Showing posts with label fundamentalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fundamentalism. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evolving Out of Laestadianism

This post includes material from Ed’s new book, co-authored with his friend and mentor Robert M. Price: Evolving out of Eden. Many thanks to Ed for another fine contribution to our continuing education on how Laestadianism relates to reality. —Free

Despite protests to the contrary, Laestadianism is very much a fundamentalist form of Christianity, having all five of the distinctive features that Peter Herriot identifies in his textbook on religious fundamentalism. Its holy book, “through its interpreters or read directly, has supreme authority over what to believe and how to act,” yet is selectively adapted, with specific ideas being chosen from it and emphasized, often with the traditional meaning changed in the process. It is reactive (“their religion is under mortal threat from the secularism of the modern world, and they are fighting back. They may resist in different ways, but they are all essentially oppositional; they have to have an enemy”), dualist (“they conceive of the world in binary opposites: God and the Devil, good and evil, truth and falsehood, etc.”), and millenialist (“expecting God to fully establish His rule over the world at some future time”).1

From Evolving out of Eden, p. 99
So it should come as no surprise that Conservative Laestadianism has not been a big fan of Darwin’s theory of evolution. One sermon from the 1950s said the “theory that man came from an animal” is “of those people who have never feared God and never have accepted the word of God as the only truth on this Earth” (Wisuri). An SRK theologian complained in 1961 that

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, June 22, 2012

A Father's Day Sermon, Laestadian Style

If you want to experience a full dose of Laestadian scripture-twisting, intellectual suicide, biblical whitewashing, authoritarianism, moral equivocation, sectarian exclusivity, self-loathing, group emotionalism, and temporary guilt relief (roughly in that sequence), you can do no better than this Father’s Day sermon by the full-time pastor of the Rockford, Minnesota LLC. What follows are excerpts I’ve transcribed of the sermon, which are somewhat lengthy to address the too-often heard charge of “taking it out of context,” along with various images and videos that seemed appropriate to what was being said.

For some reason, I no longer get teary-eyed when listening to a preacher praise a man who kicked out the son he had conceived with a slave once he finally got himself a legitimate heir, and who “shut down his thinking” in preparation for slicing open his 12-year-old boy with a knife because he heard a voice telling him to. My patience has long since run out for the mindset that has so thoroughly surrendered itself to fideism as to assert, “If you don’t understand, you believe.” It’s certainly not a new attitude: Luther said “we must simply maintain that when we hear God saying something, we are to believe it and not to debate about it but rather take our intellect captive in the obedience of Christ” (Lectures on Genesis, Ch. 3, v. 5).

Even if you don’t understand what it is your are professing to believe, you must believe it nonetheless. It’s no less absurd a proposition than the absurdities that are being “believed” in this way. One example is the Real Presence of Christ in the communion wafer, which Luther held to as an essential point of doctrine. How, then, shall we understand those things which are beyond all our senses, in the Word alone? Thus it is in the Word alone that the bread is the body of Christ, that the wine is the blood of Christ. This must be believed; it must not and cannot be understood” (Id.).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Does Critical Thinking Prevent Extremism?

In his column today, Nicolas Kristoff says that Islamic scholars are beginning to apply tools of critical scholarship to the Koran. He argues that ultimately scholarship and intellect are one way to fight fundamentalism and intolerance.

But are they?

An excerpt from the article:

n Afghanistan, 300 brave women marched to demand a measure of equal rights, defying a furious mob of about 1,000 people who spat, threw stones and called the women “whores.” The marchers asserted that a woman should not need her husband’s consent to go to school or work outside the home.

In Pakistan, the Taliban flogged a teenage girl in front of a crowd, as two men held her face down in the dirt. A video shows the girl, whose “crime” may have been to go out of her house alone, crying piteously that she will never break the rules again.

Muslim fundamentalists damage Islam far more than any number of Danish cartoonists ever could, for it’s inevitably the extremists who capture the world’s attention. But there is the beginning of an intellectual reform movement in the Islamic world, and one window into this awakening was an international conference this week at the University of Notre Dame on the latest scholarship about the Koran.

“We’re experiencing right now in Koranic studies a rise of interest analogous to the rise of critical Bible studies in the 19th century,” said Gabriel Said Reynolds, a Notre Dame professor and organizer of the conference.

And a comment from a reader:
"Absolutely, but note that there is an increasingly large number of "Christians" in the US (and I suppose elsewhere) who decry biblical scholarship as the work of the Devil. They prefer charismatic, uneducated leaders who will open the book to whatever page comes up, read the text that God points their finger to, and lead off from there, as they believe they are then hearing the Word of God, and these people are as increasingly intolerant of any religious views differing from their own as anyone in the Taliban or any other fundamentalist religious group is."

What do you think?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Wrestling with God

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to her friend, Val Tarico , who is a former fundamentalist, a psychologist, an author, and a knowledgable, compassionate force of nature. Enjoy this letter by Dr. Tarico:

Recently a fellow traveler asked me how he could explain to his children the changes that he is going through. I realized, as I wrote out some thoughts for him, that I had never shared these same thoughts with my own family members who have grieved and feared for my soul. If they could understand the following, perhaps they might worry less:

One of the most central themes of Judaism and then Christianity is an ongoing hunger, a quest to understand God more deeply and completely. For over 3000 years, our spiritual ancestors have been working hard to figure out answers to life’s most important questions: What is good? What is real (often framed as what is God)? And how can we live in moral community with each other?

Each generation of our ancestors received a package of handed down answers to these questions. This package contained the very best answers their ancestors had to these questions. But those answers were always imperfect. They had bits of timeless wisdom and insights, but they also had bits of culture and superstition that had somehow gotten God’s name on them. In order to grow, our ancestors took these received traditions and asked: What here is mere human construction, what is superstition, and what are my very best judgments about the divine realities that lie beyond the human piece?

The first Hebrew scholars, the writers of the Torah or Pentateuch did this. They sifted through the earlier religions of the Akkadians and Sumerians. They kept parts (some of which are in the Bible to this day), and other parts they discarded as mere culture, superstition or even idolatry.

In the New Testament, the same thing happened. In the gospels, Jesus says that the Law has become an idol in itself. What is an idol? An idol is a something man-made, something that seeks to represent or articulate god-ness and thus to provide a glimpse of that Ultimate Reality. But then, the object itself gets given the attributes of divinity: perfection and completeness, and it becomes the object of absolute devotion.

Instead of simply accepting the old package of answers, the writers of the gospels offered a new understanding of God and goodness. They didn’t throw away everything; in fact they kept quite a bit from the earlier Hebrew religion and from the religions that surrounded them. But they took responsibility to sort through it. They gathered the pieces that that seemed truly wise and sacred to them, and they told a new story about our relationship to God and to each other.

During the Protestant Reformation this process happened again in a very big way. Even thought Martin Luther and John Calvin had some horrible bigoted and violent ideas, in their own context, they genuinely were trying to cleanse Christianity of what they saw as accumulated superstitions, things like worshiping saints and relics, paying indulgences, the absolute authority of the Pope, and the church putting God’s name on the political structure that kept kings and nobles at the top with other people serving them. They scraped away these superstitions, until they got back to a set of religious agreements that had been made a long time before, in the 4th Century when the church decided what writings would go in the Bible and what the creeds would be. Then they stopped there, thinking they had found the most true understanding of God.

But inquiry continued both outside of Christianity and inside. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, scientific learning mushroomed with discoveries in fields as diverse as linguistics, anthropology, psychiatry, physics, and biology. By the beginning of the 20th century, with all this new information about ourselves and the world around us, many Christian theologians said, “We need to rethink our understanding of the Bible, Jesus, and the Christian faith.” A new phase of Reformation was born. This generation decided that they should examine every bit of Christianity for signs of human fingerprints. They went way back and opened up even the agreements that had been made by those Church councils of the 4th century. the ones who decided what would be in the Bible. They even began looking at other religions with new eyes and seeing bits of wisdom there.

When this happened, some people fought back in defense of the fundamental doctrines that had dominated Christianity for almost 1500 years, the doctrines that are laid out in the creeds: one god in three persons, original sin and universal sin, the virgin birth, the unique divinity of Jesus, cleansing of sin through blood sacrifice, salvation through right belief, a literal resurrection, a literal heaven and hell. A series of pamphlets entitled "The Fundamentals" said that these beliefs were absolute and off limits to questions. From the title of these pamphlets we get the word "fundamentalism." The fundamentalists said, “If you don’t believe these things, then you can’t call yourself a Christian and besides you are going to hell.” They said that their kind of Christianity was the most true because it was the closest to the religion of our ancestors.

I used to think that, too. But now I think I was mistaken. By trying to keep the same beliefs as our ancestors, fundamentalism forced me to betray the very heart of Christianity: the quest to better know and serve a God who is Love and Truth. To keep the traditional beliefs of our ancestors we have to abandon their tradition of spiritual inquiry, of “wrestling with God.” We can accept their answers or we can accept their quest, but we cannot accept both

Now I affirm that the best way to honor the Christian tradition, to honor the writers of the Pentateuch, and the writers of the gospels and the reformers—and ultimately to honor the Ground of Love and Truth-- is to do as they have done. We need to take the set of teachings they handed down to us, their very best efforts to answer life’s most important questions. Then, just like them, we need to continue examining those answers in light of what we know about ourselves and the world around us. For each of us this is a sacred responsibility and a sacred gift, the gift and responsibility of spiritual growth.

It might seem like I have abandoned the path I was on, to love and serve God. But I haven’t. I am still on that very same path, only my understanding of God has grown deeper and wider. That is why the songs and preaching and churches that used to fit for me don’t fit any more. And, in fact, even the word “God” seems terribly humanoid and limiting as a term for the astounding Reality that spiritual and scientific inquiry allow us to glimpse.

I am sorry that my changes have been hurtful and confusing. For a long time, I have known that the answers I had were not quite right. But I didn’t really know how to explain this whole process or how to articulate a better set of answers, so mostly what I talked about was the flaws in the old way of thinking. Now that I have a little better understanding of the journey, I wanted to express that understanding to you who have been upset or worried for me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another look at Shunning

An anon commenter beat me to the punch on this post:

I read this in the Wall Street Journal today, and couldn't resist posting about it here. I knew that some Laestadians were into shunning, but I never imagined that the practice took place in some other churches as well, and that it seems to be growing in popularity within some quarters:

Banned From Church

71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" and expelled her from the congregation. "I've been shunned," she says.

It's an interesting read, which raises many issues. On the one hand I was gratified that the civil authorities finally put an end to this nonsense in Mrs. Caskey's case. On the other hand, shouldn't churches be able to conduct their internal affairs as they see fit, no matter how wacky it looks to outsiders?


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fundamentalism Will Never Bring Peace

Happy Spring, readers. This site has had lots of competition lately: long walks with a puppy under blossom-heavy cherry trees, baseball practices on muddy diamonds, Jonathan Raban's new novel "Surveillance," teaching our daughter to jump rope, baking rhubarb pie, designing posters for a farmer's market. Yes, life is grand, even when problems arise. On one eventful day this week, I dropped my cell phone in water, learned that our old Toyota's "oil change" had morphed into new brakes and pads and rotors, and discovered my husband's identity had been stolen to charge items online (hence the need for a rhubarb pie, with its natural mellowing agents).

These were minor glitches, fixable, nothing to put a dent in my happiness. In fact, as I looked at the fogged screen on my cell phone, I wondered if setbacks make me feel less guilty for living a charmed life, ergo happier. By pure accident of birth, I have more than I need, and others not nearly enough. How does one make sense of that? How do you make sense of that?

Here is something to chew on, from Christian Ethics Today

The core belief of Fundamentalism is the conviction that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Because of this compulsion about truth, it becomes essential that everyone else share the same beliefs. It has been this religious conviction that has brought about the greatest bloodshed in human history. This is at the heart of the Catholic-Protestant war in Ireland and the Jewish-Arab wars in the Middle East. Perhaps the ugliest expression in recent years of this mentality is the Nazi Aryan Supremacy movement which resulted in the death of millions of Jews. Even today, it seems inconceivable that the nation that produced scores of theologians, musicians, artists, and scientist, could produce such an evil movement and evil man. And the underpinnings of these atrocities were religiously based! This is Fundamentalism at its worst.

Closer to home, this egocentricity, both in the political and religious venues, is tearing churches and nations apart as it has done for centuries. There will be no peace in our hearts or in the world until we have the grace to accept differences in others. It should be humbling to realize that we are American, Iraqi, Egyptian, African, Chinese, Christian, Muslim, Jew, by the accident of birth.

Fundamentalism is insidious in that, like alcoholism, it is wrapped in denial. Those who rigidly hold to their belief and want to impose them upon others, feel gratified that they are “uncompromising” and “true to the faith.” This rigidity of belief more often than not leads to irrationalism and inconsistency. People captured in this mental prison pick and choose their beliefs and then search high and low (and in the Bible) for justification to support their beliefs regardless of logic or consistency. For example, take the “Right To Life” movement. Think of the logic of killing abortion doctors in the name of the “Right To Life.” If the issue in abortion is the right to life, what about the right to life of women and children we burned alive in Vietnam and Korea. Or for that matter, what about the right to life of our enemies or convicted criminals. Strangely enough, many who feel so strongly about protecting the lives of fetuses are perfectly willing to kill our enemies and execute criminals. This is an example of how rigid beliefs force inconsistencies.

I knew a Baptist minister who canvassed several members of his church one Sunday morning when he discovered the supply of unleavened bread was gone. When someone suggested they use regular bread, he declined on the basis that it had to be unleavened in order for the Lord’s Supper to be authentic. However, he had no problem using grape juice for every Lord’s Supper. When questioned about this, his indignant reply was that “my Lord would never put alcohol to his lips.” (The limits of credibility were sorely stretched in a later discussion on the subject with this minister about Jesus’ turning water into wine and the parable about putting new wine into old wineskins).

Fundamentalism is dangerous because it will stop at nothing to get its way. How much difference is there in the Muslim who martyrs himself and kills others for Allah and the abortion protester who blows up a clinic killing medical and other people inside. Think about the logic in the term, “fighting for peace!”

In a world of warmongering, rebellion, and bloodshed, Jesus taught peace and asked that His church continue that mission. Instead, the Church today has lost its moral leadership in peace making because of its own divisions, rigid dogmas, and territorialism. Our creeds and covenants are exclusive and designed to foster an artificial unity. Pluralism and inclusiveness are ridiculed while inerrancy and baseless convictions are embraced in the name of orthodoxy and truth.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Hawks, Doves and all others: WAKE UP! Life is about love and not hate. It is about acceptance and not rejection. It is about peace and not war. It is about unity and not division. If we can’t accept that, we are surely doomed to an Armageddon of our own making. The Prince of Peace gave us an alternative.

By C. Truett Baker

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Introducing Real Live Preacher

There is a blogger I've enjoyed reading for some time. His voice resonates with me, and I hope some of you will enjoy reading him as well. This blogger goes by the name of Real Live Preacher. Despite the funny name, he is sincere and thoughtful and challenging in a wonderful way. He is also a Christian.

I've pulled a few excerpts I thought are especially good from his blog. First is his journey of faith:
I looked in the restroom mirror and said, “I do not believe in God.” I knew this was the truth and felt the need to say it out loud. I was on the other side now. I was an unbeliever. It was like waking up in Tokyo and noticing to your great surprise that you've become Japanese. You weren't raised in Japan, and you have no idea how to use chopsticks. What the hell are you gonna do with yourself?
You can read about his journey of faith in parts one, two, three, and four at his blog.

The next excerpt details his struggle with depression.
This is why there are no heroes with depression. On the day you snap, you are just a guy who snapped. You get no credit for the weeks or months or years that you were being heroic. No one knew that you were holding all that inside. Sorry buddy, there are no bonus points for being a hero. When you snap and start yelling at your kids for no good reason, you are just a guy who yells at his kids for no good reason.
You can read more about his thoughts on depression in his archives.

The last excerpt is on what RLP thinks of fundamentalism: it hurts.
Never confuse fundamentalism with a particular set of beliefs. Fundamentalism is a methodology. It is a way of relating to people. There are fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and don't forget the politically correct zealots. You will meet fundamentalists in every walk of life.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Fundamentalists: Present and Former

Sara Robinson, guest-blogger for Orcinus, uses her recent post to describe how people become fundamentalists and how they leave. Before presenting a list of seven common exit-routes, she powerfully expresses how difficult leaving can be:

We must never, ever underestimate what it costs these people to let go of the beliefs that have sustained them. Leaving the safety of the authoritarian belief system is a three-to-five year process. Externally, it always means the loss of your community; and often the loss of jobs, homes, marriages, and blood relatives as well. Internally, it requires sifting through every assumption you've ever made about how the world works, and your place within it; and demands that you finally take the very emotional and intellectual risks that the entire edifice was designed to protect you from. You have to learn, maybe for the first time, to face down fear and live with ambiguity. On the scale of relative trauma, it's right up there with a divorce after a long marriage; and it requires about the same amount and kind of grieving.
Many notes in this post ring true to my experience, but I need to make a few exceptions. First I would never characterize my upbringing as abusive. Second, I'm skeptical of pathologizing political opponents, and Sara may be falling into this problem when she echoes thoughts from James Dean's recent book Conservatives Without Conscience, which is "ideological comfort food" in the words of Nick Gillespie.