Avainsana-arkisto: pressure

Rebekka Naatus: Laestadian Women Resist Big Family Pressure and Criticize the Ban on Contraception


The women rights have got a important step forward, when the  Finland’s First Conservative Laestadian Female Priest, Mrs. Mari Leppänen, was  secretly ordained as priest in 2012, in order to start her work in Lieto parish, near to Turku. Listen here the detalis of the issues in English (information on womens’ rights and bans in the Conservative Laestadian movement in general, too).

Also Mrs. Rebekka Naatus, a journalist, divorced Laestadian woman is making waves by speaking out against the treatment of women with the movement to which she belongs.

Rebekka Naatus, the PR and information officer of Evangelical Lutheran parishes in Oulu, has published an article about these questions in an  anthology Iloisen talon kellareissa (”In the Cellars of a Merry House”, not translated in English).  She has been interviewed in media on the womens’ situation in the biggest revival movement in the country, Conservative Laestadianism. Are their bodies really their own, or has the religious community colonised them to reproduction where no anyone is allowed to refuse?

The focus is in the problems following from the very tight and strict community of the religious or rather ”ethnic” group. The community has a strong power in the individual’s everyday life and in the choice of personal lifestyle.  …Read more…

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Kategoria(t): 2010-luku, avioliitto, äitiys, ban of birth control, bans, ehkäisykielto, erehtymättömyys, erottaminen yhteisöstä, forbidden things, hengellinen väkivalta, identity, in English, kiellot, lapset, lisääntyminen, naisen asema, normit, norms, painostaminen, pelko, pelot, perhe, suurperhe, vallankäyttö

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


A crisis of the unerring congregation. Up to 100 abusers in Conservative Laestadian congregations in Finland, several abusers never reported to police  –  caused and/or supported by mistaught Laestadian  doctrine of forgiveness and silence. The beliefs are serious risks for children.

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.

However: ”We are guilty of all the issues that we have been accused”, said SRK vice chairman Matti Taskila in the press conference in Oulu last week. Read more…

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Kategoria(t): 1980-luku, 1990-luku, 2000-luku, 2010-luku, anteeksianto, erehtymättömyys, eristäminen, evankelis-luterilainen kirkko, harhaoppi, hengellinen väkivalta, ihmisarvo, ihmisoikeudet, in English, insesti, itsesensuuri, johtajat, johtokunta, kaksinaismoralismi, kannanotot, lapset, lapsuus, lähihistoria, maallikkosaarnaajat, manipulointi, mielenterveys, nuoret, opilliset kysymykset, painostaminen, pedofilia, puhujat, rauhanyhdistys, retoriikka, Rippi, sensuuri, seurakuntaoppi, sielunhoito, SRK ry., SRK:n johtokunta, syntien anteeksiantamus, syyllistäminen, tieto, tutkimus, uhkailu, vallankäyttö, väkivalta

Leaving LLC made me who I am


After I left the Laestadian Lutheran Church (LLC), I came into feel and know that there was such a thing as a personal relationship with God, writes ”Finally Free” in her story at the former Laestadians’ forum Postlaestadianrevival. She describes her personal emotions and experiences which she had to met after leaving the church where she had been a member ever since her childhood and where her parents, family and friends still continues to stay.

It is interesting to notice how alike experiences people seem to meet in their leaving processes related to any branch of Laestadian revival movement, or any other fundamentalist and strict group. It is nearly unbelievable that even the details e.g. the inequality of social interplay and structures in the local congre-gation, experiences of shunning and being intimidated are precisely similar in Finland and in the US. Also aloof parent-child relationships and tendency to leave home very young in early adulthood in the Laestadian families are identified on both sides of the Atlantic.

Countless stories have demonstrated that leaving the Laestadian faith and congregation is a difficult and traumatic experience. It means often  that you have to rebuild yourself  and to recognise your inner self and identity totally again. Unfortunately, you will often get disowned from the family. In addition to the spiritual and mental difficulties some people have even lost also their job in case they worked for a company owned by Laestadians.

The exit is best done if you are well prepared (N.B. look at the steps!) and with a support system outside of the church, as here ”Finally Free” has told on her survival.  There have been many such exits where e.g. a young family or a single person has left the church, found connection with other ex-laestadians and got new and  safe direction with peer support in the life.

The LLC is one of the eight branches of Laestadian revival movement in America. It is a sister organisation of SRK (Suomen rauhanyhdistysten keskusyhdistys ry.) in Finland. They are, as in Finland called, Conservative Laestadian organisations with many dozens of  local congregations.

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I never fit in with the ”cool” kids… I tried very hard to fit in from about ages 12-15, but realized that I’d never fit in. I found a few friends that also didn’t fit in, and found friends from school that were not in the LLC. The first time I ”dropped out” was at age 16. My parents caught me sneaking out to a party, and I told them that I didn’t believe. Oh, and they also found my stash of ”bad” cd’s..but I managed to get them back .

A few months after that, I ”repented”, but only because it was too hard to live at home with my family as an ”unbeliever”. My parents didn’t trust me because of it, so I just faked it.

I knew that once I graduated high school and could move out, that I would leave the LLC behind for good.

It was the rules that got me. I didn’t understand why it was wrong to watch TV/movies, wear make up, listen to ”wordly” music..etc. I didn’t think about what they believed, but didn’t know any other way since that was all I’d ever been taught.

When I turned 18, I moved out from my parents, and in with a friend. It was hard. I didn’t have a very good relationship with my family, and even though I didn’t move far, we barely saw eachother, and didn’t talk much. It was so awkward whenever I was visiting my family. I partied alot, and tried not to think about anything to do with religion.

I met a wonderful man a few months after I moved out. About a year later, when we were planning our wedding, we started the marriage prep. course that was required by the minister marrying us. He was so kind, and accepting! Of course he didn’t like that we were living together, but he didn’t judge us for it. He treated us the same as he would treat anyone else.

It was very eye opening to hear him explain the different parts of the Bible we were studying. I had never heard it explained like that! That was when I realized that there is so much more out here than what the LLC teaches.

I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a personal relationship with God. When the minister talked about our personal walks with God, he was probably surprised when I said I had no idea what he was talking about!

Since then I have learned alot from reading posts on this site , and the extoots site , and also of reading the Bible. My husband and I have not found a church that we attend regularly, but I know that God has not forgotten about me just because I am not a Laestadian.

I used to wish that I would’ve been raised in a non-Laestadian family. I thought that it would have been so much easier. Now, I am happy for what I have been through. It made me who I am today, and leaving has made me a stronger person.

Now, my relationship with my parents and siblings is pretty good. (Having a child helped!) We visit there, and they even come to our house, and its not awkward anymore.

Author: ”Finally Free” (at the forum Postlaestadianrevival).

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Laestadian Lutheran Church, one of the 19 branches in the Laestadian revival movement

The Laestadian Lutheran Church is a Christian revival movement, one of the 19 Laestadian groups. There exist eight Laestadian branches nowadays in North America where this in Swedish Lapland born revival movement arrived with Finnish immigrants.  The total amount of all Laestadians  in North America is  approximately 29 000–32 000. The number of Laestadians worldwide is estimated to be between 144,000 and 219,000, most of them in Finland (80,000 – 110,000).

LLC is working in the US and Canada.  From 1973, after one of the many disagreements and conflicts among the Laestadians,  the organisation was name the Association of American Laestadian Congregations (AALC), before the association changed its name in 1994 to Laestadian Lutheran Church. As of 2009, the church has 29 member congregations in the United States and Canada, with highest concentrations of members in Minnesota, Washington, Arizona, Michigan in the United States and in Saskatchewan, Canada. LCC has 68 preachers, nearly all of them lay preachers.

The Church teaches that it is a sin to watch movies, listen to rhythmic music, dance, wear makeup, and partake in other activities that are considered worldly. Very crucial elements in the Laestadian dogmatics are norms regarding sexuality. The birth control, pre-marital sex and same-sex relationships are forbidden. The Laestadian revival movement is split between several different branches whose attitudes towards birth control, television, music, and other “worldly” issues vary to some extent.

In general, Laestadians attach a high value to family life and work, but are often less concerned about education. The movement is strongly dominated by men, and women are not allowed to preach nor having equal opportunities to become a supervisor in the congregation.  There are many bans or “sins” which are controlling especially the behavior and life of women. Women are idolised only as mothers. The argument to the ban of birth control is that children are regarded as a gift from God.

In the past time the Laestadian women married as very young, and some do still today. However, this is going to change because of the higher education of women (at least in Finland). Many laestadian women do not get married even after they turn 30 because they realise that they would have to get into the role of motherhood immediately. They don’t want to abandon their careers and yet, they don’t wish to leave the Church either, because their friends and family belong to it.

However, their chances to find a partner are usually gone because there in the congregation are not anymore left suitable men left. It is not allowed marrying outside of the Laestadian community (endogamy). As a result of this exclusive norm there are unusual big amount of women living as involuntary singles.

The important aspect about the community and beliefs that binds them together is that the Laestadian believer needs some other Laestadian one to forgive the sins. Based on their ”Doctrine of the Keys,” they believe that  (LLC-)Laestadians only  have the power to forgive sins and that without hearing the ”word of reconciliation” in the preaching of the LLC church or by way of personal absolution by some Laestadian person a sinner cannot be forgiven and saved. Most of the other Laestadian branches teach the exactly same belief.

In Northern Europe, the association’s sister organizations of LLC are the Conservative LaestadiansCentral Association of the Finnish Associations of Peace (Suomen rauhanyhdistysten keskusyhdistys) in Finland, the Sveriges fridsföreningarnas centralorganisation in Sweden, and the Estonian Lutheran Association of Peace (Eesti Luterlik Rahuühendus).

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Please be free to give your comments here or by e-mail: verkosto@luukku.com.

Read more:

I left the Conservative Laestadian movement (in ten years)

Laestadianism in America

Living as my true self – leaving the Conservative Laestadian one true faith’s community

Conservative Laestadians in Oulu

Laestadian-ism – political theology and civil religion: a blog of researchers focusing on Laestadianism, politics and society.

How to Leave the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church (Useful guidelines for everyone who consider to leave Conservative Laestadian community, too. The model has been a starting point in planning  those steps in Finnish.)

Comparing the One True Churches

Kuka ja mikä minä oikeasti olen? (Dr. Saara Tuomaala on identity etc., in Finnish)

Etniset vanhoillislestadiolaiset (The Ethnic Laestadians: a concept and definitions, in Finnish)

Sami Ojala:  Uuras Saarnivaara Pohjois-Amerikan lestadiolaisuuden historiankirjoittajana. Pro gradu -tutkielman esittely.

Valmisteilla väitöstutkimus Pohjois-Amerikan lestadiolaisuudesta 1880–1920-luvuilla. Päivämies 13.9.2014.

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Kategoria(t): ahdistus, avainten valta, avioliitto, ban of television, bans, concept of sin, Conservative Laestadianism, forbidden things, get rid of, identity, in English, secession, seurakuntaoppi, SRK ry., sukupuolijärjestelmä, syntien anteeksiantamus, syrjintä, syyllistäminen, tuomitseminen, uskon jättäminen, vallankäyttö

Living as my true self – leaving the Conservative Laestadian one true faith’s community


This posting discusses the experience of growing up in an extremely religious, closed community and later leaving to join the outside world. We’ll first discuss the Laestadian experience, and next draw attention to some resources from the experiences of some other groups.

This is intended to describe the ”typical” experience of leaving, but since we know there is no such thing as one typical experience. There are as many personal experiences and stories as individual persons. Please forgive us if our description doesn’t match your experience.

However, one of our foundings is that problems we meet in the process of leaving laestadian community are universal and known by many others who leave any religious compulsory community (or such one non-religious).  – Please be free to give your comment here, or by e-mail verkosto@luukku.com.

Be brave enough to decide

Often you have considered it seriously for years what to do, to stay or to leave. You have experienced that it’s also difficult to stay but be opposed to some the doctrine and rules. Maybe you have tried to leave – and you came back. This yo yo phenomenon is familiar for us indeed. It shows how full of self-contradictory emotions, difficult aspects and stressing feelings the situation is. The loss of community can be very painful.

Whenever we leave a religion we give up the benefits that are promised to us by the doctrine of the Laestadian faith. Most of us will sooner or later replace it with benefits from some other belief system – or give up the benefit entirely. I suppose that it is more unlikely to totally loose the belief in the existense of a god than still continue to trust in God’s protection in the individual’s life. However, I don’t have any evidence on this.

We get from our growing and childhood in the Conservative Laestadian community is a sense of belonging and comfort as we are amongst familiar people who understand and know us.

Leaving the faith creates anxiety and fear because we by definition give up this comfort and feeling to belong into the group. In addition to this, leaving a religion is doubly scary because we give up the benefits, the benefits that are promised to us by that particular doctrine: eternal salvation, eternal life after the dead…with our relatives and friends, as well.

Thus, it is not surprising that this is a difficult transition to make.

You are uncomfortable and insecure because you have 18 years of never learning how to pursue hobbies, other than those approved by the church. People wonder how you can be this old and never have gone to a movie or danced or applied mascara. It is strange, but wonderful, exiting and interesting at the same time.

Exclusion as a church doctrine is one detail which is hurting hard you personally and in a very concrete way. They will share their private greeting with each other: ”God’s Peace!” This greeting will not be shared with you anymore, if you do not attend their church. When you are together attending a family party they will say it to all of the community members present in the room, but not to you, if you are among them in the same room. Some of them would not even acknowledge your existence and avoid to be near you.

It happens, that one of your small cousins would say ” Gods Peace” to you, and then you will see that his mother pull him aside in front of you and tell him what he did wrong. Your name to all of your laestadian relatives is the unbeliever. Be prepared into becoming stigmatized and despiced.

Just the exclusion was one of the reasons why many of us left.

A life as my true self

Growing up in the Laestadian community, you feel a deep sense of warm belonging. (The sense of community and need for belonging  seems to be very hot and wanted in our life.) There are strict rules, and these rules clearly delineate how you should live your life. You know exactly what is good and what is bad and strive to make your life conform to the rules, at least publicly.

You are thaught that the outside world is filled with atheists and dead faith churches. These people are on a lower plane of value because they are not part of the community. They, even the most honourable of them, are going to hell. You feel as if the community is a refuge from a cold outside world, filled with ravening wolves. The people who make up the outside world are not diverse and not individuals; instead they are an undistinguishable mass of people ”in the world.”

There are many community mechanisms to keep you in the group.

The fear of those worldly wolves is drilled into your head from childhood. You fear losing your sense of community and belonging. You know that if you leave, you will be tarred as a rebellious sinner who wants to pursue just money, pleasure and easy, frivolous way of life instead of remain faithful to God and be satisfied with His grace.

Despite these incentives to remain, you decide to leave. Perhaps, the central tenets of the community no longer seem true. If the community is based on a lie, it becomes empty to you. Or maybe you are driven out from being constantly repressed in how you choose to dress, or your friend, a significant other.

Regardless of why you leave, the outside world appears to be a place where you can best live as your true self. Upon leaving, you feel the sudden loss of community.

When the community and its rules are gone

As a typical Laestadian, the community was your world. You likely didn’t take part in outside social groups such as sports or student groups, and your friends were all from the church. Now, the community is gone.

In addition to losing the community, you lose the rules. No longer do you have a clear roadmap that tells you how to be holy and how to live your life. You must create this roadmap on your own. To decide what to follow you should know yourself – but you probably have not yet met your real authentic self… it is still coming, you just have to find and create yourself from the beginning again.

You often feel resentment at having missed out on the many things you learn others did in their childhoods. You are suddenly eighteen or more years behind in learning the rules of how to behave in the wider world. You may find another church to attend or perhaps you just swear off religion entirely. You may like to concentrate yourself in everyday life and forget all the damned spiritual stories.

On the positive side, you learn the world has some decent people, and is not made up entirely of ravening wolves, as you were taught.

Nonetheless, the outside world often cannot understand your experience. Although they offer sympathy and express amazement when they hear your story, they cannot understand what you feel.

Some even go so far as to question why you ever left, thinking you simply succumbed to outside peer pressure to conform and denied your unique cultural heritage.

How they meet you…

Since you have left the Laestadian community, you will live your life like banished, judged in the ostracism related with your previous social life.

When you meet your family, you will meet cruelty and you try to understand  it in your mind: What did I do to deserve to be treated so poorly, all I wanted was to belong, to have a family, but it hurts… I was not wanted, it is a surprise to them that I still have morals, and that I’m not pregnant out of wedlock and that I’m not addicted to drugs. But don’t you believers know, I’m a equal person too… All I ever wanted was to belong to a family…

You have to create an attitude, a mindset and get practical tools how you can protect yourself to get hurted and wounded by your family and the closest people. You have to find ways to avoid hard emotional injuries and damages when you meet them.

Thousands of similar and even worse experiences…

The Internet has provided ways to share experiences and help for people who would like to leave their strict religious movement. There are available personal stories, discussion forums for peer-help groups and sources to support to survive in the leaving process. It is good to know that there are many others out there like you.We mention here some of the most useful sources. Please let us know when you know more.

How to Leave the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church

Learning to live free blog (OALC)

Hakomaja: information archive and discussion forum (in Finnish)

Steps to get rid of Conservative Laestadian movement: Askeleet irti SRK-Lestadiolaisuudesta (in Finnish).

Laestadians are not the only ones to go through the feelings of leaving. Another group to experience these feelings are e.g. people who left the strict, closed form of Judaism known as Hasidism .

Like in the Laestadian community, there is also a strong sense of community in the Hasid community, but there is also fighting for power and factionalism.

Also the groups of the Amish and Mennonnites has similar doctrines and rules as laestadians, some even crueler ones. The process of leaving tose communities is prevalent.

When the Amish leave, they often experience social ostracism as bad or even worse than what some former Laestadians experience; e.g. Saloma’s blog.

There are several books and personal stories such like Greater Inheritance and articles such as e.g. “Leaving the Amish Life Behind

Some try to help those left behind in abusive situations  or  help those now leaving .

Being authentic – You’ll survive and see the wide world

From the experiences of the former Hasid, Amish, or others, former Laestadians can realize their experiences are not unique and are often easier than the experiences of many from other similar groups. Former Laestadians are usually able to earn a living in the wider world and can eventually re-define themselves as successful and free, even if worldly.

By reading those experiences you will learn that while others may not have had identical experiences, many people (especially racial and sexual minorities) have also experienced being a ”stranger in a strange land.”

You find that your understanding and empathy for the dispossessed makes you a trusted friend and natural advocate.

Having found the courage to leave, very little can frighten you, least of all the social opprobrium of others. You are confident and able to connect easily with people regardless of socio-economic barriers. You have a high regard for reason, honesty, compassion, and inclusion, and attempt to model these values in your relationships. Your intellectual and spiritual curiosity never allows you to stagnate. You find life rich and exciting.

While sometimes you are nostalgic for the close-knit community you left, you find incomparable satisfaction in being authentic, and in being a citizen of the world.

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Authors:  the extraordinary fine text and background info by Rhyming Blue, modified  and completed by an ad hoc group of ex laestadians  – Our warmest thanks  to you, Rhyming Blue, and the beautiful blog Learning To Live Free!

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Please be free to give your comments here or by e-mail: verkosto@luukku.com.

Read more:

Anonymous:  I left the Conservative Laestadian movement

Edward Dutton: Conservative Laestadians in Oulu

Leanne Waldal: How does “sweetie” become shunned? (On ostracism after leaving Leastadian church; also interesting comments)

Anonymous: Vanhoillislestadiolaisuudesta irtaantumisen tunteet (Emotions within leaving Conservative Laestadianism, written by a young man who left the  community in 2009; in Finnish)

How to Leave the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church (Useful guidelines for people who consoder to leave Conservative Laestadian community, too. This model has been a starting point in planning  those steps in Finnish.)

Learning to live free

Comparing the One True Churches

Nuoret jättävät vanhoillislestadiolaisuuden – suuri syntyvyys ei kasvata jäsenmäärää (The young generation leaves Conservative Laestadianism – number of members doesn’t grow despite the high birth rate; in Finnish)

NYT-liitteessä: Miltä tuntuu luopua uskosta? (An interview in NYT Magazine: How did you feel to leave the religious community, in Finnish)

Amartya Sen: Identity and Violence (a review of The Guardian)

Syntinen ja sairas: Äiti tyttärelle: “Kun lapsi kieltää uskon, se on pahempi kuin lapsen kuolema.” (Mother to her daughter: ”When you leave it is worse than you were dead”, in Finnish)

Vanhoillislestadiolaisuus, amishit, hutteriitit ja mennoniitit (in Finnish)

Vanhoillislestadiolaisuus ja Jehovan todistajat: eniten hengellistä väkivaltaa (A research on religious violence, in Finnish)

The Laestadian Lutheran Church, the sister organisation of the Conservative Laestadian community  in Finland (SRK ry.)

Laestadianism

is a conservative Lutheran revival movement which was started in the middle of the 19th century and is named after the Swedish-Sami botanist and preacher Lars Levi Laestadius. The doctrine is characterised by Pietistic and Moravian influences. The term ”Laestadian” is used as an umbrella to refer to all churches and groups with a clear succession of belief from his teachings. Different groups follow his ideas in various degrees, and they have created more or less strict lifestyle rules  (what is considered a sin). The number of Laestadians worldwide is estimated to be between 144 000 and 219 000 (Wikipedia).

Laestadians are the largest revival movement in the Nordic countries. The biggest groups live in Finland with about 130 000 members. In Sweden they are thought to number 10,000 – mostly found in the north of the country around the Torne Valley. Laestadian movement has churches and congregations also in the US and Canada.

The deeply conservative faith broke into three branches – The Firstborn Laestadianism, Reawakening, and Conservative Laestadianism – in the beginning of the 20th century.  The groups are shattered again in the 20 Century, in Finland and other countries, and today  is counted 19 Laestadian groups but about 15 groups still active. Some Laestadian groups, e.g. the Conservative Laestadian congregation in Finland (SRK ry.) consider themselves the one, true Christian church, and preach that all other Christian churches (including other branches of the Laestadian tradition) are not true Christians.

Conservative Laestadianism in Finland is the biggest Laestadian group. It is also the biggest revival movement inside of the Church of Finland, with about 100 000 members.

In fact, it is quite strange that the Conservative Laestadian revival movement works inside of the Lutheran church, for it’s excluding attitude towards the other memebers of the national Christian church.  The priest who get their earnings at work for the curch of Finland would not say this openly in the sunday worship  in the church that the other members in the congragation are not true Christians to be saved. But afterwards they teach this when they preach in the Laestadians’s meetings at local ”Rauhanyhdistys” house.

Conservative Laestadians’ central management is The Central Committee of Conservative Laestadian Congregations (SRK ry.) leading 188 local “associations of peace”. The local congregations have over 34 000 members. It is not compulsary to formally join the association.

The community will grow rapidly in the next decades in case that people will stay in the Laestadian faith. Today there are over 50 000 children and young people (under 18 years) growing in the Conservative Laestadian families in Finland. As the movement is so big today, it has remarkable power and influence not only in the church but also at the political, public administrative, religional and cultural level in Finland, and also in the national media. Especially in the northern Finlad are towns where there everyone who’s anyone is a Laestadian. The future will show how the active young Conservative Laestadian’s generation will act and influence in the society and in the national church.

Laestadians are taught to consider a sin television, cinema and movies, dance, rhythmic music, performing arts such as concerts, theatre and opera,  also alcohol, hair dye, make-up, ear rings, birth control, premarital sex, divorce and homosexual relationships, and many other sins (list of sins in Finnish). Especially in the Conservative Laestadianism the believers have to follow those lifestyle rules, or ”providential advice”, or “congregation’s advice” as they modestly call them, decided by the preachers and the Central Committee of the SRK (those rules doesn’t include the Bible nor the Lutheran Catechism).

Laestadian asceticism is distinguished from many other fundamentalist Christians in that just few of the norms are officially ”proscribed” openly, banned by any official decision. Actually, in Finland justa bans of birth control, television, singing in choir , working as performing musician and concerts are results of the official decisions of the management of the Conservative Laestadian revival movement. (The Central Committee of Conservative Laestadian Congregations).

Rather, Laestadians do control eachothers themselves, they are on the look out for eachothers, and they employ a reinforcing system of social feedback to encourage abstention of the banned behaviour. The ultimate threat is ostracisism, i.e. segregation, exclusion from  fellowship in the common congregation. The board of the congregations maintains this social control  in keeping with the beliefs of the church.

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Kategoria(t): amishit, armoneuvot, ban of birth control, ban of television, bans, Conservative Laestadianism, elämäntapa, eristäminen, eroaminen uskosta, erottaminen yhteisöstä, evankelis-luterilainen kirkko, forbidden things, get rid of, hajaannukset, identiteetti, identity, in English, irrottautuminen yhteisöstä, kiellot, kirkko, kontrollointi, kulttuurikiellot, kuuliaisuus, laestadian, lapsuus, leimaaminen, lestadiolaisuuden suunnat, luterilaisuus, manipulointi, mennoniitit, nettikeskustelu, normit, norms, nuoret, omatunto, opilliset kysymykset, painostaminen, pelastus, pelko, pelot, perhe, puhujat, rauhanyhdistys, sananvapaus, secession, seurakunta, seurakuntaoppi, sin, SRK ry., teatteri, televisio, totteleminen, tulevaisuus, tuomitseminen, uhkailu, ulossulkeminen, uskon jättäminen, uskon perusteet, vallankäyttö, yhteisö, yhteisöllisyys, yksinäisyys

Conservative Laestadians in Oulu


Dr. Edward Dutton, a British anthropologist and journalist, lives in Oulu in northern Finland and is married to a Finnish Lutheran priest. He has met Conservative Laestadians and spoken with them about their faith and rules. He visited Oulun rauhanyhdistys and published his sightings and experiences in the magazine 65 Degrees North.

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Conservative Laestadians: Separate or not Separate?

Every expatriate in Oulu has heard of ”the Laestadians”. Many locals seem to describe them as a sinister religious sect whose members have enormous families, are against television, alcohol and woman priests and in which women – who don’t wear make-up or ear-rings – fulfil traditional home-making roles. But what are Oulu’s Laestadians really like?

I went to their regular Wednesday night meeting to find out.

Ten Child Families

The first thing that hits you at the ”Peace Society House’” on Professorintie near Oulu Polytechnic is how young everybody is and how many people there are. There must have been around three hundred people arriving for the 7pm at meeting of Oulu’s ”Conservative Laestadians” (which is what Finns mean when they say ”Laestadians”). Almost nobody appeared to be over the age of thirty and there were numerous teenagers. There were then a few who appeared to be in their sixties.

According to one Laestadian man I spoke to, ”This is because, as you probably know, we are against contraception because of what the Bible says so we tend to have very large families.”

This is certainly true. According to sociologist Leena Pesalä, the average Laestadian family has ten children with the most she came across in her research being a brood of twenty-one. Laestadians often marry as young as eighteen and, with the large families, presumably most who are married with children were at home looking after them.

Stylish without Makeup

Many of the stereo-types about Laestadians appeared to be true. None of the numerous young woman wore make-up or ear-rings and, most obviously, none of them had dyed hair which meant that there were a lot of girls with the supposedly typical western Finnish hair colour which one former member of a Laestadian splinter group Rauhansana referred to as ”the colour of the road”.

One young, female Laestadian I spoke to said that she did not wear make-up ”because I want to be like the other believers. It’s just a personal thing. But there is a way in which we have our own culture and beliefs and we want to be separate . . . but also not separate.”

One of the most striking things about this young woman – and everybody else there – was how well and how fashionably they dressed. Almost all the Laestadians seemed to have the latest fashions, hair-cuts straight from Hollywood movie stars, hair they’d obviously put a lot of time and effort into and the woman often wore lots of necklaces, perhaps because ear-rings are forbidden by the group.

There can’t be that many highly conservative religious meetings in which young, male ”believers” – as they termed themselves – walk in dressed like gangster rappers or the woman look like they’ve been to a beauty salon . . . without the make-up.

Often, conservative Christians tend not to smoke, citing verses in the Bible where it says, ”Your body is a temple of the Lord” but not so with the Laestadians. Many smoked outside before the meeting and went back outside to smoke after it had finished.

One male Laestadian summed this up saying, ”The Bible says that alcohol is not allowed. But it is says nothing about smoking. And maybe you know that we don’t drink alcohol, so maybe that’s why we smoke”. They stubbed out as the meeting started.

Largest Revival Group

Laestadians are the largest revival group within the Finnish Lutheran Church. They were founded by Swedish priest Lars Laestadius (1800 – 1861). While he was inspecting congregations in Lapland in 1844 he met a Sami woman called Milla Clementsdottir and through his relationship with her he experienced a kind of religious awakening. He began to preach and his views influenced first the Samis in Sweden and then spread to Finland and Norway. His was a highly conservative interpretation of Lutheranism, returning to traditional belief and rejecting liberal strains of thought.

The group draws a strong distinction between themselves and others whom they mostly expect to go to Hell. Laestadius also encouraged people to stop drinking in order to commit themselves to Christ and Conservative Lestadians argue that, ”In many localities, the revival movement caused complete changes in ways of life, drunks repented, the tavern keepers closed their bars . . .”

The movement also spread due to popularity of Temperance Movements and by the end of Laestadius’ life it was as far south as Oulu.

This group split into three main movements at the end of the nineteenth century – Conservative Laestadians are by far the largest group, then there is the First Born and finally Rauhan Sana. The Laestadians have about 110,000 members worldwide of which about 100,000 are in Finland, with the rest in Norway Sweden and the USA. Of these Finnish Laestadians, seventy-five percent are ”Conservative Lestadians”. The Conservative Lestadians are highly conservative in theological terms believing in Biblical inerrancy and that the Bible can only be revealed through a learned mediator.

One becomes a member by confessing ones sins to another Laestadian. Members I spoke to referred to themselves as ”Laestadians” or ”believers” in contrast to the other Laestadian groups. The other groups are more liberal. However, the debate over women priests in Oulu has been particularly fierce because of the refusal of a Rauhan Sana priest to work with his female colleague.

English Problems

The meeting itself was, basically, a half hour sermon by a Conservative Laestadian priest after which almost everybody left to go and have coffee while a few remained to sing Bible verses. It was after the meeting that I got talking to some Laestadians. The group is known to be quite educated but it was hard to find anybody that spoke English. This was because, according to those I spoke to, ”We don’t have television so I suppose we don’t learn English. There can be sex and violence on television.”

Despite their conservatism, the Laestadians seemed to be very friendly and willing to talk to me. Finnish friends had predicted that they would ”stare’” and ignore me as an ”unbeliever”. This did not happen at all.

Heaven for the Finns

Another idea about Laestadians is that they believe that all non-Laestadians go to Hell which would make Heaven a primarily Finnish-speaking domain.

Members I spoke to denied this saying ”only God can know who is a Christian” and ”people are saved if they have confessed their sins to a believer”. But ”believer’” did seem to mean ”Laestadian”.

Also, one young woman felt that Laestadianism was successful because, ”It is the work of God that there are so many Laestadians. The Bible says that in the End Times ’God’s hand will be over the Nordic Lands’.”

One Conservative Laestadian, originally from Jakobstad, said that sone of the stereotypes about them are plain wrong, ”Of course we are allowed to use washing machines!” he said, ”But it is true, I think, that we were told to shop at Prisma rather than the other supermarkets.”

Negative Ideas

However, many very negative ideas about Laestadians persist amongst Oulu people.

One teacher told me about a mother who forbade her children to play with non-Laestadians ”or you won’t be welcome home for dinner”. In general, Laestadians are seen as ”separate” not having much to do with non-members.

Almost all the Laestadians were slim with one Oulu resident commenting that, ”that’s because they don’t get enough food at home!” Many Oulu people were also convinced that the Laestadians were popular because, ”they stop Finns from drinking and Finns have a problem with alcohol” as one elderly man put it.

There are also numerous blogs by ex-Laestadians accusing the group of brainwashing and psychological abuse, including threats of being shunned by family friends if you disobey Laestadian rules.

But Oulu’s Conservative Laestadians certainly weren’t the unfriendly cult I’d be led to expect they’d be.

65 Degrees on North; 22 August 2007.

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Please be free to give your comments here or by e-mail: verkosto@luukku.com.

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Dr. Edward Dutton on tullut tunnetuksi  Suomessakin antropologina hänen julkaistuaan analyysin suomalaisuudesta: The Finnuit – Finnish Culture and the Religion of Uniqueness. Hän vertaa teoksessa suomalaisia ja arvomaailmaamme grönlantilaisten kultuuriin. Molemmilla kansoilla on Duttonin mukaan ollut vaikeuksia sopeutua moderniin elämäntapaan. Tämä ilmenee muun muassa uskonnollisuutena, nostalgisena menneisyyden haikailuna, runsaana alkoholinkäyttönä ja suurina itsemurhalukuina.

Uskonnollisuus näkyy Duttonin mukaan siinä, että sekä Suomessa että Grönlannissa on vahvoja kristillisiä herätysliikkeitä. Yhtäältä herätysliikkeet heijastavat luterilaisen synnintunnon ja häpeän nostattamaa vertaisryhmän tarvetta, toisaalta ne ilmentävät vastareaktiota perinteistä identiteettiä uhkaaviin yhteiskunnallisiin muutoksiin. Hänen käsityksensä mukaan sekä Suomessa että Grönlannissa kristinuskoon on sekoittunut myös pakanallista mystiikkaa, jossa on šamanistisia piirteitä.

Lue lisää:

Edward Dutton 2007:  A Shared Pre-Christian Past? Contemporary Finnish Baptism in Light of Greenlandic Naming Rituals.

Halla: I was brainwashed into raging Laestadian beliefs

Tutkija: Suomi on kuin laimennettu Grönlanti. Helsingin Sanomat  15.9.2009.

Tutkimus: Luonnontieteilijät ovat yhteiskuntatieteilijöitä älykkäämpiä. Kotimaa24 1.3.2014.

Nuoret jättävät vanhoillislestadiolaisuuden

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