Showing posts with label laestadius. Show all posts
Showing posts with label laestadius. Show all posts

Saturday, June 08, 2013

With the Lapps in the High Mountains

Those of us from the OALC are familiar with the words of Lars Levi Laestadius, as his sermons are read from the pulpit each Sunday. The facts of his life are less familiar, however. When I was growing up, he was called "the Prophet," and I childishly assumed he was a figure from long ago, perhaps even Biblical days. It came as a surprise to discover that he was a contemporary of my great-great-grandfather Erik's, and the two men knew each other living in Pajala, where Lars headed the parish from 1849 to his death in 1861. Erik was a year younger, and Lars evidently recorded Erik's family events in the parish records.

I wish I could talk to grandfather. What did this revival offer to him that was missing in the church? In its ascetism, did it give his poverty dignity? Did Laestadius, as a highly-educated half-Sami preacher, give the lie to racist myths of inferiority? Did his fire and brimstone bring freshness to church ritual? Did he encourage stolid Nordic men to hug and express emotion?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

More Musings by Oven Mitt

Oven Mitt emailed me this response to Freethinker, concerned that it was too long for the comment section. I am publishing it here as its own post. (Readers, please consider submitting a guest post on any topic. Challenge our thinking!)
Left to Right: Frank Zappa, Oven Mitt

Dear "Freethinker,"
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. You say "The vast majority are placing their faith in the 'confirmed reality' of the Bible." On one level, I would concede your point. In a way, if you were to poll people, statistically speaking, what you say about the majority is perhaps true. But only in a way.

One consideration is that in every faith tradition there are people (who are not the majority) who are deeply spiritual, for whom every element of their lives is informed by religious meaning and who are better people for it. But there are also, in every faith tradition, I think, individuals who relate to their tradition as a way to stay out of trouble and solicit good luck. Often, this takes on the flavor of a transaction, of something like commerce:

If you, the worshiper, do this (where "this" could be pray, offer sacrifices on an altar, give to the poor), then I (the fabric of the universe, or the god of my profession, or the unique and all-powerful god) will make your flocks flourish, or get you a raise, or save your soul.

Several years ago, on the bus I rode to work, there was a fellow rider who was an immigrant to the United States, who didn't speak English well but loved to talk. As I got to know this rider better, I found her to be kind, considerate of other people's ideas, and possessed of a prodigious desire to work. A good person. She was telling me one morning about New Year’s rituals in the her family, rituals that came out of a religious tradition. These rituals were for luck and prosperity. "Only for luck?" I asked. She gave me a look that said, "What? What other reason would you have for a ritual?"  My question was apparently uunnerving, even absurd. And yet she had been formed in this tradition and was a good person, perhaps even an excellent person. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sámi people want apology from Lutheran Church for overreach

Please read this HELSINGIN SANOMAT article and comment.

Sámi people want apology from Lutheran Church for overreach

Seminar examines legacy of Lars Levi Laestadius on 150th anniversary of his death

Lars Levi Laestadius restored morality to the culture of the indigenous Sámi people and saved the Sámi from alcoholism that was imported by the dominantculture.
“At the same time Laestadius, his followers, and the Christian clergy wiped out the ancient traditional religion of the Sámi. There are families in which the joik, or traditional vocal music tradition, disappeared thanks to the activities of the clergy”, said Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi, chairman of the Finnish Sámi Parliament.
He spoke at an international seminar in Tornio, which focused on Laestadius’s life as a missionary and researcher.
Monday marked the 150th anniversary of Laestadius’s death.
The revival movement that he founded has grown to be the largest ecclesiastical revival movement in the Nordic region.
According to Näkkäläjärvi, the Sámi have an ambivalent attitude toward Laestadius, not least because his mother was half-Sámi.
He said that Laestadian clergy perhaps saw the joiks as being part of the practice of the ancient shamanist Sámi religion, and consequently saw them as sinful.
“The same kind of proselytising affected the Sámi language. People were told not to speak Sámi, even though they did not speak Finnish well enough”, Näkkäläjärvi said.
He said that the Finnish Lutheran Church should apologise for its earlier activities in the homeland of the Sámi in Lapland.
“In Sweden such an apology was made already in the 1990s, but it is important that the Sámi should be treated as equals after that”, said Hans Stiglund, the Lutheran Bishop of Luleå, Sweden.
“In this respect, societal development has been going in a positive direction in Finland as well”, added Oulu Bishop Samuel Salmi.
“A study is underway in the Oulu Diocese on this matter. It culminates a year from now in a seminar that is to be held in Inari. At that time we will unravel image traditions and memories on both sides, which have slowed down interaction between Finns and the Sámi”, Salmi says.
“There is reason to make a distinction between Laestadius and the preachers that followed him. It seems that what followed in the movement is now being blamed on him”, says Professor Juha Pentikäinen.
Pentikäinen says that Laestadius was a botanist, religious philosopher, an ethnographer, and a linguist, as well as a writer of Sámi mythology.
Also made public on Monday were extracts from Lappish mythology, which had been lost for a century and a half.
The book, which had been commissioned, was never printed, because French King Louis Philippe lost his power.
Pentikäinen tracked down the lost parts, with Dr. Risto Pulkkinen helping him in his detective work.

******

Interesting!

What do you think?

Do you question the assumptions of the article? Did Laestadius restore morality to the
Sámi? Should the Finnish Church apologize for overreaching? Should Laestadius share the responsibility for what his followers did in his name? Are you interested in reading the newly-puglished fragments of Sámi mythology?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Still Hearing Laestadius' Sermons

I thought I'd highlight this comment made by an Anonymous poster. The branch of Laestadianism I grew up in didn't read his sermons from the pulpit, so I found this quite fascinating. Also, it represents a critique of Laestadius from the right, versus the typical critique from the left.


Anonymous said...
Why oh why do we still have to listen to Laestadius! I still go to the OALC and I just have such an issue with this. Sure, I know his sermons were powerful for that time, and effected many awakenings. And ok, maybe there is still some bit of pertinence to our lives today. But why read one every single sunday before the sermon? Why not just say, `here are some books that may be strengthening` and let people keep them in their home libraries? Why read and re-read them for decades ad-nauseum? And I do mean `nauseum`.. most are graphic and often (imo) downright inappropriate for reading in front of a mixed age/sex audience. There are many sexually-loaded statements (i.e. `sucking their own breasts`, etc) that only serve to put lascivious images in the minds of the listeners, at a time when there should be piety, grace and hopefulness (sitting in God`s house.) I spoke of this with only a few others (OALC too) and they agreed. You cannot tell me that that particular statement I quoted does not bring up an inappropriate, lustful image in the mind of any post-pubescent male present! So it offends me. In fact I clearly recall actually blushing as a young girl sitting under some of the sermons. And I`m not even a male, how much worse must it be for them! Also, LLL steeped his sermons in obscure, multi-layered metaphor and simile.. I would guess with some confidence that the majority do not `get` them. You need to be quite savvy and attentive to follow along, and if you miss the initial metaphor, good luck trying to follow the winding thread. Too, the readers that are pressed into service often read in a low, sing-song monotone, which lulls the listener and causes sleepiness (literally, I mean) =) So the earlier poster should not feel so guilty for falling asleep! =)

Also, another thing that is a bee in my bonnet is when the preacher says (of the LLL sermon) "we have already heard the best sermon of the day." This is their way of saying LLL was a much better or more gifted clergy than they are. And ok, that may or may not be? BUT- I`d always heard & believed as the others do, that nothing of the preacher`s sermons are `their own`... meaning they do not prepare a sermon... but all comes from God- that they go up there and God opens their mouth and speaks through them.. He uses them to speak through to us. So...??? What are they saying by that, then?? That LLL is better than God himself?? It just doesn`t fly. So... then it must be false humility. Or self-righteousness. I don`t know. I have no problem with the doctrine or the KJV we use: oh all of that is so pure and true. I know Jesus loves me, and died for my sins. I just fail to see really where LLL fits into this. I presume it`s just custom... and that bothers me, too. Just because it`s `always been done`. Arg. Thanks for listening! Apologies for the rant. ;)
Blessings!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tornedalsbloggen --in English

For those who liked the book Popular Music from Vittula, here's an English language blog from the Torne river valley in northern Finland/Sweden. According to Google Translate:

This Haparandabo writes in the local newspaper under a pseudonym on local political issues and other irritations in the Torne Valley and has now taken the step to continue to speak out on the Internet with this blog.

While this is a general interst blog, the author has posted about Lars Levi Laestadius and the Sami people within the last few months.

I'll be watching this blog with interest!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Laestadians on Facebook

Someone recently brought these links of Laestadian groups on Facebook to my attention. I thought they were worth sharing:

Apostolic Lutherans (ALC) Description: Finally...a group on facebook for all us APs. The site contains pictures of various "youth," the biggest bonfire I've seen, and the 2009 Convention.

Laestadian Lutheran (LLC) Description: Welcome to all who believe! Note: this is not the official Laestadian Lutheran site. Please visit laestadianlutheran.org for the Laestadian Lutheran Church website. Not much activity here, but there was a conversation on movies and temptation that reminded me of my own youth.

Lars Levi Laestadius Description: This is a group for all people influenced by the christian revival movement of Lars Levi Laestadius. His abbreviated name is LLL. Laestadius was a botanist and a preacher that created a christian revival in northern Sweden and Finland in the mid to late 1800's. Today, those that follow his doctrine are known as Apostolics and/or Laestadians. You do not have to be a member of a Laestadian or Apostolic group to join this site. This site is open to everyone, as I do not believe in exclusion. Disclaimer: This site has not been endorsed by any specific church group and is not attempting to promote any specific church group. The "Extoots" of Facebook. A couple of years ago the Admin of this group posted the link here, but it may have been lost in all the noise of a conversation on conversion.

Interestingly, I did a search for "Laestadius" on Facebook and came up with all kinds of people who shared that last name. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Laestadius had familial as well as spiritual descendants. I wonder how common a name Laestadius is back in Finland/Sweden?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sports, a Good Thing

.
We are back from vacation and a lovely one it was, with equal parts solitude and company, activity and leisure, familiarity and newness. The San Juans can't be beat for beachcombing, camping and hanging out with former Laestadians. Our last day culminated in 17 lbs of u-pick blueberries, a sizable quantity of which is staring at me as I write this, as if eager to be made into jam.

(Did you know Laestadius drafted his sermons with a quill and blueberry juice? Me neither.)

Before I get to work, I want to say something about sports. Obviously there is good and bad to be found in anything as broad and varied (and ancient, predating written history) as "sports." Unexposed in my impressionable years, I have little interest in professional sports, although I've been thrilled by a few Mariners games (not this season, alas), and I love watching the Olympic Games. My hubby feels pretty much the same. When we began our family, we wondered what role sports should play in our lives. His swimming, my yoga? Hiking, bicycling? Certainly we wanted our children to be active and healthy. With no family history to draw on, no relatives to consult, no prohibitions or expectations, we looked around to evaluate the case for kids' sports.


In the families we knew, both Laestadian and non, there were a few unfortunate kids whom we thought would have benefited from sports or some other time-consuming passion (science, chess, music, art) that would have kept them preoccupied and self-assured during those crazy middle school years. Sadly, drugs filled the void. Drugs offered both a pastime and an escape from their feelings of inferiority and separateness. Some are still whirling in that vortex. Among their parents, there is not one that doesn't regret not making sure their kids were kept busy after school.

Sports do keep you busy.

Among the children we knew who played sports, the sole downside was that one boy had been injured, several times, on a college football field.

So (in our admittedly small but nonetheless relevant sample) we saw, on the one hand, drugs and alienation, and on the other, a broken collar bone, a twisted ankle. None of the athletic children went on to play sports professionally. None seemed to suffer an excess of pride or aggression.

It was not hard to pick. Yes on sports in our family, but hold the football.

At their young ages our children have tried t-ball, baseball, soccer, tennis, martial arts, Irish dancing, ballet, swimming, basketball and gymnastics. They have played on leagues, in camps, and on the playground. Their coaches have been incredibly decent, teaching their own and our children important life skills along with the game.

Our kids are learning to win and lose gracefully, to listen to their bodies, to respect individual differences, to stretch their limits and compete against themselves. They are learning humility, the kind that knows the true measure of a person is character, not ability. They know that individuals are not equally gifted, but every person can progress with practice.

Given our experiences so far, I feel confident that there are many more advantages than disadvantages.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Studies indicate that children's involvement in sports helps them with schoolwork, improves health, and protects against smoking, drug use, and teen pregnancy.

RWB refers to a "beer league" or a "church league" but I have never encountered either. Maybe that's a Clark County thing. There are many leagues in these parts, but they are defined by the sport, location, and age or ability or gender of the participants. Adults have a zillion opportunities to get active, too. Why let the kids (and the spoiled overpaid multizillionaire pros) have all the fun?

I'm thinking about joining an amateur softball league, as I've learned the amazing satisfaction of a solid base hit. If the games include a celebratory beer afterward, so much the better. It feels so good to be free.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Laestadianism and Sami Culture


I recently had an email exchange with Nathan Muus of BÁIKI, The International Sámi Journal, and he gave me permission to post the following:
Yes my friend grew up in, and still is involved in the Firstborn . . . some of my ancestors participated in "like minded" religious movements in the 19th century in Norway. Home meetings, lay pastors, singing hymns with a one string instrument, suspicion of the Swedish/Norwegian state church and not wanting to pledge allegience to the king- the Laestedian movement was one of a number of such movements, not alone. People forget that.

However, the Laestedian movement was Sami led, and there are a number of "positives" to the movement at the time. Some of them are reflected in the Kautokeino revolt, which was Laestedian led also. Sami men were going to the city markets with a year worth of hides, crafts, goods to sell/trade. They were returning back to camp with nothing, no money, drunk..so is said. They were sold alcohol and cheated, taken advantage of. Sami languages were considered worthless, so was Finnish somewhat, by the way. The state church service was in Swedish, or Norwegian, with Latin flourishes. Laestedius deemed that Sami and Finnish were worthy languages to preach in. He deemed that simple was good, hence many people in a village dressing alike in traditional Sami clothing was ok. A simple Sami home or tent, not extravegantly adorned, was normal and was uplifted. I can understand why the movement had such a pull. The Sami traditional spiritual world had been battered for some centuries. This movement gave people an outlet.

I continue to be saddened that denial of Sami cultural heritage/identity today is still there. And I do know it is there. Yet some of the same people will often in their own ways, keep their Sami spirit and identity. I do not for a minute believe academically or otherwise, that traditional Sami spiritual beliefs and practices all were wiped out and went away. Evidence points otherwise to that. However, perhaps some people cannot reconcile the two religious worldviews well, hence continuing denial.

Popular misconceptions do not help either, ie."witches drum"; since when were those using a Sami drum a European style witch? The colonizers had many things wrong. Unfortunately some/a lot of that got transmitted into the various Lutheran church movements also. It's up to all of us to help sort it out. Blessings on your journey! Nathan

You may want to read this fascinating exploration of the impact of Laestadianism on Sami culture. (Among other things, it includes details about "Lapp Mary" that are new to me.)

Does Laestadianism keep Sami culture alive in some way? If so, how?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Laestadius, the Musical (I kid you not)

Wait no longer, music-loving Laestadians (current and former alike). There is now a musical, or "uupera"about our man Lars Levi. It is written by Bengt Pohjanen, who has extended a personal invitation to extoot readers:
"I have just written a libretto for a musical or folkopera about Laestadius. It will be performed on that place i Kengis (south of Pajala) where Laestadius worked. The famous composer, Kaj Chydenius i Helsinki, will compose the music. So I think that this event could be of interest for many in Ex-toots."


Ok, I'm going! "Stranger in a Strange Land" will be there, too. We'll probably aim for a show the last weekend of June.

Give it some thought . . . and if you'll be my translator, I'll buy your theatre ticket.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Was Laestadius a Racist?

Laestadius stated unequivocally that his own Lappish race was superior to Swedes and Finns. It is beyond ironic that his modern-day followers act as if their race ("white") is superior to all others. (If a Laestadian encountered the real, historical Jesus on the street, would he cross to the other side?)

I am appalled at the racism that is still prevalent in OALC circles.

Last year at a family event, I got up and left the room when a male relative began comparing the qualities of his African-American and Mexican subcontractors. I didn't want to hear whatever he was going to say, because I knew I would call down the wrath of God upon him and the evening would end in harsh words. I have not yet found a way to lovingly correct bigots.

Have you? Please share your experience.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

LLL the Infallible?

sunrise
I'm not sure what to make of this history of the OALC (more can be found online here). Is it accurate? I'm very interested in hearing your comments.

In 1965, a schism occurred among the Firstborn in Europe. A radical minority broke with the main group, led by Elder Gunnar Jönsson. The minority is known by the names “leeviläiset” and “pikkuleeviläiset” after its main leader, Levi Älvgren, also known as “Pikku-Leevi” (Little Levi) because he was only 153 centimeters tall. According to Lauri Koistinen, a spokesman for the minority, the trouble actually began in 1946, when J. P. Stöckel and Gunnar Jönsson, traveling in America, established “a new spiritual government” with former leader Arthur Niska now outranked by Samuel Juvonen. Koistinen charges, among other things, that the majority group began to tolerate pictures, photographs, flowers and fashionable clothing; women ceased using aprons; men began wearing modern hats and white shirts; organs, radios and televisions became permissible; wreaths were laid at funerals; birthdays and father’s and mother’s days were celebrated; and people engaged in sports, even on Sundays.

Koistinen also accuses the majority of using the new translation of the Swedish Bible and a revised Swedish edition of Laestadius’ sermons published by Per Boreman in 1957 under the name Evangeliepostilla. According to the minority, none of Laestadius’ words, even obscene ones, should be changed or omitted because he is the seventh angel of Revelation 10:7 and “every word he preached after 1844 is by the Holy Spirit” and “every word is God’s Word and is to be taken seriously.”

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Laestadius' Sermon No. 97

Breast Exam
In response to a reader's question, I've retyped this sermon (which I will hereafter remember as the breast exam sermon) from LLL's "New Postilla" for your review and comment. Notice the repetitions . . . those aren't typos.

Matt. 22: 1-14


In today's holy gospel the Savior speaks of the Great Supper to which so many have been called, but nevertheless, so few come. We have formerly surmised who are those who blaspheme the servants of the King. Also what kind of guests are gathered from the streets and lanes. And also who might be the one who comes to the wedding without the wedding garments. But we have never spoken of the time the King comes to see the guests. We can see from the actions of Joseph the high lords do not stand at the entrance to receive the guests as is the custom of the smaller lords of the world. The high lords await till the guests have entered the wedding hall and only then come to see them. When now the good and the bad guests are coming we need, by the grace of God, to consider as to what time it would be when the King comes to see the guests? We know the supper is held in the afternoon or evening. It is dark in the world when the guests are seated at the table and the candles are lit. The window drapes are drawn so that all the bums or fools who want to peek in cannot see nor understand what is taking place in the wedding hall. At the time when the Kind enters all the expected guests have arrived. Some interpreters of the scriptures presume that the servants have not noticed the guest who came without the wedding garment. But since they had a command to call all who want to come, that is the good and the bad, it may be surmised that the servants did not want to chase him out before the King came. All the expounders of the Bible say that the guest was a servant of self-righteousness, which did not take the wedding garment. But the servants of self-righteousness are of many kinds. One servant of self-righteousness is the pharisee whose conscience has never awakened. Such a one will not come in to the wedding hall with harlots and publicants. Another servant of self-righteousness is the prodigal son who herds the swine. His conscience is awakened. he knows he is in a poor condition but the merchant of self-righteousness has gotten such a power over him that he will not arise and go to the father except at the last distress. yet the servants do not want to chase such a one out since he has come. He is penitent, begging for grace and still does not want the wedding garment the King has offered to him by his servants. The rags of self-righteousness hang around his knees, and , it has been noticed all the dogs of the house are angry at such a beggar who walks in rags. They bite those rags. However, the servant does not want to chase such out for they pity him. But the King is angry at such rag-devils who do not accept the offered garments.
Hear now, you wretched rag-devil. The servants of the King know you from afar by the rags of self-righteousness which hang around your knees and because of which the dogs bark at you terribly. The servants do not wish to drive you out for they pity you and want to have mercy on you. You are so spiritual in those rags that you do not want to strip naked and take the wedding garments. you do not want to show at all our shame to the world. You have such great self-righteousness that you do not want to part from your self-repentance. you desire greater distress, greater agony of conscience, thereby to merit salvation. If you do not strip yourself naked soon the King will come to see the guests. Perhaps now is the time at six o'clock in the evening when the supper is held. I presume now is the time when the Kind comes to see the guests. Is there such a guest here who has not accepted the wedding garments? If it were so that the guest would himself have had to prepare the wedding garment then this mute guest could have given an excuse of having no means. But since the garment has been offered to him also by the servants, his rejection of them has been the effect of honor and self-righteousness. Such a guest despises the love of God or King, therefore the King becomes angry. Can you say, you unhappy wretch, that you have not been offered the wedding garment; can you blame the servants that you have not been led to the dressing room wherein all the other guests have stripped themselves naked; have cast away the rags of self-righteousness and of worldly honor and accepted the wedding garment? But you speechless guest did not want to unclothe yourself, did not want to leave the rags of self-righteousness, did not want to accept the holiday garment offered to you without cost by the King. Thus you have despised the goodness of the King. His mercy, and the richness of His long suffering in that you have not accepted His gifts. Therefore you have nothing to say when the King inquires, "Friend how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garments?" Can you say you have no means by which to prepare them? Why do you not take them when you can get them for nothing? Pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, and the honor of the world are so thick in you, therefore you sit mute when the Lord asks: "Friend, how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garment?" Who knows what will happen now when the King comes to see his guests. The King is not far from the wedding hall, only one door between them. You guests who have come into the wedding hall, how soon do you think the King will arrive? How long do you think He will tarry before He opens the door and comes to see the guests? The King is still in His chamber and the guests in the hall of the supper. Sit down quietly, sitting in fear and trembling and look at one another if all your clothes are in such order that the King will see no fault in them. You have been gathered from the streets and lanes of the city where the poorest people are, not having learned manners. When the King comes some have not shaved their beard, as Joseph when he was brought before the king. Perhaps some have not combed their hair. Some have not anointed their heads with oil. Some may not have stood before the mirror before they went into the supper room. Some have not remembered to take along the handkerchief with which they could wipe their nose if self-righteousness should begin to flow. Have you stood before the mirror you fine maidens? You fine maidens: have you looked in the mirror and examined your hearts when you come into the wedding hall? Do you not think that the king loves pure and soft breasts? The king looks upon them the first, for he greatly loves the daughters of Zion who have pure and white breasts, provided they put off adultery from their breasts. Have you remembered to put the betrothal ring on your finger when you come into the King's chamber? Assuredly you remember daughter of Zion that you have been betrothed to the King's son for whom the King has prepared a wedding. You have been been betrothed with Him in Holy matrimony which He made with you when you were beautiful in his opinion, when He redeemed you from the bondage of the enemy, sweating blood for you, saying "I am sorrowful unto death." He gave you a holy kiss when Judas gave Him an unclean kiss. He took you into His bosom when the crowd of the devil put Him into chains. He took you into the church after the manner of a bride when the devil had forsaken you.
Now the King of Heaven has prepared a marriage for His Son and called many guests whom He has collected by His servants, from the streets and lanes of the city. Feel now, daughter of Zion, your breasts, feel the pearls on your neck, feel the crown on your head, feel the rings on your fingers, feel them all now in privacy before the mirror, the wedding garment as well as the shoes as to how they fit, for soon the Kind will come to see the guests. But woe unto the unhappy wretch who has not a wedding garment when the King comes. It would have been better had he not come at all to the supper since he did not accept the offered garment. To such an extent you unhappy wretch despise the King's grace and mercy that you do not want to accept His grace. Woe, woe unto you unfortunate wretch! Go quickly into the dressing room and strip off the rags and take the wedding garment before the King comes. Who knows but He will soon come to see the guests. Soon he will come from the His chamber into the wedding hall. There is only one door between the King's chamber and the wedding hall. Soon will the door open and th King comes to see the guests; soon the Righteous One will step in. Is there someone here from the tribe of Benjamin to whom the Just One will give a kiss and say, "God bless you my son"? Is there anyone here of the children of Israel to whom the Righteous One will give five changes of raiment as that righteous Joseph gave to Benjamin?
Prepare yourselves, you wedding guests, for now the King is coming to see you. He is on the way and when He comes, the doors will be closed. The candles will be lit and the guests are seated. No one can enter anymore but a guest having no wedding garment is put outside.
Prepare yourselves you bidden guests. Examine your breasts you daughters of Zion and be ready to receive your King when He enters. When the King comes to see the guests, bow yourselves humbly before Him, falling at His feet as the children of Israel bowed before Joseph, and say, "We pray thee forgive your brothers their trespasses and evil deeds when they have so badly treated you." Then He shall say, "Fear not, you thought evil against me but God has turned it for good, that He did as now is evident to save much people. So fear not, for I will feed you and your children." Amen. Now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Something About Mary

I've been musing about Mary. Did you know that Lapp Mary, the woman through whom Laestadius found enlightenment, was actually named Milla? He met her in a parish in Asele, Sweden when he was 44 years old (and the father of 15 children with his wife Britta). Milla was 31, unmarried, a Sami, a Lutheran, a member of the Readers (devoted to self-study of the Bible), and passionately spiritual.

Why did he call her Mary? Did he wish to evoke Mary, mother of Jesus? Or was this skilled mythographer attempting to draw on something even older and more meaningful to the pagan Sami: the power of the feminine divine. If so, it would not be the only way in which Laestadius incorporated Sami traditions into his new religion.

In the history of humanity, goddess worship is the very earliest, symbolized in the Venus of Willendorf around 3,000 BCE. Later, she was revered as Inanna in ancient Sumeria, Ishtar in Babylon, Anat in Canaan, Isis in Egypt and Aphrodite in Greece. According to Joseph Campbell, remarkably similar stories of the sacred feminine are common to all cultures. For the ancients, The Great Mother was the Earth, growth, fertility, death and regeneration, and experienced in the flowers and trees, moon and ocean, cycles of life and nature. She was life itself.

Even as monotheism and patriarchal religions gained sway (often at the point of a spear), goddesses like Ashera, Ishtar or Anat retained a great following among the Israelites, particularly among women. (See Jeremiah 44:15-19). With Christianity came a retelling of an ancient tale of the goddess and her divine child who is sacrificed and reborn. As Hans Kung wrote in "On Being a Christian," the Virgin Birth is a "collection of largely uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary" narratives. Yet it has a power, metaphorically, that cannot be overestimated.

We are so immersed in the patriarchy of the Judeo-Christian tradition that it is difficult to imagine a worldview in which the divine was feminine. But for the Sami, whom Laestadius worked so diligently to convert, goddesses were natural and their names familiar: the mother Mátaráhkka with her daughters Sáráhká, Uksáhkka and Juksáhkka, who took care of the family and guarded the home.

No doubt for many Sami, even those already converted to Christianity, the demands of Laestadius were severe. They were compelled to give up goddesses, shamans, drums, joiking (singing), dancing, unmarried sex and whiskey. However, he allowed them a vestige of their ecstatic trances in "the movement" of repentance, and in the gift of Lapp Mary, a new kind of shaman or spirit guide, pointing not only to the Virgin but beyond, beneath, behind, to the eternal feminine.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Mr. Laestadius


Laestadius
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
This is the engraving I saw at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Soulful eyes, doncha think?

Click on the title above to get more info about the man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Do Laestadians Love Sects?

At age 15, I went to confirmation classes in the OALC. Granted, I was paying more attention to boys than to my uncles who taught the class, but I don't remember any history lessons. If I thought about Laestadius at all, I suppose I considered him to have existed "back then" -- WAY back then, in Biblical days. Years later I was surprised to discover, in an exhibit in Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum, a likeness of Lars Levi Laestadius with a long face and high collar, a postilla and a placard identifying him as a botanist and leader of a Finnish religious sect. Wow. There are many times in my life when I've realized how little I know about a subject, and that was an important one.

Thank you to the reader who posted the Laestadius links (click on title above to go that informative site).

And just for fun, here are some of LLL's contemporaries, born between 1800 and 1810.

Brigham Young
Victor Hugo
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Robert E. Lee
Charles Darwin
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Edgar Allan Poe
P.T. Barnum

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cut and Pasty.com

This is a post from www.pasty.com by "Exodus member, Wa" on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:By Exodus member, Wa. on Monday, May 5, 2003 - 11:08 pm:

"As a recovering OALC member, I can assure you that the members of this "church" believe that they are rightous before God, and that they and fellow church members who have "living faith", are going to be the only people in heaven. They feel free to exclude any and all peoples based upon the doctrine of their church.(This exclusion can be based upon heridity, prior church attendance, education level and the most horrifying- Skin color).

"This doctrine as was stated previously by Unworthy, has taken the word of God, and twisted it to meet the needs of the church men and women. Ask any member of this group why they belive what they do? They can't answer this question for many reasons.

"1. They don't know the word of God themselves- it has been preached in the church that it is actually a sin to pick up your Bible any try to read it for yourself- because God can only really talk to/through the preachers.

"2. They have replaced the importance of God's word, with the sermons of a man, Lars Levi Laestadius, who preached in Europe, long ago. The sermons have been compiled into books, or "Postulas", and the majority of any church service is spent reading these sermons and commenting/teaching alongside of the sermon just read. Unworthy mentioned that God does not want man to plan what he is going to say in his sermon, because it is not truly from God when it is planned out. What about the sermon reading of L.L.Laestadius? When an actual Bible verse is read, it is one of the same 20 or so places that all of the preachers choose, when they are called upon to speak. I once asked why the whole Bible is not studied and the reply was that these places are understood best, and it is good to stay with something that is familiar.

"3. The OALC church has taught, throughout the many years I was in the church, that seminary/college is a sin, and that when you go to these places, satan takes over your mind, and you will loose your simple belief in the" True and Living Christianity". To apply any advanced knowledge to reading/studying the Bible is a Heresy in the OALC church. Undoubtly, knowledge can be sought for it's own sake, but, this church assumes all knowledge is detrimental. The children are not encouragedd to plan for college, and it is a very small percentage of the population who goes on to any post-high-school training of any sort. Many of the young people don't even finish high-school, as they are eager to begin making money, so they can move out from home and get married. Many of my friends and family from that church, were married before the age of 18. The church encourages early marriges, rather than having the kids sin.

"4. When you as a church member begin to evaluate what your personal views on any subject may be, you have to be very careful to/with whom you speak. If you raise any doubts through actions/words, your fellow church members will pounce upon you, bringing the fear of •••• and damnation right to your face. They then, may or may not tell the preachers about their knowledge, and then you will have some real explaining to do! The church belives you can "loose your salvation in a twinkling of an eye", even though God's word teaches that not one beliver can be snatched from his hand. I, personally was told that" I was going straight to ••••!". Of course, I was assured that my condemnation to •••• was said in love, and that if I could just put my faith back into the preachers and Elders, everything would be fine again. Fear is used to twist the arms of men, women and children.

"In this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, many abuses take place. From spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to child and from leaders to congregation. The average person in this group deals with at least one source of abuse, some suffer many. I know, I was one of them, and I know so very many more who cry silently for help from somewhere, and because of the exclusiveity in this group, no outside counciling or intervention is allowed the church members. Many of the older people in this church know what is happening, but claim that all answers are found,"in this Living Christianity".

"I have read the questions asked by many people interested in knowing more about this OALC church group. I have answered from my personal experience. In a church where no Bible study is allowed because it may cause disagreements and cause splits in the church, the atmosphere is at best suffocating, could it even be leading to spiritual death by those proclaiming to have the" One and only True Christianity?" I cannot make the leap to condem anyone to ••••. Only God knows whom he will save, for he has known us since before time, is he not capable of saving his own?"

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Devil Made Me Do It

One of the great gifts I gave myself on leaving the OALC was the latitude to doubt anything and everything, whenever the impulse arises. I have what you might call provisional faith -- always open to adjustment with new insight. That's what kind of "believer" I am: uninterested in "the facts" that some would say are essential to belief -- but passionate about the metaphors we use to make sense of our world.

As much as I regret my own experiences with his adherents, I respect Laestadius for his work describing the Sami. (His book on Sami mythology is now available on amazon.com). There is no doubt he was modernizing and democratizing the Church in emphasizing personal understanding of Scripture (LLL was affiliated with the Readers sect that read the Bible in their homes) and by promoting the priesthood of believers (meaning Christians could be each others' confessors). While he can be blamed for banning the Sami drums and yoiking, he can be thanked for preserving their language and incorporating their trances into the church (now a pallid exercise called the "movement" -- at least I haven't seen any of the jumping and fainting described in the histories). Some writers credit him with profound psychological insight. I think he was insecure and felt rejected by academia and society, especially women -- he was rather obsessed with female sexuality -- and if he was on the couch today, he would probably be treated for manic depression. He was charismatic enough to attract devout followers, even to the point of murder (LLL fanatics killed a sheriff/whiskey merchant). He was certainly polarizing, and proud of it. When he refused communion to an unwed mother, the Princess of Norway and Sweden wrote to him, admonishing his lack of compassion for sinners. He remained defiant. (Of course, none of this history is taught in the OALC.)

The OALC emphasis on sin seems a perversion of Christianity, which offers an incredible model for "loving one's enemies," and follows repentance with reconciliation. It seems OALC encourages folks to repent continually, but not to reconcile what has been broken, through works of kindness, compensation or whatever. If there was an OALC court, the judge would be satisfied with a defendant's "I'm sorry." That "works alone" do not lead to grace does not undermine their importance.

You could call it an immature treatment of the human condition -- the-devil-made-me-do-it defense. It releases the person from the consequences of his/her actions and doesn't promote personal growth. To focus on silly transgressions such as nail polish is a grand diversion from the Elephant on the Table, i.e., the sin of being human, which is our participation (conscious or not) in the extinction of other life (human, animal, vegetable and mineral).

(Let me digress to muse about a Christian ritual: saying grace before meals. I think this is probably a universal ritual that finds many forms because it fulfills a need for us, as humans, to acknowledge that our sustenance depends on the sacrifice of other forms of life. In any case, it's a useful meditation on interconnectedness. I always found it odd that the OALC doesn't practice it.)

Imagine an alien reviewing our planet's history and trying to understand the different religions and how they deal with the problem of evil. Think of the long history of sacrifices (human and otherwise) that people all over the planet used to gain favor with fickle gods, who could punish them with earthquakes, drought, pestilence and famine. Or could, with appropriate sacrifices, be made happy.

Are not these gods externalizations of the human impulses for punishment and retribution and forgiveness? And weren't the sacrifice victims stand-ins for the people? To be human is to know that the capacity for evil is in oneself -- no one is exempt. And to be human is to know that the capacity for love is enormous. What is revolutionary about Christ is the profound personalization of that drama. He took this history of sacrifice and said, basically, it stops here. I am you (whatever your color or sex or status) and I paid the price, and you are forgiven, now and forever. Furthermore. . . . that enormous love you feel? THAT is God. God is love. God is in you. So act on it.

Now, to feel forgiven for being human (the original sin) and to feel the enormous love within: that is truly living in grace. It inspires us to be hopeful, compassionate, forgiving. Happy. Appreciative of our existence for this brief moment in the history of time. Intensely aware of the oneness of all life.

Perhaps the profound depression in the OALC -- both doctrinal and psychological (a dense fog hangs over the whole enterprise) -- is due to a wobbly faith in (1) one's own perpetual state of grace, and (2) God's indwelling. In psychological terms, the OALC continues to externalize Good and Evil. Until they are internalized, with Good/God/Love the victor, and the victory emphasized continually through worship and/or practice, the tendency is toward insecurity, depression, and passive-aggressive narcissism. (Does this make sense? I have provisional faith in the idea. Prove me wrong!)

Here is an interesting link to the psychology of forgiveness:
http://www.guidetopsychology.com/forgive.htm

And here's to the joyful life!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

At Last, a Place in Cyberspace

When I left the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church at the age of 18, I gave up not only my religion but my family, my friends and my support network. There was no way of knowing who else had left the church or how to contact them if I had known. I was on my own without a 12-step program, support group, or therapist trained in the particular psychological issues of leaving this fundamentalist sect, which teaches its adherents that salvation is possible only within its walls, and the price of leaving is to be shunned by members and indeed, by God.

It took me years of therapy and the love of many, many good people to deal with my past and create a healthy, happy family of my own. Over the years I have searched the internet for information on the OALC. I learned more online about its founder, Lars Levi Laestadius, than I ever did from the church, and I still remember my surprise at discovering that this revered "prophet" was a botanist turned revivalist who lived in the 1800's -- not the time of Christ.

But I've yet to find information on "my" OALC online (although there is information about related churches and about Laestadius). Recently a google search led me to a heated dialogue on pasty.com (you can find it in their archives).

This blog is a beginning.

Let me say here that my experiences in the church are just that, mine. No doubt there are former OALC members with very different experiences. Even happy ones.