Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hotter in Hell

A friend writes:
Once an OALC Finn lady told my mom, when my mom was wearing a sleeveless cotton house dress on a hot, summer day, slaving away in the kitchen preparing a meal for a carload of hungry Finns, that my mom should cover up and wear something more appropriate. My mom told the happy Finn lady she was sweltering. The Finn lady retorted that it was "hotter in hell."

LOL. A good retort might have been that as Americans, we have the constitutional right to bare arms.

But not, apparently, a quarter inch of mammary gland. Barbara Walters complained to millions of TV viewers that she was made "uncomfortable" by a mother next to her on the plane who was breastfeeding an infant. In solidarity the next day, our local TV commentator Ken Schram compared breastfeeding in public to "urinating in public."

What the?

Ken, breastmilk is food. Urine is waste. There are public places devoted to the latter and precious few to the former. I can still remember as a new mom trying to find an empty bathroom stall at a fancy restaurant so I could breastfeed without scandalizing the couple sitting next to us. Who were eating. Something was/is wrong with that picture!

Ken's own wife told him he was being idiotic. She breastfed their children and remembers what it was like. He backtracked and is now making feeble pleas for modesty. Okay, we forgive you. But not Barbara.

When you see a woman nursing, give her a big smile.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Son of AP Preacher Killed in Iraq

My heart goes out to the Kilpela family. Last night as I listened to the president persist in linking 9-11 and the war on Iraq, I considered how human it is to want to believe his authority. It absolves us from responsibility and it is so much easier than thinking for ourselves.

"Naturally the common people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and endangering the country. It works the same in every country."
Hermann Goering

Monday, June 27, 2005

Virginia Writes

I'm pasting this recent comment up here so you won't miss it. Thanks, Virginia, for writing so compellingly about your experience. Please come again.

Virginia said...
Hi, I am an ex-OALCer (NOT ex-"Christian" as "they" would consider me) and thrilled to have discovered this blog. My sister found it, actually. We are granddaughters of Sandra Simonson Uskoski (Axel's second wife), nieces of Walfred and Eino Simonson, etc, etc and grew up in Hancock - so anyone doing even a bit of sleuthing could easily figure out who I am. And to reply to your question only (as I could write books): As a teenager, I discovered that I just did not believe. I could not believe that every last Asian and African and South American and Australian (to say nothing of 99%+ of Europeans and Americans) who was older than 7 years and 1 day at death was destined to eternal hell and damnation. Even tho it scared me to death, I knew that God "saw into my heart" (that teaching, at least, rang true) and He knew that I didn't believe, so I had to take my chances "in the world" because I was destined for hell anyway. There is no way to force oneself to believe. So I went through 20+ years in the "Dark Night of the Soul," looking but finding no substitute for the all-encompassing-ness of the OALC. In the meantime, I became first a computer programmer and then a medical doctor (OB-GYN), was married, divorced, re-married and had 3 children. At age 40, as I had foreseen, I received an "awakening" into the reality of who we ALL are, which is children of God and heirs to His unconditional love. (No, God is not an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a cloud in judgment, but it is easier to use the male pronoun rather than "its" ). The only purpose for all that focus on sin, hell, devil, etc is "crowd control." Of course, I still have an occasional "what if they're right" worry, but those are few and far between now, and I know based only on fear. It isn't easy to leave, emptiness of one sort or the other bound to follow. Staying isn't necessarily wrong either. Integrity, listening to OUR OWN hearts and following their dictates, is what counts. No one can go wrong there, because that is in fact what God reads - not whether we follow someone else's rules. "Love God and Love Your Neighbor" - that's it, no contingencies. I'll leave the topic of forgiveness for perhaps another posting. Many blessings to you all. May God shine his light of acceptance and understanding and tolerance and, yes, love, on all the suffering ones. Virginia

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Celebrate Yourself

Thanks to the reader who posted the following (it was just what I need to read):
Celebrate the fact that there
never was, or ever will be any-
one as unique as you.

Express and develop this being
without equal to the maximum.

The world will never experience
the likes of you again.

Although some of your relatives
and friends may say:

Thank God for that!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Numbers

I see you have been active on this blog, readers, while I've been distracted by other things -- like kindergarten graduation (what a papparazzi event that was! I'd never seen so many flashes popping!) and the weather (ideal for gardeners -- it rains at night and shines in the day) and my hapkido class (great stress release).

Thanks for your comments and I'm sorry this post will not address them, because I want to write about a neat thing that recently happened. I received an email from someone who saw my name on a genealogy website, and it turns out he is a second cousin. We had never met, because his branch of the family belongs to the -- well, why don't we call it "the 99.9996 percent." (Thanks, Theo, for the math. I wanted to illustrate it with a pie chart, but it would have to be the size of a moon for the "saved" percentage to even show up.)

So anyway, this cousin lives in my state and was passing through town, and we met for dinner. We don't look alike (he's handsome). But in his thick stack of photographs, familiar images emerged: the Finnish grandparents, uncles and aunts, the farms, the tractors, the big bulbous cars. As he sketched out our family history, it dawned on me that I am one in a long line of dissidents: TEN of my grandmothers' siblings left the OALC. Their children knew little or nothing about the OALC, and their grandchildren even less. My cousin thought it was simply a Finnish-speaking branch of the Lutheran church. He and hs family used to live within a few miles of my house.

When I heard this, I was inwardly outraged.

Why?

Imagine yourself as a 19-year old, fresh out of the OALC, shunned, naive, penniless, working nights at a Chinese restaurant to pay for college, renting a room in a huge, strange city, afraid of your own shadow and lonely beyond description. Imagine baking a cake for Thanksgiving and bringing it on the bus (you have no car) to the homeless shelter to have someone to share it with, then being overcome with shyness and furtively leaving the cake and pan at the reception desk and catching the bus home, crying until there are no tears left, partly because you just gave away your only cake pan. Imagine hating holidays.

Then discovering, decades later, that you were actually next to cousins in that city who would have opened their hearts and arms and homes to you. If only you had called! If only you had known!

But anger serves nothing.

The great thing is that NOW I'm learning about my forebears: the Crash, the Depression, the struggles and recoveries, the illnesses and deaths, the hard luck and stubbon hopes of these hardy immigrants. For example: the couple en route from Finland who had a baby at sea but hid it, so it could be registered a U.S. citizen. The newly-widowed mother who refused to give her baby up for adoption despite her siblings' pleas. The John Deere tractor, purchased in the thirties, that is still operating on the family farm.

I'm looking forward to seeing that farm, where my grandparents lived when they lost everything (the sister who took them in was a former OALCer, but they were not in a position to shun her). When I see that old John Deere tractor, I'm going to take a photo of it, and think long thoughts about "sisu." Mostly, I'm going to celebrate this freedom to love all my people -- 100%. It's a significant victory.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

FinnFest, August 10-14, Marquette, MI

I've never wanted to go to a FinnFest before (click on title above to go to their website). I figured it would be similar to other ethnic festivals: fried food, folk music, crappy crafts -- all of which can be had locally, any day of the week. However, I checked out this year's offerings and discovered that "the foremost" (how many can there be?) Laestadius scholar, Dr. Juha Pentikäinen, of the University of Helsinki, will be lecturing. He edited, and wrote the introduction to, LLL's "Fragments of Lappish Mythology." There will also be two Apostolic Lutheran pastors talking about the history of Laestadianism in America.

Hmmm . . . all that might be interesting. Maybe one of you Michigan readers could go and take notes? It would save me a plane ticket. On the other hand, the UP must be lovely in August. On the third hand, there are mosquitos.
Dr. Juha Pentikäinen
Dr. Juha Pentikäinen

Why You Shouldn't Marry Your Cousin

Thank you to the reader for the CBS 60 Minutes story on the Amish and inbreeding (click on the title above.)

Do cousins marry in the OALC?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Benefits of Leaving the OALC

As I've talked to others who have left the OALC, I've learned that each departure is unique. Some left gradually, others quickly, some quietly, others noisily, some with the love of family, others without. I left rather quickly, noisily and without the love of family, and I do not recommend it. It hurt a lot. So I want to offer these thoughts to anyone thinking of leaving.

  1. You owe NO one an explanation or justification for no longer coming to church. If you want to, you can begin a new life right now without a sound. 
  2. Give yourself time to mourn your old life and nurture your new one.
  3. Talk to others who have left and get a good support group. Don't hesitate to see a therapist. This is your life, your only one and precious life. How will you spend the rest of it?

Some benefits of leaving:

  • security in God's unconditional, abiding love -- nothing I do can take it away
  • integrity -- I no longer have to endure the conflict between my own feelings and what I was told I SHOULD be feeling
  • increased humility, empathy and openness to humanity (I no longer feel like I am superior by virtue of my faith)
  • no more disdain
  • self-love and forgiveness
  • freedom to question anyone and anything
  • freedom of thought -- no longer having to measure everything against the preachers
  • increasing ability to trust my own instincts
  • joy of knowing and loving people of different ethnic origins and religions
  • joy of service to others
  • great literature, art and music

OK, I could go on, but enough about me, Exmembers, how did you leave, and what are the rewards?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

New Friend, New Posts

Just returned from a wonderful weekend visiting with an ex-OALCer I met through the internet. We had many stories to share, many victories to celebrate. I'll write more about that later.

There has been a lot of posting on the gender topic. Also, you can click on the title above to review new comments regarding The Village.

Thank you all for your support and for continuing the dialogue. You never know whose heart you touch simply by being yourself.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kiss, Tap, Shake, Nod

I remember how surprised I was when I discovered other churches where "God's Peace" was said. In Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic and other liturgical churches, the Passing of the Peace usually takes place after the Lord's Prayer. Congregants are invited to turn to each other, shake hands and say "the Peace of the Lord be with you" or some variant thereof.

In the letters of St. Paul there are several references to greeting one another with "a holy kiss" (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14). Some view this as a sign of reconciliation, some as a simple blessing, some as a recognition of the Christ within our neighbor.

According to Joseph Jungman, a Jesuit historian of liturgy, this ritual was the Christian appropriation of a secular practice when a kiss was the sign of initiation into a fraternity or society. Thus the Christians took a secular practice and incorporated it into the sacrament of initiation where it took on added meaning. While the practice died out in secular society as culture changed, its meaning in the Christian community continued, although it degenerated to a tap on the cheek and ultimately to a handshake.

I would say that by using it as a signal of membership, the OALC has preserved its secular nature very well.