Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Some Cages Don't Have Bars

A guest post by a friend:

I learned tonight a cousin, near my own age, was found dead, evidently of an overdose. I saw him only once in the past thirty years; our lives diverged long ago. I know few details about his life except this: that while I was wrestling with single parenthood, disability, and a return to university, he was wrestling with a severe drug addiction that no one would talk about, much less deal with, in our Laestadian (Old Apostolic Lutheran) family.
Why the silence?
Why the negligence?
Is it because seeking help requires engaging with "the world," so distrusted and shunned? Is it because appearances -- of righteousness, of “having it all together” -- mean more than the Christian mandate to love, to help one another?
Laestadianism began as a 19th-century Sami mission religion. To learn its history is to see how, like other colonial institutions, it damages the people it purports to “save.”
That my cousin was self-medicating his  pain, and got in over his head, is an all too-familiar story, and while I will never know his particular demons, I know enough of our family history to know that they were powerful, especially for someone of his tenderness and integrity.
To honour his life, I’d like to share a kindness he showed me, when as a teenager, I had a child “out of wedlock." It still stings to recall that relatives my age were instructed they could not visit me anymore.
Shunned and shamed, I was struggling to hold it together in every way possible. But my cousin defied the fatwa. A teenager himself, he found the funds to buy a sleeper for my baby, and brought it over with a message, that what our family and church were doing was wrong.
His action took the rare kind of moral courage that empowers people to move from mere feeling to concrete steps.
I will never forget it, or him.
That we both struggled with the church, and that he never made it out, breaks my heart.  So does the fact that there are so many loving people in the church who choose to be paralyzed, silent, stifling any moral courage that would lead them from feeling to action.
I am so grateful for my new life.
I wish my cousin peace on the rest of his journey, wherever that is.

Monday, July 03, 2017

What Age is Too Young for Marriage?

The Elders of the Firstborn (OALC) have arrived from Gällivare and are crossing the United States from east to west, holding meetings -- morning and evening -- throughout July and August.

According to a member of an online support group, new rules regarding "Christian" weddings were recently shared, including:
  1. No engagement rings. 
  2. The engaged couple must wait until married to sit together in church.
  3. Wedding rings must be simple bands.
  4. No wedding dresses (preferably a skirt that can be worn again).
  5. The skirt should not be so long that it touches the floor.
  6. The bridal party will not walk up or down aisle. 
  7. The bride and groom will walk down the aisle only after they are married.
  8. No food at wedding receptions.
This illustrates a practical function of the Elders' meetings: to reinforce visual markers of faithfulness (faithfulness to the preachers, not the gospel) so members appear separate from "the world." (An equally important function is to retain members through intermarriage. Out-marrying is taboo, so these large gatherings are opportunities to meet non-relatives. Youth are encouraged to travel out of state to attend).

Suggested addition to the rules:
  • No marrying of children.
This recent NYT article about child marriage in the United States was shocking for many of my Facebook friends, who had no idea this "third world" custom was so prevalent in our own country, and not exclusively among minority religions but those who call themselves Christians. I recommend the Elders consider whose company they are keeping, e.g., men who elude statutory rape charges by marrying their victims.

It is not uncommon for girls in the OALC to marry and have children before they are 18.

That must change.

I foresee the day when it is illegal -- a violation of individual human rights -- to compel a person to forgo birth control. When and who to marry, when and how frequently to give birth -- these are human rights. It will also be illegal to compel a child to marry.

The OALC is on the wrong side of history.

Children deserve our love and protection. Jesus had something to say about that, and it had nothing to do with who sits where, or wears what.

FOCUS, gentlemen. FOCUS.