taken issue with the way LLC members handle the ex's, you know, if someone is in need, that is when Christians are supposed to surround their brothers or sisters with love and care and support. Certainly not gossip, excommunication, and you're going to hell types of mentalities.
    I also went through a militant female advocacy phase, as well as an anti-ANYTHING-laestadian phase, but I have toned it down to make it easier for my remaining relationships to prosper. It has taken a very long time for me to finally be ok with clearly expressing my "offensive" positions to those that are less accepting of progress.
    I have to give you alot of credit, 24, I did not do so well immediately, as you have. It may be due in part to your advance planning, whereas I just couldn't take it anymore. It's forward progression, and it's for the good. You are blessing me as I notice your strength and know that your story is very meant to be public in this way- so you can show others that are trapped the pathway out.

    1. Pebbles--

      I do feel that I am coping well, and on the right path to owning my life. That said, I have had moments where I've been a complete wreck. At peace with my decisions, I'm now learning how to let others' anxiety, fear and anger bounce off of me, rather than shouldering it all. Therapy, along with great support, is saving me here. There has been several times in which I was close to cutting all ties and fleeing.

      Good days and bad, today was a good day. I spent some very normal time with my family again today, which gives me hope for the future. I know that there will continue to be ups and downs, but the calm, normal days keep me sane.

      Telling my story is therapeutic for me, and if it helps anybody else, in any way, that is great. I know that reading stories of others who left was extremely helpful in giving me the strength to leave and I would be honored if my story could do the same to somebody else. We ALL have the strength to leave--it IS possible! Be free!


    2. One thing that I love about this blog is how it pulls together people with such similar situations from Laestadian groups who teach that the others are "heretics." Pebbles and 24, you two seem like you would hit it off great if you met over lunch sometime. What shared experiences and strength of character you both have! Sit down together and laugh, and then go to a movie or something equally forbidden (and harmless) from your past lives of repression and fear.

    3. Next time I'm in MN we'll have to plan it! Good idea, EOP!
      Funny that you say "heretics." I had a friend in school that was a "heretic" and I was allowed to be friends with her until another parent expressed their "concern" and took it upon themselves to warn me of the dangers. In her words, it was possibly more dangerous to form a friendship with her than a regular unbeliever, because the devil would use the similiarities to lead me astray. She then had other kids spy on us at school to be sure the friendship wasn't continuing. I recently got a friend request on FB from this girl...15 years later...oh, the talks we have had! It's great. But, so sad at the same time.
      Truthfully, I don't even understand the differences between the sects/splits. While growing up, I would ask what had happened, and nobody wanted to talk about it. I know it's off topic, but I'd be interested to hear it from another point of view. The only thing I ever heard was that one was "too lenient." Anybody?

    4. Pebbles, the history of Laestadianism is summed up well in Ed Suominen's book, Examination of the Pearl. (Examinationofthepearl.org). Highly recommended. Ed posts as EOP on here

  7. Great comments and sharing in how it feels to leave a closed society. I applaud you all for daring to be you, no matter the consequences...or even in spite of them.

    I just read a book by Brene Brown, "Daring Greatly" and in it she writes about boundaries.

    "Boundaries and Compassion

    "One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable. I know it sounds strange, but I believe that understanding the connection between boundaries, accountability, acceptance and compassion has made me a kinder person. Before the breakdown, I was sweeter - judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside - but sweeter on the outside. Today, I think I'm genuinely more compassionate, less judgmental and resentful, and way more serious about boundaries. I have no idea what this combination looks like on the outside, but it feels pretty powerful on the inside."

    "Before this research, I knew a lot about each one of these concepts, but I didn't understand how they fit together. During interviews, it blew my mind when I realized that many of the truly committed compassion practioners were also the most boundary-conscious people in the study. compassionate people are boundaried people. I was stunned." Brene Brown.

    It is very hard to establish boundaries after so many years of having none, but little by little you will find inner peace as you set them in place. And the hardest ones to put in place are those of our families, especially abusive ones, but they too are the most critical.

    I have been living with boundaries for 8 years and it has changed how I feel about myself and others. It takes awhile to learn how you feel, what you want and what you don't want....to find a sense of self after living in group mentality.

    Give yourself time to explore and be, to not even make a choice until it is needed.

    We often go too far ahead, stay in your present life...one day or one moment.

    Daring to be authentic, say how you feel and be responsible for how you act...and give back to others their own accountability.

    You are learning to be a You,
    Beth Jukuri

  8. Thank you, Beth, for sharing this! Brene Brown's TEDx videos are great and I look forward to reading her research.

    In my experience, many women are socialized to have poor boundaries. Some of us were taught to overshare, gossip, and betray confidences. Gossip and intrusions into privacy are EXPECTED. A person doesn't even have to speak to be dissected like a frog. His or her clothing, grooming, body language, personal and family history are all game. If a woman doesn't participate in this conversational drama, she is suspect and not allowed into the circle.

    So a woman (or girl) with healthy boundaries needs to know that she will lose friends, and that some may even be vicious in excluding her, because she threatens their perceived base of power.

    My totally nonexpert theory is that this is how females have traditionally won and exerted power in a patriarchy, when other power (self-determination, economic, political) is scarce or unavailable.

    I have seen it played out many times, and right now I can see it happening in my daughter's middle school, where so far at least, she is successfully holding her own, avoiding the cliques, and maintaining a few trusted friendships. (Naturally, I'm very proud of her!)

    I am also seeing it played out in a community group, where a "relationship-challenged" woman who traffics in gossip and intrigue is attempting to marginalize a member who has healthy boundaries. The ripple effects of the relational aggression are both disturbing and fascinating. Those most vulnerable to influence are, not surprisingly, the least happy themselves.

    We need to evolve as a species. As Brown says, compassion means a strong respect for boundaries, our own and others. Buddhists call it "right speech" and "right action."

    Sometimes it can be as simple as remembering that "not everything that CAN be said needs to be said. (Discretion) and "What goes unsaid sometimes must be said." (Honesty)

    Okay, off my soapbox for the day and off to get some coffee. Great discussion! Thanks again.

  9. We were not taught boundaries, or they were crashed down when abused, nor does the church want us to separate ourselves, but to blend in, hence no personal boundaries. We even had to adhere to the personal body restraints, such as hair, makeup, earrings etc. We are only left to dissect like you said, to set us apart, for otherwise we are all the same.

    So, all that is left is to sort each other out in the limited way possible....

    If each had a wide berth of freedom, it would translate into personal happiness.

    Instead, when personal freedoms are taken away, we are left with very little to tell us apart, so we do so by talking and lowering others to raise us up.

    All very intriguing to see how human behavior evolves or is halted...and how we participate in lowering others or empowering them.

    Also there is a quote, "how someone talks to your about others, IS how they will talk to others about you!" Good to bear in mind.

    The Buddhist way, "be Mindful".


  10. I'm in central MN if anybody ever does want to meet up :)


    1. 24, I follow this blog, but am not an active commenter. I live in central MN (Plymouth) as well and you seem like a very interesting person to visit. Is there a way to message you?

    2. Sure, Plymouth- my private email is iam24.iamfree@yahoo.com

      Anyone can feel free to contact me there.


  11. Hello all! I've been commenting here off and on for some time, but use different names occasionally. I still attend OALC in my area most Sundays.
    I had quit going to church few a years ago, but slowly started attending again. When I left, I was very rebellious against every teaching i had ever received from friends and family at church. I questioned everything, and experimented with so many things, that before I knew it, I had become an alcoholic. Eventually I overcame the rebellious stage, quit drinking so heavily, and settled down to live life. I recently moved close by family, and they put heavy pressure on me - trying to force me to go to church. It got to the point where they would even come to my house early Sunday morning, wake me up, offer me rides, etc. Onetime I said I wasn't going, and didn't have clean clothes anyway, so the next Sunday a family member showed up with ironed slacks, flannel shirt, and dress shoes! lol
    I refused to wear them, said I wasn't going, etc. After a month or so, they quit trying to force me to go... And one Sunday I felt like going. Idk for sure why, but I went! I enjoyed visiting with friends, etc. Since then, I've been going most Sundays. - Mostly just because there isn't much else to do, and I do find the sermons interesting sometimes. I do not "believe", but I do find some good teachings in the varying viewpoints expressed. I look at it like I'm going to a class at school. (I don't worship the teacher, but I do find some of the information to be useful)
    I'm not bitter towards anyone from church anymore, and I do occasionally have lengthy private discussions with some of the preachers, local and missionary. In these discussions, I've come to find out that I disagree on many of the things they like to state as if they are set rules. On each thing we've disagreed on, the conclusion is that "we need to have a firm faith in what's been taught" and "trust in the elders" even if there are no valid arguments to support whatever their standpoint might be. They know that I have been "wandering" and occasionally I get a sideways glance at church. It doesn't really bother me anymore. I know where I stand in my beliefs, I'm not trying to be judgmental, and I'm comfortable. Sometimes my "trip into the world" comes up, and I explain the dangers of mind altering substances, untreated depression, etc, and will be asked when "I made repentance". I usually just explain that I didn't "make" repentance, but that I continue to experience it. To younger people, I will say that I just regretted living drunk, wanted to stop, did stop, and don't want those drunken days back.
    Anyway, I feel like I'm rambling. I just enjoy this blog!
    24, I'm 24, too, and near the same area. Not sure who you are exactly, but best wishes!


    1. Mr242--
      Interesting! It's probable that we know who each other is. Do you think you'll eventually marry someone from the church? My biggest issue, again, is that they are the only 'one true faith.' I'm just not able to continue going when I know they will never respect my views. My mother flat-out told me that she will NEVER accept or respect my beliefs, as that would be 'giving in.' She will live the rest of her life in prayer that God will bring me back. I told her she doesn't need to 'accept it' in that she thinks my beliefs are right (she'll never think that), but she does need to accept it if they want me in their lives.
      Anyways, good luck to you as well.
      My email is iam24.iamfree@yahoo.com if you ever want to get in touch.


  12. I've dated within the church a couple times, and I think that if I ever married someone with the mindset that most girls from church have, I'd go crazy. The last relationship I had was insane. I felt like I was dating her entire family. I had expressed, to her, my own viewpoints on some things - even trivial things. She repeated some if it to her family, and I came under intense fire.
    For example, politics. I don't exactly think to highly of the republican party (nor the dems) but expressing that was a big no no.
    I don't really have anything "against" the church, but I just don't buy into the mindlessness. It reminds me of North Korea, but without the physical restrictions. In North Korea, one is not supposed to question the state. The state provides all education, has the final say in everything, and oppresses freedom of expression. A citizen if that country is supposed to have unquestioned allegiance to the Great Leader and those he appoints as authority. One who questions anything put forth by the state is sent to forced labor camps for reeducation so that they may "redeem themselves". These same things happen within the church, although the abuse takes a psychological form, not physical.
    I have had very similar experiences like you've had with your mother. When I had first stopped going to church, my parents would constantly tell me that they "wished I had faith"... If I asked "in what?" They would say "God". But I knew that they really meant faith in the men that run the organization called OALC.
    I think I may just email you. It is quite likely that we know each other! I have to admit, though, doing so makes me a little nervous. I've seen people leave the church, then return and tell all about everyone that had anything to do with "leading them astray" right now I can't have any of that drama. It would affect my work. Maybe that's a shallow reason, but I like to eat. :)


    1. It is definitely mindlessness. One follows blindly and doesn't ask questions.
      I too, had to ask myself the question of how much I wanted my name to be known. I've come to a point now where I feel I have enough support across the country--old friends and new--that if ever I am in a situation where I would need to depend on others, I would have that support. I'm learning to let go of the judgement that others have of me. Also, I think I'm too 'far gone' to ever return and have no intentions of talking of others. The people I'm meeting here and elsewhere continue to have positive influence on my life and I'm grateful for that.
      You must work for people in the church? Either that or you're afraid that you'll get your teeth punched out? LOL at the "I like to eat" comment :)


    2. The "I like to eat" concern is probably a very real one, at least for many in the LLC. Many young people there grow up without any social structure other than the church, having been taught from earliest childhood that the LLC is "God's Kingdom" and everybody else is "the world," not a source of close friendships. The result is a combination of closed-mindedness and limited networking skills, and that can interfere with employment prospects. But there are lots of tradesmen, and a typical young LLC guy will have some uncles or older cousins who can employ him as their next carpenter, roofer, or painter. (The career trajectory for young women is typically a few furtive years in college followed by what is called, with typical lame knuckle-dragging humor, the "Mrs degree.")

      Working for your relative and brother in faith makes one thing quite difficult to do: speaking out about problems with the church you both go to. I really don't know that people are being held hostage to the faith economically, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit. There is plenty of emotional blackmail going on, all too much of which I have heard about in private correspondence with readers.

    3. 24- You've found a great place for support in this blog. There are many interesting people here who have had very similar experiences.

      I won't describe my work in detail, but what EOP described sounds exactly like OALC. He described a young man's work relations to a 'T'. It's very hard to get out of the cycle.
      I do have to admit, church members are very good at taking care of their own, economically. A large percentage are involved in a construction business of one type or the other. If work becomes slow, the other construction companies within the church are quick to share their work load.

      Friendship with "the world" is always criticized, and if one does become too close to a non-member, members are quick to speak of it in a derogatory manner - especially the women. This effectively keeps most members from developing any sort of non-business relationship outside of the church.

      Young single men within the church often roommate with each other as well. If one of the roommates does or says anything out of line of the norm, they will surely be shunned. If they go as far as to question "what's been taught", the other roommates are likely to ask them to move out. In the very least, the atmosphere would not be a comfortable one.


  13. I have married someone from the church and live in the same area. It has been a real trial for me. With family, etc.

    1. So sorry to hear that! I know of someone from my area who is about to marry an OALC member. I feel so badly for her, as I don't think she knows what she's in for. Would you have listened to advice before you married into the church? What advice would you have for someone in that position? I pray your way becomes easier. God Bless you!

    2. I'm sorry to hear that you've been having a rough time. Do either/both of you attend church?