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Education Hesitancy in the Ostrobothnian Bible Belt?

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges book series (PSLRSC)

Abstract

Dahlbacka and Snellman introduce the concept of “education hesitancy,” referring to anyone doubtful about education even when it is readily available. The phenomenon often serves as a means of preserving and protecting the traditions of conservative religious groups from the society that surrounds them. Here, the alleged education hesitancy in the so-called Ostrobothnian Bible belt in Finland is under scrutiny. The area houses a large number of people belonging to a Lutheran revival movement called Laestadianism. An analysis of both historical source materials and recently conducted interviews with members of the movement confirms the phenomenon of education hesitancy in the area and the assumption of religion being one of its reasons.

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Fig. 7.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    According to the WoP, there are two ways of looking at the world; as an arena for sin, where you run the risk of being affected, or as an arena where you, like anyone else, have the possibility to make a change and affect others. The first option tends to serve as a breeding ground for isolation. See Snellman (2011, 61, 85–86). However, as Andreas Häger states in his chapter in this book, the isolation or “othering” is equally often made by external forces, for instance, the media.

  2. 2.

    As regards the relationship between the WoP and other Laestadian branches, for instance, Conservative Laestadians, the former is generally considered more moderate. Whereas, Conservative Laestadianism can be described as “spiritually exclusive” (Nykänen and Harjumaa in this book), the WoP shows a diversity of various religious-theological accents that makes it more pluralistic than the latter (Talonen 2019, 46).

  3. 3.

    In addition to outlining some characteristics of Laestadianism, these peculiarities reveal similarities with, for instance, so-called Conservative Protestantism in the American setting, as described, for instance, by Marty (1993) or Greeley and Hout (2006). Building on classifications developed by Smith (1990) and Steensland et al. (2000), respectively, Greeley and Hout (2006, 6) use the term “Conservative Protestantism” for the groups otherwise called “evangelicals” or “fundamentalists,” namely for those who endorse a literal interpretation of the Bible, accept Jesus as their personal savior, and consider it important to spread the good news. By and large, these prescriptions apply to Laestadianism as well. Referring to the American setting, Greeley and Hout note that Conservative Protestantism and Mainline Protestantism certainly differ from each other with regard to moral values, family values, lifestyle, education, and so on but that these differences are not always as significant as “outsiders imagine nor as different as it could be” (2006, 149). To some extent this is true also of the relationship between Laestadianism and other Conservative Protestants in Finland; there are differences, but they are not necessarily as significant as outsiders imagine.

  4. 4.

    About Laestadianism in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia, see Wentin (1986).

  5. 5.

    See Nykänen and Harjumaa in this book.

  6. 6.

    At the beginning of 2018, Sions Missionstidning had 2516 subscribers. LFF archives (LFFA), LFF annual report 2017.

  7. 7.

    The study concerns the members of the seven LFF prayer-house congregations, in Kokkola, Luoto, Pedersöre, and Pietarsaari that, in 2016, amounted to 6300 people, including children. The number is based on the congregations’ lists of members.

  8. 8.

    The term “LFF” is used throughout the study, although the LFF as an organization was founded as late as 1968.

  9. 9.

    The main part of the Bible meditations consists of spiritual encouragements and messages of spiritual awakening (Snellman 2016, 13–5).

  10. 10.

    As we mention earlier in this chapter, a wish, among the advocates of education, to exert influence led to the founding of a Laestadian folk high-school. In general, according to Nykänen and Harjumaa (in this book) the Conservative Laestadians have been encouraged to actively participate in society. This constructive attitude originates from the Lutheran two kingdoms doctrine.

  11. 11.

    The argumentation is based on the ethos of the writer, the credibility he possesses. See Boréus and Bergström (2013, 91–2).

  12. 12.

    On women’s calling, see Snellman (2011, 272–3).

  13. 13.

    The article had been published earlier in the newsletter Rauhan Sana.

  14. 14.

    For more information about Milla Clemensdotter, see Østtveit Elgvin (2018, 51–72).

  15. 15.

    About tacit knowledge transfer, see Boréus and Bergström (2013, 113–116).

  16. 16.

    The change of attitudes vis-à-vis education was probably part of a larger restructuring within the LFF towards the end of the century, which made its activities more versatile. The initiative was initially taken at grass roots level, but later inoculated at an official level in 2011. See Enkvist et al. (2018, 49–52).

  17. 17.

    See also, the LFF home page, accessed August 29, 2018. https://www.lff.fi/start/.

  18. 18.

    The interviews are filed in The Church Historical Archives at Åbo Akademi University (ÅKA): Laestadians’ view on education and work, Interviews (LUK 2017: 001 and LUK 2018: 002–007).

  19. 19.

    About the scandal, see Andreas Häger’s chapter in this book.

  20. 20.

    Interestingly enough, according to Greeley and Hout (2006, 35–6), who have studied Conservative Christians in America, lack of education does not explain disbelief in or dislike of, for instance, science among Conservative Protestants. They state that “Conservative Protestants take their stands not because they are uneducated but because they hold strong religious beliefs that take precedence over scientific facts.” Higher education, in other words, “does not eradicate faith in biblical inerrancy.”

  21. 21.

    The expression relates to the risks of attending religious meetings outside one’s own group. Such a view has existed alongside a more inclusive view within the WoP. According to the latter view, the earthly kingdom of heaven is transcendent, and thereby not necessarily related to the membership of the WoP. See Snellman (2011, 243–4).

  22. 22.

    Such tendencies have also been ascribed to the Laestadians, see for example, Linjakumpu (2000).

  23. 23.

    According to the informant, the specific fields of science that a woman was not supposed to study, were, for example, medicine, geology, archeology, and agrology (LUK 2018: 005).

  24. 24.

    See also LUK 2018: 003; 004; 005; 006; 007.

  25. 25.

    Many informants talk about work, meaning physical work. See, for instance, LUK 003; 007; 002.

References

Archival Sources

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  • LFF Preacher Meeting Minutes (“Predikantmötets protokoll”) September 8, 1983.

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  • The Church Historical Archives at Åbo Akademi University (ÅKA) (“Kyrkohistoriska arkivet vid Åbo Akademi”).

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  • Laestadians’ View on Education and Work (“Laestadianers syn på utbildning och arbete”) Interviews (“Intervjumaterial”).

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  • LUK 2017: 001, Male, Born 1997, Interviewed November 27, 2017.

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Dahlbacka, J., Snellman, G. (2021). Education Hesitancy in the Ostrobothnian Bible Belt?. In: Gelfgren, S., Lindmark, D. (eds) Conservative Religion and Mainstream Culture . Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59381-0_7

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