Showing posts with label Finland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Finland. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Birth Control as a Basic Human Right


Check out this blog from Finland about the Laestadian ban on birth control and its impact on fathers as well as mothers.
Women and men should know that there does not exist any ban of birth control in the Bible. This Laestadian doctrine of large families and of sin of contraceptives are created only by human beings, by the Laestadian preachers who know almost nothing about biblical scholarship.  Sex and sexuality have been the exclusive domain of Laestadian husbands and preachers in the patriarchate gender system. Laestadian women are  never asked to express their opinions and experiences on this issues. However, the birth control is a determinate part of the human rights, and everyone’s right to privacy should always be respected in these issues. 
The UN’s World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows: 
Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and people to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence. 
If you would like to investigate more details e.g. about the Bible and contraception, read this post by Ed. A. Suominen.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Laestadian Theologian Lacks Penis, Gets Ordained Anyway

Ed Suominen has been invited to participate in this blog and, starting with this article, looks forward to a dialogue with those whose lives have intersected with Laestadianism. He is the author of An Examination of the Pearl, a study of the Conservative/Heideman branch of the Laestadian movement, and his articles here will often reference portions of that book by section number with links to the free HTML version. You can find Ed's own blog here.

An Extraordinary Ordination

Change is happening in the Lutheran church worldwide, but Conservative Laestadians in Finland have held tight regarding the ordination of women. Now one courageous woman, Mari Leppänen, has challenged the status quo by completing her theological study with ordination as a priest in the Finnish state church. She did so over the objections of the SRK leadership, yet without expressing any other disagreement or conflict with her long-held Conservative Laestadian faith.

Mari Leppänen
Omat polut, CC licensed
It was a historical event, as the Conservative Laestadian historian Seppo Lohi noted, speaking strictly as a researcher. But he noted that female priesthood is not accepted in the movement and that the ordination of women is seen as heretical (harhaopiksi) in light of the Bible. In view of that, he observed that Leppänen, “loads quite a bit of pressure on herself concerning her relationship to Conservative Laestadianism. She shows that she has a different idea about ​​the ordination of women than the Conservative Laestadian perception.” Regarding the question of Leppänen’s possible separation from the movement, Lohi declined to “use such drastic terms” as that, but says the ordination will undoubtedly lead to discussions and she must explain her action (§4.7.6, quoting Ijäs 2012a).

Mari Leppänen's Ordination Ceremony:
Omat polut, CC licensed.
Now that she has gone ahead and accepted the ordination, those “discussions” seem to have resulted in her being condemned as not being in the “Kingdom of God,” as reported by Johannes Ijäs in his March 3, 2012 Kotimaa24 article. One of the main SRK figures involved with that judgement is Kimmo Puolitaival, the chairman of the board of trustees in Leppänen’s home congregation (RY) of Turku. He expressed agreement with a statement apparently made by Matti Taskila, the SRK’s Deputy Chairman, that “a woman who takes the priestly ordination removes herself from the movement” (Ijäs 2012b). In response to questions from Kotimaa24 and concerns expressed about human rights issues, Puolitaival released a statement defending the Conservative Laestadian viewpoint as one of religious conviction grounded in the Bible. The closest the statement came to mentioning Leppänen’s spiritual status was this:
If someone acts in another way in the female ordination issue and takes ordination, she might have considered her act, and understands the penalties of disobedience against the word of the Lord. [Alastalo 2012]
“The word of the Lord” that is being invoked so gravely here is mainly
Apostle Paul’s declaration to comply with the proper form of worship: Women are to keep silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34-35). This instruction stems from a lecture, or sermon, which gave this charge to the Congregation’s shepherd, or priest, when implementing the framework of the worship process. Apostle Paul argues that he has “the Lord’s command” on this particular directive concerning worship. Unfortunately, we do not feel any closer to understanding the meaning of “the Lord’s command.” The reasoning employed by Apostle Paul is most powerful and authoritative because it is the word of the Lord.” [Nissilä 2012, from §4.7.6]
Even more unfortunate than the admitted lack of understanding is the fact that a woman is essentially being condemned to eternal damnation (§4.2.1) for desiring to do what is permissible, routine, and encouraged for most any man in the SRK. And let’s not sugar-coat what Paul actually says in his “powerful and authoritative” reasoning. Here’s the entire passage:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. [1 Cor 14:34-35]
The new priest. Photo by a supporter at her
post-ordination reception. Used with permission.
The next time a woman raises her hand to offer a comment in a “congregational discussion evening” or Bible Class, or gives a presentation or teaches a Bible Class lesson, you can bet that she won’t be told to shut up and sit down, to wait until she gets home to ask her husband about that nagging theological question. No, the trouble is when a woman decides to really get out of line and put on a clerical collar, stepping across an imaginary boundary to stand behind a pulpit that Paul does not mention. Then the startled and threatened menfolk grab the Bible out of her hands and point indignantly to a passage that has been otherwise ignored.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along...

Conservative Laestadianism has a long history of not appreciating outsiders poking around with concerns about how its members are being treated. In the midst of the 1970s “caretaking” hysteria that even the SRK has now acknowledged involved “spiritual abuse,” a 1974 issue of the SRK’s Päivämies newspaper warned believers about airing or talking about the
faults of the children of God . . . among unbelievers. It is the casting of pearls before swine, belittling of God’s children within earshot of unbelievers. This is in effect a boomerang when consequently the unbelievers in turn berate the children of God. With this trampling, the one who spoke evil is trampled too.” [from §4.10]
Dr. Johanna Hurtig.
Omat Polut, CC licensed.
Another courageous woman, Johanna Hurtig, experienced her share of being trampled–not by the evil world but by some of “God’s children” themselves–when she refused to let the SRK off the hook about child sexual abuse by prominent members. She was called “an overgrown, fat sheep, unprofessional, in a false spirit,” who didn’t have their trust. Her conclusions from the experience are not flattering about the SRK leadership:
They don’t appreciate her attempts to advise them, her open criticism of the organizational culture, and her speaking out publicly about the community. And what she speaks about is “a shameful phenomenon that happens in a community that considers itself representing family values, decency, and respect for the law.” She says, “I defy their great power as I act in the issue without asking their permission or opinion,” having “shown in public many negative things about them: stalling, ignoring, and inconsistent public communications.” They “have to admit their faults,” and thus “a shadow is cast on the inerrant congregation” [§4.10.1]
In March 2009, society poked its nose into the sanctum of the “Kingdom of God” again, this time about contraception. The European Union’s Human Rights Commission
expressed concerns that the movement’s teachings–whether a “ban” is said to be in place or not–effectively infringe on the individual right to freely make a determination about contraception. That right, it said, is a matter of human rights protection. It noted that the term “contraception ban” is not used. But it pointed out that Laestadians have experienced “very real social compulsion” about the issue, and “failure to comply will have serious spiritual and secular consequences.” [§4.7.6]
Now, despite Puolitaival’s wish that the SRK “would have the right to teach and bring out the Word of God, based on religious conviction and declare the kingdom of God and the message of sin and grace, without having to worry about being accused of human rights violations” (from Alastalo 2012), the outside world is raising its eyebrows yet again:
The leader of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen, is saddened and worried at the attitude taken by the Conservative Laestadian revival movement toward those in the organisation who take a positive attitude toward the ordination of women. Mäkinen says in an e-mail message that he feels that it is a serious matter that a commitment to decisions of the Lutheran Church can lead to a person being silenced, marginalised, or excluded from the movement. . . . [T]he Conservative Laestadian movement decided that the Archbishop’s theological secretary Risto Leppänen would no longer be allowed to teach or speak at Laestadian events. The move was taken because Leppänen takes a positive view of the ordination of women, which [is] accepted doctrine in the Lutheran Church, but opposed by the Laestadians. [Helsingin Sanomat, Secretary Banned from Speaking]
Risto Leppänen is the new priest’s husband. His offense was supporting his wife’s desire to do the same kind of pastoral work that he is doing, without letting her gender block her path.

 

Cleaning House

The issue is not a new one, nor is it going away anytime soon. Mari Leppänen tells the Helsingin Sanomat, “The women theologians [in the 1970s] could not bring their wishes forward, and they were left completely outside the movement’s official debate on the ministry. They were bypassed because they were women, and because of their theological background.” Now, those in the younger generation “have grown both as Laestadians, and as members of this society, and they have seen how women in the church can function as equals among men. Many hope that they could ponder the ministry issue more openly without fear of being judged” (Women’s ordination divides Laestadian movement).

It is still an unrealized hope. Another SRK ordained priest who took the same stand in favor of female ordination, with the same consequence, writes that “the cleansings are continuing.” He hopes that what follows are not the same systematic and brutal excesses that were seen in the 1970s, but he is afraid that is just what is happening now (Alaranta 2012). Another ordained priest whom the SRK has decided to silence at its services is Stiven Naatus, who nonetheless does not believe that the situation will lead to the kind of fragmentation that has occurred at other times in the movement’s history (Ahonen 2012). Perhaps so, if the SRK follows what its Executive Board noted regretfully about the “excesses” of the 1970s: We should learn from the past” (from §4.10.2).

References

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SRK admits serious mistakes in dealing with sex abuse

Thanks to commenter Xsa for pointing out this article, the most comprehensive English-language recap I've seen thus far of everything to do with the current SRK Laestadian sex abuse scandal happening in Finland:

Conservative Laestadians admit serious mistakes in dealing with child abuse issue – trust is gone in SRK

The responsible leaders’ excuse for keeping a very tight lid on hundreds of child victims and a myriad of perpetrators, who have not come to light, is “lack of information”. Anyone of the 24 members of the SRK board (they all are men) did not know anything.

Someone else could suggest “lack of freedom of speech”, too.

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?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finnish Lutheran Sex Discrimination Case

This interesting article popped up in my feed reader this morning:

from HELSINGIN SANOMAT: Woman pastor wins sex discrimination case

Pohjanraitio had been scheduled to serve at the altar, handing out communion. However, before the service, she was told by the visiting pastor that his apostolic beliefs prevented him from working with a woman pastor at the altar.

Does the phrase "apostolic beliefs" mean that the visiting pastor was Laestadian? Does anyone know if the pastor in question was definitely Laestadian?

This article raises lots of interesting questions for me regarding the relationship between religion and the state. Because the Lutheran church is government supported in Finland, does that give the state the authority to enforce civil rights?

If this had happened in the United States I think the courts would never had gotten involved, due to the separation of church and state. In the United States Laestadians are not part of a state church --they control who gets ordained and women are not allowed to be ordained in any Laestadian denomination, so that's another reason this never could have happened in the U.S.

On the one hand, I very strongly support freedom for religions to practice and ordain as they see fit without government interference. But on the other hand if any tax dollars are supporting an institution I very strongly believe that then the public has a valid interest in regulating what goes on in said institution.

Finally, I think that churches that choose not to ordain women are really missing out. My current priest is a woman, and she is the most talented and capable clergyperson I have ever had, bar none.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Laestadian Sex Abuse Scandal Update

The following short article appeared the Helsinki Times a few days ago:

Leading Laestadian figure arrested on suspicion of abuse

Apparently an unnamed person holding a "position of trust" within the SRK has been detained on suspicions of sexually abusing a child.

There isn't much in English on this news story as of late, but if I find anything else I'll post it here.

Hat tip to the Laestadian-ism blog for this story. See their site for additional links in Finnish.

See also: Laestadian Sex Abuse Scandal

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!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Laestadian adventures on Youtube

Thanks to an Anonymous commenter, my attention was drawn to these Laestadian related clips on YouTube. Unfortunately, I don't know Swedish or Finnish so I don't know exactly what these clips are saying. Can any of you Scandinavian language speakers out there provide a brief paraphrase or summary translation of what is being talked about in these clips?

The first one had a description, which I ran through Google Translate to get this mangled rendering of the Swedish: The movie is a description of Laestadius' birth and .... Laestadianism is the largest revivalist movement and active in the Lutheran churches. The film tries, in contrast to most other youtube snippet makers, to describe Laestadianism in a positive spirit.



I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of irony watching this clip, with the beautiful organ and accompanied choral arrangement --wouldn't these be musical forms that many of Laestadius' followers (especially in the United States) would condemn as sinful? Yet here they provide the musical backdrop to the pictures and Swedish captions. I'd love to know if the singers are Laestadians...they certainly sing a lot faster and more in tune than most of the Laestadians I ever heard in church. :)

The next clip is in Finnish. Google translated description: A detailed description of Laestadianism origins and current status. The film goes through Laestadian early stages, distribution, and trends report. The film seeks to describe the positive wake-up movement, unlike many other products in this Youtube Code.



It looks to be virtually identical to the first clip, but in Finnish and a little more recent footage. I'm curious about what look to be large gatherings of Laestadians. Are these the Finnish equivalents of the Fall Services, Conventions, and Youth Rallies that existed in my ALC (Federation) youth?

Last clip, apparently in Swedish: Film and photos from laestadianernas meeting in Bosund 5-7.6.2009 with a pension song as background music.



What's a "pension song," or did Google Translate mess that up? :-) The people singing in this shorter clip sound more like the Laestadians I grew up with. Our services were often translated from Finnish to English, and we sang a lot of music out of the Finnish hymnal. So this singing, in a language I don't understand, has the same slow, soulful mournfulness of that music. The clips of large families, children playing in the parking lot, and the cadence of the preaching (used here as a voice over the music) all transported me back to similiar services during my childhood.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching these. Thanks, Anonymous!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is Georgia the Finland of Our Day?

It is hard to make sense of the Russian invasion of Georgia. All I know is that America has forfeited its moral standing in the world. Some argue that this is about oil, and Georgians can expect more violence, with little the U.S. can do to help. Some seem to warn of even darker outcomes. Here is an excerpt of an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security advisor.

Fundamentally at stake is what kind of role Russia will play in the new international system. Unfortunately, Putin is putting Russia on a course that is ominously similar to Stalin's and Hitler's in the late 1930s. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has correctly drawn an analogy between Putin's "justification" for dismembering Georgia -- because of the Russians in South Ossetia -- to Hitler's tactics vis-a-vis Czechoslovakia to "free" the Sudeten Deutsch.

Even more ominous is the analogy of what Putin is doing vis-a-vis Georgia to what Stalin did vis-a-vis Finland: subverting by use of force the sovereignty of a small democratic neighbor. In effect, morally and strategically, Georgia is the Finland of our day.

You can read more of the interview here. (For information about the Russo-Finnish War, go here.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Laestadians Online

Kiitos to the kind reader who sent me this article from Finland: "Conservative Laestadians' lifestyle debate boils over onto the Internet." (outdated link)

"Maybe you've started something," she joked in her email. But surely the online debate over Laestadianism predates this blog, which started in August, 2004. Maybe one of our European readers can give us a timeline.

Here is an excerpt:
Something of an upheaval is now going on within the movement, with an increasing number of people feeling that there is an overemphasis on the external rules of the religion.

As there is a resistance to expressing public criticism within the movement, debate takes place on Internet message boards and within small groups . . . Dissidents among the Laestadians want to emphasize pure Lutheranism without the lifestyle rules . . . (which) took root in the 1960s and 1970s - a time of pastoral care meetings and excommunications of wayward members. Increasing numbers of today's members are calling for a critical examination of the era.

Rules, such as the bans on television, the theatre, and birth control are no more than advice, according to the official teaching. However, individual members of the movement are not entitled to question them . . .

Conservative Laestadians often take part in on-line debates anonymously.

"They are afraid of being labelled. If an individual member of the congregation says something that goes against the official teaching, his or her faith is immediately is seen in a questionable light."

Been there, done that? I encourage you to read the whole article. There's a wonderful bit about a Laestadian pastor who got out of teaching confirmation camp by holding a press interview in a (gasp) theatre.

O tempora! O mores!