Showing posts with label abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abuse. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seeking Help as a Laestadian

In Norway, Sami victims of violence seek help less often than non-Sami. No surprise, as this also holds in native communities in North America.

But in addition to the disempowering effects of colonization, Laestadianism is mentioned as a cause in this article.
"Laestadianism's influence on Sami culture and society also plays a part in strengthening the attitude that it is the victim who must bear the shame and guilt for the violence, not the offender."
"The tabooing of sex and body, the silence concerning everything private, and the idea that issues are solved within the family. We find such ideas everywhere in Norway, but there are indications that these taboos are stronger within Laestadian and Sami communities." 
"The view on women in Sami communities is often colored by Laestadianism: women should remain silent in gatherings and sexuality is not discussed."
Sound familiar? What can be done?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Helena's Story

"What if you were told that reason and questioning can take your faith away? Contraception is a sin, homosexuality is a sin, wearing makeup is a sin, or even having a TV is a sin?"
In this Culture Chat with Mimi Chan podcast, Mimi talks to Helena (one of the bravest people I know, and a dear friend) about leaving Laestadianism, and healing from sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.

A few quotes:
Control through fear:
"They have a belief that you can lose your faith in an instant. There is a solid amount of fear built in. I remember as a kid feeling scared, what would happen if I lost my faith and then I died, what would happen to me?"

On the need for integrity as the final straw:
"If you don't say anything, you're saying something. And if you do say something, you're going to have to go against your belief system unless your beliefs are in lockstep with theirs." 

On shunning:
"If you were in the church and you're gone, now you're not just a worldly person, you're an evil worker. You're treated with less respect than people who have never been part of the religion."

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Margaret's Story (The Voices Project)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Making It Safe to Speak Up

It seems a month cannot go by without my hearing of another case of sex abuse in Laestadian churches. An OALC member was recently arrested for child rape. Over at Imperfect Lady, Beth writes about another sex abuse case in the FALC.

It takes incredible courage for victims to speak up given the is enormous pressure in Laestadian communities to save face, and "just forgive."

If I could, I would have this video, posted on the "Child Friendly Faith" Facebook page, shown to all children. But the sad truth is, not all parents would respond like those in the video. Some would doubt, blame, or accuse the child of lying.

What do you think? What can we do to help make it safe to speak up?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reach Out, Take My Hand

I know many of us have on our hearts the senseless tragedy in Connecticut, and many here in Washington State are mourning the loss of a sweet little girl to suicide. May these deaths inspire us to reach out to others, to listen to their pain, to offer solace, and to work toward a society that recognizes and treats abuse and mental illness of all kinds.

The powerful story below was submitted by a reader.
When I was 11 or 12, I decided I was going to commit suicide. I took a sleeping bag, a family sized bottle of Bayer Aspirin, and a canteen into the woods, where . . .  I lost my nerve after a few hours. I left all of these items in the forest, and if my mother ever looked for the sleeping bag, the aspirin, and the canteen, she never questioned why these items were missing. 
I lost my nerve because, according to church doctrine, I could not determine if I had reached the age of reason, and in taking my own life I would go to hell. Sermons gave conflicting opinions. Our believer friend “Lasse,” who we all consulted regarding spiritual matters, thought it was age 20, but some ministers said confirmation age, and another believer thought it could be as low as age eight. I did not want to take any chances on hell, so I did not kill myself. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Danger of "Forgive and Forget"

Watch this powerful series to see what happens when "forgive and forget" victimizes the victims, and allows a culture of abuse to thrive in the dark.

In Brazil, the rapist of a 9-year old girl who became pregnant with twins remains a member of the Catholic Church while the girl's mother (and the doctors who preformed a life-saving abortion), were excommunicated. The girl escaped excommunication only because she is still a child in the eyes of Church authorities. 

In Portland, Oregon, a woman is suing the Apostolic Faith Church for abuse she suffered as a child, saying she wants to hold the church accountable for looking the other way and ignoring her pleas for help.

"I realized that one way to help a lot of the friends that I knew in this church that were also victims was to come forward and let them see my face and show them that I’m not scared to let people know what was done to me," she said. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fighting Words

Page from a Gutenberg Bible (1454)
This week I stopped at the downtown public library and saw an exhibition of rare religious texts. With permission, I photographed some of the treasures they had on display. The images you see here are presented in the order of the document’s dating, oldest first.

Witness to the Generations

I meditated on these centuries-old relics for quite a while, considering the many human lifetimes that have passed since the words were pressed and penned onto their pages. Even back then, the sources of those words were already ancient. Most of the books were Bibles, their text copied or translated from a succession of painstakingly hand-copied manuscripts whose original sources have been almost entirely lost in antiquity.

Two columns of clean, bold type stared out at me from the page of a Gutenberg Bible, 558 years after the ink went dry. So much history has passed since then, so many generations born into lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). The black and red of the letters seemed not to have faded at all, unlike the colors of whoever pressed the type onto the page in Mainz, Germany–and his child, and that child, and so on. At least twenty generations of lives blooming and fading: a succession of pink-faced infancy transforming into the gray of old age and death, or worse, a dark red death on the endless battlefields of crusade and conquest.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Key Laestadian sentenced to Prison

Thanks to Old AP for the link:
Key figure in Laestadian movement sentenced to prison

A middle-aged man described as an influential figure in the Conservative Laestadians, a revival movement of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, has been sentenced to prison for molesting a girl who is a relative.

According to the article an internal study has also been done by the SRK regarding abuse, to be released in April.

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

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Laestadian ignorance about Roman Catholicism

After reading some of the comments Precious has been making about the Catholic Church, I was reminded of identical inaccurate rhetoric growing up in the ALC. My how we hated those Catholics, and loved to hold them up as the prime example of a dead faith that got it wrong! (Looking back the irony is almost overwhelming. :-) I'll post some of my own thoughts regarding the relationship between Laestadianism and Roman Catholicism later on, but for now I thought cvow's succinct and accurate post clearing up some of the misinformation was worth repeating here.

cvow writes:

You ask to be educated about various beliefs of the Catholic Church. Let's see if I can help a little.

You stated several OALC commonly held beliefs about the Catholic church. I know that when I was a member of the OALC I heard the same things, along with statements that the Catholics gambled in church, danced in the church aisles, worshipped statues, and all sorts of other outlandish stories. (I also heard lots of stories about other faiths as well, but since you zeroed in on the Catholics, that's where I'll focus as well.) The leader of the OALC congregation that I belonged to loved to pick on the Catholics, although I suspect he had never been inside a Catholic church in his life, as is probably the case with most of the OALC "preachers" who make similar attacks.

Just following your thread more or less in order, you stated that the Catholic Church teaches that you can buy yourself a seat in heaven through charity -- and that they "brag" about their charity. Now I don't really know where this idea got started, because there is nothing in the teaching of the Catholic church to support such a claim. I suppose it hearkens back to the Middle Ages, when the church was "selling" indulgences. I'm pretty sure the error of that was resolved several hundred years ago, but the perception still lingers on. Rest assured, you don't buy your way into heaven in the Catholic Church by charity or any other way except through acceptance and belief in Jesus Christ as saviour and redeemer.

Does the church "brag" about their charity work? Not as near as I can tell. Perhaps the fact that they do ask for donations to support their charitable work -- and it is considerable, believe me -- is what you perceive as "bragging". I will agree with many other posters here -- I was in the OALC for 35 years, more or less, and never, not once, did I ever witness or know about any charitable act to the poor, sick, or homeless by any OALC congregation. I am sure some of the members gave individually to charity as you say you do -- good for you, and I mean that sincerely -- but most did not.

Purgatory is probably one that we could go around on for a long time, since the primary scriptural foundation for that is found in the Old Testament, in Maccabees, which is not part of the KJV bible. If you are interested, in 2 Maccabees 12, the statement is made that King Judas made atonement for the dead, which is held as evidence that there is some kind of purging of sin even after death. In the New Testament in both Peter and Corinthians, the passages about cleansing fire are held as further evidence of this final cleansing. Here again you make the statement that based on money given to the church, a person's soul might be moved from hell into heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Period.

You ask why during the Catholic Mass only the priest partakes of the wine. Hmmm..., I went to Mass last Sunday and partook of both species -- bread and wine -- as did most of the people. I know that at one time, only the host was offered and not the wine, but that changed long ago. I did see that still being done in a very small church, and don't know why it was still done that way -- but there is no liturgical reason for the wine to be withheld. I suspect it was one of those man made traditions that come and go as our faith evolves. The church teaches that you can partake of either or both species and have received communion. As an example of this kind of tradition, people note the ringing of the bells during the consecration of the host and wine. The history of this is that in very olden days, the entire congregation in very large churches could not see what the priest was doing (there were no pews in those days so everyone stood) nor could they hear (no PA system, you know). Hence the bells were rung at important times during the consecration and prayers
so that the congregants could follow the order of the Mass, saying common prayers at the correct times, appropriately bow their heads, kneel, or whatever was called for. Many Catholic churches have abandoned the bell ringing, because obviously those needs no longer exist, but others still do it as a remembrance of those traditions. Eventually it will disappear, I'm sure, as again, there is no liturgical reason, only tradition.

And finally the molestation issue. This has been a shameful discovery and recognition of human failure on the part of some priests. We could debate a long time whether the church failed to act in a timely fashion, whether the official reaction was appropriate and swift enough, and whether the consequences have been just. I can only say that since it has come to light -- albeit much too slowly -- the Church has cooperated fully in the criminal prosecution of the sexual offenders, and has tried to make monetary restitution to the victims. Is it enough? I don't know that it ever could be.

Hopefully these explanations make some things clear, put to rest some old wives' tales, and give food for thought. If you ever really want to know what goes on in a Catholic Church, by all means attend Mass a few times. Believe me, this is a place where truly and absolutely, "All are Welcome". You will probably find to your amazement that you can recite most of the prayers right along with the rest of the congregation, with only a few word changes here and there.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Forgiveness, Laestadian Style

I think the recent comments regarding sexual abuse and forgiveness are very iluminating, and extend well beyond the present context. I completely agree with the folks who have said that forgiveness within the OALC (and I saw this issue alive and well within the ALC too) was and is used to sweep problems under the rug, to shift responsibility from perpetrator to victim, and to allow people to maintain appearances and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

One of the reasons why this tactic is so effective, of course, is because as Christians we really are called to forgive each other. But is forgiveness saying "I forgive you" and then never speaking of the matter again? Absolutely not!

True forgiveness is a long process. It's the end of a long journey that in the case of abuse should start with a full criminal investigation. Only once the full extent of what the perpetrator has done has been exposed, examined, and judged in the full light of day can an informed decision about forgiveness be made. Only once the victim is safe from threat of further abuse and given time and resources to process the experience of what has happened to them are they in a position to consider true forgiveness.

The quick shortcuts to forgiveness offered by the Laestadian churches cheapens true forgiveness and in the case of abuse only serves to short-circuit the healing process and to enable the perpetrators to continue on in their evil ways.

This issue enrages me for a couple of reasons. First, sexual abuse happened within my extended family many years ago. It was covered up and never talked about. Secondly, the same dynamic comes into play for so many lesser issues as well. "Forgiveness" being used to close down discussion and disagreement of all kinds.

I apologize if this post sounds like I'm shouting. I'm not shouting at anyone but the perpetrators and enablers of this sick theological idea.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Happy Childhood

Dharma writes (under the topic Abuse) ". . . it is very likely some of us played together as young kids at church. I have been hoping someone else would stand up and be heard. I was also molested by a cousin in the church. When I finally told, NOTHING was done . . . . it was swept under the rug . . . I am so relieved to find others who have left and started over. Hope to hear from you soon."

Welcome, Dharma. It is never too late to have a happy childhood, as Tom Robbins said.

I'm happy you found us. What would you like to talk about?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Write to Evald Larsen

Anonymous below wrote:
"I certainly understand why a face to face meeting with Elder Larsen isn't in your plans for the weekend . . . but if you don't make contact with the Elder, it may seem to the preacher you spoke to that you backed down from the challenge because you weren't confident enough about what you were saying to go "as high" as the Elders with your comments. Give Larsen the truth!!!"

Let's do this together, readers. Post your personal letters to Larsen as comments below and I will print them out and FedEx the package so he gets it Saturday.

Perhaps together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Phone Call to the OALC

This site is averaging 53 visits a day, with the average visit lasting five minutes, 40 seconds. When I started this, I didn't know where it would go or why I felt called to do it, but it seems to be finding an audience, and I hope it helps where help is needed.

The recent posts about abuse were upsetting to me. Thinking of the kids who are suffering, I felt a call to action. Last night, I sat outside the house in my car and summoned up some courage and called an OALC preacher on my cell phone.

If it took him by surprise, he didn't show it. We traded small talk and then I told him about my blog and expressed my concerns over how the OALC is handling child abuse (in addition to the posts here, I've received emails and phone calls from ex-members about their experiences).

He asked for names. (Of course, I gave none.) He suggested some people make "false accusations." He decried the use of the internet to spread lies, and said people should go directly to the preachers with their concerns and added "there are bitter people out there."

When I told him that it was his moral and legal responsibility to tell victims to report abuse to the authorities, he reassured me that "the preachers know the law." He continued: "we can only pray that God's will be done" (is this a defense of passivity?), and that abuse is a "terrible, terrible sin" and that some people even go to jail for it (Catholics, maybe).

I suggested he help protect the children in his church by preaching about the issue, by telling them that they can say no to adults and that they can report abuse without being ashamed. I said abusers should be prosecuted and given psychiatric help, not simply allowed to repent and forget, and reoffend.

Did he hear me? Did he stop listening three seconds into the conversation? I don't know. There was some commotion in the background, perhaps he was double-tasking. He suggested I come visit with Elder Evald Larsen and another preacher this weekend and I demurred and we rang off.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, as they say. Readers, did I do the right thing?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Abuse in the OALC

This is from a post on in a discussion about the OALC:
"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 exclusivity 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"."

This is an incendiary topic and I implore you to remain calm, refrain from personal attacks and consider what the OALC could do to improve its handling of this issue.

Obviously, abuse is a global problem, not just the OALC's. But certain conditions can make it more likely to occur and harder to prevent. (I'm talking about physical abuse here and I know of what I speak. So don't say it isn't happening.) Are church leaders obstructing justice when they ask victims not to report abusers to the authorities? Are they putting the victims at risk for further abuse? Are victims believed when they report abuse? Are victims afraid of reporting because they are afraid of being blamed? What role does gossip play in keeping people mute? Are wives expected to be subservient to their mates? How are children in large families supervised? How are they taught to respect boundaries?

Benjamin Franklin said: As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.