Friday, October 30, 2009

Do Laestadians celebrate Halloween?

I think we may have discussed this before, but in honor of Halloween weekend I thought I'd bring it up again.

Growing up in the ALC, my family had a very ambivalent attitude towards Halloween. We were allowed limited trick-or-treating, but we could never dress up as anything "supernatural." No ghosts, witches, vampires, demons, etc. allowed. I was a cowboy one year, and a clown another. There was never anything church-sponsored for Halloween. As far as the church was concerned it didn't exist.

As a teen I remember my parents being invited to a Halloween party being put on by some fellow Laestadians. It was billed as a "Reformation Party" even though people dressed up in Halloween costumes, there was bobbing for apples, etc. However in the middle of the party someone gave a little talk about Martin Luther, his 95 theses, and how even in the middle of a party we needed to be serious about our faith. This, I believe, was considered progressive.

Since my childhood, Halloween has become fodder for the culture wars in the United States. Many of my former Laestadian friends and family have left for conservative evangelical churches that associate Halloween with Satanism, neo-Paganism, and other feared isms. I find it ironic that they now have an even more reactionary view towards Halloween now than we did growing up.

I'm interested in hearing about what other branches of Laestadianism do or don't do for Halloween. Is it celebrated in Scandinavia at all?

As someone wise once said, what WE make of it is what matters.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Milla Clementsdotter and the Readers

Matt Perkins has a new post about Mary Lapp, the Reader movement, pietism, and Laestadianism out on his blog this morning. I think it's worth checking out.

Lapin Maija, by Matt Perkins

Since I finished reading Lars Levi Laestadius and the Revival in Lapland, by Warren H. Hepokoski I've gotten more interested in the Reader movement. Many of the on-line sources place Laestadius within the Reader context. What I find fascinating about the Readers are the extremes of their belief, with Hepokoski reporting that some Readers actually thought they were Jesus Christ, and that their pronouncements superceded Scripture.

The more I read about Laestadian history, the more I can sympathize with why Laestadius would start his movement, but I also sympathize with why the established church found it so troubling. It's fun to imagine myself back in the 1850s in Finland. Would I be a Reader, a Laestadian, or would I support the state church? Would I come to the same conclusions my ancestors did?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Boundaries, and those who cross them

I read an interesting article this morning by Carl McColman about boundaries which reflected upon a couple of mutually paradoxical points.

On the one hand every community, religious or otherwise, has boundaries that determine who is in and who is out of the community, define norms for acceptable behavior, etc. Sometimes boundaries are helpful, but other times (and here I'm thinking about my own Laestadian upbringing and the stories many others have shared on this site) boundaries can be very damaging, promoting fear of "the other," conformity, and stifling creativity.

On the other hand, Christians have the example of Jesus, who constantly got in trouble with the religious and secular authorities of his day for crossing boundaries. Looking at the theology and the stories the church tells about Jesus this theme is even more pronounced. Jesus violates the boundaries between human and Divine, between body and spirit, between heaven and earth, between death and life.

from That which is different by Carl McColman

[W]hile there may be boundaries that separate believer from non-believer, love -- true love, the love that comes from God -- knows no boundaries. So we who live inside the boundaries have to learn how to love through the boundaries. I’m not sure what that looks like, because it sounds like something that could easily be condescending or "second rate." But I don't think love operates according to a caste system. Jesus didn't say, "Love your Christian neighbors as yourself," nor did he say "love your neighbors as yourself, and of course this means different things depending on whether your neighbor is a believer or not." So here's the paradox: the boundaries of Christianity remind us who we are: a people who have given our lives over to love. Remove the boundaries, and our identity is in jeopardy. But it is that very identity that calls us to cross the boundaries with the lavish, prodigal love of God.

As ex-Laestadians, we've all crossed a pretty large boundary. What has it meant for you to be a boundary crosser? Has it changed the way you think about boundaries in general? What boundaries, if any, are still meaningful?