Pauliina Rauhala’s Taivaslaulu as a Critique of Finnish Conservative Laestadians’ Birth Control Ban

In: Religion and Gender
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  • 1 Providence CollegeDepartment of English, USA, Providence, RI
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The Finnish author Pauliina Rauhala’s award-winning debut novel, Taivaslaulu (2013; Heaven Song)—which investigates the nexus of gender, agency, and familial and religio-communal belonging—is set in the world of Conservative Laestadianism, the largest revival movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. This conservative pietist movement is known, among other things, for its birth control ban, which extends not only to artificial contraception but also to fertility awareness methods and, in its most extreme form, even to marital celibacy. This article argues that “continuous traumatic stress” (CTS)—a term that, unlike post-traumatic stress, focuses on chronic, ongoing trauma—and “religious trauma” together constitute a relevant conceptual lens through which to examine Rauhala’s depiction of the life of her female protagonist under the Conservative Laestadian birth control ban, a prohibition operating in the realm of religious regulation of both body and mind. More generally, this article posits that examinations of gendered and gender-specific traumas resulting from “destructive uses of religion” (psychiatrist James L. Griffith’s term; italics added) are an integral part of the interdisciplinary study of religion and gender.

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