Showing posts with label forgiveness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forgiveness. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Three Women and a Girl, Considered

Photo from Wikicommons.
Here are My View's thoughts about her story of the girl in the church restroom.
This story is like the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, where a person was left beaten, and people passed by. But who was doing the beating here? Is it not the very people who claim that they, and only they, are favored by God? 
Did they hear this girl's cry? Do you? Those in the church, can you still walk away as if you don't hear? As if she doesn't matter? After this girl "gets picked up and dusted off," what is next for her and her family? You know that she will always carry this with her. You know that this isn't the last beating that she will take. Not by a long shot. She and her baby will continue to be beaten by the very people who claim that they love her and tell her that all her sins are "forgiven and forever washed away."
Are they really? How is it then, when it comes time to baptize this little one, they say: "Not in church." 
How is it then, when she wants to marry a man from the church, they say: "Not in church. Church weddings are for obedient ones." 
This is what "forgiven" looks like? 
How is it then, when the baby grows up and goes off to school, he comes home in tears because his cousin called him a "bastard child" and told him he was "conceived by the devil?" 
Is that what "forever washed away" looks like? 
How is it then, that the one who introduced her to sex by molesting her when she was a little child, now walks through the church unbeaten, even admired. His "sins" forgiven, forgotten, never to be spoken of again.

I am not trying to destroy the church. There are people I love in it, and I cannot sit by and watch another be beaten down.  I wrote this story to give a voice to a girl who was silenced, to call attention to the hypocrisy, so that maybe another girl, another child, could be spared. Someone must speak up for them. 
But I know my voice isn't enough. What will it take to stop the beatings? Who will be the Good Samaritan?

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. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

To leave isn't freedom . . . or is it?

Yesterday, my sister called as I was playing tour guide to visitors from Lapland. She said she had heard an interview with a Laestadian on NPR. That's a first, I thought.

Later, I picked up my husband from the airport and he said "did you hear the interview on NPR?"

I came home and found it here. Have a listen.

It is Hanna Pylvainen, talking about her book with NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

"When I left, I was treated by my friends outside of the church as if I was liberated . . . I was free, I had thrown off the shackles of this oppressive church . . . actually I was going through tremendous mourning. It was this exact feeling . . . that to leave isn't freedom, that made me want to write the book."

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Movement: Compare & Contrast

Welcome back to Troll, who hasn't visited for a while. Anonymous Poison did us all a favor in shaking things up around here. HP3, the poem I posted from Markus turns out to be a hymn; it was sung at his funeral. The LLC ELCA clearly has more to offer musically than the OALC.

I am very tempted to tell you all how FIRED UP I am about Barack Obama, but I'll save that for another thread.

MTH in her last comment asks about the differences between churches in the ritual of asking forgiveness. In 1979 I brought my high school "worldly" sweetheart to the BG OALC (a parental precondition for seeing him). While I can no longer recall his reaction to the "movement," I vividly remember my own sweaty discomfort. The drama could get pretty dramatic, if you know what I mean, and it never had the catharsis for me that it had for others.

An IALC member writes:
"confessing your sins to another is considered optional and private. I've never seen anyone do this at a church service. Though I've seen a lot of rejoicing and crying, but most often its a joyous sort of rejoicing. I've always been told not to look back at sin, lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lot's wife. In other words, have your private conversation with God, or a trusted believer if its still bothering you, go to communion, and go and sin no more. So not all Laestadian churches practice the same way."

Well, shiver me timbers. More diversity among Laestadians.

How did they "move" at your church?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unforgivable Sin

Bunless said...
I would like to start a new thread on this issue. I grew up OALC. I am now married with children and belong to a healthy church. In the OALC I was taught there is one unforgivable sin, they call it "selling your birthright" and explained that it meant either saying bad things about the OALC, or if you were born/baptized into the church and then left. I have assumed that this is the theoretical origin of the shaming and shunning of members who "stray away" (myself, for example). Can anyone please explain the theological thinking behind this, and if you encountered this teaching in your experience with OALC.

then Many Trails Home responded...
Bunless (love your moniker), when I tried to absolve my mom of responsibility for my immortal soul by telling her that I didn't want her to worry about me, that I had a relationship with God (she said it was the devil), and that I was responsible for myself, she started crying and said "you sold your soul for a mess of pottage." It took me forever - and I mean decades - to accept the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion would ever shrink the gulf between her and me. I had to finally accept her for the way she is, including what she believes (staunch OALC) and what she thinks of me.
Actually, I don't think there is any theological basis to the "selling your birthright" threat. I think it's only meant to scare the crap out of people so they don't leave, and it's pretty effective for most.
Many blessings to you. Wishing you peace of mind and happy holidays. MTH

to which I add...

Fear of the unforgivable sin was a big fear for me as a child. Since I was already somewhat neurotic, I was ripe to be obsessed about something like this. I think in some ways Laestadianism gives neurotic people a focus (and victims for psychotic people, but that's a different blog post). Lots of rules to be overly scrupulous about. So when I read the biblical passage about "blaspheming the holy spirit" --the sin from which no one can be forgiven, young me obsessed about accidentally breaking this rule and thus being damned to hell for all eternity.

My parents, while I'm sure they meant well, could not allay my fears by telling me that I was in no danger of breaking this rule, which only added to my distress. The best they could do was tell me to pray about it, which I did compulsively until I was mentally exhausted.


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.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

You Don't Love God If You Don't Love Your Neighbor

Happy Thanksgiving. You can listen to this song, sung by Rhonda Vincent on Prairie Home Companion, by going to their archives via the link above.

There are many people who will say they're Christians
and they live like Christians on the Sabbath day
but come Monday morning til the coming Sunday,
they will fight their neighbor all along the way.

Oh, you don't love God if you don't love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble and you don't try to help him
then you don't love your neighbor, and you don't love God

In the Holy Bible in the book of Matthew,
read the 18th chapter and the 21st verse
Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy,
there's a special wording in the 35th verse. (CHORUS)

There''s a God Almighty, and you've got to love Him
if you want salvation and a home above
if you say you love him while you hate your neighbor
then you don't have religion, you just toe the line. (CHORUS)

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 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:

And here's to the joyful life!