"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: What Do You Want?

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Do You Want?

Thanks to everyone for maintaining a civil dialogue, and for including a name or nickname with your comments. The following is a guest post by a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church. Please consider her questions thoughtfully before responding. —Free
Andrew Z. Colvin, CC-licensed
I'm not much of a deep thinker. I don't ponder life's big questions, nor do I enjoy "a good debate." I have always said I see too much of both sides. I am often persuaded to see one side, only to be persuaded back in the next moment. I like to think of myself as a compassionate person. I am not a mover and a shaker. But, I am passionate about helping my fellow man in every small way I can.

When I first approached Free about a guest post, I had a very different post written out. I wanted to share my positive, though not perfect, experience growing up LLC. I ended up with a few days to ponder it, while talking with some of you here, and found that I discovered that many of you would not understand why I thought I needed to share it. If you really do want to know why, just ask. I don't like feeling defensive, and felt that in sharing this particular story I would not be understood, and I'd be left defending my "right to a happy childhood."

I think some of you have had such a strongly negative experience that you no longer believe there are ANY '"normal" people in a Laestadian church, just abusers and abused. I would not tell you that you should not share your story because I am a good person and you're attacking me. I played no particular role in what happened to you and the sharing of your story should not harm me. Your story deserves to be shared. So does mine.
I played no particular role in what happened to you and the sharing of your story should not harm me. Your story deserves to be shared. So does mine. 
I strongly believe in coming to know and understand another's experiences. I think we can learn something from everyone if we only stop to listen. Like Jekida, I desire "changes in how people treat one another, which can only come through awareness and understanding of others." And that is, essentially, why I am here today, listening and talking. To understand others experience, why they chose to leave, and try help them understand why someone would choose to stay. 
I do not come here to change anyone's religious (or, perhaps, non-religious) beliefs. We all have a path we feel is right for us. If you are happy and at peace with your personal life choices, you deserve that. If you are not, I am here to listen and try help you find peace. In listening and reading what is said here, I find that my understandings of the LLC teachings are so different from a lot of yours, and I wonder why that is, but I cannot say your understandings are WRONG. Though I do not understand them in the same way, so sometimes I feel they are wrong. I'm not sure if that makes any sense. I wonder, how can it be that we grew up, supposedly with very similar teachings, yet I think it means one thing, and you think another? If we are so united, how does this happen? And, are these differences what separates one who "remains believing" from one who does not? 
I wonder, how can it be that we grew up, supposedly with very similar teachings, yet I think it means one thing, and you think another? 
I generally don't like to talk myself up, but I will indulge in a little self-pride to help you understand where I am coming from. Keep in mind I know I am far from a perfect human, and I often treat others in ways that I shouldn't. I strive for a better me, always. I am currently assisting a friend with the process of entering a center for eating disorders and sexual abuse victims. I am married to a man who was sexually abused as a youth (for any who care, he was able to get the help he needed as well as see legal action). So, sexual abuse is a topic that is near to my heart. People do not like to think they know someone capable of such actions and "hearsay" can be easily dismissed in this manner (which in no way makes it right!). I am a firm believer in getting help for all types of abuse. I promote therapy, healing, and legal ramifications, all after the victim has been safely removed from the abusive situation. I wish I knew ways to ensure no one was ever abused, but I don't. 

I am slightly removed from other believers in my current stage of life, but I try speak out against gossip when it comes up in conversations. I am not brave, and sometimes I fail when I am in a large group setting, but always when with friends, I speak up. I reach out when my friends leave the church, knowing they could not have made an easy decision, and probably need a friend most. Of course there is always the thought that, as long as they have contact with me, they could someday repent, but I do not discuss it nor push it. I want to see them happy and healthy. Being "in the church" is a bit like living in a small town, everyone seems to know everyone, gossip runs rampant, and the support can be amazingly overwhelming when it wants to be. Not everyone wants to live in a small town. Good and bad is found within it.  
What can we do to promote the change you desire? 
So, I am here listening to your stories, generally as objectively as possible. I believe them. I support help for abuse victims, speak to others on the topic, and encourage people to open their minds about the truth of it. I don't like gossip, and try to bring awareness as to the hurt it causes others. I try to teach my children to grow up with the awareness's I have had to learn. Yet, I feel as though I am easily dismissed as someone who pushes the "LLC agenda," so to speak, and therefore am uncaring and un-understanding. I do not know who most of you are, I do not know the who, what, and where of what happened to you. And besides that, most of you no longer need that active "person on your side." So, what do you expect of me? What can we, untouched by abuse, do to "fight evil" as Beth puts it? What can we do to promote the change you desire? I wish I was a stronger person, but instead God made me to be someone who promotes change in a quiet, unassuming way. While this will not result in changes for today, it  will, I hope, result in change for tomorrow. I do not deal well with conflict, I like resolutions.

 ~Just a thought 


  1. To: Just a Thought: My Dear, you come across as a very caring and compassionate person. Don't sell yourself short regarding strength. When you think about it, most loving, caring, help, and support is done behind the scenes -- in any given situation.

    Many recent posters have left the church because of sexual abuse, but this, by no means, applies to all of us who write on this blog. We all have our own reasons for leaving, and some of us still have contact with church members and maintain a loving relationship with them.

    We each have our own story. We each have our unique path through life. We each see the world from our personal perspective, influenced by our experiences. Because of this, many of us have left because we no longer could force ourselves into the rigid mold that the church demanded.

    I am so happy that you are able to "keep the faith" and continue to find fulfillment in your community. Some of us have had to find our community elsewhere.

    We all want and need to belong somewhere. It is as simple as that. It is not your responsibility to bring the lost sheep back into the fold, but they would appreciate, just as you do, a non-judgmental ear when they are hurting and wish someone would "just listen." You seem willing and able to do it. For this, I thank you.

    God's Peace be with you, Dear, and Many Blessings. Keep in touch. It is important that all sides of this discussion have their say. SISU

  2. Kindly and eloquently put.

  3. Thank you for your post and trying to listen and understand. I wish more could and would do that. Sometimes all we want is to be heard. But other times it's important to not only listen but to help stop more atrocities from happening; not only sexual abuse but also shunning and cutting off loved ones and other things.

    What can you do?

    Maybe by doing just what you're doing; helping build a bridge of understanding by encouraging these voices to speak out and encourage others to "listen with listening ears". No one expects you to carry the burden of all this but together WE CAN (and WILL) make a difference; it starts with understanding.

    With that said....I must ask as it's been a recent topic of conversation with my friends and I feel that understanding and listening needs to be a 2 way street.... why do you chose to stay?

    -my view

  4. Just a thought5/13/2013 08:05:00 PM

    SISU- thank you for your kind words.

    my view- Perhaps many of you have found it as difficult to explain why you left as I have found it to explain why I stay. I think that what is easily forgotten is that it can also be a very difficult decision to stay. Those who stay are not ONLY ones who "blindly do whatever the ministers tell us" It's no question in my mind that many do this, as I, myself, did not question 'faith' for many years. In general, few people ever really do examine the faith they grew up in (and therefore, are members of). We need to be careful about taking statements from one, two, or just a few people in the LLC as 'fact' in what the LLC teaches, and what we, as members 'all believe'.

    There are arguments for, and against, any religion, and anyone searching must decide for themselves what they do and do not believe. I have looked for answers both in and outside of the church, as well as turned to the bible, and spoke of my readings and understandings with friends. I, also, have had a long and difficult journey.

    I think it must be stated that my understandings, and what I feel was taught in my childhood, are very different from the way many of you see them. Perhaps there are those 'rigid' or 'strict' LLCers who would not even consider me a member of their church and I had to decide I was okay with that. I had to feel strong enough in my beliefs, to NOT CARE what these judgmental humans may think (ironically, you had to make that same decision in deciding to leave).

    There is much talk about 'rules' vs. 'guidelines'. In my youth, I guess I was taught a much more 'guideline' oriented approach. I have always seen these to be things which help us reach heaven one day. We do not invite TV into our homes, not because watching TV is a sin, but because it contains things which can lead us into sin. Like what, you may ask? Like images of naked (or mostly to half naked) people, parties, acceptance of drugs, and sex. Rare, perhaps, but still there, even when you don't expect it (in Ads). Are we also exposed to these outside the home? Of course, but why expose ourselves to any more temptations than necessary? Are these things found on the internet? Of course, which is why the internet has been spoken of as an area for great concern and "watching". Why allow internet and not TV? Because internet is more necessary to average life. You use it for school, jobs, and general communication. COULD you go without it? Of course, but that is not the point. Perhaps there are some of these 'guidelines' which are simply tradition, and in time, these will get 'panned out' (Personally, I don't believe birth control is one of them, but I am human, and could be wrong). As I told a friend, if not being able to dance ballet becomes a hindrance to your life of faith instead of a help, by all means-dance! (more coming)

    1. Just a thought5/13/2013 08:07:00 PM

      I was quite shocked to learn the things that some believers are taught growing up.
      -- "Unbelievers are not as good, or as deserving, as believers" If we even dreamed of telling our 'heretic' cousins they were unbelievers and were going to hell, boy did we get into trouble! We were just as much a sinner as an 'unbeliever' and they deserved our love and respect. They simply had yet to hear AND UNDERSTAND the gospel.

      --"Believers should not become writers?" Huh? Where does that come from? We were always encouraged to be, and do, whatever we want to (my sister even entertained the idea of becoming a writer for awhile-perhaps still does sometimes).

      --"You cannot and should not associate with someone who has left faith because they will take you with" Sorry, these are one of the very few who know and understand your beliefs, they grew up with them, and generally they respect them the most. At least in my experience.

      Perhaps I do not believe everything the LLC teaches. But, ultimately, I have found that I believe the Holy Ghost is passed on from person to person, believer to believer, and I feel the lifestyle I hold in the LLC brings me joy and is the one for leading me to heaven someday. The LLC isn't perfect, but I find true peace and joy in the preaching of the Gospel, as we know it. I find relief in the knowledge that I am no more, or less, a sinner than my brother, my minister(s), my mother, my friend, and the 'unbelieving' stranger next door. This is why I choose to stay.

  5. I wonder if it is much simpler and less complex? If we organically move towards or against things that match how we feel inside? If it is driven more by our subconscious feelings than what is preached or not preached at the pulpit? If "Birds of feather indeed flock together". If we are simply following our inner feelings of fitting in or fitting out depending upon our experiences and needs?

    Even the simple acts of how people respond will match ours or be different.

    Children tend to naturally migrate towards similar type natures. You can force them to play together or be friendly, but it usually backfires along the way.

    Is it possible, we are changed by our experiences and perhaps by needing what the others don't have to give, that we move away from what no longer serves us? Or we force ourselves to stay and suffer silently, unfulfilled and disingenuous.

    Is it also possible, that our level of experience has more to do with this that what is preached or not preached? And our leaving or staying will be about choices and inner integrity.

    I know, for me, I was getting restless, I no longer felt like I matched, that my life's view was broader and wider, for I had married a man not from church, had hung around with more people not from church etc. My experience had grown to include many from many walks of life. My life didn't fit into the church comfortably.

    And, when my father's abuse flooded in, I was moved to respond in a way opposite of how I felt the church taught. It was the final straw. I left for it no longer supported me...it became a useless tool.

    Perhaps the church is as the saying goes "Religion is for people who are afraid of hell, Spirituality is for those who have been through hell."

    It works until it doesn't. It is comfortable, until it feels uncomfortable. And each of us will know how it feels personally, and it takes great courage to follow your feelings. To be authentic and not stay for the comfort it brings others, but to go for the peace inside.

    Maybe there isn't a right and wrong, but a right for me and a wrong for you. And a right for you and a wrong for me.

    Two paths....and we each travel until it no longer fits us.

    The concept of one right path just doesn't seem to fit when there are billions of us with so many life experiences. How about we are all on our own path to heaven, and it is by living what brings us peace, love and joy. If yours is found in the church so be it. But, also honor, that it was hell on earth for some of us.


  6. Reply to just a thoughts comment on 5/13,

    1st I want to say that I only have experience of the OALC and none of the other Laestadian churches.

    The way you stated your beliefs sounds all nice and dandy but the fact is that the church culture, as a whole, isn't that flexible and accepting at all. They are intolerant of people deviating from the norm (OALC anyway). I believe you may be an exception; a 1%er. Should we evaluate the church, teachings, members and culture on the 1% or on the 99%?

    Yes, we need to be careful about taking statements from just a few people but at the same time the church doesn't have written policy, procedure, mission statement or any other clear documents stating their values and beliefs. I would like to be able to say that the Bible is this document but let's face it, that's to vague of an answer. And as long as there isn't this church "manual" and the church's teachings are only passed from believer to believer and generation to generation, it's hard not to take one or two statements or experiences and run with it.

    years ago I also decided to stay despite many of the people and teachings but at some point I no longer could condone it all. (to state it simply)

    -my view

  7. I suppose each person's experience is different, especially depending on ones parents. My parents: very rigid, rule oriented, had a bunch of kids not because they wanted to, and it was quite evident not something they enjoyed. Church was the MAIN focus, most other things were just WORDLY. Personally, I did not find it a place of joy; it was a place we went where the message was one of sorrow and suffering and what sinful and wretched people we are. It was a message of fear, how the devil is out there trying to snatch us every minute and if you die with sin on your conscience you will go to hell.
    The reason I haven't left yet is the fear of losing friendships and the family treating us and our children differently, like we will be evil influences on their children.
    While there are many blessings in being in the LLC, it is also very restricting, and there is no room for public dissent. Everyone must be perceived as believing the same. THere is this false sense of unity. Those like me and others I know just choose to remain silent even though we disagree with some of the things that are taught.
    What I would like is for those who lead the LLC to allow themselves to answer questions truthfully, according to the entire bible, and not disregard some parts and just pick certain verses to vaguely defend their position. Quit defending traditions and preach that it is the Holy Spirit that guides people in their daily life, not the board of the LLC. GOd sees what is in each persons heart, stop accusing people of being disobedient when someone chooses to do something that is not a 'rule just a guideline'. That's hypocrisy.

    I would like to hear sermons that speak of God's love and mercy,not about the do's and don'ts and disobedience to the mother congregation. Of how Christians treat one another and all people. P I would like to stop hearing how the LLC/SRK are the only ones saved. That's not even necessary to talk about. And of course, that important message of believing sins forgiven, all sins. If the essence of believing is the forgiveness of sins, let that be THE message, that having our sins forgiven is a grace gift that helps us on the journey to heaven. The work ALREADY has been done, Jesus has covered our sins. THere is nothing else we can do, so lets not pretend that God is looking down at a girl from the LLC with lip gloss one and shaking his finger, when there are 7 billion people on the planet for Him to be concerned about.

    1. This is beautifully and powerfully written. The vast majority of the comments on this blog are a tribute to the thoughtfulness and wisdom of its readership.

      And so is this guest post! It's great to hear the perspective of someone in one of the branches of Laestadianism, who is interested in listening and understanding. Welcome, and thank you for your contribution.

      In the spirit of mutual respect that our essayist has shown, here is a sermon Eric Jurmu gave this Mother's Day. Very well done, I thought. He must have known a lot of people would be listening very carefully, and it is all delivered extemporaneously (no written speech). I'm sure there were a lot of people moved by the sermon, and I wouldn't fault them for that at all.

    2. I share your appreciation, Ed, for JAT and the commenters here.

      I'm not clear what you find well done about the sermon you linked to . . . maybe I have an auditory disorder when it comes to sermons.

      Would you please elaborate?

    3. Jurmu spoke to his audience—the troubled, tired mothers holding their endless babies—and managed to offer them words of comfort without saying anything too controversial. He encouraged the fathers and children to treat their mother like a queen that day, and talked about how mothers never stop mothering. There was good humor and solid Lutheran theology about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For once, as I recall anyhow, the icons of naive biblical literalism didn’t make their appearance: Adam & Eve, Noah, Jonah.

      Of course, there were things I could criticize, including some code language for insiders about mothers accepting all the blessings that they are given by the Heavenly Father (hint: the ones brought by the stork), immediately followed up with a comment about there being many kinds of blessings, and trials, too. And of course a quick reference to the eternal damnation of unbelievers.

      But nonetheless, it was an artful, careful performance, and all the more impressive given that he wasn’t following any written script. I have to give him credit; he knows how to preach what is expected by his congregation, and do so in a manner that grabs their attention and their hearts. Believers can call that the Holy Spirit if they wish, and I have no doubt that he would place any credit there as well. (Humility is deeply ingrained and genuine in LLC preachers.) But I’ll just call it talent.

    4. Well said, NWPonderer!


  8. Just a thought put into words what I have been thinking. I am a devout SRK (LLC) believer but sympathise deeply with all of you who have got bad experience from my church or the other LLL churches. I believe that here in Finland where our numbers are bigger (the estimates go between some 80.000 and 150.000 conservative Laestadians), we do have more diversity and at least some of us do realise the dangers of moving into unhealthy direction, or more cult-like style of life. We also tend to be more involved in the local society, and we have people of all walks of life - scientists and professionals of all sorts, in addition to the blue collar folks. The fact that a cabinet minister can be a Laestadian believer, like in our previous coalition government, maybe gives you the idea of the difference. Also today, I think one or two of the cabinet ministers have got a Laestadian background. Somehow I am very saddened by the idea that in US this religion is reduced to something that is described a cult in the media (like in the recent Phoenix case). My thanks to the blogger for enabling all the discussion on the forum.
    Finnish believer

  9. I wonder just how many people are silently unbelieving in their pews. what would it take for them to publicly speak up? How many people would it take to effect change? I know Sometimes it only takes one and sometimes all this does is create a split. with history as a guide, is there any way to create positive change without splitting? Any ideas?
    - My view

  10. There will always be those among us that do not believe how we believe, even if they are sitting in the same pews. Ultimately, only god (and them) know what the condition of their heart is. Even if there were some big "change", would they be granted the grace of repentance? You can fool your family, you can fool your friends, but you can't fool god. And usually, the ones close to you would know if you struggle in certain areas, for your fruits will show at some point. So actually, you aren't fooling everyone. But if we live our lives showing on the outside that we believe the same, but on the inside, we truly aren't believing, what kind of life is that? Faith is a gift, and if you give that gift away, it may never be returned to you
    Something to ponder

    1. Something To Ponder -

      I don't think pretend believers in the LLC are attempting to fool anyone. It may seem that way, but that is not their motivation. I have an acquaintance who has been in the LLC his whole life and has never believed in it since he was a teenager. He's agnostic, and doesn't buy into Christianity or any other religion. If he hadn't met his wife as teenager and fallen in love with her, he wouldn't be in the church now. For some people, they just plain 'ol love the LLC lifestyle and the good things that come with it. This guy will never leave the church, and by church definitions "his fruits show" because he's an all-round good guy. In my experience, its easy to have "good fruits" if you are a decent person and enjoy the unique aspects of Laestadian life. It doesn't matter what's going on inside, regardless of what the LLC says.

      I'm sure there are others like this, but you're right that most people tend to leave after a while. Its usually because of internal doctrinal conflicts felt by people who really think deeply about these things, or some injustice they've experienced, or they feel unreasonably restricted by Laestadian life. From my experience in speaking with other ex-members, leaving is a 4-10 year process, from the point of realizing internally that you don't believe Laestadian doctrine to the point of publicly saying you are no longer a Laestadian.

      If you believe the Laestadian doctrine of "forgiveness of sins", then that means there is a ton of sin out there that hasn't really been forgiven. Someone asked a question about this at a discussion in Minneapolis, but the minister who answered spoke for 15 minutes and didn't answer the question.

      I'd return to the church myself, if it was a true bible based church. There's many things I miss. But I can't handle my life being restricted by beliefs that are based in tradition, and not in the Bible.

      Kind of rambled all over the place. Sorry.

    2. Rambling is fine but please sign your posts in future, ok?

  11. What is faith to you? And how would you give it away? How do you force yourself to believe something that no longer "fits"? Once we outgrow childish thinking and understand as an adult, how do we return to innocence?

    To me, faith is not a gift; grace is. And since only God and I know what is in my heart, I cannot pretend to be something I am not. God knows.

    Help me to understand, Something to Ponder. Thank you. SISU

  12. Thank you, Finnish believer, for commenting. There is much more latitude in the United States for religion to go off the rails, but from what I read on the internet, there are quite a few Finns criticizing the SRK, and leaving the faith due to of its homophobia, resistance to birth control and female clergy, sex abuse scandals, etc. Perhaps the SRK is not as different from the LLC as you'd like?

    I think Laestadianism (and ALL societies) will be reeling for a long time from the biggest development in human history: the unprecedented ability for half its members to be self-determined, made possible by effective birth control. Women's physical emancipation will affect every sphere of human life and expression and belief. It is so recent that we can't possibly predict the consequences, but we can assume that paternalistic religions and organizations will resist loudly, and as long as possible. They have the most to lose.

    Already we can see some pretty stunning fallout in the redefinition of marriage. Of course in some parts of the world, there is still the Biblical arrangement, in which the wife and children are owned by the male (and if he dies, by his male relatives). Which looks more bizarre to us now, Biblical marriage, or the marriage of two equals, regardless of gender?

    "My View," I don't know how many people it would take to effect change in Laestadianism, but I know social change tends to come from youth, and can be surprisingly infectious and rapid. Young people in the church are more connected and informed than ever. I am hopeful.

    Meanwhile, each of us has a sphere of influence in which we can affect positive change, just by having the courage to be ask questions.

  13. SISU,
    Thanks for asking those questions.

    Something to Ponder, I think you're right to question what kind life is it, pretending to believe something you don't. That's like a loveless marriage, keeping together for the kids. Which in fact, may be the rationale many have for pretending. It is the less scary alternative!

    But you seem to suggest that one can "give away" faith. Please explain?

  14. Something to ponder,
    Please expound on your above post. I'm not sure I understood you right.
    What do you mean "even if there were some big change, would they be granted to grace of repentance" and "...if you give that gift away, it may never be returned to you"?
    Are you trying to imply that if someone speaks up about atrocities that they may lose their chance at heaven?
    -my view

  15. My view writes, "I wonder how many people are unbelieving sitting in their prws..." My assumption to that was, that they have obviously lost their faith, but are still coming to church. So if there were to be some kind of change, are they going to start "believing" again? And how do you do that? If you are not believing, it means that you have given up your faith. Now there are some who do not believe in the doctrine of our church, but still say they have "faith" and are still "believing". But believing in what? Believing how we believe? I'm not saying that they don't believe....Catholics believe too, as do all the other religious sects. But we believe we are the one true faith, so in our eyes, they are not believers the way we see it. Make any sense?

  16. And I'm not saying that if you speak up that you lose your chance at heaven. I have many times (even recently) spoken of my doubts and have not been seen as an unbeliever. I know that I need to pray for patience and understanding in these matters. And hopefully can continue on believing this way

  17. Free, thank you for your comments. I do agree SRK and LLC are much alike each other - it is the same faith after all. Regarding many of the questions you raised, I think you are also right. SRK remains conservative on many of those topics and there are people leaving this faith because they think differently. I still see some difference in how people are experiencing their church in US and how we see our 'association of peace' here. Having spent a few years in US, I do have a personal understanding that LLC, like any other of the small churches, are very close-knit communities in good and bad. The pressure to conform to all the standards and rules, usually unwritten, is quite high. These rules might have very little to do with actual religion, and what I mean is that in any society, if it is very small and uniform in e.g. profession or ways of thinking, there will be those who feel that they cannot breath freely. Whereas in Finland, the congregations are typically quite large and you can choose the depth of your involvement. When you move into a new congregation, it takes years to start getting to know the people. This clearly allows for some more diversity in people's lifestyles. Still, I think most of ours lifestyles are well aligned with the teaching - we do have large families, do not watch the TV etc. Also, being more a part of the general society means that our views on many things aren't quite as extreme as they appear to be on the other side of the Atlantic. I don't think the average well-educated SRK believer is much homophobic these days (although practicing gay life style is of course off limits). Birth control in extreme cases is widely accepted. With extreme cases I mean such issues as mental or physical health, and not accepting family planning in general. The sexual abuse scandal was badly managed by the SRK leaders, it looked like they got everything wrong in communicating it to the media, right from the start. However, for those who want to go the truth behind the headlines, it is also quite obvious that there never was any institutionalised abuse (such as in e.g. the Catholic church) but the incidents occurred inside families. In those circumstances, it is difficult to hold the congregation responsible especially when the official teaching has always been that crimes do not go away by the forgiveness of sins. (Unfortunately there were exceptions to this rule, and in a few cases, the congregation lay preachers were involved in hiding such crimes and criminals from the police, and also preventing the victims from getting help. This is not acceptable and I am very sorry for this ever happening in my religion.) The fatc that we operate inside the "Finnish ELCA" or Finnish Lutheran church also means that we must, on some level, accept (or get used to) such things as gospel music, woman priests etc. because they are present in some of the Lutheran church activities which we also participate.

    In the last years we have seen a small but active group of people trying to change SRK from inside. They have used good causes such as the sexual abuse scandal (helping the victims) to market their thoughts. However, in many cases it has been revealed later on that the motivation has been, or can have been, something else than what it first looked on the surface. These people have used the good cause to promote their real agenda, and this has left the victims even worse off than would have been the case without these reformists. (I have to admit the victims have been very badly treated in this organisation, and I am very sorry for that. It must have something to do with the human nature to deny thing too painfull to process, but this is naturally no good excuse when we in this organisation would have the resources to do good if only we wanted that).

    Finnish believer

    1. Finnish Believer,

      The crux of the problem between church and sexual abuse is what you stated so eloquently.

      "However, for those who want to go the truth behind the headlines, it is also quite obvious that there never was any institutionalised abuse (such as in e.g. the Catholic church) but the incidents occurred inside families."

      The church leaders feel that there is no institutional abuse, but rather it is in families, not in the church. So, the church is innocent or at least not one to be held accountable. While the church is made up of families. It is here where the church board hides its head in the sand.

      Odd how the church wants to separate from families when its teachings and rules appear to be the source of negative exposure. BUT, at the same time, the church would become extinct if it wasn't for families. A church is nothing without people.

      Interesting to hear from Finland and see how your larger more diverse congregations allow for more individual freedom.

      But, still have the hard fast rules, that can and often lead to the lack of women's rights and abuse.


    2. Just a thought5/16/2013 05:44:00 AM

      Beth, I find your arguments compelling, yet lacking. Saying that because the church is made up of families, and the families are being led by the church leaders, therefore the leaders are at fault for the sexual abuse doesn't make complete sense to me. It's a little like saying, the United States would be nothing without it's people, and since the people are lead by the president, all the murder, abuse, etc. that happens in the US is the fault of the president.

      I wholeheartedly agree that these leaders need to own up to anything they have done in regards to covering up abuse, and they ARE at fault for this. Also, knowing that there IS abuse within the congregation, there are many things that can be done by them to bring awareness and possible prevention in the form of a change in the direct culture of the church, and if they don't pursue these changes, shame on them! I would not say, however, that these leaders are to be held accountable for the actions of a few members.

    3. is she saying that the leaders are accountable for the actions of others or is she saying that the leaders are accountable for the actions THEY haven't taken and are answerable for the damage caused because they didn't try to effectively stop it even though THEY HAD ALL THE POWER TO DO SO? not only didn't/don't they try to stop it in an effective way but they efficiently stopped others from stopping it. Oh I'm sure the preachers told/tell the abusers to stop abusing but lets be realistic; that's not effective and they know it. maybe they are not responsible for they actions they didn't know about but I believe that they are responsible for the actions of the things they didn't stop when they had the power to stop it. And yes the president is held highly responsible for high crime rates and other things; not individual crimes and criminals only because they aren't individually taken to him personally but he is responsible as a whole. plus the "people" vote him in so "the people" are responsible and even the ones who didn't vote for the president ultimately and naturally answer for his actions. I'm getting off point... I believe that they are answerable for the "few members" that they directly or indirectly had the knowledge and power to stop.

      - My View

    4. Just a thought5/16/2013 10:23:00 AM

      "I wholeheartedly agree that these leaders need to own up to anything they have done in regards to covering up abuse, and they ARE at fault for this. Also, knowing that there IS abuse within the congregation, there are many things that can be done by them to bring awareness and possible prevention in the form of a change in the direct culture of the church, and if they don't pursue these changes, shame on them!"

    5. Sorry, =-O sensitive topic

      -my view

    6. Just a thought5/16/2013 10:56:00 AM

      No problem, I understand :)

    7. I understand what you are saying, and it is like Penn State, they were not doing the abusing, BUT were knowing of it, and not dealing. This is what I am saying.

      This is but one section of the church where the waters are tricky to navigate and the board members that I have talked to have no answers, or are not handling it at all.

      I know we can discuss whether you are believing or not believing, but at some point you will get to look at the head of the organization you believe in and what they are doing, Just again like at Penn State.

      Penn State didn't abuse the boys, BUT were held accountable. AND, boys were being abused while business went on as usual. The outside appearance remained unscathed....until.

      Churches and religions will remain pillars of high morals and values until you find more and more families in distress. And, they were only doing what was preached and taught as right and the way to heaven.

      So, who is to be held accountable....the preachers, the listeners, the ones who walked away and silently know and say/do nothing?

      This blog is at least breaking the silence and asking tough questions and opening up the discussions.


    8. One commenter criticized another here or elsewhere recently for citing An Examination of the Pearl as if it were another Bible, and there is a point behind the snarkiness. It’s all too easy for people to just go from one unquestioned authority to another one, to assume that the heft of many pages equals truth. I don’t want anyone relying on what I say for what the LLC properly notes is the most important matter of one’s life.

      Now that the prologue is out of the way, I want to offer a link to Section 4.10.1 of EOP, Taking Responsibility: Child Sexual Abuse. It includes first-hand reporting of what Johanna Hurtig told me about her experiences with the SRK, as well as citations of what was being reported in the Finnish media. That wasn’t something that can be dismissed as agitators trying to make trouble for the church. Certainly, that possible motive must be considered just like the motive of church apologists to defend their doctrines and institution no matter what the facts. But as far as I could tell, from reading and talking with people involved, there was something rotten in Denmark, or actually, a country just north of Denmark. And nothing I’ve written about it (or anything else in EOP, for that matter) has been refuted by anyone in the LLC or SRK.

    9. @ Beth. Thank you for your comments regarding the families and church. I agree with you in some respect - all too often we disown the individuals who have done wrong, and also claim that they were never true believers. In spiritual meaning this could actually be true, it is a fact that paedophiles are attracted by organisations like churches or sports clubs, and it is quite easy to fake oneself into some position in these. However, if we wash our hands and claim that the problem is not inside the congregation, we are clearly doing wrong. This does not, however, change the fact that we are yet to see a case of paedophilia inside SRK where e.g. a preacher has succesfully used his position to commit such crimes. (Not saying this is because we are somehow immune to that, but just stating the reason for my opinion on the nature of this issue inside our movement). However, we have seen cases where preachers, and other people in a trusted position, have given wrong advice to abuse victims.

      I do not have any personal mission to change this blog into a battle field between ex and current Laestadians, or between the different Laestadian churches. I appreciate Free's openness to diversity of opinion and would not like to misuse her blog. I have myself found the peace in LLC's sister organisation in Finland, and certainly my opinions are that way biased. With this foreword, I would however like to give you one more example of SRK's work toward families well-being. SRK has been participating in projects which work to resist family violence, HEre is a link to the organisation's web pages (unfortunately only the very basic facts in English) http://www.ensijaturvakotienliitto.fi/in_english/
      Even if SRK has not been doing perfectly in everything, I must say I am very proud that this step has been taken. It goes a long way to those who are suffering from violence in their homes to acknowledge that this problem exists in believing families as well, and to actually do something about it.

      Finnish believer

  18. Finnish believer said about the Laestadians in Finland that, "We also tend to be more involved in the local society, and we have people of all walks of life - scientists and professionals of all sorts, in addition to the blue collar folks... I think one or two of the cabinet ministers have got a Laestadian background. Somehow I am very saddened by the idea that in US this religion is reduced to something that is described a cult in the media." I noted years back that the Finnish Laestadians seemed to be more open minded about education and professions. In contrast my impression of the US Laestadians are that they have largely exiled themselves to isolated small towns and they have kept a lot of the old superstitious aspects of Laestadianism alive within the confines of their churches to the extent that they have become actual cultish cliques not just, "cult(s) in the media." Large families would seem to be a little more practical in Finland where the government covers so much of child bearing and rearing costs whereas in the US insurance coverage for deliveries and child rearing can be very expensive propositions. From what I remember economics drove a lot of Biblical interpretations & life styles within Laestadian circles as I noticed that everything that people liked they would say was okay and almost everything they did not like or could not afford was a 'sin.' So there seems to be huge dichotomies of beliefs between geographical areas, educational levels and also between income levels. Old AP

  19. Just a thought5/15/2013 08:28:00 PM

    Thanks to all who have considered my questions seriously. I've been fairly busy in the days since posting the response to my view's question about why I stay, but I have been following the conversations and contemplating what has been said. I do have a few thoughts/reactions.

    First off, I completely understand that everyone has difference experiences. I am under no delusions that everyone stays for the same reasons I do, nor do I think that everyone leaves because of abuse. The answer to why I stay was simply my personal story, which I shared because I was asked to share it. Just as each of you have unique stories as to why and how you leave, I'm sure each Laestadian has a unique story as well. My view asked if the opinions about the LLC should be based on 99% or 1% of the members, and anyone would clearly agree that it's only logical to form our conclusions based on the 99%. I only meant to remind people that there is always an exception to the rule. My view also concluded that I was part of the 1%. That really got me thinking, am I actually in the 1%? And how do you know? I feel that although my parents weren't rigid or 'strict' in many ways (they actually gave us whys instead of just yes and no answers), I did come from a much more conservative background. In 4th grade, I was the only one out of about 5-6 LLCers who was not able to watch a movie with swear words at school because my parents would not sign the permission form. Perhaps I was the only honest one who actually presented the form to my parents, but this is the general theme through out my school age years. Maybe the OALC and the LLC are so different from each other, I'm not sure as I don't have much experience with this particular branch of Laestadianism.

    I, naturally, have spoken of my beliefs with close friends, and, although I am not someone very popular within the LLC, I can only think of one friend who would disagree with what I said. So, is it possible, that somehow within the LLC the 1% ended up with the loudest voice? Or, is it just perceived as the loudest because it's the harshest? People are shocked and repeat it over and over to each other...? Think about it. If you walk into church wearing lipstick (especially knowing it's generally expected not to be seen there) and five people give you weird looks, and two tell you you're an unbeliever for wearing it, but the other 200 people who saw you do and say nothing, what are you going to remember?

  20. Just a thought5/15/2013 08:29:00 PM

    My view also asked how many are sitting in the pews "silently unbelieving". While I'm sure there are plenty who are doing this, and that no one would be able to sit in church and say this one is and that one isn't and so on, I want to clarify that I do not consider myself a 'silent unbeliever'. I truly believe in what I call the core message of the LLC. Which is, believing your sins forgiven in Jesus name and blood, and that the Holy Ghost is passed on from person to person. I also believe the lifestyle, in general, is one which is a help to those striving to remain believing and reach Heaven one day. What I feel does need to change is what I call the culture of the church. The way in which people treat each other and those around them. I have also experienced this same culture in workplaces (yes, in one place, I even felt kind of shunned after I quit, and never went back to visit, despite losing some good friendships), so it is not a strictly LLC problem. What I don't know is how to promote big change to make people aware of the negative affects of this culture and how to lose the negatives and still keep the positives.

    It has also been asked how many it will take for change and if it can be done without a split. As far as the second question goes, I think that depends on what you're trying to change. If you're trying to simply bring awareness and promote positive treatment of one another, then the answer is yes. If you're trying to change an entire stance on, say, birth control, I'm not so sure (keep in mind, as and LLCer I've always understood it to be okay to use birth control under certain circumstances).

    I wish everyone within the Church could experience the joy I feel in the message I hear in the sermons-not that I am a sinner, but that I do not need to worry about my sins, because I believe them forgiven. I wonder if these differences come from the way we are taught at home, or our personalities, or the specific congregation we grow up in and the ministers we hear most often, or something else? I understand not everyone can be happy because of these differences, and that not everyone can believe the way I do. I can only hope peace and joy unto all.

    p.s. While I enjoyed the sermon Ed posted, I am also interested in hearing what Ed liked about it. (sorry everyone, I'm a bit long winded)

    1. I wish everyone within the Church could experience the joy I feel in the message I hear in the sermons-not that I am a sinner, but that I do not need to worry about my sins, because I believe them forgiven.

      I have, and I understand. After encountering the difficulties that led from doubt to disbelief, with evolution, then the Bible, church history, doctrinal inconsistencies, etc. etc., I desperately wanted to stay in this childhood faith I valued so highly. After getting nothing but empty non-answers from well-meaning friends and preachers, I reached out to an “unbelieving” Bible scholar and theologian (an atheist, of all things, but one sympathetic to religion) to see if there might be some way of staying in the church without going crazy in the process, given all the things I could never unlearn.

      I called him in disgust after a 2.5 hour long meeting where I was told to supress an early (relatively tame) draft of EOP by the local congregation’s board. I’ve examined the pearl, I said, and found it to be a cheap imitation. But he encouraged me to think carefully about the major step of leaving that I had finally started talking seriously about, and asked if there were anything I still valued about this church. “Yes,” I said, “the forgiveness of sins that is preached in every sermon.” Go then, he replied, and take that. And as far as those who claim that one must believe everything that’s being taught, he said that’s just one more thing they’re wrong about.

      So I did, for about another year, until I couldn’t stomach it any more. The Introduction containing this story is one of the most widely read parts of my book.

      As far as the Jurmu sermon goes, I just posted a comment about that in reply to the same question by Free.

    2. Just a thought5/16/2013 05:31:00 AM

      Ed, your story is a unique one in many ways, and it is so like others in many ways also. Your book is an interesting one, and is a work in progress for me. I am slow at processing all the information, and while your book may have changed a few aspects in how I believe, it has not changed my faith. To be fair, I'm not done with it yet, so I guess I should say, at least not so far.

      I am sorry that you found you could not simply take the joy, and remain a 'believer' with your new-found knowledge.

    3. @ EOP. It would be intriguing to discuss some parts of your book with you. Partially, I understand your concerns very well, but partially I do feel that you are fighting something that I do not recognise as the SRK/LLC that I know. Especially, I am very saddened that accepting the evolution theory made you leave the LLC. Until recent years, I believed that SRK is entirely pro-evolution as it was what was taught at the services I attended, and it is also stated in writing many many times e.g. in SRK year-books (which are a good source for doctrinal texts) that the Bible is not to be read as a book for natural history. Since then, there have been a number of voices inside SRK which have taken a different stance: e.g. the previous SRK secretary Aimo Hautamäki basically denounced evolution and appeared to have a creationist view. That was reversed in Päivämies newspaper later, although a bit more covertly. Just a few weeks back there was a similar pro-creationist editorial in Päivämies again, so maybe there is some need to debate this question now again. Still, I would say that the average SRK believer in Finland has no issue with evolution. Maybe that is different in LLC?

      Regarding your introduction chapter in your book - L.L. Laestadius was not an individual who invented a new faith by himself. He became a part of the northern Swedish "reader" movement, although such a prominent one that he then borrowed a name to the movement. (Originally, it was a derogatory name for the people who followed Laestadius' teachings). The reader movement also is part of continuum in the religious history of that area, and its roots can be traced to movements with other names in the past (like the wiklundians in the 1600's ro 1700's). When Laestadius started his preaching of the gospel, after finding peace in this faith, the small moderate "reader" groups became a part of this movement. These earlier groups have been researched and their teachings have got much in common with today's SRK/LLC. (Interestingly, their doctrine was exclusivistic and they had a number of schisms - e.g. there was a number of "reader" groups in existence at the time Laestadius got the living faith the Lapp Mary who belonged to one of them).

      As you EOP certainly know, L.L. Laestadius has not been treated as a special person in the SRK/LLC movement. Here in Finland people hardly knew who he was, until quite recently, in the last twenty years or so, some historical anniversaries caused that there were some books published about his personality. In SRK/LLC, we have regarded him as one believing priest in the past, who gave his name to this movement, but we do not see him in any special position. An average SRK/LLC believer has never heard or read a single word written by Laestadius himself. I know OALC view is different, which is quite interesting, and from our perspective it feels like a person-cult.

      Unfortunately, I have other commitments for the rest of the day and the coming weeks, but it would be a pleasure to discuss the EOP book with you in more detail. I have read most of it, although some of the chapters are not in very fresh memory because I read parts of it as soon as you published it in the internet. It makes some very interesting reading, although I personally feel that in some areas you are fighting against something that I do not recognise, and in some other places reading a bit deeper into old Swedish and Finnish original sources could have changed your view. That said, many parts are good and accurate as well, and to say the least, they give an interesting reading into the mindset of LLC (as you have understood it).

      Finnish believer

  21. Just a thought,
    I agree with you on so many things you have said and I appreciate you speaking your thoughts for a much needed civil dialogue. However the topic quickly goes into very deep water so I will only touch on and clarify WHAT I would like to see change.

    1st and foremost I want the children protected from pedophiles in the church or maybe I should say that I don't want the church to protect the pedophiles. The church likes to think that the issue has nothing to do with "the church" but what is "the church" if not made up of people (and doesn't the congregation lead in this church?). Also, "the church" happens to counsel these victims to "forgive". (i don't know how the other churches handle this but I know the oalc doesn't protect the children)

    2nd NO ONE should feel like they have to change their identity and go into protective custody if they question or leave the church. As long as an "unbeliever" is stuck in their pew they can't go search for that spirituality that would give them that "peace and joy" that you feel. No one should be held back from finding that and we should HELP them find it not hinder them by excommunicating and shunning them if they try.

    I know I can't change their stance on theology and I don't want to try because I believe its a mute point but it would be nice to FEEL, HEAR and SEE the GOSPEL message from the congregation and from the preachers. If the 1% are truly the "lawful" obnoxious ones than let it be KNOWN. It's splitting families and loved ones apart and keeping people from finding their "truth".

    -my view

  22. Just a thought, I know my above post leads back to your question of "what can I do" as a person with little influence and doesn't like controversy or confrontation. I feel you there as I'm not one of big influence either or enjoy confrontation. but maybe I can get some ideas flowing... (concerning the cultural norms)
    I think it's sad that EOP couldn't get clear answers from the church.
    I think it's sad that when a person leaves the church that their "friends" don't try to reach out but instead listen to the rumors and add to them.
    I think it's sad when a person leaves that the church children aren't allowed to go to their homes (even if they are really good and moral people who won't try to steal souls)
    I think it's sad that a child can be tormented with visions of Hell because they put on finger nail polish at school.
    I think it's sad that the children tell "worldies" children that they are going to Hell because they are different. (people say that's not what is taught but where did they get that idea? Not from "worldlies"!)
    I think it's sad that nail polish can be thought to be an abomination yet gossip and judgment are rampant and rarely spoken on.

    - my view

    1. Just a thought5/16/2013 10:35:00 AM

      My view,

      We are in complete agreement here. I don't agree with every sentence you have written, but I do agree with everything which you have said needs to change. And we are totally back to one of my original questions, what can I do to promote this change that might reach beyond my small group of friends and acquaintances?

  23. LLLreader to Justa'--As you continue to ask what you can do, I imagine my best answer is---nothing. You aren't wanting to stir up controversy, bring attention to yourself, or confront what I consider really bad behavior in some of the Apostolic groups. So, who would tell you you should go out and storm the fort? It's not your nature and I can't imagine that you should be expected to change your personality. The bad experiences some of us have faced aren't behaviors you promote. You don't cover up abuse, you don't teach your kids to tell other kids they are going to hell, you don't shun, and you don't promote gossip and judgement. None of these issues are part of what you do--so what's to change there? You are comfortable in what you believe, have like-minded friends, are able to take what you need from the faith, and leave the rest. Over and over again peole here state that if the Apostolic religion works for a person, then that person should follow that faith--God's Peace to that person. It takes someone like Free to bring people out of the woodwork who are suffering within the Apostolic religions. So, I guess the best thing for you to do is to continue living as an example that belonging to an Apostolic religion is very positive for some people. I sure don't dispute that fact.

    1. Just a thought5/16/2013 02:22:00 PM

      LLLreader- nothing? It's amazing to that me that I am here begging to help in some quiet way, and no one can think of a single thing for me to do. We, on this blog, I would would dare to say are all desiring change in some way, and are very appreciative of Free. She is thoughtful, considerate, and gives us all, no matter our particular opinions, a place to discuss things we are burning to get out. I am thankful she has been able to help and touch so many. This blog is time consuming, and I, for one, really appreciate what she puts into it. Although Frees identity has been discovered, to most of us she is anonymous, and she started out anonymous. Talking has helped many heal. I do not know Free, so perhaps she is doing a lot more than I know, but a blog like this seems a perfect behind-the-scenes way to help. Now there is one, and it's time for not just healing, but change. Isn't there a behind-the-scenes way to promote change as well?

      If I truly am doing everything within the power of my personality to promote these changes, is there some other way I can help? Is there anything beyond this blog that would have made your transition and healing beyond 'the church' easier?

    2. Thank you, Just a Thought, for the kind words about this blog, but I, too, am often perplexed about "what to do" beyond this blog. Thtere is a Buddhist proverb, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I am working on getting ready.

  24. The above post was to start your imagination going as I don't want to pick your battles our how you battle. But if you really want me to....How about start by answering the questions in the next post? Print them and take/mail them to the preachers? Write their answers down and share them. Just clarifying the church's stance on issues would help!
    -my view

    -my view