Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is it "Caretaking" or Pressure, Intimidation, Blackmail?

A reader sent this article and the English translation below (lightly edited for clarity). If you understand Finnish, you'll want to read the comments as well.

Conservative Laestadians tell of pressure in “caretaking meetings”

July 17,2011
by Pauliina Grönholm
Helsingin Sanomat

People belonging to the Conservative Laestadian revivalist movement, which operates within the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church, say they experienced pressure as well as spiritual violence, in so-called caretaking meetings.

A caretaking meeting in Conservative Laestadianism means a pastoral care event at which a member is called to "repent."

These meetings were especially common in the 1970's, but according to individuals interviewed by this newspaper, these sessions are still being held. These individuals said they were either a subject of caretaking meetings or were forced to follow the treatment "by the side."

They said that Executive Board members of the Central Association of Finnish Peace Associatons (SRK) as well as priests participated in the meetings.

Conservative Laestadian "Jukka" has first-hand experience of these meetings (because of his close friends, he does not want to appear in this interview with his real name).

Jukka says that current caretaking meetings are less organized and systematic than in the 1970's. Subjects are now individuals who have publicly expressed dissident opinions from the SRK's official views.

While caretaking meetings are often referred to as pastoral care in Conservative Laestadianism, Jukka has a different view.

"In those [meetings] are all the characteristics of the spiritual violence fullfilled: pressure, intimidation and blackmail."

“You may end up in caretaking if you have dissenting opinions, for example about family planning or the ordination of women, but also, for example, if you listen to rock music, go to concerts, or dye your hair."


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Gifts of Imperfection

A reader suggests we post a link to the Facebook page for this Amy Ahonen, who has gone missing in Colorado. Please use your personal networks to get the word out. Sometimes clues come from unexpected places. I dearly hope Amy comes home safe and soon.

On another topic, I am reading a book recommended by a friend, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. It is rare that I read "self-help" books, and rarer still that I recommend them, but this one is resonating with me and may be of value to other former Laestadians.

If you feel inclined, read it and let's talk about it here.

You can also watch the author in her TedX speech, in which she talks about "The Power of Vulnerability." It's about 20 minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee.

Brown's research (as a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work) shows that people who have a strong sense of belonging and happiness are those who feel WORTHY of belonging and happiness.

Did you feel worthy in the church? Do you now? What is the difference?

How compassionate are you to yourself?

I am frequently told by my (very happy!) husband that I am "too hard" on myself. It is not possible for him to understand how much humility, shame, and NON-vulnerability (absolute faith) were encouraged in my upbringing. Those are very hard habits to break.

Try taking this online survey of "self-compassion" suggested by Brown. I did, and found myself annoyed by the questions. Clearly I have issues with these topics. I wish I had scored higher, if only for my kids' sakes, as I KNOW compassion is "caught not taught" and they are undoubtedly getting some very mixed messages.

But I will continue to work on self-compassion, even when my "inner Laestadius" rebukes me for it.

Let me know your thoughts.