Avainsana-arkisto: subculture

I was brainwashed into raging Laestadian beliefs


– Never give up to think critically about every ideology. Know that you are worth it.- Anonymous.

Mind_control1PA Finnish young woman wrote touching description about her current life situation considering how to deal with the dilemma she is facing with the Laestadian beliefs which her family and friends are believing.

I’m a 17-year-old female high school student in Finland. When it comes to religion, I’d say that out of all the young finnish people most are atheists (myself included).

However, I was born to a very strict and raging religion called … Read more – Lue koko artikkeli…

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Kategoria(t): ateismi, atheism, ban of birth control, ban of television, bans, Conservative Laestadianism, eroaminen uskosta, forbidden things, get rid of, häpeä, heaven, helvetti, iankaikkinen elämä, identiteetti, identity, in English, irrottautuminen yhteisöstä, johtajat, johtokunta, kadotus, kasvatus, kiellot, kontrollointi, laestadianism, lapsuus, leimaaminen, manipulointi, meikkaaminen, mielenterveys, naispappeus, normit, norms, nuoret, painostaminen, pelko, pelot, perhe, puhujat, secession, sin, SRK:n johtokunta, sukupuolijärjestelmä, synnit, syntilista, tasa-arvo, televisio, televisiokielto, tiede, tieto, ulossulkeminen, uskon jättäminen, vallankäyttö, yksinäisyys, ystävyys

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.

*    *    *

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.

*    *    *

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

*   *    *

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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Kategoria(t): 2000-luku, avainten valta, ehkäisykielto, eristäminen, eroaminen uskosta, forbidden things, get rid of, hajaannukset, heaven, helvetti, hengellinen väkivalta, historia, in English, irrottautuminen yhteisöstä, kadotus, kasvatus, kiellot, kontrollointi, kulttuurikiellot, laestadian, laestadianism, lapset, Lars Levi Laestadius, lestadiolaisuuden suunnat, lisääntyminen, meikkaaminen, nettikeskustelu, normit, norms, nuoret, painostaminen, pelastus, perhe, Raamatun tulkinta, rauhanyhdistys, retoriikka, secession, seurakunta, seurakuntaoppi, seurat, sin, suurperhe, synnit, taivas, televisiokielto, tuomitseminen, ulossulkeminen, uskon jättäminen, vallankäyttö, väestönkasvu, väkivalta, yhteisöllisyys

I left the Conservative Laestadian movement (in ten years)


KiellettyDVDOpas-S

Leaving the strict confines of Conservative Laestadianism can be a shock. 

A young woman who has abandoned her faith speaks of confusion at what happens next.

*    *    *

I can remember exactly how I felt on that day. The weather was very beautiful in Helsinki. I walked on the sunny street with my head held high, and smiled at people walking by. I felt incomprehensible joy.
     

It was me walking there, and nobody else. I was 25 years old, and it was my issue and nobody else’s what I was doing with my life and what I was thinking. The powerful feeling of liberation came from something that was very small, but which had great symbolic significance for me. I was wearing makeup for the first time in my life.
     
The feeling came back to me when I saw Kielletty hedelmä (“Forbidden Fruit”), a film by Dome Karukoski, which tells about the departure of two young girls from the Conservative Laestadian movement.
     
My own departure lasted ten years.
     
I grew up in a Conservative Laestadian family in North Ostrobothnia (Finland). Our everyday lives did not actually differ much from those of our non-Laestadian neighbours, except that we had no television, we did not run our lawn mowers in Sunday, and on Sundays we attended services with the other Laestadians of the village.
At the services speakers read the Bible and interpreted it. The sermon usually took an hour. Then we sang hymns and Songs of Zion. After the singing we got refreshments.
     
The lectures repeated that the Kingdom of God is a good and safe place to be. The “Kingdom of God” is a term with which the Laestadian community calls itself. The outside world is corrupt and insecure. We were warned not to establish very close relations with “people of the world” because they might jeopardise our faith. Losing one’s faith was the worst thing that could happen, because then you would go to hell.
     
Contrary to what some other children said, I never took hell very seriously. However, I did feel that losing the faith would be very sad. On the other hand, there were many advantages to living as a person with faith, the biggest of which was that you got to go to heaven.
     
It was a good idea to preserve the faith by staying away from alcohol, dancing, movies, competitive sport, makeup, hair dye, sex, and so on. There was no official list of things that were not appropriate for a person of faith, but I gradually learned from what adults were saying what the things were that I was expected to stay away from.
     
Abstinence was not especially difficult, when there were many people around you living the same way. I did not actually refuse anything, I simply stayed far away from things that did not apply to me. In retrospect I thought that the Laestadians largely visualised their faith on the basis of what they do not do.
     
At school I would have liked to go to dance lessons, but the physical education teacher guided the Laestadian girls to go for a walk. I saw this as self-evident.
     
The third and most important way to protect the faith was not use one’s own sense of reason. We were told that reason can take our faith away. If one’s reason or experiences conflict with faith, one needed to become humble and to see the blessings of the common line of the congregation.
     
At about the age of 15 I noticed that I had started to think differently from what had been taught.
     
For instance, I began to wonder why Laestadians would go to heaven and others would go to hell. I also wondered why I should not enjoy the music of Aretha Franklin. It seemed unlikely that God would appreciate only the classics.
     
However, it was very important for me not to hurt the feelings of any other Laestadian with my views. It was emphasised at services that those who violate the unity of the congregation act against God. This is why I shared my thoughts with very few people.
     
I tried to clarify to myself what the Laestadian way of life was based on. Other practices, such as total abstinence from alcohol, had emerged in the late 19th century. Negative views toward television and popular music, for instance, had come up in the 1950s and 1960s. The linkage of these practices with God, faith, and morality began to feel inconceivable to me. I wanted to distinguish between cultural habits and faith.
     
For me, faith meant Christian thoughts of how a person can experience redemption through faith. I thought that I could be a Laestadian as long as I believed that. Even in sermons it was emphasised that a desire for faith was enough.
     
At the same time I was quite knowledgeable that on the practical level it was not possible to separate practice from faith. If I were to go to a service with makeup on, my friends would be shocked. The makeup would communicate to the others that I am no longer a Laestadian.
     
As I did not want to leave the Laestadian community, I committed to observing practices that I felt were without foundation.
     
I was headed for a great conflict.
     
No open discussion had been held within the movement about the true significance of cultural practices, and it is not happening even now. Privately, Laestadians have many opinions about lifestyles, but according to the public Laestadian line, things like not having a television is a “fruit of the spirit”, or a sign that a person is a believer of the right kind.
     
It was emphasised at services that it is not about rules, but rather the fact that a Laestadian wants to operate in a certain way. I recall how I preferred to speak about desires, rather than rules. I was pained to read newspaper articles about things that Laestadians “were not allowed to do”. The question was about what I wanted to do or to choose!
     
But whose desire was it really all about?
     
I was not asked what I wanted, or what I felt was important. For instance, the negative stance on birth control was taken in the late 1960s at a meeting of preachers, where only men were present.
     
I knew already at the age of 13 that I did not want to be the mother of a big family. It was not until I was over the age of 20 that I said out loud that I cannot stand the idea of a big family. My friends answered that “you can’t know in advance what it will be like”.
     
I was supposed to simply trust that God would give me exactly the right number of children, even if I did not use birth control.
     
I knew that my mind could not handle such an experiment. I simply did not want to become pregnant reluctantly. My thoughts did not find resonance, because they resounded with the voice of reason, not that of faith.
     
Some felt that faith is that people are encouraged to push their reason aside in big matters. For me rejecting reason would have been an abandonment of my own psyche.
     
I was not ready to bend at all in the birth control question, or to hide my opinions. The security of the Laestadian community began to turn into insecurity.
     
At the age of 25 I decided to leave the community. it was the most honest and most sustainable solution.
     
However, the most difficult days were still ahead. Leaving Laestadianism takes place by telling about it to one’s family and friends. I had the words of the father of my friend in my mind: “For one’s own child to leave the faith is worse than the child’s death.”
     
I could not cause such great sorrow to people close to me without going into a state of protective shock. Emotionally numb, I told my family and my friends: “I no longer have the faith.”
     
I will never forget those moments. I remember the expressions on the people’s faces, the silence, the first words.
     
My decision briefly shook the basic sense of security of people close to me. A few of them were also in shock.
     
It is a few years since the event, and I have good relations with my family. My decision nevertheless raises such deep emotions in my family that I cannot write about it under my own name. I also want to protect my family from the talk that the publication of this article will raise in the Laestadian community.
     
Leaving a religious movement is often described as a liberation from stressful rules. That is certainly the case to some degree. I was liberated from representing people other than myself. I was able to go to an Alko to buy a bottle of rum for a cake, and I didn’t have to explain to other Laestadians why I was doing it.
     
I was also able to think freely whether or not I believe in God, and if so, what kind of a God I believe in.
     
The film Kielletty hedelmä describes well how liberation is not merely a positive experience.
     
Instead of liberation I mainly experienced confusion. When nobody was defining my limits on my behalf, then where are those limits, and do they exist at all. This phase included some comical excesses.
     
I took full advantage of being able to have a different opinion about things. I might tell my colleague at work that her idea was “complete crap”. At times I would hurt people, and at other times amuse them by being rude and blunt.
     
In many situations I felt like an outsider. Maria, one of the main characters of Kielletty hedelmä, orders her first drink in a bar, saying “Two … something with alcohol in it”. The scene is as if it were straight from my life. I still have to concentrate in a bar to remember what kinds of drinks actually exist.
     
Maria, the more reckless of the girls in the film, is eager to break through the boundaries set up by Laestadianism (concerning alcohol, makeup, sex, dance) but finally, in the grip of great emotion, she wants to reform.
     
The more cautious Raakel observes Maria’s experiments from a distance. Raakel is like I am. Like Raakel, I first went through disengagement from Laestadianism in my mind. I lost my faith in the ways of thinking that maintained the boundaries.
     
I have many Laestadian friends who have thought the same thoughts that I did, but who do not want to leave the community. For some of them, the mystery of the faith is important, and for others, it is the sense of community. Some, for their part, say that they are there out of force of habit, or because they do not want to disappoint their parents. These are all understandable reasons.
     
I also know one person who claims to be part of the “leftist wing of Laestadianism”, women who define themselves as “Laestadian feminists”, and even one “Conservative Laestadian atheist”.
     
The subcultures are not seen in public. The old men who speak in the name of the revival movement, on the other hand, appear to be blissfully ignorant of the diversity that exists inside Laestadianism. For that reason, they can give statements leaning on sharp polarisations, and claim that the Laestadian community is a a unified group of people who think alike.
     
Kielletty hedelmä depicts the unravelling of a world picture focussing on duality. Maria urges Raakel to drink alcohol, saying “you have to understand what all of this is”.
     
When Raakel asks what it all is, Maria says “Nothing, Just ordinary!”
     
According to Conservative Laestadian doctrine, Maria has lost the ability to recognise what is sin.
     
Recognising the ordinary was a relief for me. The Laestadian world was not inherently good, and the rest of the world was not inherently evil. It was also not the case that the Laestadian world would have been insignificant, and that life outside would have been exciting to the point of intoxication.
     
There is just one world common to us all. Some things are good, and some things are bad. Most of them are somewhere in between.
     
*     *      *
Author: Anna-Stina Nykänen, Helsingin Sanomat.
First published in Finnish; in print 22.3.2009. (Exceptionally, this article was published anonymously in Finnish.)
Comments welcome, please contact the Freepathways network: verkosto@luukku.com, or you can also write your comment in the blog.
Artikkeli julkaistiin alkuaan Helsingin Sanomien sunnuntainumerossa 22.3.2009, suomenkielisen tekstin löydät täältä.
 
Read more:
 
 
 
Leanne Waldal: How does “sweetie” become shunned? (On ostracism after leaving Leastadian church; also interesting comments)
Bible_Warning PIEN

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Kategoria(t): concept of sin, Conservative Laestadianism, forbidden things, get rid of, Helsingin Sanomat, identiteetti, identity, in English, irrottautuminen yhteisöstä, laestadian, laestadianism, norms, secession, sin