Tuesday, September 27, 2005

FinnFest 2006?

Calling all former Laestadians: Let's meet in Astoria, Oregon next July. We can attend the FinnFest, do a little genealogy research, and share stories. The dates are July 26-30. Anyone interested?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pop Quiz

Can you guess who is being talked about here?
This is about conflict . . . with a fundamentally different view of the nature of truth . . . (they) believe they have the truth, that everybody who agrees with them is good, and everybody who doesn't is evil.
. . . nobody has the absolute truth . . . . we have the responsibilities of a free people because we believe that life is a journey, an effort to move closer and closer to the truth. But because we are finite, limited human beings, we never will achieve it.
. . . . we have very different views about the character of community. We believe we all do better when we work together. And all you have to do . . . is to accept the rules of engagement, our rules about everybody counting, everybody getting a voice . . . about showing up every day to do what is right. We have the freedom to celebrate our diversity because we are grounded in our common humanity. Their community is not united by common humanity. It is defined by what it is not.

Fanatics are defined by their hatreds; free people by their humanity.

Extra credit if you can identify the writer.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Exclusivity: A Theory

One of my cousins (from a "worldly" branch of the family tree) is a psychologist. She has a theory that our grandparents joined the OALC during the Depression because it made a virtue out of their sudden poverty. Well, I was stunned to hear this. Could it be true? Or did their joining the OALC prevent further decline?

Apparently our grandfather, a kind and generous hardworking giant who played the accordion (it reportedly paid for his passage from Sweden) lived near apostolic Finns all his life. He was not compelled to join them until the hard times hit. Was this his way of keeping the kids (and any OALC workers) down on the farm? His older children had already left for the city. If so, it worked. The younger children became -- and still are -- avid OALers.

I bring this up because I've been pondering the psychological basis for exclusivity. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism. If you have made a painful sacrifice (giving up intellectual and spiritual growth and inquiry, higher education, travel, music, sports, art, freedom from unwanted children, an egalitarian marriage, whatever), your psyche will want to defend that sacrifice against all criticism or doubt. The LESS faith you have that your sacrifice was warranted, the MORE stridently you will defend it, and to denounce outsiders as "other." The LESS secure one is, the MORE needy of affirmation, which is received by others in the group.

What I see in the message of exclusivity is a little child begging to be assured that he/she is special.

That's my two-bit theory. What do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Amazing Grace

Thank you, exLLC, for your post under the previous topic. I'm reposting it below with a name removed and some typo corrections (because I think it is better that we keep personal identities private, and for ease in translation for our non-English readers). I was surprised at the methods and words of your LLC brethren. It still stuns me that this kind of behavior is seen as compassionate! You handled it very well, and I'm thrilled that you've found a new faith community and are thriving. Bless your Granny! Her love is certainly flowing through you. And now, who knows how many you will help with your story? Thank you for sharing. (Please let me know if I erred in my edits.)

It was July 30, 2005 when I was first considered an unbeliever by the LLC. That was one month and 18 days ago. I would like to share my experiences. I wrote the following on August 4, four days later.

My church teaches that we should be like a open book and talk freely about our trials in faith. I think this is a healthy thing to do. I see other people talking about their troubles freely, and I wished I could do the same. The problem was that I have rejected the church's teachings that have no basis on the Bible, and I wanted to keep it a secret (for now). I've never talked to anyone inside the church about my views and what I thought was wrong in the church. The result was that I became like a closed book, and I hid many things from my loved ones that I so badly wanted to share. Living like this can be very frustrating. I have been praying A LOT for this to change. I asked God that He would make me like an open book again, and to be around people who I could be open with. God has answered my prayers.

I posted a part of my diary on the Learning to Live Free blog, anonymously. Apparently the church elders read the blog too. Even though I was anonymous, there were enough hints in my posting for someone who was determined to find out who I was. Apparently there were some people who where determined. It was the last day of July when a group of Laestadians confronted me.

I was asked “How are your matters of faith?”

“Good,” I replied.

“Have you been thinking about leaving the church?”

I lied: “No”

“I don't think you completely understand my question, have you been thinking about leaving the LLC?”

“Umm, no . . . I really don't want to leave.”

“Are you the one who has been writing online about how you don't like the church?”

“Ya, well, i did post one thing, if it's the same thing you're talking about.”

Wow, this was the moment I had been dreading for years. And to make things worse, they where talking about what I wrote in my journal. I looked around the room and wondered if everyone in it had read that part of my diary. I was so embarrassed. But this moment that I had been dreading wasn't as bad as I had feared. This was the first time that I told a Laestadian my discontent with the church. We had quite a discussion, and it felt so good to share with these people what I have learned from the Bible and kept secret. It was like a heavy burden was lifted off me. I realized that I was now being like an open book, and that is exactly what I had been praying for, I then rejoiced knowing God had answered my prayers, even though it was not in the way I had expected.

It was a discussion that I will never forget. We talked a lot about how big the kingdom of God is. I shared with them that the one thing that I don't like about the church is that it teaches that we are the only Christians. I said that if that wasn't taught, then I really wouldn't have a problem with the church.

Harsh words where said, like M-- telling me “Well, we can't pretend that that you are a believer any more.” Hearing that was hurtful, but I expected it, and I felt no anger towards the man. We talked about why I am not considered a believer, and as far as gathered, it is because I disagree with some things in the doctrine. I am "not a Christian" because I think that attending church at the LLC is not a requirement to get into heaven (even though I've been receiving the forgiveness of sins their way).

I think I rattled those folks. I think they where expecting me to do one of two things when they confronted me: 1. to conform and repent or 2. to become angry and reject my faith. I did neither one. I definitely didn't conform, I didn't deny my faith but said I disagree with you, and instead of being filled with anger I showed love. I don't think
anyone knew how to handle this, for M--, the one who had been leading this whole talk, suddenly left without any explanation. We continued the discussion without him, but then I noticed a chair of another preacher suddenly became empty. They kept leaving until there was just one other person in the room, then she had to leave also.

I was questioned a lot if I was going to leave the church. I kept on saying “I don't know what I'll do. It's true, I really don't know what I'll do now, but it isn't worrying me. As for the very near future, I think I'll do about the same thing as before. I will go to church, sometimes at the LLC, sometimes at different churches. I will tell other people my situation and hear their advice, from Laestadians and non-Laestadians. My grandmother told me that nobody can kick me out of the church. I am not going to start a reformation or go around telling people that the church is wrong and they need to leave. So I think my granny is probably right.. My grandmother also told me that she still considers me a Christian. It is really wonderful that the person who I love the most in my church still accepts me.

If there's anyone out there who is going through a situation similar to mine, I have some advice.

--Remember that most of the people in your church are Christians. I know that it is easy to think otherwise, but they serve the same God you do. Judge not lest you be Judged.

--God does not want a division in the church.

--If you are angry or bitter with the people in the church in general, do not confront them. Acting out on your anger can really screw things up.

--Visit other churches, talk to the pastors about what you are going through. At the very least, just find someone to talk to.

--Pray . . . every day. God will answer.

--Oh, and be careful of what you say on this website. It's being watched.

Fast forward one month and 18 days, and I have only been to the LLC once since then. I have been going to another church which has turned out pretty good for me.

I had another spiritual experience Labor Day weekend. I went to a camp-out with my new church. This was my very first church-camp I have ever been to outside of the LLC. I had so much fun there. We were out in the pines trees overlooking a meadow. At first I only knew a couple people there, but everyone was so nice to me that by the end of the weekend everyone seemed like family. I was able to make some great new friends and get to know some of the people in the new church. I taught the youth some campfire games, and provided them with marshmallows and i personally made as many s'mores as I could for the youth. I organized kick-the-can games and flashlight tag, then I stayed awake until the morning just chatting with a couple newly-made friends. We had a Hawaiian luau, and held Sunday services. The entire weekend was a blast for me. It gave me a sense of "I belong with these people," something I've been longing for. The entire weekend I was at peace. My intention was to take lots of pictures and post them on-line, but the brand-new batteries i bought only had enough juice for one picture. I'll try to post it here.

A month from now, I will be going to a youth convention. This convention will be huge. There will be a battle-of-the-Christian-bands, plus a gigantic worship service involving thousands of youth. We will be transported 100 miles into the big city and we'll rent a bunch of motel rooms for the weekend. I'm so excited, I've never been to anything like this before, hey, worshiping is kind of new concept to me. This time I'll be sure to buy Duracells for the camera, and I'll tell you guys all about it. God's Peace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mysterious Book

I can't remember where I purchased this lovely little Swedish guide to theatre vocabulary, but I'm sure I was intrigued by the name Lars-Levi Laestadius on the cover (he authored the foreword). Could this writer be a descendant of the Dean himself? With theatrical inclinations? Hmmm . . . . Please help me out if you can. The publication date is 1951.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Walking the Talk

Veni, vidi, amici. We came, we saw, we made friends. Lovely friends. Our visit to Walla Walla (the town so nice they named it twice) could not have been better. Whether from familial recognition or my cousin's considerable charisma, our 4-year old threw her arms around him within minutes of our meeting. We spent many enjoyable hours sharing stories, going to the county fair, visiting the old family farm, touring a winery, feasting on home-cooked meals, singing around the piano, poring over photographs of ancestors, kibbutzing with more cousins, and on Sunday, attending church.

Looking at the barn that was put together without nails, peering into the root cellar where the summer's fruits were stored for the cold winters, surveying the wide swaths of farmland that was once plowed by horse, I felt such respect for my Finnish forebears. Their lives were wicked hard, and often short. It is no wonder that some considered this earth a vale of tears, and clung to a religion that emphasized earthly suffering and heavenly rewards. But how was it that some of them taught their children grace and generosity and tolerance?

Our visit was over too soon.

I teased my cousin about his horns, and joked that I would make sets of them to wear to an OALC function. He was surprised but good-humored about his OAL status as a "worldly" . . . his only memories of "apostolic" relatives are good ones. (Meeting his mother, who radiates warmth and acceptance, I saw the source of his generosity. Being well-loved makes one loving. Isn't that really the heart of Christianity?)

As I listened to their pastor encourage aid to the hurricane victims last Sunday, I wondered what OALC preachers were saying about this tragedy. Tonight a former member phoned and shared some rather disheartening reactions she'd heard from OALC kin. I hope they aren't true.

We can all afford to be loving.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Family Lost and Found

A few months ago, someone saw my post on a genealogy website and shot me an email: "Hi, we are related." It was a second cousin from the "non-OALC" side of the family. Fast forward to this weekend. We're piling into our trusty Corolla and driving east to visit him and a whole passel of mystery relatives in Walla Walla, Washington.

It seems this cousin's grandmother (sister to my grandmother and 12 other siblings) left the Finnish Lutheran church of her South Dakota childhood and thereafter attended a Presybterian church, in which she raised her children. If she suffered from the shunning of her siblings who remained OALC, she didn't talk about it with her grandson, who thought the OALC was just a "Finnish branch of the German Lutheran church."

Hmmm. Not quite. In any case, we're delighted to have found each other.

I'm kind of giddy about meeting these rels, and a little anxious, too (I hope they aren't disappointed in me! Thankfully I have my husband and children along to compensate in the charm & good looks department.)

Wish me luck.

(And check out the new link up there beneath my eyes -- please click on it to go to the Red Cross. Babies are dying for lack of water, in the richest country in the world.)