Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #3: Interpretation of Tongues

For last weeks post on speaking in tongues, click here.

So last week I discussed speaking in tongues, glossolalia, and so I thought I would talk today another “gift of the spirit” the interpretation of tongues.  Basically, after someone has given a message in tongues, according to scripture(At least in the Pentecostal church), someone else, or in some cases the same person, is supposed to stand and give an interpretation. This is also supposedly divinely given by god, as to what was just said in tongues. If that isn’t the most convoluted way to get a message across then I don’t know what is…

Imagine sitting in a bar with friends and all of you speak English. Yet you don’t talk to each other in English, first one guy talks in gibberish, then another friend tells you what he meant. The next round the second friend talks in gibberish and the first friend explains what he was saying. That’s basically how speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues works in the Pentecostal church.

Another aspect of the interpretation of tongues that I always found hilarious is that growing up, whenever someone gave an interpretation, god, speaking through the interpreter, almost always had an old English way of speaking.  I never once heard anyone interpret anything along the lines of, “Hey, people, god loves you and he wants you to keep doing what you’re doing. Good job.” Instead a “normal” interpretation would be something along the lines of this, “Oh ye my people, thine actions have been seen and thy glory has been shown to shine across the land. The lord thy god will bless thee and keep thee for the works that thou hast committed.”

Now granted, in other countries where the native language is not English, I would assume that the interpretation of tongues does not have this Old English way of speaking.  There is one reason and one reason only why the vast majority of American Pentecostals speak in this manner during interpretation, they assume god speaks like that because that is how the King James version of the bible is written. One can only assume that if the bible had been translated centuries later, in 1930’s New York ,god would then give interpretations that sound much like an Italian Mobster of that time. This began to change as the popularity of more modern interpretations of the bible began to be accepted by members of the church, however the older the congregant the more likely the message would be in old English.

One other thing that always struck me about the interpretation of tongues is that they almost never had anything of substance. Not once did I hear an interpretation where god said anything groundbreaking. It was always one of two things, to praise the church for being the best darn church in all of churchdom, or to admonish someone who the interpreter had an issue with. God seems to have a whole lot of time to do a whole lot of nothing, and in other cases god always seems to dislike the people who the interpreter disliked…isn’t that odd?

 

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #2: Speaking in Tongues

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:2-4

Anyone who was raised in the Pentecostal setting will be able to tell you how much speaking in tongues is preached. So much so that by the time you get old enough to question things, speaking in tongues has become such a normal part of life that you never think to question it.  Speaking in tongues is seen as the evidence that someone has been filled with the holy spirit and so it is crucial to the faith of Pentecostals. So much so that some churches teach you are not even truly saved without it.

This “gift” is seen as the epitome of what god can grant you, without this gift of the spirit its taught, within the church, that no real work for god can be done.  After you have been baptized in the spirit, and have spoken in tongues, then god can reveal to you his plan for your life and help guide you to your eventual ministry.  A key aspect of most Pentecostal churches is that everyone has a ministry, and we should all seek to find out what that ministry is.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church. Some of the first things that I looked into was the different interpretations of the gifts of the spirit within various denominations and then I looked outward to the rest of the world. It was truly shocking to find that speaking in tongues or “Glossolalia,” as it is known, is fairly well explained and understood outside the church.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church.

Glossolalia, not to be confused with “xenolalia”(The actual speaking of different real languages), is the speaking of known sounds and syllables in a rhythmic pattern that flows together into what appears to be a completely different language. That’s it, they are known to the speaker already but put together in a different way to make it appear as if a whole new language is being spoken. If you have ever made “Baby Talk,” you have spoken in tongues.

For your pleasure I am including a clip of the hilarious, Sid Caesar, displaying glossolalia, or what was called double-talk for him.

And here is an example of Pentecostal speaking in tongues, not the similarities….try to ignore the Seinfeldian dance moves.

There is another aspect though to the gift of tongues that is different from other forms of glossolalia you may encounter in everyday life. This is how it makes you feel. Speaking in tongues during a service has usually followed songs and prayer, already in a slightly euphoric state, speaking in tongues releases chemicals that take it over the stop, you feel in complete ecstasy as these syllables and sounds flow from your mouth.  It is this aspect that gives many the assumed right to claim that this language is being directly granted by god.

However, here is the thing, I can still speak in tongues, and have done so, so many times over the years that it triggers the same chemical release in my brain almost instantly. I am taken to those same euphoric feelings of ecstasy which I experienced during my time as a minister. I’m a godless atheist today which, as far as I’m aware, would negate me from being gifted anything from god. Today I even know that I’m just talking gibberish, I understand glossolalia, and yet it still has the same effect on my body and mind.  When I do this, I feel light and warm, as if a huge ball of light has enveloped me. It is much the same feeling as might be described by someone deep in meditation.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion. It is speaking sounds and syllables that you already know in an effort to reach this “godlike” state of mind. Mystics throughout the ages have been using tongues as well as other techniques to reach the same state of euphoria. Look to the Sufi Muslims and their whirling dervishes, for another example of a practice that brings about this same mindset.  Basically, what I am trying to say here, is that it is not special, it is not god granted, and if a godless atheist can still experience the results of it, I’d say you can wipe god out of the equation almost certainly. To borrow from Penn and Teller, “It’s Bullshit!”


As a humorous side not I would recommend you looking up the missionaries in the early pentecostal church who believed god had granted them xenolalia instead of glossolalia. Venturing into unknown lands to find that the language they believed they had been granted was actually nothing more than gibberish.  They were so upset that many left the faith and pentecostalism nearly died out in the early years.