Since getting a site meter and seeing how much of my blog traffic comes from google searches, I’ve decided to write on a subject about which there is not much information on the web. It is also a regional issue (for Battle Ground, Washington and North Clark County) and the subject is religion so it fits well with my blog.
The subject is Laestadianism or Apostolic Lutheranism. North Clark County, in which Battle Ground is the largest city, has a large population of Apostolic Lutherans. They are mostly of Finnish descent. There are some different groups in the movement but the largest group in this area is the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church, a fundamentalist*, restorationist and, I would say, heretical Lutheran movement. They are usually called just “Apostolics” but two other, probably more popular names, are used. These are “bunhead” or “bunner.” The reason for this name is that most of the Old Apostolic women wear their hair in buns. I find the name “bunhead” to be too derogatory sounding but I am good friends with an ex-Apostolic who doesn’t see any problem with the term, at least when used by those who are or have been in an Apostolic Lutheran church. Other attributes of Apostolics are that they tend to have very large families, often of at least ten children and when they greet each other they say, “God’s peace.” Some of the funnier cultural characteristics of Apostolic Lutherans are that they tend to drink a lot of mountain dew, which in Battle Ground is also known as “bunner-beer” and many of the Apostolic young people have been known to wear almost exclusively quiksilver brand clothing. In Battle Ground the Apostolic young people are also known for hanging out in large numbers in the Fred Meyer's parking lot.
Most of the Apostolics I’ve known have been very kind people. I went to the church once with a good Apostolic friend when I was in middle school. All of the ex-Apostolics I know are fervent followers of Jesus Christ who have accepted the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are serious problems with the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church, though, and most of the ex-Apostolics I know would question whether many people in that church are actually even Christians. I trust these ex-Apostolic's judgment. I believe that the revival in Lapland which gave rise to Apostolic Lutheranism was a true act of God but since that time the movement has gone far wrong. This blog post will begin a series on Old Apostolic Lutheranism. My goals in this series are to shed light on a subject that I think many people in Clark County would find interesting but more importantly to reach out to Apostolics who are in a dark place and to let them know that the power of Christ is real and that it brings freedom and joy. My primary resource will be “The History of the Laestadian or Apostolic Lutheran Movement in America” by Uuras Saarnivaara. The book was kindly given to me by an Apostolic man whom I befriended while I worked at Barnes and Noble. I find part the preface of the book to be a good introduction to this series:
…God has led thousands of people to the saving knowledge of Christ through the Laestadian revival. But at the same time the powers of evil have endeavored to destroy this work of God and to break the bond of love between the children of God. Consequently the history of the Laestadian movement is an account of the great saving work of the Holy Spirit in its[sic] conflict with the deluding and disrupting work of the devil. A study of this history therefore brings to us both joy and sorrow.
*I hesitate to use the word "fundamentalist." Its definition is ambiguous and some liberals would probably consider me to be a "fundamentalist." One definition I've heard which I like is that a fundamentalist is any religious person who is more conservative than you are. When I use the word here I am referring to a highly legalistic way of living where the teachings of church eleders are not to be questioned.