Sunday, October 31, 2004

Faith or Fanaticism?

As we near November 2nd, it is hard to think of anything but the election and what it will bring to our country and the world. This weekend I've been chasing the kids, puttering at my computer, sewing Halloween costumes and taking frequent detours to read the news. I just found this article, by Arianna Huffington, (click title) that expresses my own frustration with political and religious zealotry.

Excerpt:
", , , great thinkers throughout history have extolled the virtues of doubt. As Paul Tillich put it: "Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith." But not in the Bush White House, where doubters are treated as traitors, and inconvenient facts are the work of the Devil — because facts can lead to questioning, and questioning undermines faith. And that would be blasphemy in an Oval Office where unbending resolve has become a holy sacrament."

"What the president calls faith is actually nothing of the sort. It is fanaticism, pure and simple. The defining trait of the fanatic is an utter refusal to allow anything as piddling as evidence to get in the way of an unshakable belief."

Hmmm. Try re-reading above excerpt, substituting OALC for Bush. Does it work?

On Tuesday, my own faith-based initiative is to vote for Kerry. I trust someone who is willing to change his mind, and his actions, based on new knowledge.

You can disagree with me, cancel my vote, unbookmark my blog. it's a free country. So far.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Mr. Laestadius


Laestadius
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
This is the engraving I saw at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Soulful eyes, doncha think?

Click on the title above to get more info about the man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Do Laestadians Love Sects?

At age 15, I went to confirmation classes in the OALC. Granted, I was paying more attention to boys than to my uncles who taught the class, but I don't remember any history lessons. If I thought about Laestadius at all, I suppose I considered him to have existed "back then" -- WAY back then, in Biblical days. Years later I was surprised to discover, in an exhibit in Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum, a likeness of Lars Levi Laestadius with a long face and high collar, a postilla and a placard identifying him as a botanist and leader of a Finnish religious sect. Wow. There are many times in my life when I've realized how little I know about a subject, and that was an important one.

Thank you to the reader who posted the Laestadius links (click on title above to go that informative site).

And just for fun, here are some of LLL's contemporaries, born between 1800 and 1810.

Brigham Young
Victor Hugo
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Robert E. Lee
Charles Darwin
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Edgar Allan Poe
P.T. Barnum

Thursday, October 21, 2004

OALC Elders

The elders are the leaders of the OALC from Finland and Sweden. They make occasional visits to the United States for "Elders' Meetings." How do elders become elders? Unlike many Christian sects, the preachers in the OALC do not learn Greek or Hebrew, or formally study Scripture or pastoral counseling (although Laestadius did as an ordained Lutheran pastor). They are all men, it goes without saying. Apparently young men are given test-runs during gatherings, where they are asked to speak about points of OALC doctrine. I don't know of any preachers with college educations. I've been told it is different in Sweden and Finland, where the OALC is still under the Lutheran Church. Can anyone lend some light to this subject?
OALC Elders
Gunnar Jonsson, Johan Stockel, Isak Niku, Frans Parakka, Isak Kuoksu, K.R. Erlandsson, Viktor Bjorkman, William Erickson

Sunday, October 17, 2004

You Say Tomato, I say Tamata

Thank you, dear readers, for the interesting and civil exchange of comments about whether the OALC is a cult. Personally, I don't think labeling gets us very far. Like calling someone liberal or conservative: convenient, perhaps, but not very revealing. It says more about the labeler than the labelee.

I looked around online and found a checklist that seems useful. It indicates that the OALC is NOT a cult, but has a lot of characteristics in common with one. Please feel free to disagree. Exercise your civil liberties!

1. The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment. (No, Laestadius died in 1861.)

2. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. (No.)

3. The group is preoccupied with making money. (Ha! Some more than others.)

4. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. (Yes.)

5. Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader. (Not to my knowledge, unless you count sitting through a sermon.)

6. The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act and feel. (Yes.)

7. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. (No doubt about it.)

8. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality which causes conflict with the wider society. (Yes.)

9. The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities. (Hmm. Do preachers report illegal activities to authorities?)

10. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group. (Depends on what you consider unethical, I suppose. Is shunning ethical? Is racial discrimination in hiring ethical?)

11. The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them. (Yes.)

12. Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. (Yes.)

13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group. (Depends on what you call inordinate, I suppose.)

14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members (Yes.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A Little Tolerance Goes a Long Way

Guess what? I get to see my mom on Monday. An OALC sister-in-law has offered to drive north for 90 minutes if I drive south for 90 minutes so we can all meet at a roadside restaurant for lunch. Our oldest child will have to miss some school but he's okay with that :).

I'm very excited. But those of you exers will know what I mean about the offense-check I'm doing right now: short hair, earrings, imported car, Kerry sticker, all bound to offend. Because I love her dearly and want her to enjoy our visit, I'll watch my tongue closely. But how do you keep children from talking about their dance classes and favorite music and gymnastics lessons and what they made in Sunday School last week? No. They get to be their bright beautiful selves, and if they get shut down, I'm afraid it is going to be a very short lunch. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Warning: Levity Ahead

So St. Peter is letting the souls into heaven, and a guy walks up to the gates. Per standard procedure, St. Peter asks him his religion. Catholic, says the guy. So St. Peter tells him to go to room 15 but he has to be very quiet when passing room 11. Soon another man walks up and St. Peter asks him his religion. This man replies Methodist. So St. Peter directs him to room 20. And once again he tells him to be quiet when passing room 11. Then a woman walks up to St. Peter. Having overheard what was said to the last two applicants, she asks him why they had to be quiet while passing room 11.

St. Peter replied "Well it's like this. Room 11 is reserved by the Laestadians, and they think that they are the only ones here."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cut and Pasty.com

This is a post from www.pasty.com by "Exodus member, Wa" on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:By Exodus member, Wa. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:

"As a recovering OALC member, I can assure you that the members of this "church" believe that they are rightous before God, and that they and fellow church members who have "living faith", are going to be the only people in heaven. They feel free to exclude any and all peoples based upon the doctrine of their church.(This exclusion can be based upon heridity, prior church attendance, education level and the most horrifying- Skin color).

"This doctrine as was stated previously by Unworthy, has taken the word of God, and twisted it to meet the needs of the church men and women. Ask any member of this group why they belive what they do? They can't answer this question for many reasons.

"1. They don't know the word of God themselves- it has been preached in the church that it is actually a sin to pick up your Bible any try to read it for yourself- because God can only really talk to/through the preachers.

"2. They have replaced the importance of God's word, with the sermons of a man, Lars Levi Laestadius, who preached in Europe, long ago. The sermons have been compiled into books, or "Postulas", and the majority of any church service is spent reading these sermons and commenting/teaching alongside of the sermon just read. Unworthy mentioned that God does not want man to plan what he is going to say in his sermon, because it is not truly from God when it is planned out. What about the sermon reading of L.L.Laestadius? When an actual Bible verse is read, it is one of the same 20 or so places that all of the preachers choose, when they are called upon to speak. I once asked why the whole Bible is not studied and the reply was that these places are understood best, and it is good to stay with something that is familiar.

"3. The OALC church has taught, throughout the many years I was in the church, that seminary/college is a sin, and that when you go to these places, satan takes over your mind, and you will loose your simple belief in the" True and Living Christianity". To apply any advanced knowledge to reading/studying the Bible is a Heresy in the OALC church. Undoubtly, knowledge can be sought for it's own sake, but, this church assumes all knowledge is detrimental. The children are not encouragedd to plan for college, and it is a very small percentage of the population who goes on to any post-high-school training of any sort. Many of the young people don't even finish high-school, as they are eager to begin making money, so they can move out from home and get married. Many of my friends and family from that church, were married before the age of 18. The church encourages early marriges, rather than having the kids sin.

"4. When you as a church member begin to evaluate what your personal views on any subject may be, you have to be very careful to/with whom you speak. If you raise any doubts through actions/words, your fellow church members will pounce upon you, bringing the fear of •••• and damnation right to your face. They then, may or may not tell the preachers about their knowledge, and then you will have some real explaining to do! The church belives you can "loose your salvation in a twinkling of an eye", even though God's word teaches that not one beliver can be snatched from his hand. I, personally was told that" I was going straight to ••••!". Of course, I was assured that my condemnation to •••• was said in love, and that if I could just put my faith back into the preachers and Elders, everything would be fine again. Fear is used to twist the arms of men, women and children.

"In this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, many abuses take place. From spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to child and from leaders to congregation. The average person in this group deals with at least one source of abuse, some suffer many. I know, I was one of them, and I know so very many more who cry silently for help from somewhere, and because of the exclusiveity in this group, no outside counciling or intervention is allowed the church members. Many of the older people in this church know what is happening, but claim that all answers are found,"in this Living Christianity".

"I have read the questions asked by many people interested in knowing more about this OALC church group. I have answered from my personal experience. In a church where no Bible study is allowed because it may cause disagreements and cause splits in the church, the atmosphere is at best suffocating, could it even be leading to spiritual death by those proclaiming to have the" One and only True Christianity?" I cannot make the leap to condem anyone to ••••. Only God knows whom he will save, for he has known us since before time, is he not capable of saving his own?"

Feeling Positive?

Last year, my husband and I took a parenting course on "Positive Discipline." The class uses an Adlerian approach to teaching effective ways to parent. With two toddlers, we wanted to make sure we didn't unconsciously imitate the dysfunctional parenting styles of our own parents: in my case authoritarian and in his case, neglectful.

Recently it occurred to me that how we envision the family, that small social unit of parents and children, is a key to how we envision our society, the world as a whole and our relationship to God. What is the proper role of parents: authorities or nurturers? Are children inherently devious or innocent? Or they to be molded into a shape, or encouraged to discover their unique gifts? What works best to teach limits, encouragement or shaming? Is the parent-child relationship characterized by power and control . . . or dignity and compassion?

There's a saying: to know all is to forgive all. When I see how my parents were raised, and what kind of parenting was reinforced by the OALC, I can understand why they became who they are. That helps.

To the commenter below from the OALC: please ask a preacher if you are supposed to shun (i.e., not associate with) worldlies or exmembers. Then write back, okay? I'm very interested in the response. Maybe things have changed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Shunning the Sun

Shunning is intentionally neglecting, avoiding or marginalizing someone. From the ordinary (neglecting to visit) to the extreme (legal disinheritance), shunning seems to be promoted by the OALC.

It surprised me to learn that not everyone in the OALC chooses to shun. My cousin told me recently about a local preacher and wife who regularly drive upstate to visit their ex-OALC daughter. They even go shopping together. Boy, was I jealous when I heard that.

Perhaps shunning is practiced to protect those who stay. To protect them from their own doubts, which would naturally be provoked by contact with loved ones "outside."

It protects them from the reality of reasonable, loving, nondemonic non-OALC Christians. Growing up, I thought people who left the church were interested in pursuing SIN on a fulltime basis. If I'd actually spent any time with them, I might have noticed that they were lovely people. Hmmmm.

Shunning is a wall to keep out the sun.

Talking Helps

It is gratifying to read your comments and know that this blog is reaching people. Thanks to all of you who have written. To those of you lurkey-loo's -- consider posting a short note. I'm told that traffic raises the profile of the blog so it will be seen more quickly in searches. Consider it a gift to the OALC searchers out there.

CJ wrote: "I wish we could meet and talk. I have family members who won't speak and haven't spoken to me for years because I left the church and got divorced." That's a shame, CJ. They're not looking to Christ for this model of behavior, that's for sure.

Monday, October 11, 2004

GOD'S PEACE: One Word or Two?

Not only is there a distinct lexicon in the OALC regarding religious matters, but a style of delivery that could be described as modest, meek, humble or depressed (you choose).

OALCESE
wordlies (anyone not in the OALC)
unbelief (whatever worldlies believe)
dead faith (ditto)
lost sheep (ex-OALC)
heresy (same as above)
fornicators
whisky merchants
whores
bastards (the kind of children the above beget)
arms of Satan (what all the above are in)
fires of hell (what all the above will get)
church of the first-born (OALC)
one, true and living Christianity (ditto)
toots (slang for OALC members)
speece (greeting between toots)
precious (how to describe another toot)
poor example (how to describe oneself)
right understanding (available only in the OALC)