Friday, May 10, 2013

Peeling the Onion

The arguments that I had used to defend the truth of Christianity were peeled away from me like the many layers of an onion’s skin. I put up all the intellectual resistance I could, and winced at each layer’s removal. I suffered through dark nights of the soul pondering whether my beliefs might not be too narrow or even wholly false. Imperceptibly, my fears, doubts, and grief blossomed into relief, relaxation, and joy.
Onion and more onion, all the way down [Flickr page]

I’ve been asked if An Examination of the Pearl is just about Laestadianism. That is the underlying theme, yes, but there’s much more to it. Enough so that a Jewish friend of mine—who knew there was some reason why I’d been having so many kids but had never heard of Laestadianism—is now on p. 370 and tells me it’s “very interesting stuff.” He sent me the Spring 2013 issue of Reform Judaism magazine with a note that I might “be interested in comparing [my former church] newsletters with a magazine of a definitely non-fundamentalist religion.” I was indeed.

An Examination of the Pearl peels the onion of my former Conservative Laestadianism faith, layer by layer. The outer layers are the LLC and SRK, which, despite official protests to the contrary, are not entirely the same. Then there is Laestadianism as a whole, with all of its various factions.

Further layers are Luther, Christianity, the Bible, and finally the traditional theological views of God. For me, it was all on the examination table. Many readers choose to retain that core, having found an authentic belief in Christianity apart from Laestadianism. I appreciate that, as well as the security of conviction displayed by those of you who subscribe to the book’s Facebook page and respect my writings despite my irreverent scrutiny of the onion, all the way down.

Are you religious? Then may you continue to derive inspiration and comfort from the faith that you have found—by yourself and for yourself, and not by some mere accident of being born into a small, isolated community that is sustained by mandated fertility and church pews packed with indoctrinated children. John 15:16 has Jesus saying, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” but it might as well be a statement from Laestadian churches to the children in their Sunday Schools.

And how many of those children will grow up to never appreciate that untold millions of people feel the call of Jesus just as strongly in their own hearts? Those little Laestadians are denied any such connection with other Christians because of the malignant exclusivity that has metastasized into their faith. I am not a Christian, but I can appreciate the value of the Christianity they have missed out on, where Jesus is the focus rather than hundreds of nit-picking rules, and where passages like John 3:16 and Romans 10:8-9 are not eviscerated of all meaning.

Some parts of the book are organized by various topics of Laestadian teaching, and there you will find lots of quotes from and discussion about Laestadianism, though mixed in with more general commentary. The other parts are of more general interest—about Luther, early Christian history, and the Bible itself.

There’s a hyperlinked Table of Contents on the web site, so you can get a free preview that way, or even read the whole book online if you wish.

A composite of postings on the Examination of the Pearl Facebook page, 3/6/13 and 5/10/​13. Photo credit: Dan Bruell, CC-ND licensed.