Monday, October 29, 2007

Were the Finns Treated Fairly?

When I saw this article on MSN I immediately thought of the current discussion here regarding racism and the gross injustice done to Japanese-Americans during World War Two.

Minnesota's Finnish guests find a rude airport welcome

Erkki Maattanen, a filmmaker for Finnish Public Television who accompanied the musicians on the September trip, said his questioners seemed to think the entourage was smuggling drugs or intending to work without a permit. "I kept trying to tell them why we were here, but they'd just yell, 'Shut up!"' he said.
What is going on at this airport? First Larry Craig and now this?

-ttg

Monday, October 22, 2007

Racism, Laestadian style

I received this question from a reader recently:

Why do so many Laestadians seem to be prejudiced against blacks especially, but people from other cultures, as well? How can they justify that? Standing out in the parking lot after church, I don't even know how many times I've heard the n-word. . .There are so few blacks in the LLL churches that it's ridiculous. Well, wait a minute. Actually there is a small LLC congregation of blacks in Togo, Africa, now. Maybe that will help some of them get over their attitudes. . .


Growing up in the ALC, racism was a common theme as well. N-jokes were told alongside other ethnic jokes. Our church was a small one, in the rural upper Midwest. Looking back I'm not sure whether we were any more racist than the general population, or if we were reflecting the general population on this issue. Both the church and the general population was quite racist. As northerners we liked to think that we were above such things (on the winning side of the Civil War and all) but I remember the way that "the new kid," a Hispanic foster child was received at school in our small town. The epithets, the shunning, his isolation. He didn't stay long.

At church I remember hearing a story about the one time a black family visited our congregation. Apparently the pastor switched his sermon at the last minute to include a long-winded section explaining how nobody in our congregation was prejudiced.

I think the pastor was afraid that our visitors would find something lacking with us or in our church. There was so much fear growing up Laestadian. Fear of breaking the rules. Fear of "worldly" people and influences. Fear that God would punish harshly any failing. Fear of "The Other."

When angels speak to people in the Bible, one phrase they often utter is "Do not be afraid." I take this to mean that our fear can keep us from loving God, and from loving our neighbor. So much bad behaviour is motivated by fear.

How do we, as Laestadians and ex-Laestadians, step past the fear?

-ttg

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finding God in the Brain

I ran across this article recently, and thought I'd share:

Searching for God in the Brain, from Scientific American

As one who is fascinated with religious experience, I was intrigued by the finding that mystical experiences, speaking in tongues, and the like can be positively correlated with activity in specific regions of the brain.

Here's my bias: I think that any religion worth its salt should be able to provide its adherents with profound experiences. In that light, do you think Laestadianism measures up? Does it provide an experience of divine union? if so, which practices or beliefs facilitate this?

Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.


What do you think? Do these kind of findings have a positive, negative, or no effect on your faith?

I'm with the nuns. I think it's exciting that there might actually be a part of the brain that allows us to experience the Divine.


-ttg

Friday, October 12, 2007

Forgiveness, Laestadian Style

I think the recent comments regarding sexual abuse and forgiveness are very iluminating, and extend well beyond the present context. I completely agree with the folks who have said that forgiveness within the OALC (and I saw this issue alive and well within the ALC too) was and is used to sweep problems under the rug, to shift responsibility from perpetrator to victim, and to allow people to maintain appearances and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

One of the reasons why this tactic is so effective, of course, is because as Christians we really are called to forgive each other. But is forgiveness saying "I forgive you" and then never speaking of the matter again? Absolutely not!

True forgiveness is a long process. It's the end of a long journey that in the case of abuse should start with a full criminal investigation. Only once the full extent of what the perpetrator has done has been exposed, examined, and judged in the full light of day can an informed decision about forgiveness be made. Only once the victim is safe from threat of further abuse and given time and resources to process the experience of what has happened to them are they in a position to consider true forgiveness.

The quick shortcuts to forgiveness offered by the Laestadian churches cheapens true forgiveness and in the case of abuse only serves to short-circuit the healing process and to enable the perpetrators to continue on in their evil ways.

This issue enrages me for a couple of reasons. First, sexual abuse happened within my extended family many years ago. It was covered up and never talked about. Secondly, the same dynamic comes into play for so many lesser issues as well. "Forgiveness" being used to close down discussion and disagreement of all kinds.

I apologize if this post sounds like I'm shouting. I'm not shouting at anyone but the perpetrators and enablers of this sick theological idea.


-ttg

Friday, October 05, 2007

Once

One of the few things that I think Laestadians do well is the aesthetic of beauty in plainness. There is a quiet beauty in a plain, white-painted wooden country church adorning a stark prairie landscape. A not-so-quiet, yet equally subtle beauty in seeing a large family of young children sharing a pew on Sunday morning. The beauty of young women with fresh-scrubbed faces and cotton print dresses. Of elders chanting mournfully in Finnish before ambling forward to receive communion.

I was reminded of this luminousness last weekend when my wife and I went to see the movie "Once." Set in Ireland, it captured "a guy" and "a girl" with simple dreams and ordinary challenges. Similar to Sweet Land there is a sub-theme of the immigration experience (in this case "the girl" is a first generation Czech immigrant). Yet throughout the film plainness and ordinariness is suffused by a quiet dignity, basic goodness, humor, and of course great music.

I recommend this film. It is rated "R" solely for language. I don't find this problematic, but if you do this is your warning. :-) Below are links to the film's web site and blog:

Once Official web site
Once Official Blog


-ttg

It's been a bit slow here lately...

It's been a bit slow here lately. I thought I'd create this post as a place where people can post their ideas for topics. Post just an idea, or something that is fleshed out. If you have a full article-length piece of content that you wrote yourself, post it here as a comment and I'll repost it as a topic.

Or if you'd rather Email me ideas, my address is e (dot) tomte (at) gmail (dot) com.


-ttg