Season's Greetings!

The Laestadian-ism team wishes everyone a merry Christmas and happy new year. Yours truly already makes a promise to post more frequently in 2011, as he returns from his sabbatical from another Academy-funded project.


Between Rawls and Religion: IRNRD Annual Conference 2010

Just a heads up on the activities of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD). LUISS and John Cabot University are hosting the annual event in Rome this year. It's next week and has a highly distinguished lineup of participants -- check out poster below:

Näyttökuva 2010-12-07 kohteessa 14.03.21.png


LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Minnesota Laestadian Sex Abuse Case

Apparently -- and indeed unfortunately -- laestadian abuse cases are not confined to Finland. Learning to Live Freereports of a case in the OALC in Minnesota:

Minnesota Laestadian Sex Abuse Case: "Apparently sex abuse is still happening in Laestadian circles in the United States as well, as attested to in this article regarding a case that hit the news last July involving a volunteer at the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church on Rowland Road in Minnetonka, Minnesota."

AFAIK the Finnish press has thus far failed to notice this case. Päivi Räsänen keeping the religion beat busy I suppose.


Laestadian Abuse -- Story Continues

The leading national broadsheet Helsingin Sanomat ran a story on the 29th of September reporting that an influential member of the SRK has been in custody since July on child abuse charges. Helsinki Times ran a similar report in English. Allegations of abuse were picked up by the media in the spring, but shows little signs of quieting down after the summer.

According to Kaleva the head of SRK Olavi Voittonen dissociated the accused from all of the Central Committee's activities. He also made the argument that among the laestadians there are no more paedophiles than in the rest of the society, and the current furor against the movement has been raised by the media. Voittonen firmly denies hushing down the scandal and emphasises that child abuse is not an internal matter, but all cases should be reported to the police.

The odds are this piece of news will not be going away in the short term.


New blog on the block

Hope you had a good summer! With September just around the corner it is time to get back to business.

There is a new blogger on matters laestadian: Laestadianleaks.

Näyttökuva 2010-08-29 kohteessa 12.11.47.png

What is it about exactly is early to tell since the site has been up about a day or so. It does seem to emulate its namesake inasmuch the first posts out some of SRK's political connections. Interesting stuff, indeed. With posts like these the blog is likely to get noticed.


New book on Habermas and the problems of the "post-secular" condition

Péter Losonczi & Aakash Singh (eds.): Discoursing the Post-Secular: Essays on the Habermasian Post-Secular Turn has been published by the LIT Verlag (2010, 184 pp).

"This collection of fresh and lively essays analyzes the Habermasian post-secular turn as it has been evolving over the last decade triggering intensive debates in social and political theory, but at the same time aims to situate the arising postsecular discourse(s) within the larger intellectual environment shaped by the complex influence of the alleged 'return' of religion or the religious. The volume includes studies from as diverse fields as cultural theory, social theory, political philosophy, and theory of religion, as well as theology and bioethics. Key issues such as tolerance, the nature and challenges of modernity, pluralism, knowledge and faith, human dignity, ritual, idolatry or transcendence are brought into the discussion in an inventive way, and Habermas's work is reflected upon in comparison with figures like Levinas, Vattimo, and Agnes Heller." (Publishers blurb.)

Table of contents:

Editors’ Introduction

1. John Rundell: "Multiple Modernities, Sacredness, and the Democratic Imaginary: Religion as a Stand-in Category"

2. Devrim Kabasakal: "The Relevance and the Limits of the Notion of a Post-Secular Age In Jurgen Habermas’s Theory of Toleration"

3. Patrick Loobuyck & Stefan Rummens: "Beyond secularization? Notes on Habermas’s Account of the Postsecular Society"

4. Aakash Singh: "Habermas' Postsecularism: The Penetration/Preservation of the (European) Political Public Sphere"

5. Péter Losonczi: "Habermas, Levinas and the Problem of the Sacred: Postsecular Strategies in Resonating Divergence"

6. Matthias Riedl: "The Permanence of the Eschatological: Reflections on Gianni Vattimo’s Hermeneutic Age"

7. Nicholas Adams: "Habermas on Religion: The Problem of Discursive Extraterritoriality"

8. Edmund Arens: "What is Religion, and What is Religion For? Toughts in Light of Communicative Theory and Communicative Theology"

9. Michael Hoelzl: "Towards a Thicker Description of Transcendence"

10. Gábor Viktor Orosz: "Human Dignity and Genetics in a Postsecular Age: Habermas’s Ideas Concerning Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis and Enhancement in the Context of Theological Tradition".

The Biopolitics of Development: A Symposium at September 9--10 at Kolkata, India

Keynote Speakers

- Michael Dillon (Sehir University, Turkey)
- Manas Ray (CSSSC, India)
- Julian Reid (University of Lapland, Finland)
- Ranabir Samaddar (Calcutta Research Group, India)

Organized by the University of Lapland and the Calcutta Research Group. Funded by the Finnish Academy

How can we understand the historical and contemporary function of development doctrine in the propagation and expansion of liberal regimes of governance? How has the strategic function of development changed in the transition from liberal to neoliberal rationalities of governance? And what is the relevance of the shift from development to sustainable development for the increasingly global hegemony of neoliberalism? Answering these questions requires examining the fundamental and complex correlations of economy, politics and security with life in liberal doctrine. For it is the reification of life which has permitted liberalism to proliferate, like a poison species, taking over entire states and societies in the wake of their disasters, utilizing their suffering, as conditions for its spread, installing markets, commodifying anything it can lay its hands on, monetizing the value of everything, driving peoples from countryside into cities, generating displacement, homelessness, and deprivation.

Neoliberalism is widely understood as a theory of political economic practices proposing that human well-being can best be advanced by the maximization of entrepreneurial freedoms within an institutional framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade. Less understood, however, is how its claims to be able to increase wealth and freedom became correlated with claims to increase the prosperity and security of life itself. For life was triangulated with capital and labour within liberal regimes of governance from the very earliest emergence of liberal political economy’s competition and conflict with the Cameralism and Mercantilism of Polizeiwissenschaft. Life, in the form of species existence, rather than nature, specifically the political and economic nature in particular of rational Man whose dual nature derived much more from European scholasticism than many of its early modern proponents conceded, has progressively emerged as a singularly important a priori for liberal political economy.

Neoliberalism breaks from earlier liberalisms and traditions of political economy in so far as its legitimacy rests on its capacities to correlate practices for the increase of economic profitability and prosperity not just with practices for the securing of the human species, but with the life of the biosphere. These correlations of economy, well-being, freedom, security and biospheric life in and among neoliberal regimes of practice and representation comprise some of the foundations of its biopolitics. As this symposium will explore, we cannot understand how liberalism functions, most especially how it has gained the global hegemony that it has, without addressing how systematically the category of life has organized the correlation of its various practices of governance, as well as how important the shift in the very understanding of life, from the human to the biospheric, has been for changes in those practices. Today it is not simply living species and habitats that are threatened with extinction, and for which we must mobilize our care, but the words and gestures of human solidarity on which resistance to biopolitical regimes of governance depends. A sense of responsibility for the survival of the life of the biosphere is not a sufficient condition for the development of a political subject capable of speaking back to neoliberalism; nor a mere humanistic sense of responsibility for the life of human amongst other beings. What is required is a subject responsible for securing incorporeal species, chiefly that of the political, currently threatened with extinction, on account of the overwrought fascination with life that has colonized the developmental as well as every other biopoliticized imaginary of the modern age.

This symposium seeks to explore a range of responses to this problematic. It invites papers from across the disciplines and from a variety of theoretical perspectives that address any aspect of the biopolitics of development. This will be a two-day symposium with about 20-25 participants marked by presentation of views, papers, roundtable discussions, and question-answer sessions. Paper proposals aiming to respond to this problematic should be submitted to Julian Reid ( and Ranabir Samaddar (

Deadline: July 31, 2010.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Between Rawls and Religion: Liberalism in a Postsecular World

LUISS University and John Cabot University host an IRNRD event in Rome on December 16--18, 2010.

This conference will bring together scholars in philosophy, sociology, political theory, legal theory, religious studies, and theology to discuss the problematic relationship between religion and politics in contemporary public life. It will focus particularly on John Rawls’ influential treatment of liberalism in pluralist societies and on the challenges posed to such a treatment by the re-emergence of religions in public life and the development of what some have called a postsecular world. The conference will thus consider such topics as:

- Religion in Rawls
- Political liberalism in a postsecular world
- Religious doctrines and the idea of public reason
- Religions and overlapping consensus
- Liberalism and political theology
- The philosophical and political foundations of postsecular pluralism
- Redefining the relations and boundaries between religion and public life
- Accommodating religious identities in liberal societies

Speakers include: Tariq Modood (Bristol) (tbc), Stephen Macedo (Princeton), Sebastiano Maffettone (LUISS), Paul Weithman (Notre Dame), Maeve Cooke (Dublin), Joh. Van Der Ven (Nijmegen), David Rasmussen (Boston), Andrew March (Yale)(tbc), and Alessandro Ferrara (Rome).

Submission guidelines:

A paper suitable for presentation in 20 minutes and a 500-word abstract, both prepared for blind review, should be sent by 1 October 2010 to the following email address:

Notice of acceptance will be provided by 15 October 2010.
Selected papers will be considered for publication


Tiedonkeruuta vanhoillislestadiolaisten hoitokokouksista [IN FINNISH]

Kuulutko tai oletko aikaisemmin kuulunut vanhoillislestadiolaiseen herätysliikkeeseen? Tai onko Sinulla muutoin kokemuksia vanhoillislestadiolaisuudesta?

Olen tekemässä tutkimusta ns. hoitokokouksista, joita järjestettiin liikkeen piirissä erityisesti 1970-luvun loppupuolella.

Kiinnostuksen kohteena ovat erityisesti ihmisten kokemukset hoitokokouksista; minkälaisia tunteita ne herättivät silloin ja millaisia tunteita ne ovat aiheuttaneet jälkeenpäin?

Tutkimuksen tarkoituksena ei ole selvittää niinkään tapahtumien täsmällistä kulkua, vaan ihmisten kokemusperäistä näkökulmaa asiaan. Kirjoituksissa toivotaan, että niissä kerrottaisiin tapahtumista, niihin liittyvistä muistokuvista ja tuntemuksista. Menneisyyden kokemusten ja tuntemusten lisäksi on kiinnostavaa, millaisia tunteita ne herättävät nykyään.

Kirjoituksia toivotaan niiltä, jotka ovat olleen tekemisissä jollakin tavalla asian kanssa, sekä niiltä, joihin hoitokokoukset ovat vaikuttaneet joko suoraan tai epäsuoraan. Jos olet liikkeen ulkopuolinen henkilö, millaisia kokemuksia Sinulla on ollut hoitokokouksista ulkopuolisin silmin?

Tutkimus kuuluu Suomen Akatemian rahoittamaan "Lestadionismi: Poliittinen teologia ja kansalaisuskonto maallistuvassa Suomessa" -tutkimushankkeeseen (hankenumero: 132693). Lapin yliopistoon sijoittuva tutkimushanke jatkuu vuoden 2012 loppuun asti.

Tutkimuksen toteuttaa dosentti Aini Linjakumpu Lapin yliopistosta. Kirjoitukset voi lähettää osoitteella: Aini Linjakumpu, Lapin yliopisto, PL 122, 96101 Rovaniemi. Kirjoituksia voi lähettää myös sähköpostilla osoitteeseen: hoitokokoukset ät ulapland piste fi. Asiaan liittyvät tiedustelut joko kirjeitse tai edellä mainitulla sähköpostilla.

Kirjoituksia toivotaan 30.6. mennessä. Kirjoitukset käsitellään ehdottoman luottamuksellisesti. Kirjoitukset voidaan toimittaa myös nimettöminä, mutta toivotaan, että niissä ilmenee kirjoittajan ikä, sukupuoli ja mahdollisesti myös asuinpaikka.


Civil Religion

In one of my earlier postings I gave a short theoretical introduction to political theology. In this posting I will unfold the concept of civil religion.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book The Social Contract formulates the idea of how people should get together and form a society. The book -- first published in 1762 -- also discusses the role of civil religion in society.

For Rousseau man is born free but in order to preserve himself he has to join with others. This union happens in a social contract and the society thereby constituted becomes the foundation of the general will. The general will ensures that all the people remain free and no one will subjugate the others. According to Rousseau people form the sovereign entity and enact the laws. However, Rousseau separates the government from the people: the job of the government is to implement the general will.

However Rousseau sees it as problematic how a man could accept that the sovereign entity is not led by a ruler who would have received his mandate straight from God. To solve this problem he formulates the concept of civil religion. Civil religion is not about religion as such -- actually it is a way to diminish the role of religion in society. Rousseau makes clear distinction between the civil religion and the private religion. The latter should be out of reach of the government and everybody's private matter as long as it does not conflict with civil religion.

Rousseau makes clear that Christianity will not work as a civil religion or as a bonding element. According to him Christians are too submissive and it would be too easy for one to dominate over others. Christians perform their duties for the sovereign entity, but it is not really this world they are interested in -- it is the next one they are preparing themselves for.

For Rousseau civil religion is the "cement" of society, a factor that keeps people together. Civil religion is a way of thinking that promotes a feeling of unity among the people. Values and 'grand narratives' are carried forward over generations forming the feeling of oneness and belonging.


Postings about women and the abuse scandal

Like in several other religious movements women's role in Laestadianism is often considered marginal. Some of the most popular points of discussion outside the movement highlight this fact and ask questions such as whether or not Laestadian women have control over their bodies.

A new topic hotly debated in the Finnish press and the blogosphere is child abuse. The (orig in eng) web page published last week a post according to which women's stronger role in the church would not only have prevented child abuse, but also made the handling of the problem more 'efficient'.

Pekka Asikainen's blog post on the other hand brought up Conservative Laestadianism and asked whether the wisdom of women has been forgot in the movement and whether women's stronger role would have prevented abuse. Asikainen's has aroused more general discussion about women's role in the Suomi24-forum.

According to article in Omat polut the Conservative Laestadians have been in center of attention in this abuse scandal. The article states that patriarchal and closed structure of the movement has made the problem worse and is degrading the status of Laestadian women and children.


Political theology in Rome

Your editor reports from Rome, Italy, where he attended the meeting of the executive committee of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD). The meeting was preceded by lectures of Dr Michael Hölzl (Manchester, pictured below giving a brilliant lecture on the temptation of re-mythologising sovereignty), prof Graham Ward (Manchester), and Walter Van Herck (Antwerp). The meeting and lectures were kindly hosted by the LUISS Centre for Ethics and Global Politics and John Cabot University.


Let it be known that Rome is certainly one of the great cities of the world and both LUISS and JCU extraordinary academic institutions. The committee meeting was also a success: the IRNRD 2010 conference takes place in Rome under the title "Between Rawls and Religion". The following conference on "Politics and Evil" will meet at the University of Lapland in December 2011 -- i.e. we decided to move the Lapland meeting one year earlier than previously planned.

Thanks again Aakash and Tom for hosting us. Looking forward to working with you again soon.


Political theology à la Carl Schmitt

What does the political theology in the name of our project stand for? I will try to open the concept by using the ideas of Carl Schmitt.

As Schmitt states in his famous quote 'The central concepts of the modern state theory are all secularized theological concepts' (Politische Theologie, 1922). This is easier to understand if we know Schmitt's view how the controlling forces in the Western states have changed throughout their history. In the medieval worldview states were controlled by God and the Scriptures. Secular politics was a prerogative of the Catholic Church and the Pope who had a mandate straight from God. Now - after the phases of science, humanism and economics - we are living in a state where technology is the ruling element.

If we want to fully understand this analogy between political theory and theology we must study Schmitt's notion about the 'state of exception'. For Schmitt 'sovereign is the one who decides about the exception'. Exception is the miracle and the sovereign (state) is the God of the secularised time. Exceptions made by the sovereign can not be explained by the laws like the miracles made by God can not be explained by rational sense. Political theology tries to find the elements of transcendence which are often concealed in secular politics.

According to Schmitt 'the machine now runs by itself' - all transcendental elements have been stripped off the state. In the modern state the omnipotent God has been replaced by omnipotent lawgiver. Schmitt wants to restore the importance and weight that the concepts of political theory had in the 16th century. Schmitt is very critical towards liberalism and criticises the fragmentation of power. For him a strong state but also strong values were the only ways to face the challenges posed by the liberalising international system.

Even though Schmitt represented his ideas in the first half of 20th century and even thought some of his ideas can be seen as products of his time, are the theories of the political theology and the state of exception getting more attention especially in the context of war on terror.


The New Pietism Will Lead to The Same Old Results

The lutheran blog Cyberbrethen posts an interesting tidbit on pietism from a book published two decades ago: The New Pietism Will Lead to The Same Old Results:

‘We do not have to look very far to see that today there is a new spirit of pietism abroad, a pietism that sees the essence of Christianity in the small, informal group, rather than in the total community of faith at worship within a recognized and formal liturgical order. It is a pietism that measures its success by the number of people it touches, rather than by the truth of the message it proclaims. It is a pietism that is preoccupied with ‘simple hymns’ and informal structures of worship. It is a pietism that is impatient with the German Reformation of the sixteenth century, a pietism that asserts that we need new forms and less of the old. It is a new spirit of pietism that looks in many respects like the old pietism, the Pietism in the technical sense which we have considered here. (Bach and Pietism: Similarities Today, by Robin A. Leaver, Concordia Theological Quarterly, 55:1 (Jan. 1991), pp. 5-22.)

(Via Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog.)


New book on political theory/political theology

Dear Colleagues,
Hereby I inform you that the book From Political Theory to Political Theology: Religious Challenges and the Prospects of Democracy (Aakash Singh, Péter Losonczi eds.) has been published by Continuum Publishers:

During the last two decades we have witnessed what José Casanova has characterised as “religion going public”. This has not been a trend exclusive to traditionally religious nations. Rather, it has been visible in as diverse environments as that of the construction of the new Russian political identity or in the “post-9/11” political discourses of the USA.

Surprisingly, important religious manifestations also influenced the political discourses in Britain and, more recently, in France. Partly as a consequence of these phenomena an intensive debate is now evolving about the compatibility of the neutrality of liberal democracy in relation to religiously motivated opinions in public discourses, and the conditions under which such religiously driven contributions could viably “go public”.

This book offers a collection of essays on Religion and Democracy which critically discusses the most important questions that characterize these debates at the points of their intersection within political theory, political theology and the philosophy of religion, and considers both the challenges and the prospects of this new era which, following Habermas, one may call post-secular.

All the best, Péter

Headquarters goes to Oulu

Our project made a little seminar trip to Oulu.

Veli-Pekka Lehtola from the Giellagas Institute kindly hosted the seminar meeting. In the meeting our researchers presented their paper outlines and got feedback from other researchers but also from our supporting/visiting members Marja Tuominen, Samuli Onnela, Erva Niittyvuopio and Anni-Siiri Länsman.

Below Sanna presenting her research ideas. In the picture clockwise Veli-Pekka Lehtola, Marja Tuominen, Mika Luoma-aho, Anni-Siiri Länsman, Samuli Onnela, Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo, Sanna Valkonen, Erva Niittyvuopio and Aini Linjakumpu. Outside the pic Tapio Nykänen and yours truly.

We also made an expedition to the National Archives Service. The archive hosts Laestadiana collection which includes material (letters, pics, books) about Laestadianism and which can be one source for research material.

It was really nice to see all our researchers in one place but also get to know our 'supporters' who hopefully will follow us in the project.


Thinking about humanitarian responsibility


I am currently writing a paper/book chapter on humanitarian responsibility, commenting the UN's Millennium Declaration from a politico-theological perspective. There is lots to comment, but I am currently stuck to thinking and writing about the second article:

We recognize that, in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs.

The leaders identify two kinds of responsibility here. On the one hand they are responsible to their national "constituency": this one is fairly straightforward. The other kind is trickier: a collective responsibility to uphold human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. How does such a responsibility come about? Is responsibility something we humans must accept as a premise, or rather something we have agreed upon and must now accept on that basis?

The way I look at this we have two options to conceive humanitarian responsibility. We can give human life a "true" meaning, i.e. that human life now is just as precious as it was, say, two thousand years ago. This is the ideal that all the declarations and human rights legislation reflect. If we do not like "true" meaning we have to accept that it is a relative thing: what it means to be human depends on convention, and its meaning can be different in different time and place. Two thousand years ago there were no human rights, so the people then were not human, or they had no rights, or both.

What it boils down to us this: either humanitarian responsibility has an ultimate basis or it does not have such a basis. If we accept true meaning we can do so only from a theistic worldview. If we reject it we must accept the fact that we are no more than what we make of ourselves: biological creatures, who came up with an idea of "humanity". As simple as that.


Hyvää pääsiäistä!

The whole Laestadian-ism team wishes everyone a peaceful and inspirational holiday period. We would also like to welcome in our team MSocSc Sandra Wallenius, who officially begins her postgraduate research in our project today.


Laestadianism and charismatic christianity?

At the end of my interesting and increasingly useful excursion to The United States I had a privilege of meeting an English pastor with whom I got a chance to speak (among other things) laestadianism. My friend was interested in charismatic Christianity and was on related trip to the US, visiting a church in Redding, CA.

Laestadianism has its roots firmly in the charismatic tradition, based as it is in the powerful person and preaching of Lars Levi Laestadius in 19th century Lapland. I am no expert in church history, but I do have some doubts about identifying the contemporary movement as charismatic. There are charismatic Christian sects in Finland, like the Nokia Revival, but in the practice of the laestadian religion there is little or no emphasis on spiritual gifts or godly manifestations.

Disagree? Let me know in the comments.


Two brothers, one atheist and the other Christian

Christopher Hitchens is currently one of the major "evangelists" of (the so-called) new atheism. His brother Peter, another British journalist, used to be an atheist not unlike his brother, but converted to Christianity. The Daily Mail interviews Peter Hitchens in a must-read piece titled How I found God and peace with my atheist brother.

P. Hitchens makes an argument worth thinking about:

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.
The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

I need to check out his new book The Rage Against God.

(Via Gene Veith.)


Päivämies day

Wednesday is the day when the Conservative Laestadian newspaper Päivämies comes out. Most of the topics dealt with aren’t very current; however, the editorial refers to some more topical issues and often gives me something to write about. This week the editorial referred to the service that has been a part of the opening to the parliamentary spring session.

Several times I have come across the metaphor of a nestling and an egg which has two shells; one of them representing the authority on earth and the other one the authority in heaven, both making sure that the egg is a safe place to grow. According to the editorial the earthly authority i.e. the state, has to take care that the children of God will make it safely to the kingdom of heaven. The editorial emphasizes that the state should be Christian and follow Christian values.

Seppo Lohi -- a visible person in the movement -- has once said that when proportioned to the size of the movement it has significant religious and social importance. No need to say, that these kinds of statements just underpin our research -- the relationship between the state and the Laestadian movement is quite an explicit one.

Another thing that I noticed whilst reading the paper, which I have come across several times lately is a statement which Conservative Laestadians tend to use when some issues are open to interpretation. In these cases it is common to use the part of the bible where the snake lures Eve to eat the apple – this is an example where too much thinking and pondering didn’t lead to a happy ending. I think that probably quite many people would say that this is just a way to “cover up” the statements or rules which don’t have any ground in the bible -- or at least not explicitly.

So these were the thoughts that I wanted to share with you.
I hope you all have a nice week!


Doctoral thesis about Finnish party politics and Laestadianism

A doctoral thesis about the Central party and the Church politics in Finland will be defended at the University of Helsinki 10th of April.

The main statement will be that in the 1970’s the Central party of Finland increased its role in the Church politics. Along to the thesis Central party was afraid that it would lose members -- especially those belonging to Lutheran revival movements -- to other parties. The biggest threat was the Finnish Christian League, and this why the Central party started to emphasize Christian values and take bigger role in the Church politics.

The link between these two -- Conservative Laestadianism and the Central party of Finland -- is not a secret, but I’m sure this thesis will give us some new information and new ideas.

We still have to wait for the book, but before that you can read the summary and get the details here.


Laestadianism on YouTube

If you have extra ten minutes check the
LaestadianismInfo YouTube channel.

There you can find footage e.g. of Laestadian services and most of the videos are in English. It is also worthwhile to flick through the “Favourites” section!

My personal favourites are the videos about creationism and feminism (in Finnish).


Archbishop election

The first round of archbishop election in Finnish Lutheran Church will take place today and the issue that has mostly been dividing the candidates has been same sex marriage and whether church weddings should be allowed for heterosexual couples.

Yesterdays Conservative Laestadian newspaper Päivämies (17.2.2010) also dealt this topic in its editorial. In it homosexuality was seen as a temptation which we should resist. However his resistance has lately become harder and harder as a result of our high living standards – humanity is a threat to the Word of God. As Eve came to conclusion that it’s ok to eat the apple we have after all this discussing come to conclusion that homosexuality is not against Gods will.

The editorial states that the future leader of the Lutheran Church in Finland should boldly stick what the Bible says even though this would leave him alone. This how our “common church” would have a solid foundation and we would avoid the disintegration that is often considered a threat to the Lutheran Church.

This discussion is of course a part of a bigger discourse which has been taking place in other countries too and in the end I’m sure you can find grounds for both views from the Bible.


Millenarianism in The Big Easy

Your host will be on the road again for the next three weeks or so. I am currently working FT on professor Julian Reid's research project, Governing Life Globally, also funded by the Academy of Finland. I am heading to the United States this time.

My first destination is the ISA's 51st annual convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am presenting a paper on the political theology of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. I am staying at a hotel in the city's historical French Quarter. ISA is not the only game in town this week, as it is also time for Mardi Gras!


After the convention I will head to Northern California to visit UC at Berkeley and Davis and meet some colleagues over there.

I am riding with my laptop so email me with any developments. Mari is also standing by at the Laestadian-ism project headquarters -- we prefer to call it the LHQ -- and you will reach her at 'laestadianism' in Google's popular mail address. I will back on March 10th or so.

Meanwhile: fight the good fight!


Public figures and Laestadianism

The biggest daily newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, is getting a new chief editor called Mikael Pentikäinen. Yesterdays Helsingin Sanomat dedicated a whole page article for this accompanied with a little profile about him.

The profile highlighted that Pentikäinen has been active in the Center party and he described to be a skilled professional, a ”news hawk”. The last chapter had something that caught my attention – Pentikäinen has a Laestadian background.

There are already several writings and discussions in the internet wondering if his religious background will influence the content of the paper and whether some topics will now get less/more attention. On the other hand there is as many writings stating that Pentikäinen is a professional and won't let his own beliefs influence the line of the newspaper.

Well what ever happens, it is still quite interesting to notice how much attention his religious background has gained.


Laestadianism in Inhimillinen tekijä on Sun 7th March at 9pm

The next episode of Inhimillinen tekijä, a Finnish tv-program, discusses how children experience growing up in a religious family. One of the guests is Teuvo Moisa who grew up in a Laestadian family.

The program also deals religious violence and asks if children should have a freedom of religion.

Program is in Finnish.


Laestadians and Domestic Violence

The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters in Oulu and the Conservative Laestadians are starting cooperation. According to the article in religious newspaper Kotimaa (4.2.2010), domestic violence in Laestadian families isn’t any more common than in non-religious families, but the problem has been the cultural differences. The aim of this cooperation is to collect information about working with tight communities like Conservative Laestadians and how the special characteristics in their culture affect the helping process.

For example, among non-religious people divorce might often be the solution in domestic violence cases. In Conservative Laestadian movement it isn’t that easy – marriage is meant to last for the lifetime and divorce isn’t considered as a solution. Members of the religious movement have also said that in domestic violence cases it is important to keep the family together and keep up the facade of happy family life.

As the article notes, asking for forgiveness or making a confession are not necessarily enough - in most cases earthly help and counselling are needed. The writer referred to a Conservative Laestadians newspaper Päämies (27.1.2010) in which the editorial stated, that after asking for forgiveness from God person should know in his or her heart what is the right thing to do. In these cases the worst case scenario is that people go on as usual without getting any help or not trying to change.

More information (in Finnish):

Oulun ensi- ja turvakoti

Yle uutiset

Laestadianism outside Finland

We thought it might be a good idea to make a mention of Laestadianism outside the Nordic countries. So here’s some info in a nutshell.

It’s probably not a surprise that the biggest congregations outside northern Europe can be found in North America where Laestadianism came with immigrants in the end of the 19th century. Since then several new lines have been born due to internal disagreements and it’s not easy to get the whole picture of the situation today. It also looks like that the Laestadian movement in America is constantly in a state of flux.

These are some of the biggest churches:

- Laestadian Lutheran Church LLC (Conservative Laestadian)

- Apostolic Lutheran Church ALC

- Old Apostolic Lutheran Church (Firstborn)

Small Laestadian congregations can be found in more exotic places too. Quick survey in the internet shows that all the biggest branches in Finland and The United States do missionary work and that some of this work has apparently been quite fruitful.

The Laestadian New Revival (Uusheräys) has organised its missionary work through The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (Suomen Lähetysseura), but the others seem to do they missionary work rather independently. Work has concentrated in the nearby areas like Russia and Estonia, but also to destinations in Africa, South-America and China.

Different branches have different perceptions about missionary work. Most of them emphasize the importance of the mission amongst their own, but there are also those who question whether or not missionary work should be done abroad at all.

I found interesting how some Conservative Laestadians seem to think that missionary work should be done when the time is right and the people are ready to hear the word. It seems that the Laestadian mission doesn’t seem to be as aggressive as in some other Christian denominations.

More info:

Laestadianism in America

Laestadian missionary work in general

Looking forward to your comments!


Is environmentalism a religion?

The Philosopher's Eye asks a topical question: Is environmentalism a religion?:

Every so often popular debate breaks out about whether belief in anthropogenic global warming is analogous to religious belief. These debates almost always turn into debates about whether environmentalism is a religion. Typically, one side maintains that the distinctive feature of religious belief is that it appeals to the supernatural, and so environmentalism isn’t a religion. The other side maintains that the distinctive feature of religious belief is the passion with which the belief is held, and so environmentalism, when it’s held passionately, is a religion.

I don't have a take on this, really. What I find interesting, though, is that whenever you come across this identification -- i.e. environmentalism-is-a-religion -- it is made by the anti-environmentalist without exception. What I am thinking now is

1. What does this tell about the role of religion in contemporary environmental discourse? Is it that anyone passionate about the fate of our planet is a fundamentalist driven by irrationalism?

2. Is there a coherent Christian view about (or within) the politics of environmentalism? I'd love to get an idea of the playing field here, so let me know of anything in the comments.

(Via The Philosopher's Eye.)



Dear Colleagues,

Let me shortly inform you about the activities and some of the plans of the IRNRD (International Research Network on Religion and Democracy): an inter-disciplinary research group of international scholars.

The first steps were made in 2008, when we organized a conference with the title Religion and Democracy: Challenges and Prospects. Our second conference Political Theology for the 21st Century? Trends and Tasks was held in December 2009, where Mika -- an active member of the IRNRD -- gave a presentation on Laestadianism and the project Laestadian-ism: Political Theology and Civil Religion (see Mika's related posts). Our next conference will be in Rome in December this year, a joint program at LUISS University and John Cabot University. The meeting is under organisation with the title Between Rawls and Religion. In cooperation with the Laestedianism project, we plan to organize our 2012 annual conference in Rovaniemi on Politics and Evil.

Members of the advisory board are renowned scholars like Neera Chandhoke, Maeve Cooke, Herman De Dijn, Sebastiano Maffettone, András Lánczi, Johannes van der Ven, while the members and cooperative partners include Aakash Singh, Tom Bailey, András Csepregi, Jianhong Chen, Michael Hoelzl, Patrick Loobuyck, Theo de Wit, William Desmond, John Rundell, Walter van Herck, Peter Jonkers, and Matthias Riedl.

Forthcoming publications of the network: From Political Theory to Political Theology (eds. Péter Losonczi and Aakash Singh, Continuum, 2010) and we are about submitting another piece at LIT Verlag on Habermas' postsecular turn.

We have started working on further pieces based on the presentations of the 2009 conference and additional texts. Mika will be co-editor of a book with theological studies.

We intend to submit applications regarding financing on national and international level and intensify the cooperation in the most diverse forms possible. If you get interested in this initiative do not hesitate and contact me at lospeter at the domain yahoo dot com.

Péter Losonczi

Did Paul Invent Christianity?

Tough Questions Answered FE689404-8615-4D05-B6C5-CD78C8CDCD33.jpgbegins a longer post thinking through the argument according to which St Paul is the true author of what goes for Christianity these days. Read the first part here:

Recently I’ve run across people who believe that the apostle Paul effectively hijacked Jesus’ teachings and invented most of what we today call Christianity.  Even though this seems to be a view with few advocates, it is still an important charge that is being made. How do we answer this question?

This argument has been made by Jacob Taubes and Alain Badiou, among others.

(Via Tough Questions Answered.)


PS: the second part can be found here.


The laestadian community in Finland is currently in the midst of a pedophile scandal. A prominent Pietarsaari preacher of the Word of Peace-community allegedly abused more than ten of his grandchildren in the 1970s and 80s. The accused has since passed away and the blame is now laid on the parents, who not only tolerated the abuse of their children but helped to cover it up for decades.

RIL News -- a bilingual Finnish news aggregator advocating a Christian worldview -- is monitoring the story here. Helsingin Sanomat is also following up (in Finnish) by reporting on the fallout of the scandal in Pietarsaari: children turning against their parents and local politicians reporting each other to the police.

What the media is making out of this case is the Roman Catholic sex abuses writ small.


Peacekeeper's prayerbook in Siuntio

Your editor will be on the road again 15.--16.1.2010 as he attends the 3rd conference of the Finnish International Studies Association (KATSE) in Siuntio, Finland. I will present an abstract of a paper I am currently outlining (in Finnish) on the Peacekeeper's Prayerbook -- indeed an interesting politico-theological document produced by the Finnish Defence Forces.

Tried to google for something that would address UN's peacekeeping from a theological perspective, and just about the only title to turn up is the doctoral dissertation by a Finnish theologian Timo Ryhänen: Spirituality of Finnish Peacekeepers (University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology: 2006).

If I am missing something obvious let me know in the comments.


Greetings and a good blog FYI

It's 2010 and we are officially up and running. As of 1.1.2010 the project employs Tapio Nykänen; Sandra Wallenius begins on 1.4.2010, and rest of the team will join them later. All the researchers employed by the project will contribute to this blog: tell us about their research and comment on topical issues regarding laestadianism and political theology/religion in general.

The Prosblogion is a blog on the philosophy of religion I just added on Lars' blogroll. Looks like like quality posts and regular updates. If you are interested in the current debates in theism/atheism and apologetics, go have a look.