Leaving one's family, community, and faith can provoke all kinds of ambivalent feelings, but there are moments of pure clarity also -- especially when well-meaning people make uninformed assumptions, and you have to school them or blow a gasket.
Even if the schooling takes place as an interior dialogue.
When I saw this Facebook post, I asked if I could share it here. The writer agreed and said shared that she is in a better place now. The frustration you'll read about below "has been diminishing every time I speak up."
Many people say to me, “it must be hard for your family because they can’t see/talk to you.” They say “Oh, it must be hard not to have relationships with your family.”
This is one of the hardest things I deal with now. Some people, when they say this, they are empathizing. Some are vilifying me. I am a monster because I left, I’ve been gone for a good half decade. Who in their right mind could do that sort of thing? Or I must be a ruined pile of a person because I don’t have relationships with my family. Guess what. I’m not a monster. I’m not a ruined pile.
Ending relationships with family doesn’t happen from a place of function. It comes from a very dysfunctional place. If you have a loving, caring family, you may not understand or even comprehend the logistics of unhealthy relationships. But at the same time, repeating over and over that family is the most important piece of one’s life is damaging, especially if family means dysfunction. So tweak your rule a little bit. Family is the most important part of your life, if your family is healthy.
In not being able to recognize this, you are at the same time denying my experience, my pain. You are triggering me yet again to feel shame and betrayal that I felt when I left. Calling it shame and betrayal is undermining what actually happened. I experienced repeated psychological abuse. My dad spoke a sermon about me. Well, it wasn’t actually me. It was his perception of me. With a warning that the devil was going to get my pinkie, my arm, my whole body because I had a taste of sin. Which was alcohol and a man and breaking into my grandma's house to hang out with said man and liquor. Oh, and french bread and heirloom tomatoes. Devil’s got my pinkie, oh delicious, juicy tomatoes. And I actually didn’t drink the alcohol. I’d never had any before and I didn’t start then. Oh, no. It was later on, and it was Mike’s hard lemonade. I was so terrified that I probably drank half of it in the span of two hours.
My question is? How much would you put up with? With a stranger it’s easy to say no. Family, though. That’s a different field, isn’t it. Family can do anything to you. It’s okay. They’re family.
Would you put up with a sermon from your dad about how the devil is getting in your soul? Would you put up with calling your grandma to ask for money only having her ask you to call back when grandpa is home, so you can talk to him. You do that and when you talk to him on the phone, grandma is in the background telling him what to say. That no, you can’t have money to pay your balance at the university. Why, you ask? Your grandma tells your grandpa to say it’s because you’re living in sin. You’re living with a man, who you’re not married to.
Can you guess why we didn’t get married right away? Because my family was treating me like shit and I was hoping it would get better but it never did.
Would you put up with a Thanksgiving where your sister-in-law and your mom snarkily talk about how an engagement ring isn’t a ring if it doesn’t have a giant rock? And you’re standing right there, listening to them, and your engagement ring is giant rock-free?
Would you put up with people stopping saying “God’s Peace” to you, which is code for “we are in the same church and everyone else is going to hell.” Like bro code. You could stand in a line with forty other people and a person walks down the line, shaking everyone’s hand and saying God’s Peace. When the person gets to you, they skip you like you didn’t exist and move on. God’s Peace. God’s Peace. God’s Peace. Oh you’re going to hell. Next person.
Would you put up with letters written to you about how sinful you are? Would you put up with your sister-in-law writing messages to your fiance on Facebook about she hates his posts and why does he even say anything?
Would you put up with a friend who once said you were like a sister, walk hurriedly by you within five feet, angrily, and at the same time pretending she didn’t see you? Would you call her later as a lifeline because you’re so alone, and she says let's meet up, but not in my home. Because I might, like, bring drugs or something because I’m going to hell. Anything sinful is up for grabs.
Would you put up with your sister telling you that you need to save your siblings from the church? That by maintaining abusive relationships you can help pull them out too?
What would you do? What would you do when your whole community, your family, your world is torn down from the inside? When all the loving, trusting relationships you ever knew instantly turned to pain?
Would you run or stay?
Many of you might say that you would run. But let me tell you something. Out of all the people that I know left my church, many of them still have these relationships with their family. And they are dysfunctional. My cousin’s dad punched her sister in the back and said that she and her sister were making their mom cry all the time because they didn’t attend church. When we were kids he broke a neighbor kid’s arm. He broke a child’s arm. Never went to jail. My cousin that left the church still maintains her relationship with her dad.
There are stories and stories of sexual abuse too. Molestation. Rampant in families, rampant in the church. If you don’t believe me just ask. If emotional and psychological abuse aren’t enough for you.
This is the tip of the iceberg of my story. But I ask you. Respect me. And don’t say shit like “Oh it must be hard to not have relationships with your family.” You know what’s way, way, way, way harder? Spending 20 or so years being abused.
And letting it happen even longer. Because family.
Saying “it must be hard….” silences me. I cannot find myself when yet again, I am seen in a weird light. I had a fucking hard time, yes. Try to think of these painful moments and realize that they happened to me every day. Every day. A hiss of “I’ll pray for you” in your ear by your great aunt and you’re supposed to act like your day is perfectly fine. Your attempt to empathize isn’t going to fix years of abuse.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sunday, January 14, 2018
Happy new year, readers. I've been fully-occupied in recent months by creative projects, and hope for more of the same in 2018. I haven't forgotten this site (if anything, movements such as #metoo give renewed hope for reforms) but these pages will continue to be quiet as I work on other interests.
If you are in need of support or inspiration, please join the Extoots Facebook group. One of the current topics is how to relate to Laestadian friends and relatives after leaving the faith.
This "declaration" by therapist David Richo (How to Be an Adult in Relationships, The Five Things We Cannot Change, et al) may help.
This "declaration" by therapist David Richo (How to Be an Adult in Relationships, The Five Things We Cannot Change, et al) may help.
He advises preparing for potentially difficult conversations by first having a conversation with yourself, confirming the following:
- I accept full responsibility for the shape my life has taken.
- I need never fear my own truth, thoughts, or sexuality.
- I let people go away or stay and I am still okay.
- I accept that I may never feel I am receiving – or have received – all the attention I seek.
- I acknowledge that reality is not obligated to me; it remains unaffected by my wishes or rights.
- One by one, I drop every expectation of people and things.
- I reconcile myself to the limits on others’ giving to me and on my giving to them.
- Until I see another’s behavior with compassion, I have not understood it.
- I let go of blame, regret, vengeance, and the infantile desire to punish those who hurt or reject me.
- I am still safe when I cease following the rules my parents (or others) set for me.
- I cherish my own integrity and do not use it as a yardstick for anyone else’s behavior.
- I am free to have and entertain any thought. I do not have the right to do whatever I want. I respect the limits of freedom and still act freely.
- No one can or needs to bail me out. I am not entitled to be taken care of by anyone or anything.
- I give without demanding appreciation though I may always ask for it.
- I reject whining and complaining as useless distractions from direct action on or withdrawal from unacceptable situations.
- I let go of control without losing control.
- If people knew me as I really am, they would love me for being human like them.
- I drop poses and let my every word and deed reveal what I am really like.
- I live by personal standards and at the same time – in self-forgiveness – I make allowances for my occasional lapses.
- I grant myself a margin of error in my relationships. I release myself from the pain of having to be right or competent all the time.
- I accept that it is normal to feel that I do not always measure up.
- I am ultimately adequate to any challenge that comes to me.
- My self-acceptance is not complacency since in itself it represents an enormous change.
- I am happy to do what I love and love what is.
- Wholehearted engagement with my circumstances releases my irrepressible liveliness.
- I love unconditionally and set sane conditions on my self-giving.
Thursday, December 07, 2017
I happened across this article while doing some late night research. While I am not familiar with this specific Apostolic church tradition, I also grew up in an Apostolic Lutheran Church tradition. I started leaving when I was 19 didn’t completely leave until I was 22, due to trying to live in both worlds and trying to pacify family. To those who wonder why folk don’t leave. Perhaps the #1 reason is because being raised in this means you have NO other contacts/friends/family. If you leave, you are not just leaving a church, you are literally leaving your family and your friends. Everyone. All gone. All at once. Now it may be, that a few may buck the system and remain in a relationship with you, but there’s no way to know that ahead of time.
It’s important to note that the Laestadian’s (forgive my spelling) have split into many different churches. So what was true for one person in one group is not necessarily true for another person in another group. Additionally, even in the specific group I grew up in there are conflicting views and I often hear cries like the one above, that “WE” don’t teach (xyz). All I can say is, **I** was taught.
I wish folk would step back a bit and realize that one person’s experiences may not have anything to do with THEM. Rather than posting and saying, a broad brushing we would never statement, why not say, in the specific group I was raised in, this was not the case. And then perhaps offer that those who attend where this kind of extreme legalism is in place, might find a new church home with you. Then offer them your personal information or at least your church’s information! Yadda yadda. You know, be HELPFUL, instead of trying to make people who have been abused not talk about it. And it is/was spiritual abuse.
Many things were taught non verbally. This also contributes to the indignant cry ‘we never taught’. Yeah. Well. Here’s the thing. If a child grows up knowing they should only be friends with people from the church. They should only marry a ‘true believer’ and true believer is always understood to be ‘in THE church’. And preachers regularly talk about every other church as ‘dead faith churches’, etc and so forth, they don’t HAVE to come right out and say, All other churches are going to hell. It’s implied. The children grow up believing that. And when you leave and are battling cancer and your mother writes you a letter saying she hopes you don’t die before you see the error of your ways (no this wasn’t me)… well…. it’s pretty obvious that everyone not in ‘THE group’ is going to hell. Just as it is implied in OH so many ways that couples should have as many children as they can pop out regardless. From the time I was a small child, it was understood without so many words being said, that as a female it was expected that I would meet a “christian” (i.e. fellow ALC member) husband, get married, and have children. There was no concept of doing anything else. I was taught college was a sin and would lead me ‘astray’. It was understood, I should simply work whatever job supplied enough food and shop for a husband.
This sort of self protectiveness is quite common. Since so many things are taught via custom, non verbally, and through hearing the adults taught when you are a child, it is EASY to deny they were ever taught. And I truly believe the deniers believe it themselves. They are not lying per say, they have most often, deceived themselves. After all, who remembers the conversation they hear as a child playing in the corner while their mother and others “discuss” and “tsk” the waywardness of some person or another who did some seemingly harmless thing and yet clearly it must be a horrible thing or why are they tsking it? But you see, NO ONE will ever talk about it. The child forms their beliefs and forgets the actual conversation that caused the belief. And since the adults were gossiping they will never admit they said what they said. And when their belief is confronted head on, it sounds unpleasant because rarely do their actual beliefs line up with what they KNOW to be true. So they deny it.
This does apply directly to child abuse. I have personal experience with dealing with a family where there was incest among siblings and cousins from young teens to toddlers. Yet not a single soul in the family is willing to discuss this openly and honestly and have instead blamed one of the victims who insisted there needed to be honest, open, discussion. Over the years, more and more putrid details have risen to the surface and it has become more apparent that various adults (at the time the incest was happening) likely know far more than they are admitting, thus their refusal to have an honest discussion. But by golly, they are good people, godly people, forgiven people. I have to ask. HOW can one be forgiven if they ask for forgiveness from someone OTHER than the person who they did the wrong to??? If I punch you in the nose and ask Jim for forgiveness, does this make sense? Their very system of forgiveness is flawed and is being utilized by abusers to hide. Once the person ‘asks forgiveness’ the victim is then told they are to never talk about it again. This is said, EVEN IF the person asked forgiveness from someone else and the victim had no knowledge of it. It is also said if the person asks forgiveness for something completely not relevant. For example, Bob punches Joe in the nose. Bob then asks Joe to forgive him for raising his voice. Joe is then supposed to ‘move on’ from Bob punching him in the nose because Bob ‘had it forgiven’. It is ludicrous and childish and beyond narcissistic. To those who want to say, this doesn’t happen. Sorry it does. I am not the only one who has seen this, experienced this, dealt with this. I could sit and write here all night, with real life examples of similarly nasty things. These things have nothing to do with being “imperfect”. They have to do with blatantly living IN SIN.
People can say, you need to research, but it seems to me, the comments of those who LIVED It ARE research. We are not lying. We are not making this stuff up. Those of us who have left have been through years of emotional damage to do so. We have endured judgement and anger. We have been randomly attacked (verbally) in grocery stores and gas stations. We have had close family pretend to not see us in stores. We have been told by close family we are going to hell. Some have died with our own mother refusing to sit by our side. We have been sat down and ‘set straight’ by those who think they are more loving than those who just outright attack. We have had our faith, our character, our reputations slandered. We have had our children approached in public and told we are liars. We have been called names. If the churches of this tradition are as loving and nice and open and wonderful as so many would claim, then WHY is it a commonly told story that people who leave are treated so horribly?
One last thing. While I was still in the church, I started visiting another church. I hid it because I knew it would NOT be accepted, but I wanted to know because I was watching people I worked with and seeing that they truly believed in God the same as me. I visited another church, while continuing to faithfully attend the ALC church service. This went on for several months. No one was the wiser. And NO ONE treated me any differently. No one had a problem with me. No one questioned anything I said in Bible study type discussions. Until. The fateful day when someone found out. And told someone else. Who confronted me in a restaurant in front of a group. It was a very simple conversation. “I heard you’ve been visiting another church.” “Yep” “I heard it’s a BAPTIST (said like it’s a dirty word) church” “Yep” LOOOOONG pause. “Well you AREN’T going to KEEP going are you???” “Probably”. Silence. The entire group got up as one and left. THAT showed me the lie. The lie that we don’t say others are going to hell. If that’s true, then why did they care? Behavior ALWAYS tattles on your true beliefs folks. It doesn’t matter what you SAY. What matters is what you DO.
Posted by Free at 12/07/2017 04:29:00 PM
Monday, December 04, 2017
|Photo from wikicommons|
I am a former ALC member. My parents are still members. Due to my parents' religious beliefs, my childhood was missing so many things other kids experience. Sleepovers, birthday parties, going to movies as a family, going to prom, going to concerts, drinking a first beer together, family movie nights with popcorn, etc. Now, we're all grown up and we lead our own individual lives. We imbibe every now and again, attend mainstream churches, go to movies, go to concerts, and have dinner parties. We do these things with our friends. We do not do these things with our parents. I don't even talk to my parents about these activities.
"Due to my parents' religious beliefs, my childhood was missing so many things other kids experience."
I guess I am struggling with the relationship with my parents now. I currently have a wide circle of supportive friends (and family members, too). I have been fortunate to have deep friendships. What I've come to realize is that friendship is often built around shared activities. These shared activities might include going to a movie, then getting a drink afterwards and talking about the movie. Those are the things that build deep connections. With my parents however -- so many things are off-limits for talking, or doing. Thus, the ability to build a deep relationship is stunted. And that makes me enormously sad. I'm not sad for myself. I have friends and deep connections. I am sad for my parents. They seem lonely and they don't know their kids. Why even have kids if you don't get to benefit from an adult relationship with them someday? But, they're too closed-minded to open up to experiences where they could have a deeper connection with their children. It's a one-sided relationship where I talk about things they like to talk about and we do things they like to do. They don't really engage in my personal interests. They're offended by many of my opinions, so I keep them to myself.
"I wish I could be one of those people who hangs out with their mom or dad . . . "
Providence has provided me with surrogate parents who mentored me through my late teens, 20's and 30's. But, I know my parents are hurt by my giving, in a sense, their paternal/maternal role to others. I don't actually want to do that. I crave a meaningful relationship with my parents. I wish I could be one of those people who hangs out with their mom or dad laughing, connecting, and sharing life.
I feel like this community might be a good place to start a discussion about healing relationships and managing guilt. I feel guilty that I'm not close to my parents, yet I realize it's not my fault. Now that they're aging, the broken relationship is more visible than when they were young and healthy. It all just makes me so so so sad and I don't know how to cope with all this sadness. I've kind of just accepted that this is just a burden that I have to carry.
"It all just makes me so so so sad and I don't know how to cope with all this sadness."
This is from Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy:
To honor our parents means to be thankful for for their existence and to respect their actual role as givers of life in the sequence of human existence. Of course in order to honor them in this way we need to be thankful for our own existence too. But we also will usually need to have pity on them. For, even if they are good people, it is almost always true that they have been quite wrong in many respects, and possibly still are.Commonly those who have experienced great antagonism with their parents are only able to be thankful for their existence and honor them, as they deeply need to, after the parents have grown old. Then it is possible to pity them, to have mercy on them. And that opens the door to honoring them. With a certain sadness, perhaps, but also with joy and peace at least. One of the greatest gifts of The Kingdom Among Us is the healing of the parent-child relation, “turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).
"How do you manage the sadness?"
I find that passage helpful, but I don't have peace. How do other people who grew up in Laestadian-based religions manage the sadness of the broken relationships? What about managing these uncomfortable emotions once parents have died? Has anyone had success in creating a meaningful relationship with their parents or family?
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
"Perhaps the best discovery made on the trip, namely 2 sacks full of Lapp skulls and bones." -- Lars Levi LaestadiusThe quote is from an excerpt (translated from Swedish) of a remarkable White Paper published by the Church of Sweden, available in print (at no cost) and excerpted online, where it can be copied and pasted into Google Translate. Titled "The Historical Relationships between the Swedish Church and the Sámi: A Scientific Anthology," the paper is the result of a project begun in 2012 whose purpose was to "deepen the knowledge of historical relations between the Church and the Sámi." It serves as a public confession of abuse, and the Church calls it is a necessary first step toward reconciliation.
A direct line can be drawn between the grave-robbing of the 19th century and the race biology of the 20th century to the horrors of the Holocaust. When the Swedish Institute for Racial Biology was founded in Uppsala in 1922, it was the first of its kind in the world, and its painstaking research methodology was admired by, and became a model for, Nazi Germany. (Learn more in this excellent documentary.)
Excerpt from "The Historical Relationships between the Swedish Church and the Sámi: A Scientific Anthology":
PRIESTS CONTRIBUTED TO RACIAL BIOLOGY RESEARCH
Priests and other representatives of the Church of Sweden took part in robberies and excavations and contributed to the collection of Sámi human remains for cranial and racial research.
This research has in itself contributed to the notions of the Sámi as a primitive and lower standing people and enabled discrimination, marginalization and oppression of Sámi in Sweden.
Priests participated in the robbery of Sámi graves
During the 19th and early 1900's, Sámi tombs were plundered in a comprehensive search for skulls and skeletal parts, including the service of racial biology. Priests and other representatives of the Swedish Church participated. Today, Sámi demands that human remains be returned.
SÁMI GRAVES WERE ROBBED
The grave robberies were sometimes held secretly during the night and using bribes. There was, of course, a resistance among Sámi against what happened, which those responsible showed little respect for.
The most famous example is Lars Levi Læstadius (1800-1861), church leader in Karesuando and Pajala parishes and founder of the Lapponian revival movement. There are several examples of how he participated in the robbery of Sámi tombs, for example as a guide and local expert in the French La Recherche expedition (1838-1840). Læstadius himself writes in an unsigned newspaper article about what the expedition found: "Perhaps the best discovery made on the trip, namely 2 sacks full of Lapp skulls and bones."