Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thinking About

The news that the SRK in Finland is (finally) confessing its culpability in widespread child sexual abuse gives hope that American Laestadian churches will do the same. It may take a strong Laestadian like Dr. Johanna Hurtig to ask the tough questions and refuse to be rebuffed.

A Laestadian and child welfare advocate, Dr. Hurtig was involved in bringing the abuse issues to light. Her perspective is nuanced and in my experience, accurate. As someone who was molested as a child, I know there are many factors that lead to abuse in the church, including a strong emphasis on obedience (children are unable to develop personal boundaries), misognyny (females are responsible for male sexual acts, and female honor is secondary to male honor), and the practice of repentance, in which the victim is required to simply forgive, and the perpetrator is given a blank slate. But there are other factors, too.

When asked "Do you feel that there are characteristics in the movement that can lead to abuse?" this was Dr. Hurtig's response (read the entire interview here):

“I am only starting to ponder the reasons. The experiences of the victims bring out distortions of forgiveness, and the fatigue of large families. Children can sometimes find it hard to get enough attention from adults, and to become conscious of their rights when they grow up in a large group. Exhausted parents are not always capable of sensing their children’s needs and if they are feeling all right.”

“Also the position of women, restrictions linked with sexuality, and the strong community faith can have an effect. When the community itself is seen to be sacred, its structures and practices are not examined in a critical manner. It can hide extreme evil.”

“But matters in the culture, the community, and in the teaching do not cause these cases on their own. An overwhelming majority live healthy and responsible lives. There has to be some other factor, for instance, a distorted way of thinking which sexualizes children, and which is passed down from one generation to the next.”


What do you think? What reforms are needed to protect the vulnerable, some of whom -- as you read this -- are suffering? Is there a Dr. Hurtig among the American Laestadians who will dare speak for them?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SRK admits serious mistakes in dealing with sex abuse

Thanks to commenter Xsa for pointing out this article, the most comprehensive English-language recap I've seen thus far of everything to do with the current SRK Laestadian sex abuse scandal happening in Finland:

Conservative Laestadians admit serious mistakes in dealing with child abuse issue – trust is gone in SRK

The responsible leaders’ excuse for keeping a very tight lid on hundreds of child victims and a myriad of perpetrators, who have not come to light, is “lack of information”. Anyone of the 24 members of the SRK board (they all are men) did not know anything.

Someone else could suggest “lack of freedom of speech”, too.

Friday, April 01, 2011

An Outsider's look at the ALC OALC

What do strangers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Laestadianism think when they visit an Apostolic Lutheran congregation --specifically the Hockinson church?

Among other things, they might mistake it for the OALC.

Apostolic Lutheran: The Begotten, by Amanda P. Westmont. This documented visit is part of the blog A Year of Sundays whose tagline is: "we go to church so you don't have to." The goal of the site is to visit a different type of church each Sunday and write a humorous post about it.

See also the companion piece, A Brush Prairie Home Companion, by Joel Gunz

Why? "Because Baptists can’t have all the fun, Buddhists can’t have all the peace, Jews can’t have all the guilt, Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t all the apocalypse fantasies and Catholics can’t have all the cute altar boys."

Enjoy!

P.S. Another post with a picture of the interior of the church. Also, apparently a visit to an OALC congregation is forthcoming!