Thursday, December 20, 2007

Home for the Holidays?

With Christmas approaching and many people travelling or visiting family members they may not often interact with, I thought Anonymous' comment on the Unforgivable Sin topic was especially timely:

This is off topic, but I would love to hear what other people have to say about this. How do you deal with your family that is still within the church? Do you speak about why you left and every reason why the church has it all backwards, or do you keep quiet? There is a part of me that realizes that I will keep my relationship with my family intact if I just keep quiet about everything that I believe and know, but there is also a part of me that so badly wants to pour my heart out to them. I love all of them so much and sometimes I look at there lives and suffering and so badly want to open my mouth and let them hear it all. There thinking is so ignorant and unselfish that they end up suffering so much through this one short life they have been given. My fear about speaking arises from hearing about 'evil workers' while I was a member of the OALC, and knowing how devoted my family is to the church and there rules, I would hate to speak my mind and lose my family. I have toyed with this thought thinking that well, if they choose to abandon me over this, they are not people I want in my life anyways, but I know that I would be brokenhearted if I lost my family, they mean so much to me. Who knows, maybe over time they will slowly disappear anyways. We are like oil and water now.

-ttg

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Us and Them

I ran across this poem by Rudyard Kipling recently. It reminded me of the Laestadian mindset
(all too easy to fall into even if you're ex-Laestadian or never Laestadian:)

We and They


All nice people, like us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!)
Looking on We
As only a sort of They!


In college I learned about "binary opposites," socially constructed pairings such as us/them, male/female, black/white, rich/poor, civilized/savage, etc. Western thought is based upon drawing these distinctions, and priviledging one of the set in the pairs over the other. Laestadianism shares in this heritage and expands upon it.

The story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection can be seen as one of reconciling opposites. As Advent gives way to Christmas in the days ahead, ponder these binary opposites:

heaven/earth, life/death, divine/human, spirit/body

Happy Holidays!
-ttg

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unforgivable Sin

Bunless said...
I would like to start a new thread on this issue. I grew up OALC. I am now married with children and belong to a healthy church. In the OALC I was taught there is one unforgivable sin, they call it "selling your birthright" and explained that it meant either saying bad things about the OALC, or if you were born/baptized into the church and then left. I have assumed that this is the theoretical origin of the shaming and shunning of members who "stray away" (myself, for example). Can anyone please explain the theological thinking behind this, and if you encountered this teaching in your experience with OALC.

then Many Trails Home responded...
Bunless (love your moniker), when I tried to absolve my mom of responsibility for my immortal soul by telling her that I didn't want her to worry about me, that I had a relationship with God (she said it was the devil), and that I was responsible for myself, she started crying and said "you sold your soul for a mess of pottage." It took me forever - and I mean decades - to accept the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion would ever shrink the gulf between her and me. I had to finally accept her for the way she is, including what she believes (staunch OALC) and what she thinks of me.
Actually, I don't think there is any theological basis to the "selling your birthright" threat. I think it's only meant to scare the crap out of people so they don't leave, and it's pretty effective for most.
Many blessings to you. Wishing you peace of mind and happy holidays. MTH


to which I add...

Fear of the unforgivable sin was a big fear for me as a child. Since I was already somewhat neurotic, I was ripe to be obsessed about something like this. I think in some ways Laestadianism gives neurotic people a focus (and victims for psychotic people, but that's a different blog post). Lots of rules to be overly scrupulous about. So when I read the biblical passage about "blaspheming the holy spirit" --the sin from which no one can be forgiven, young me obsessed about accidentally breaking this rule and thus being damned to hell for all eternity.

My parents, while I'm sure they meant well, could not allay my fears by telling me that I was in no danger of breaking this rule, which only added to my distress. The best they could do was tell me to pray about it, which I did compulsively until I was mentally exhausted.

-ttg

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gratitude

Growing up Laestadian, there seemed to be so much focus on the negative. "Don't do this." "Don't do that." "They are going to hell." "They aren't really saved."

Even though I've left Laestadianism behind, negativity still persists. Is it a Finnish thing? Is it a Laestadian thing? Is it just a "me" thing? In any event, it's a lot easier to be positive as a gnomelike persona on the internet than it is to be positive in real life. :-)

Anyway, I recently ran across an article by "positive psychologist" David Pollay about "building gratitude chains" that I thought was illuminating:


The challenge then is for us to find ways of becoming more grateful. One powerful way to increase your gratitude is by increasing the number of what I call “Gratitude Chains” in your life. Gratitude Chains are made up of links of appreciation for what contributes to the people and things we care about. Here are the four keys to building Gratitude Chains.

Cultivate Awareness
. . .
Cultivate Curiosity
. . .
Cultivate Memory
. . .
Link Your Gratitude Chains Together


For all the details, visit his site. I've started keeping a gratitude journal in an effort to become more aware of the things I am grateful for. Here are few entries I made recently:



  • I am grateful for family time, like yesterday when we all went to see the holiday displays together
  • I am grateful for my wife, she is such a good bargain shopper!
  • I am grateful for my daughter, her kindness, generosity, and maturity.
  • I am grateful for a warm house and cars that work on cold winter days.
  • I am grateful for my job and for vacation time
  • I am grateful for my wife, who makes me lunch, and is such a capable person.
  • I am grateful for my child, who brings me joy seeing how much she enjoys her life.
  • I am grateful for my mind and thoughts, which can dwell on interesting intellectual and spiritual pursuits
  • I am grateful for a hot sauna
  • I am grateful for my wife, who is such a good host and makes people feel welcome in our home.
  • I am grateful that I have a job, when the news says that recession is looming.
  • I am grateful for the Extoots blog, where I can post my thoughts about spiritual subjects
  • I am grateful for my daughter, whose happiness and wonder reminds me of what is good in the world.
  • I am grateful for my wife, who made me lunch of turkey salad today.
  • I am grateful for the Extoots blog, since it reminds me that there are others who have gone through some of the stuff I have gone through.


-ttg

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Church Shopping

I'm church shopping again; I'm sure that you ex-Laestadians out there have been through this too. So this article from the Christian Century's Blog (great magazine and great blog, by the way) hit me when I read it yesterday:



Church shopping has been rightfully attacked as a consumerist, individualistic approach to faith --as a shopper, I do what "works for me" on a Sunday morning, and I can change churches as fast as my preferences change.

All the same, we've nearly all done it to some degree or another. The parish model of churchgoing rarely addresses the realities of our mobility and, though we might hesitate to admit it, few of us would last long in a church environment where at least some of our needs were not being met.
. . .
Is there a better way to conduct this kind of search, a way that is not consumerist at its core?


Thoughts?

-ttg