A Conservative Laestadian Kari, a man in his thirties, says that he is deeply hurt how the Laestadianist ban of contraceptives is seen generally as a problem only for women. – Outsiders see the men even as tyrants who oppress their wives. Most fathers are victims just like the mothers, says Kari, a father of five. However, Laestadian women self often doesn’t accept birth control although suffering of the whole family and health dangers would be absolutely obvious. It seems that people does’nt know that there does not exist any biblical nor Christian position against contraception.
The Conservative Laestadians’ (Laestadian Lutheran Church’s) teachings ban
the use of contraceptives, but some of the families are exhausted by the challenges brought from having big families. This drove Kari and his wife’s life to the brink of self-destruction.
A Laestadian man’s plight
The family living in Ostrobothnia got their first child when Kari (name has been changed) was 20-years-old.
– Already after the birth of my first child I started to fear when my wife would get pregnant again. During the pregnancy I wished for a miscarriage, but once the child was born I loved my children and still do.
Kari is now a father of five and around 30-years-old. The growing family took the parents to their limits.
– At the worst point in time we were both at the brink of self-destruction.
Kari’s wife doesn’t approve of contraception and Kari started to doubt the teachings of the Conservative Laestadianist congregation.
He said that he had remained in the movement without any greater personal connection to the belief and that he questioned many issues. He decided to stay in the movement because it was the easy choice.
– My lack of faith has not aroused suspicion. Living according to the Laestadianist way of life seems to be the most important thing.
Kari’s faith was being tested by the ban of the use of contraceptives. When the fifth child was born, both parents were completely exhausted. Life was an evergrowing vicious cycle that made the calm father into a badtempered and raving man, who would shout at his children.
– I felt that I was being forced to have more children, even though I didn’t want to.
Kari knew that it was not right to yell at the children.
– In the evening while the children slept the depression hit even harder. And I had to even stay away from my wife, so that I wouldn’t get the last push over the edge that would cut my string of life completely. It made me bitter and angry.
His wife wouldn’t approve the use of contraceptives as she feared the reaction from both God and relatives.
Kari decided to get sterilized.
– I thought it was against God’s will, but I was at that point where everything else would have been inhumane to bare.
Kari’s decision was reinforced by the things he had seen happen to other families with many children, where in his opinion no one took care of the children or the parents anymore.
– I knew that strength wasn’t given proportionally to the amount of children, even though the teachings say so.
According to Kari, celibacy is suggested to most people who are thinking about using contraception.
– It’s illogical and sick. If people who are normal people who enjoy their sexuality are driven to celibacy, there could be dire consequences. Just look at the Catholic priests and the rampant problems in the Catholic Church, like pedophilia for example.
Kari has studied the Bible thoroughly and he has not found any proof for the ban on the use of contraceptives.
– As I read the Bible I realized that there are many teachings in the Laestadianist Church that go against the Bible.
Kari is deeply hurt how the Conservative Laestadianist ban of contraceptives is seen as a problem only for women and outsiders see the men as tyrants who oppress their wives.
– Most fathers are victims just like the mothers. In many families the man would approves the use of contraceptives, but the wife does not.
When Kari considered the use of contraception his wife took him to seek help from their religious friends.
– They were judgmental and told me to obey the teachings or God will forsake me.
Kari feared that he would be condemned by God, he was desperate and hoped to die. He was told that if he doesn’t receive the children he is given it is seen as a sign of weak faith. Due to the disapproval he received from a few of his relatives Kari has decided not to share his decision with everyone.
Kari did get support from his parents, even though they didn’t approve of it at first.
– They believed it was against the will of God. After I assured them that my faith was in order they promised to support me whichever option I would choose.
Kari has decided to stay in the Conservative Laestadian community, but questioning its teachings has changed him a lot.
– As a result from the whole process I have found God that I truly believe in.
There is no any biblical position against contraception
As Laestadian men, women need to open their eyes as well, because a true Christianity doesn’t require their fertility for its survival. The discussion and the question on contraceptives is extremely vague today in the Laestadian congregations. The believers cannot even speak of these things by their real names. They have a fear of each others, and of the leading persons in the congregation, to get shunned, or even excluded out of the community. At the same time young Laestadian women hide contraceptive use , especially if their husband opposed such practice. However, the secrecy and silence make often problems for women and in the in the marriage, and it can destroy trust and openness between the couple.
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 Bible related to the ban of contraception, a presentation of Ed. A. Suominen here is highly recommended. Also this site would give information for Finnish speaking: Question of Contraception in the doctrine of Conservative Laestadian revival movement in the 2000s .
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The Laestadianism (Laestadian Revival Movement) is a Christian, strongly conservative religious movement within the Lutheran church in Finland. The Conservative Laestadians are one and the biggest one of the 19 Laestadian groups, primarily due to the doctrine that any kind of birth control is a sin. The central organisation for the local congregations (rauhanyhdistys, Association of Peace) is the Conservative Laestadians’ Central Association of the Finnish Associations of Peace (Suomen rauhanyhdistysten keskusyhdistys ry., SRK) in Finland. (In Finnish here.) There are several sister organisations, e.g. in Sweden: Sveriges fridsföreningarnas centralorganisation, Eesti Luterlik Rahuühendus (the Estonian Lutheran Association of Peace in Estonia), and The Laestadian Lutheran Church (LCC) for activities in the USA and Canada.
Please be free to give your comments down here or by e-mail: verkosto (at) luukku.com .
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We are happy! The Hannukselas and 105 grandchildren (Anna-Stina Nykänen, HS)