"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Whitney's Story

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Whitney's Story

This was submitted by a thoughtful, expressive young reader. I'm so impressed with this latest generation and their ability to see past all the arbitrary divisions defended by their elders, to celebrate in one another those universal human values that transcend culture. If you'd like to share your story, send me an email at extoots@gmail.org. Thanks! --Free

I left the FALC when I was sixteen, almost three years ago. This is my story.

As a child, Sunday evenings made me nervous. The mornings were pleasant enough—Mom baked desserts while my siblings and I finished our homework at the table, counting down the minutes before a pie was pulled from the oven. If it was warm outside, dad pumped our bicycle tires with air and sent us down the driveway with a wave. 

An hour and a half before church started, we started getting ready. That’s when my stomach started feeling queasy. What would I wear? Who would I sit by? What if my only friend wasn’t going?

Often, we arrived at church an hour early to visit with the elderly folks. I usually spent that time camping out in the bathroom, biting my nails in anticipation.

Because I attended a school with no classmates from church, I had no friends at church. I was ignored by the girls at Sunday School. It didn’t help that my parents forbade us to wear necklaces, bracelets, or rings, the only jewelry allowed in church. We also weren’t allowed to curl or straighten our hair. Trust me, this did not help with my middle school desire to be popular.

If I was considered peculiar by my Sunday School counterparts, I was an alien to my schoolmates. At least I could relate somewhat with those from church; at school, I was the only one in my grade who’d never seen "Lion King," let alone never watched TV. For this reason, I went out of my way to make friends with the foreign exchange students who seemed as lonely as I. This would be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I met Inka, an excitable and trustworthy girl from Finland who taught me my first swear word—and it was in Finnish! Another friend, Sofia, warmly shared her culture over bowls of Ecuadorian potato soup. 

I believe it was because of these friends that I am now out of the church, and for that I am grateful. At first, I was shocked at what they told me—movies and nail polish seemed like off-limit conversation topics, but later I welcomed their information with quiet satisfaction, ticking off the movies I’d seen at their homes, say, or knowing what a condom was, or learning how to make the sign of the cross over my head and chest. We talked about world poverty and fate, of divorces and religion.

Two years after my last foreign exchange friend returned to her motherland, I began paying attention to the sermons in church. I mean, seriously paying attention. It was a sort of revelation that may only come once—you know, when you’re looking around, thinking, “does everyone actually believe all this?” The minister, as usual, talked about how we were the one true faith, but this time I couldn’t stop thinking about my friends—one a nearly devout Catholic who was thousands of miles away in Ecuador, who literally didn’t know the name of my church. Granted, I’d heard those lines hundreds of times, but somehow the “world,” as it was talked about, seemed a dear friend, and the stakes appeared much higher for my “worldly” friends. Something wasn’t right. 

I’ll spare the details of my leaving—it was a brutal affair, and I’m not quite ready to talk about it. I will instead remark that I’ve repaired the relationships with most of my family members. Life isn’t such a chore as it once was. The church was my whole life, and I walked away from it. There’s still a scar, and I suppose there always will be, but hey—I’m okay with that. I had a great childhood and wonderful parents, truly. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. It’s beautiful, haunting, and I’m drawn to it. Makes for a great writing topic, too.

I feel I’m a much more spiritually inclined person than I ever was in the church. I no longer have the propensity to shy away from a stranger who’s overtly Jewish or Muslim. At the moment I’m into authors and theologians like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, who argue that the Bible isn’t too big that we needn’t talk about the parts which trouble us.

I once broke fast with Muslim friends who never once looked at me the way I used to look at them. 



  1. Whitney said, "the Bible isn’t too big that we needn’t talk about the parts which trouble us." An interesting book in my library is, 'Hard Sayings of the Bible' by Walter Kaiser. Needless to say that book gave me far more insight into the Scriptures than the typical Laestadian lay speaker. It is hard to comprehend how so many similarly-minded church denominations would be so trusting as to put the eternal souls of its congregants into the hands of a lay person with no formal Biblical education whatsoever. It is even more disturbing when one considers that the founder Lars Laestadius was highly educated himself as well as Martin Luther himself. Most of the intelligent religious people I have met of other faiths are quite interesting to talk to and they certainly are not the monsters I was told that they were while growing up. I recall that we were taught to shut the door on any Jehovah Witness or Mormom who comes knocking. I got to thinking about it one day & I realized that the shunning of outsiders was a necessary defense mechanism as the people within the Apostolic Lutheran Churches themselves did not seem to be well grounded nor sure of their own faith and Biblical beliefs. The shakiness of their faith seems to arise from the illogical rationale of their own church doctrine. In a brief summary statement the collective doctrine seems to hover in some shape or form that sins must be orally confessed and audibly pronounced forgiven in Jesus' name and blood by members of the only true church....theirs. This limited and primitive doctrinal concept coupled with a crude grasp of Scriptures has wide gaping holes all through it allowing an outsider to shred it as I found that most religious people of other faiths also had a very had a fairly good grasp of the tenants of the Christian faith. My own spiritual experience mirrored Whitney's but it is pretty bad when one has to leave their respective Apostolic Lutheran Church in order to obtain a full comprehension of the Bible & their own Christian faith as well to gain an understanding of the other religious faiths that are out there. Old AP

  2. I am looking for support. I live in lower MI. Becoming an "unbeliever" through the course of the past 12 months has been very rocky and heartbreaking to me. I am not out and honestly dont know if I'll ever have the courage. I had many terrible things happen to me from family issues to rape to financial destruction to almost dying from overdosing because I felt I had no one to go to. I felt like I'd get no support for what's happened so I've alienated myself. If there is anyone on here who would be interested in contacting me please let me know.

    1. Anonymous, have you joined the Facebook group? Feel free to contact me using the form on the right. You are not alone! Free