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Pentecostals and Tongue-Speaking

One summer night Louie and Mel set to over the issue of speaking in tongues, Louie arguing that this manifestation of the Spirit was to be sought earnestly, Mel holding that it was a miraculous gift given to the early church but not given by God today. I forget the Scripture verses each of them brought forward to defend his position, but I remember the pale faces, the throat-clearing, the anguished looks, as those two voices went back and forth, straining at the bit, giving no ground - the poisoned courtesy ("I think my brother is overlooking Paul's very clear message to the Corinthians?," "Perhaps my brother needs to take a closer look, a prayerful look, at this verse in Hebrews?") as the sun went down, neighbor children were called indoors, the neighbors turned out their lights, eleven o'clock came - they wouldn't stop!

"Perhaps," Grandpa offered, "it would be meet for us to pray for the Spirit to lead us," hoping to adjourn, but both Louie and Mel felt that the Spirit had led, that the Spirit had written the truth in big black letters - if only some people could see it.

The thought of Uncle Louie speaking in tongues was fascinating to me. Uncle Louie worked at the bank, he spoke to me mostly about thrift and hard work. What tongue would he speak? Spanish? French? Or would it sound like gibberish? Louie said that speaking in tongues was the true sign, that those who believed heard and to those who didn't it was only gabble - what if he stood up and said, "Feemalator, jasperator, hoo ha ha, Wamalamagamanama, zis boom bah!" and everyone else said, "Amen! That's right, brother! Praise God!" and I was the only one who said, "Huh?"
- Garrison Keillor, "Protestant," Lake Woebegon Days

For the last 20 years, between 7 and 9 percent of Americans have spoken in tongues - but almost the same percentage said the practice is evidence of demonic possession.
- Bernard Katz, "Quoteline and Commentaries," The American Rationalist, July/Aug. 1998

Michael Trofimov pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of his father. Trofimov, who had recently joined a religious group, was found was his hands around his father's neck "speaking in tongues and screaming for God." His uncle said, "He was a good young man and then he started going to these [religious] meetings."
- Chuck Shepherd, John J. Kohut & Roland Sweet, More News of the Weird (1990)

True story: A young Pentecostal girl dared her girlfriend in church to shout out some nonsense syllables just to see if someone would stand up and "interpret the tongue." So the girl shouted, "coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola" and a church member promptly stood up and "interpreted the tongue" as a message from God.

Years later, I read that when the Coca-Cola company tried selling their brew in China, they discovered that the Chinese symbols that were pronounced, "Coca-Cola," meant literally, "Bite the wax tadpole." So maybe you can get a "message" out of "coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola," albeit a stuttering and meaningless one.
- Skip Church

As a former tongue-speaking Christian it wasn't the repetitive nature of many of the syllables I spoke that raised doubts. It was the fact that people in our group would sometimes "speak in tongues" a long time yet the "interpretation" could be quite brief. Or they would "speak in tongues" briefly and the "interpretation" came out long-winded. Folks who loved the King James Bible "interpreted tongues" in King James English, while those who loved other translations of the Bible delivered less Elizabethan-sounding "interpretations." And the messages received via this miraculous discourse were as trifling as the simplest cares and woes found in the Psalms with which everyone in the congregation was familiar - as if God didn't have anything more relevant or specific to say to us. Yet it seemed to me that if God was going to give people miraculous linguistic abilities, He'd have found far better uses to put them to.
- Skip Church

Rob Berry: I've heard that a trained listener can tell the difference between a New Yorker and a Southerner speaking in tongues, so the "tongues" spoken by an individual reflect the normal language of that individual. And a Japanese person speaking in tongues is not going to have any "L"s in their babbling.

David O. Miller: Actually this is true only for those Japanese who have never studied English. Those who have, consistantry have "L"s whele the "R"s berong and "R"s whele the "L"s berong. And that could totally change the meaning of the babbling couldn't it? Obviously, "uga-bali-raka-fulu" and "uga-bari-laka-furu" are two entirely different things, right?

I used to speak in tongues, but now it only comes in handy when I'm performing cunnilingus.
- Skip Church

Loresa Goodly filed a lawsuit in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, in November for injuries she incurred just after she had received the Holy Spirit at a tent revival meeting and passed out on the floor. Moments later, another woman received the Holy Spirit and fell on top of Goodly before ushers could catch her, breaking three of Goodly's ribs.
- Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, Nov. 18, 1995

After different occurrences of televangelist Benny Hinn's famous antic "slaying in the Spirit," during which crowds of people fall over, one young girl's leg was badly injured and an elderly woman died from complications following a broken hip. Her family sued for $15 million; Hinn settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Hinn has been fooled more than once during his crusades by hired actors who pretended to be handicapped, then pretended to be healed - despite Hinn's past promises not to televise healings until they had been medically confirmed.

Other people who really were sick had been pronounced healed and were televised as such. Reporters discovered, in case after case, that no one followed up on them and that none of them had really been healed. This included a half-dozen AIDS patients, several deaf or blind children, a quadriplegic teen and a woman with cancer, who quit her chemotherapy and died two months later. Reporters could not find a single verifiable healing, although in one chilling interview, a woman with multiple sclerosis serenely announced that she had discontinued her medication because she believed, thanks to Hinn, that her healing would arrive at any moment.

Hinn has also claimed -- each time on record -- that :

He conducted services in a hospital overseas and healed so many people the place nearly shut down (a reporter checked up on this and the hospital categorically denied it).

Someone videotaped him raising a man from the dead in Guyana (this was also refuted and ultimately retracted by a ministry spokesman).
- Information drawn from "The Many Faces of Benny Hinn" (a video and book of the same title that summarizes a host of investigative reports on Benny Hinn), produced by The Door Magazine. "Even the most credulous, faithful followers of Benny Hinn would be hard-pressed to explain why so many national TV newsmagazines and local stations, from Chicago to Orlando to Dallas to Sydney, Australia, keep uncovering the same damning facts year after year."
- Gregg Hartman ( See also Matthew Barry, "Adventures in Faith Healing," Freethought Today, March, 1998

Police in Vinton, Louisiana were surprised when a driver wearing only a towel got out of a car, then got back in and sped off. They were dumbfounded when the car hit a tree and disgorged 20 people wearing nothing at all. There were fifteen adults in the interior of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am and five children in the trunk. The driver of the car, Sammy Rodriguez and his brother, Danny, both said they were Pentecostal preachers. They made statements that the devil was after them. And their hometown, Floydada, Texas, was going to be destroyed if they stayed there. They fled Floydada in five cars, but wound up abandoning four of them, along with the family's clothes, pocketbooks, wallets and other belongings because "the devil" had "gotten into those things."
- Associated Press, "Cops Chase Car With 20 Naked Passengers," Aug. 20, 1993

An unemployed maid and mother of seven burned a winning $60,000 lottery ticket because her minister at an Assembly of God church in Fortaleza, Brazil, said her plane would "sink in sin in hell" if she went to claim the prize money. "Destroy the ticket - the devil's work - to save yourself from hellfire," Preacher Wagner said, as the congregation chanted, "Burn, burn, burn." So Maria Banoiza Nascimento returned to her one-room shack (where she lived with her unemployed husband and her four seriously ill children), and burned the ticket. Then, for good measure, she burned her identification card and her children's birth certificates as well.
- Associated Press, 1995

He seemed to be one of those people, so many of whom gravitate to Pentecostal sects who move around the West and the South and the Border States and continue to receive information only through the most tenuous chains of rumor, hearsay, haphazard trickledown. To an astonishing extent they keep themselves unviolated by common knowledge, by the ability to make routine assumptions.
- Joan Didion, The White Album

A devotee on her knees in some abysmal and mysterious cathedral while solemn music echoes, and clouds of incense come down the wind, and priests in luxurious, operatic costumes busy themselves with stately ceremonials in a dead and not too respectable language - this is unquestionably beautiful, particularly if the devotee herself is attractive. But the same devotee aroused to hysterical protestations of faith by the shrieks and contortions of a Pentecostal preacher, her knees trembling with the fear of God, her hands clenched as if to do combat with Beelzebub, her lips discharging hosannas and hallelujahs - this is merely obscene.
- H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

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