Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Margaret's Story (The Voices Project)

I want to thank "Margaret" for sharing her story. Please consider telling yours.

IF IT'S NOT OKAY

My father was not from the church originally, but joined later on (mainly because he met my mother, who he wanted to marry, and saw that the only way to marry her was to join the religion). So he joined, dated my mother for a year or two, got engaged, and as is typical with OALC (Old Apostolic Lutheran Church) couples, got married a few months later and then nine months after that, I was born. Now what my mother couldn't know and what she couldn't see—because she was so naive and so fully inundated with the message that marriage is what a young woman should aspire to—was that my father was troubled.

He was controlling (which she likely mistook for love), he was arrogant, he was opinionated, but because all of this fit within the ideal that the OALC sets for women—that the husband is the protector, that the woman should listen to him and obey him, that the woman is merely the helpmate—she wasn't able to spot the red flags. What ended up occurring was years of abuse not only of her but of me, her daughter. It was verbal, it was physical, and there were times that he was sexually inappropriate. 

Amongst all of this, my brother and I were being raised in the church. I went to high school desperate to fit in with the OALC youth, but just couldn't. Among other things, they were racist, they were rude, they were so concerned with materialistic items and who was dating whom that it made me nauseous—nobody cared about doing anything besides sitting in the Fred Meyer parking lot and smoking a cigarette (or five). It was so frustrating that at the age of sixteen, even though I was abused at home and terrified to my core, I refused to go to church.
 . . . even though I was abused at home and terrified to my core, I refused to go to church.
Of course, there was fallout. There was a lot of talks with my parents, who were disappointed. Then there were the meetings with the preachers, several of whom told me that my desire to play sports and to go to college was foolish, and that I should focus on being a good helpmate for my future husband who would, as one put it, "just be paying off your college debts while you raised the children anyway. Why would you want to put a good man through unnecessary debt?"

But the most important thing about my story—and what I desperately want people to know—is that after I left, I went to college. I graduated, and am a nurse, making good money at a job I love. When I left, it gave my mother the strength to leave, too. She now has a college degree and a new husband who is not from the church and makes her brilliantly happy. My little brother just went to his first prom and couldn't have had a bigger smile on his face. The struggle is unimaginable when you are going through it and there is a depth of pain that is almost unbearable. You feel like a failure because you couldn't fit in, you feel embarrassed of yourself and your desires, but the truth is, you were just strong enough to stand up for yourself when what you knew what happening was wrong. 

You saw a group that was fervently bent on a religious ideology that was fundamentally wrong in the way that it was executed and you chose not to stand for it. Instead of standing for constant judgement and rigid rules that somehow dictate whether or not you will be saved, you realized that there was a way to live life with love in your heart for everybody. It is terrifying to leave something that was completely your way of life, but now the choice is up to you. 
. . . you realized that there was a way to live life with love in your heart for everybody. 
I chose to go to college and get a nursing degree. I chose to get engaged to a wonderful man. I chose to be a nondenominational Christian and have never been stronger spiritually. I realized the joy that going to a really good movie can bring. The overwhelming amount of choices you can make is amazing, and though daunting at first, soon you realize that your life is your own. 

You can be free of abuse, you can create the life that feels good for you, and you can still be a Christian. The poisonous lie that exists in the OALC that that church is the one way to get to Heaven is just that, a lie. It can be difficult to realize that those you thought were your family and friends will not recognize you and will still be believing that lie but understand this: they cling to it because they were too weak to see that there is good in all people, not just the OALC, and the word of God is good, no matter what Christian denomination you might be.
Learn to live free, and remember: "If it's not okay, it's not the end."

***

17 comments:

  1. I would say that 'Margaret's Story' is a common story amongst those who have left Laestadianism. All too often those who would not 'fit in' later on in life were those who did not fit in when they were younger either. Those who are on the outside of the 'clique' usually will go to great efforts to fit in with the norms of the insiders as they rapidly learn what shunning feels like in their early teens. I recall parents warning their children not to associate with children who were from more 'liberal' families as they felt their own children might be led astray. However, there were those who never did fit in socially and I saw some of them turn to alcoholism, depression and aloofness as ways of coping. Interestingly enough I noticed that those who were the most intelligent were most often those who ended up being left out of the inside clique. I saw girls 'dumb themselves down' as they did not want to be seen as smart and hence unattractive to the guys. I saw guys dumb themselves down to and settle on a construction trade in order to be acceptable to the Laestadian norms. There were a few brave souls, usually academically inclined, who managed to get themselves into college and finish their education. Most of my association with ex-Laestadians has been with the academic types. We all have the same comments and observations about Laestadianism, regardless of which group we escaped from. Many of those who left will privately admit to abusive situation which they faced growing up; physical, emotional, sexual etc... Yet going one's own merry way is not without its challenges as it involves a plethora of choices which one never had to face within Laestadian realms as most choices were made for you. Initially for example, I had a very hard time adjusting to making personal choices as I never really was allowed to make up my own mind, let alone verbalize it, while growing up. Margaret's story is essentially all of our stories. Old AP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Old AP, as usual, you are right on target. Excellent observations, which fully apply to LLC/SRK Laestadianism as well. I was the child of a Catholic convert and a repented rebel, one of just a few siblings with no extended family in the church. It was a pretty lonely road for me and my kids, even at the best of times.

      Delete
  2. Why do Finns who are intelligent in most areas of life, fall for the ,poisonous lie, that their Laestadian church faction group is the only ones that are heaven bound. The reason is we refuse to read the Bible in depth for ourselves. We would quickly find out that the church is. Teaching a lot of bull. That was my lazy reason. The first 3 chapters of Eph. Will help you...Matt

    ReplyDelete
  3. Matt, I have pondered that same question.....how could people who are so intelligent otherwise, fall for such a line of malarkey? Having grown up with the stuff, my guess is that the horse blinders are put on the children at such a young age that they are never alllowed to see what is to the left or right. The level of indoctrination within so many Laestadian homes is so intense that what would be considered a rational thought process and intuitive logic are tamped down in favor of blind acceptance of the party line. A hellish fear level is used to cement Laestadian foundational beliefs into children and young people. At least that is how it was in our home and from what I could see that is how most homes seemed to operate. Of course mainstream Laestadian church members would adamantly deny that they do this to their children as they themselves have blinders on. So many Laestadian beliefs and outlooks are based on superstition and voodoo type beliefs which have nothing to do with the Bible. But try telling them that and watch the reaction. Old AP

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think we need to understand the danger the people in the pews will eventually find themselves. Those people that are being taught false doctrine and traditions of men. TheBible says traditions of men being taught will void the word of God and you end up with no value no power. Gal 5:4 also tells us if try and add anything to simp ly trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross we will have fallen from grace and Christ profits you nothing...That doesnt sound good. How can the Ladstadian Churches please God and make it to heaven if we can't add anything to faith alone in Christ alone?....The preacher puts the poor people in the pews in range.....Matt

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know that there is 0% chance for most to come out of it. It has been passed on since 1805 or whatever. I am not part of it, but I suffered from it because of being around it for over a decade. I had a small child walk up to my desk and ask me, or I think he observed that "You listen to the evil music". This kid was no more than 4 years old. I felt humiliated and that this kid had shown this groups true colors. They are like the Pharisees- they revel in watching others complete their own sin bucket list. They think they are taking one for the team by foregoing music or sex. They give each other a blue ribbon for this and teach their kids to hate. It's so maddening. They won't budge an inch. They are right. I am wrong. They are on a high moral plain yet they claim they are "weak and weary doubting travelers". WHAT A BUNCH OF BS!!! THEY OOZE WITH PRIDE AND SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS JUST LIKE THE PHARISEES!!!

    Like every other cult, they say "DO" when Jesus says "DONE"!

    They have to earn salvation yet they insist it is grace. It's trust Jesus and you are forgiven butt....

    Dude

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm sure that the actual percentage varies from denomination to denomination, but if I had to guess I'd say a good 20-30 percent of people growing up in the FALC end up leaving, at least. Heck, I went back and looked at my confirmation class the other day and only three of 15 still attend church. And that's including myself as an atheist who goes maybe four times a year.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I listened to a piece on NPR this morning. An Orthodox Jewish woman was interviewed about her arranged marriage and subsequent divorce. I could have substituted the OALC for all but the arranged part, and it would ring true for many girls/women.

    It emphasized to me that these behaviors are cultural and not necessarily religious, but the fallout is no less painful.

    SISU

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is a link to that piece. Thanks, SISU!

      Delete
  8. The actual term to describe Laestadian behavior is 'learned helplessness.' Psychological tests using dogs showed that canines who were tied up and shocked would continue to get shocked and not attempt to escape later on even when they were no longer bound....hence the term, "learned helplessness." I suspect that at an early age Laestadian children are psychologically bound and shocked with terrifying stories about God, sin, the devil, punishment and hell. This creates a spiritual version of 'learned helplessness' which continues with them the rest of their lives so that they never escape. Old AP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. as someone who grew up in the calumet FALC church from childhood until i left at about 17 and moved away to college last year at 18, i can say this was definitely the case for me. the stories of hell and punishment terrified me and i would never have dared think of anything else religiously. but yet i grew enough to "leave" through a combination of friends/family questioning for themselves and the ideals of the church bothering my intellectual side. another factor is the community, many don't dare leave openly because of the social fallout that would ensue, but continue to attend, maybe just very sporadically. for me, i consider myself no longer a member of the religion but still have never openly "left" if that makes sense.

      Delete
  9. Comparing Leastadian children to abused dogs. Real classy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the shoe fits...

      mouseinacorner

      Delete
    2. Anonymous.....if you had a modicum of an education you would know which psychology study I was referring to which had nothing to do with comparing children to dogs but instead had everything to do with explaining the 'battered woman syndrome' and other abusive situations. I think you just sort of threw your snippy, pharisaical remark in there as an 'anonymous' put down which really does not surprise me. I recall a number of people at raucous church meetings, whom much like yourself regressed into false accusations, slander and name calling to make their 'doctrinal point'. So indeed as 'mouseinacorner' says, "If the shoe fits......." Old AP

      Delete
  10. Flora says: Hi all--this story is interesting and I'd love to read others (and maybe write mine) but, I just wanted to pipe up here about this Mormon woman, Kate Kelly, who just got excommunicated from the church for her involvement in the organization Ordain Women. If you go to the Ordain Women site, there are so many letters and testimonials from Mormon women and men who support her and the idea that it should be okay to ask questions about female ordination. It's sort of sad to see so many who want to stay in their church who feel there is no place for them because of the inequality of women. It could easily be Laestadian women writing these posts. Two things I think: #1 how interesting that so many faithful women from strict church backgrounds have so much in common in their ways of thinking regardless of denomination and #2 how sad that even if ordained, they would just be heads of organizations that are fundamentally patriarchal and not egalitarian, so almost a pointless fight. I don't know--just so interested and saddened to read about this case. Other thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  11. blissfully unblinded9/21/2015 08:47:00 AM

    A few years ago there was a women bible class leader in CO LLC that was taken off the roster. Reason given by the LLC board that women shouldn't be put in that position. She is a very intelligent women who studied theology and had interesting lessons. She hardly batted an eye and said it was "God's will"

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was part of the IALC. It appears that at some point in the past, the IALC had female Sunday school teachers but at some point that changed. At one point in an annual meeting they were having a hard time finding volunteers and a woman, a skilled teacher, volunteered but she was told that women shouldn't speak in church. Looking into the history I found that in one location the local IALC congregation teamed with a couple other small country churches and taught Sunday school together for the area children. At some point the IALC became way more conservative and reactionary in this regard (and more flexible regarding birth control, and other issues?) and I would like to know more about that. --Punahilkka

    ReplyDelete