Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Speaking in Tongues - Uttering Lies.

Religious people hold a fascination for me. The ones who simply wish a private relationship with God are very different from the active religious community where speaking in tongues is seen as a right of passage. One may even suffer from tongue envy, if they find they are not so lucky to be touched by the spirit.

It's interesting to me how people don't view mediumship and speaking in tongues as the same thing, and yet I see them as exactly the same thing. Both parties claim to be the mouthpiece of a spirit; the former for just about anybody, the latter for God or angels. Yet they both have one very important similarity; they are performances.

I remember from my days attending an Assemblies of God church, occasionally during songtime someone would be "moved by the spirit" and would begin speaking in tongues. It didn't happen every Sunday, in fact maybe once a month. When it did happen it was an instant showstopper; the one person would begin speaking very loudly and authoritatively. The singing would stop, the room would hush and give floor space over to the Spirit so we could receive our special message from God. The person would speak a few things in different languages, almost like a security announcement at the airport, each language given its own message that would end with a message in English. I don't remember what any of the messages were, I was far more interested in the congregation's tense, alert and hopeful silence. As a teenager I thought, what a way to get the room's attention. I mean everyone was staring, rapt at this one person. For the attention seeking sort, it's a good gig. After the sermon that person is held in pretty high regard.

Imagine my surprise how churches have changed from having the one random message from God, to now having a whole churchful of babblers! The thing now is that there isn't a specific message for the congregation to hear. It's not a prophecy. It's a right of passage. Speaking in tongues means you don't have to actually listen to the message, just feeling it is important. Can you imagine how God must feel? He's sending all these messages out and folks aren't listening. They're flailing about like fish on the ground. This is a roomful of fakers giving in to peer pressure.

If you listen to some of these sermons, they sounds a bit like the stage hypnotist's shtick. The hypnotist(Well worth watching the first minute after that it's a bit creepy) and pastor both have a group of audience members up front, they are touched, they fall back, the crowd is encourage to applaud them. If you've ever read about hypnotism, you'll find that a lot of the participants fake the behaviours they are "hypnotized" to perform because of many reasons; they don't want to be embarrassed by not be hypnotized on stage or they want to help the hypnotist because they're a fan. Either way there's an element of fakery, albeit benign. Derren Brown mentions this phenomena in his book Tricks of the Mind* which I highly recommend. I think it's not a leap to imagine that, for the love of attention, conformity, belonging and enjoying the group dynamics, faking a little speaking in tongues isn't such a bad thing.

Why do I think it's faked? Well apart from the changes I've witnessed in tongue speaking etiquette, I've also watched a few videoed services on Youtube. Pick a few sermons from different churches and a very interesting thing becomes apparent - speaking in tongues isn't a universal language. These churches have their own babel dialects. Are they saying that angels have accents? It's far easier to assume it's group parroting, like the game Chinese whispers. I wonder how a foreign "tonguer" sounds in a strange church, or do they mimic the local babble?

Although some of this has changed again with speaking in tongues being popular on Christian TV. "Ahhh so that's how it should sound." It helps to legitimize the trend. The power of suggestion trumps the power of God. What happens when the pastor is homophobic or racist and sends those messages along with the support of God to a room full of suggestible people?

Shall I get a tad biblical? Okay then. Speaking in tongues is mentioned three times in the bible. It starts in Acts where pilgrims from all over meet at Pentecost and want to talk to each other but find they can't understand each other because they all speak different languages. Darn that Tower of Babel. Then suddenly they feel the spirit within them and *poof* they can now all understand each other perfectly. "that every man heard them speak in his own language. " They could all hear the other men speaking in their own language - like a babelfish or the Universal Translator on the USSEnterprise. Speaking in tongues was not babbling on in the unknown language of the heavens, but a miracle of making them hear their own language, so that they could all understand and communicate with each other. The other two times is similar where someone has gone to preach but he's foreign and the locals cannot understand him, then suddenly he's able to speak to them in their own language and can successfully preach. Again it's a miracle of making one's message understandable to the congregation - not wanton verbiage.

So how have these modern churches gotten it so wrong? Why has speaking in tongues become not about sharing a common message from God, but is now an example of "God chose me!"

It's all down to suggestibility and conformity. Both very powerful behaviour motivators as history has shown. It also leads to accepting dogma as fact because to challenge it, sets one apart from the collective. Perhaps people should become better at choosing their collectives.

When seeing a congregation moving in full mania, writhing, screaming, chanting gobbledegook and working themselves into a tizzy you have to take a step back and question. Where did they get the idea that this is how they're supposed to worship? Sure it's more exciting and emotionally engaging than singing a few hymns and listening to the monotone from the pulpit. It's also high drama and a show of "God loves me best, aren't I special." because imagine if you are one of those people who doesn't get the spirit and doesn't feel the bubbling of foreign tongues coming from your lips or your body racked in the convulsions of the Holy Spirit - what does that say about you? Are you not deserving? Are you not good? Do you not believe enough? Is God not pleased with you? Will others distrust you?

Would you be tempted to fake it?

*The original cover has a small devil whispering into Derren's ear which for some reason is not shown in the advertised cover. Hmmm...


jomamma said...

Yeah, I think they fake it... I think I may be closer to talking in tongues when I speak English to a non-English speaking Chinese family trying to enroll their children in my school and they finally understand that I need a copy of their lease agreement. What really helps is when I break into the crappy broken Spanish that I speak. Because it's a real GOD thing when it all comes together and we get our needed paperwork.

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound like Mr. Spock, but to me, religion is not logical.

I find it so absurd that people take these obscure 2000 year old writings and twist them to suit their purpose. All because they have to have faith in something other than themselves.

You know who really has it going on? The ones who put the snakes on their heads.

Anonymous said...

About three minutes in, it gets religious. My last comment made me think of it...

Anonymous said...

I think they get it from scripture where it says speak to each other in Psalms, Hymns and "Spiritual Songs". And then when it also says though I speak in "tongues of Angels" and a few scriptures like that as well. I am not so sure about the way it is used either, all I do is try to understand the Gospel Message, that truly sets people free. I think it is terrible how people with tongues think they have it better than those that dont. I have spoken in tongues, my question is, was it learnt, God, or me? I continue to ask the Lord to show.

Lyvvie said...

Thanks Bernie for your comments. I really appreciate you being open about the fact that although you have spoken in tongues, you yourself aren't sure about the reasons or cause. Please let us know if you get any answers. Perhaps you could try visiting another church far from your own and see if what I say about the dialects is true for yourself. I'd love to hear how that turns out.

Chinadoll said...

First of all to speak in tongues you have to be a believer. It is a gift only rewarded to one who believes the Lord gives the gift of speaking. My daughter and I and about 95% of our church can speak in tongues. Even though you can speak in tongues doesn't give you a free pass to heaven. You still have to live righteous.

Lyvvie said...

Chinadoo: I appreciate your comments and opinion on this issue.

Religions have a way of setting up protocols to make its people feel special and in some way entitled.They have the inside track that other churches don't have. Jehovah's witnesses think only a certain number of people will be saved and I wonder if they all think it will be themselves and look at the person praying next them and imagine them not saved with glee or sadness, but continue to tithe and pray along just in case.

The speaking in tongues as you've described sets you above all of us who cannot possibly have a closer relationship with that God, even if we do live a "righteous" life, because we question speaking in tongues (and other things). It's an elitist and prideful belief to think you have something we don't and are favored over others, which ironically is sinful and not righteous at all.

The fact 95% of your church speaks in tongues gives strength to my argument. Why would 95% of you need to speak in tongues? Do you all speak different languages naturally and therefore use the power of the Lord as stated in Acts to communicate together in harmony to understand each other? Or is it to prove you are one of them, one of these special and chosen people whom God favors? I think these are questions religious people need to ask themselves, too in order to save themselves from sins like pride and to check their behaviour isn't being led astray.

As an atheist, even I have to check my logic and actions and be sure I'm not acting selfishly or irrationally, outside of a group dynamic. I can't look at the person next to me on a pew and follow suit.

gatita4tenaj said...

For those who do not understand why. Read the book of acts. For speaking in tongues is on to God. But God is a god of order. Not all churches are in ever of how it is used. God always ordains another person as interpreter when one person speaks I. Tongues in front of a congretion. He also says with prayer and supplication and speaking in the spirit which is songs make your request known to God. It's a form of praying to God when we pray personally to God. If you do not understand it donot criticize it. Bc blasphemy against the holy spirit is the only sin God does not forgive on earth and in the next world. Look it up. It is a free gift. Obviously if a person does not receive it when they want it, it abc they are not ready for it. This heavenly language comes with power. It intercedes when we have no idea. What to pray for someone we pray in the spirit ( this heavenly language) and God knows what is needed. I have seen animals raised from the dead to people healed. We should not judge for by the same measure we will be judge in the end. Jesus did many miracles in different ways. Such that he explained to the apostles that healing and miracles happen but the same formula is not done for all of them. Some required fasting, others mustard seed faith, others intersession of prayer in the spirit, others rebuking of Satan so he can flee, others required just praise and worship 7 times around a wall. So do not question the power of God and using his vessels. He made a donkey talk. He raised Jesus and Lazarus from the dead. Nothing is impossible with God. Yes, the are conterifits for everything on the earth. Counterfeit leather, ect. Satan camouflages anything but if your in prayer and fasting, and test the spirit you can see which is real and which is fake.

Know that in the last days we will see false teachings, prophets eats having a form of godliness but denying the power of God(holy spirit) for this stay away. How do you know if the person wants only God to be glorified and not them. It's not our power but His . We are only blessed to be used as his vessels to serve Him.

Lyvvie said...

How convenient "God ordains one to be interpreter" which some modern sects seem to mean speak in utter gibberish that no one but the angels can understand. However, as I mentioned and you obviously did not read or understand; Speaking in tongues was a way to bring a common language between peoples who did not speak the same language. The one speaking in tongues would suddenly be able to speak the same language as those he was witnessing to and thereby share the word of God.

That was the whole point of my post; they're not speaking a common language to be understood by all. They speak nonsense, wail and moan. It's a blasphemy and a sin as it is a lie. It goes against the teachings of Matthew. If that's not "Satan's camouflage" then I don't know what is.

I understand it fully which is why I criticize it. I will not be told to be quiet - hello it's my blog!- while others lie to get money from innocent people who cannot understand how they are being manipulated.

They should follow Matthew 6:6 and stop being a nuisance.

jomamma said...

gatita... you are on your own, you don't know who you are messing with.

Lyvvie said...

HEY Jomamma! I've been thinking of you lately - what's up with you? I've not seen boo from you on the FB in ages. Hope all is well with you and yours. *hugs*

jomamma said...

I don't post much, I'm a lurker, I just comment mostly. Getting ready for a new school year to begin on Monday. Sure wish you had time to post on your bento blog, I need lunch ideas.

Anonymous said...

So I'm a little late getting here...I wanted to chime in anyway. When I was a kid we went to church every week. The same kind of church you described. I was about 12 years old and could have cared less! I wanted to be anywhere but THERE. To me all of those people were dramatic people from the church goers to the preacher.

Anyway..sitting in the pews on Sunday and looking out of the window not paying any attention to anything that was being said..I was actually planning what I wanted to do when I got home. I suddenly had this push to get up and walk to the fron by the preacher.

I had NEVER gone up before...never wanted to I was 12. So I walk up and the preacher does his typical dramatic " Thank you God for touching this childs heart" I remember thinking " What am I doing here?" BOOM...that was it. I have no memory of anything that happened over the next 2 HOURS.

I " woke up" on the floor with everyone crowded around me...I was in a haze...sorta felt like when you first wake in the morning. I was talking in a language I did not know. I apparently moved my legs up and down against the floor and rubbed the back of my shoes off...literally there was nothing left on the back of my shoes and I needed a new pair.

When I finally stopped "talking" I was helped off the floor and was taken home..where no one ever said a word to me about it. No one told me why it happened, what I was saying, what I was speaking. Nothing. No mention.

I'm Buddhist today. My parents are pleased...* please note my sarcasm* but I still think of that day because I KNOW I didnt do anything on purpose and I know the only language I know is English. I am still confused about it and dont tell many people because what would I say?? I wish I had answers to this. Its like my greatest secret that I am not even apart of.

Anonymous said...

Lyvvie, although I am a Christian, I agree with your statements on tongues and their intent. I have trouble believing that what is abounding in churches today is what Scripture teaches. I believe it was a supernatural manifestation of speaking languages previously unknown to the speaker, and possibly having the ability to interpret languages previously unknown as well. The occasions I have been around tongues the way it is practiced today has terrified me.

To anonymous...I feel for you...if that had happened to me I would be terrified. It is clear it was not something you sought, so it wasn't faked by you. However, I wonder if it was an indwelling by something other than God. I have trouble believing God would be a God of such confusion.

Fascinating posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for allowing my post and the comment I got about it. I've never told that story before other than to my husband. I don't know what it was that caused it. I know I didn't do it on purpose but I also know I have no answers to explain it. It leaves me with an uneasy feeling. I sometimes think it would be best to not think about it because I will never get an answer to it. What makes it worse for me anyway is that I was a kid as an adult maybe I would feel differently? Not sure.