Hello, God

After studying everyone in the Quaker circle, I close my eyes again. This must be the “open worship” portion of the service I’ve read about where each person is engaged in his or her own private communication with God. If that’s what this is, I want to do it right.

I imagine my scalp retracting like the roof on an observatory, receptive to messages from God. I see patterns dancing against my eyelids, but no thunderbolts of insight. At 30 minutes, I open my eyes and look around the room again. Will there be a sermon? If so, who will give it? George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, said each person is illuminated with the “divine light of Christ” so any person might be a group facilitator. I close my eyes and try opening the roof again. After 45 minutes, my eyes pop open. Is this the Quaker group? Forget passion, I’m worried these people have slipped into comas. I stare at each of them, willing their eyes to open. At the hour mark, I feel a rush of relief when Ma Kettle comes alive and says, “Does anyone have anything to add?”

Over tea and Fig Newtons, I chat with Ma Kettle. She has a wide smile, rosy cheeks, and several prominent whiskers. She explains that some “Friends,” as Quakers sometimes call themselves, incorporate more traditional elements into their services like sermons and hymns, but that at the core of all Quaker gatherings is the open worship in which each person becomes a conduit for divine wisdom. If an individual feels moved to speak at the end of worship, he or she is invited to do so. Some may interpret a fellow worshipper’s words as messages from God.

In its day, George Fox’s suggestion that a person converse directly with God may have seemed particularly impassioned. It has since been eclipsed by denominations whose worship style makes the Friends seem subdued.

After Fox’s death in 1691, the idea that worship could be a stirring experience must have stayed buzzing in the ether because a generation later his fellow Brit, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, was weaving it into his own thinking. As a student at Oxford, Wesley developed a systematic approach to living a religious life. He created guidelines based on his own “methodical” schedule of daily Bible reading, prayer, and communion with fellow Christians. At the heart of his format was the “Holiness Club,” a small group whose members met regularly to encourage one another’s study, spiritual questioning, and attendance of Church of England services. After years of developing and preaching this small-group structure, he sensed a gaping shortcoming: it was devoid of passionate devotion. Not long after, he was imploring listeners to embrace faith with an unparalleled vitality—and insisting that this fervor can even be proof of God’s continuing work in a person.

From an outsider’s perspective, I can see how the combining of these two styles of worship—one orderly and the other spontaneous—made for an odd marriage. Methodism spread like wildfire throughout the United States, due in large part to the efforts of itinerant preachers. As it became more established (and some might say “staid”) those who gravitated to the expressive side began to feel dissatisfied. Thus, the “Holiness Movement” was born and, with it, Pentecostal denominations whose members wanted to engage in the more demonstrative displays they say arise when the Holy Spirit moves a person. These are not flights of fancy, they believe, but an essential part of the ongoing process of becoming a more evolved Christian. The centerpiece for many who practice this style of worship is the act of “speaking in tongues.”

If my exploration of religion were a board game such as Candy Land, this next series of churches might be a strange little offshoot from the main course—a forest that might bear the marker “Holiness Hill.” Is it dark and scary? Or enchanted? I’m not sure, but it’s a safe bet that the trees will talk.

25 thoughts on “Hello, God

  1. Of course, anyone who dares to state that they didn’t experience any ground-shaking Divinely-inspired epiphanies when their eyes were closed will only elicit stares from the others that basically says, “Oh, what a pity that God apparently doesn’t want to be BFF with you, you poor child, tsk, tsk….”

    One of the formative books I read as a young child was not the Bible (don’t get me wrong: it’s OK, but tends to drag on, esp when encountering pages of geneologies), but Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (and in fairness, the plot is not entirely of his creation, but is based on older stories). The story is a great introduction for young minds to the human phenomenon of group-think, peer-pressure, and the madness of crowds, where “no one believes, but everyone believes that everyone else believes, so they go along thinking it’s their own weakness that they cannot believe” (AKA pluralistic ignorance).

    I’m guessing that’s one lesson (which is not inspired by God, but from the more-mundane field of psychology) that isn’t likely to be part of a Quaker’s rhapsodic soliloquy anytime soon. 🙂

    • Dave, Is there no room for any good to come from religion in your opinion? I understand that you consider your experiences with religion to be negative, and I can sympathize. Many people have been hurt in the name of religion–though, I see this as humans hurting humans more than I blame religion. At its best, I see religion as attempting to get us past some of these impulses to harm one another and ourselves. But we are very, very stubborn…

      • Hi Corinna,

        Sorry for the delay: for some reason, I didn’t get an e-mail notification for your response, and I generally don’t reread threads from the top EVERY time I visit….

        PS nice mustache, BTW, but you’re not fooling anyone: I’m pretty sure you’re NOT a bandita. 🙂

        But to answer your question:

        Seeing as how ALL Abrahamic faiths profess to believe in the same God (whether they call him YWHW or Allah, a closely-related derivative of the name ‘Elohim’, God’s OTHER name in the OT), then NO, I can’t say that the track record of peaceful co-existence even amongst God’s believers is all that stellar. Need I say more than “Jerusalem”, the most hotly-contested real estate on the Planet?

        Need I mention the Inquisition, the Crusades (whether the Christian or Islamic ones), etc? Do I need to bring up the Islamic extremists who truly believed they’d be blessed with virgins in heaven after taking out the Twin Towers? Or those Christians in the military who truly believed they’d go to Heaven if killed in combat while doing God’s work of killing Islamists? As uncomfortable as it is to see, I see it as all the same, as unnecessary deaths fueled by ignorance, where people are making life-altering decisions partly based on beliefs in old myths.

        Because if the Bible’s ACTUAL message is read in a sober manner, it becomes painfully obvious that the Bible does NOT profess peace, or anything close to what moderns would call ‘ethical morality’ (unless you consider the execution of adulterers, gays, misogyny, and genocidal campaigns against pagans and those who worship “false Gods” as moral endeavors). Hence the Abrahamic religion yield exactly the fruits we’ve seen over the past 3,000 years, with attempts to suppress the “infidels” (whether Jewish, Xian, Muslim, Gnostic, etc, etc), all in the name of the serving the same God. All say, “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

        Jesus’ message is extremist, and is NOT one of tolerance (although Xians try to ignore/overlook the nasty stuff found in the Bible, making excuses for it). He said he didn’t come to bring peace but division; in that regard, he certainly lived up to his own prophecy.

        In the US, fundamentalists are actively involved in the political process, trying to insert their religious beliefs into secular education (eg intelligent design, creationism wrapped up in a thin disguise of pseudo-science); hence they’re demanding that we all remain wallowing in intentional ignorance, and that we ‘dumb down’ our kids to their level by ignoring what IS known and knowable (eg history, science, evolution). That’s just WRONG, in my book: retarding the intellectual development of others IS a sin in my book.

        Of course, the idea of retarding man’s secular progress IS right out of the Bible, as well: the predominant view is that man is NOT supposed to gain knowledge or morality independent of God; He is supposed to be the moral law-giver, the source of knowledge, and any such attempts to do so is trespassing on His domain. The Adam and Eve story clearly shows seeking moral knowledge (wisdom) without permission is a sin (in fact, called the original sin); the Tower of Babel account tells us God actively worked against men’s building activities by confusing their communication (which is supposedly how all languages came to be. Of course, linguists have charted the ACTUAL truth, noting the evolution of languages from a common Indo-European source). But again, God attempted to hinder the advancement of mankind, and just like the Flood (which was an attempt to solve the problem of evil in the hearts of men”), it proved to be a FAILURE, a stop-gap measure at best (unless anyone is unaware, man HAS advanced in building technology, eg Sears Tower).

        Of course, such Biblical accounts worked well in their time, but now only make God appear to be a petulant ineffectual child who throws temper tantrums, resorts to stop-gap measures that fail in their goals in the long haul and just seem silly in retrospect (eg if the Babel incident was designed to reduce cooperation amongst man, then the very presence of translators would work against His Divine Will; hence the gift of speaking in tongues wouldn’t even be needed, since the gift resulted from a problem that was actually of God’s own making, in the first place)!

        The problem is that Xians (and other fundamentalists, be they Muslim, etc) is they often rely on the biggest logical fallacy of all: appeal to authority (in fact, authority figures don’t get any bigger than God, so it becomes “appeal to Divine Authority”). So the thinking becomes, “The Bible says it, I believe it, so end of story”. That leads to a classic obstinate closed-mindedness, where many simply shut down and refuse to think. That’s NEVER a good thing, esp when there are greater challenges facing mankind that require a reasoned response.

        Granted: many use religion to gain a sense of peace, happiness, and sense of oneness with their surroundings, to feel connected to the outside world. HOWEVER, that’s a proxy, a replacement, a mirage, for being ACTUALLY connected to their World. Do we really NEED such fantasy pretenses to feel connected, as if it’s a spiritual ice-breaker?

        EG Jehovah’s Witnesses detach from trying to improve the World here and now, since in their beliefs, it is Satan’s System, and Jehovah will fix it all anyway, so why bother? (Seriously, I have JW relatives who will pour toxic used oil in their backyard, jokingly rationalizing it by saying that Jehovah will fix it in the New System). As such, their religious faith becomes self-serving narcissism, focused on saving their eternal life (skin) by doing God’s will. However, that’s just a different version of the same self-gratification of the amoral hedonist who only lives for his own pleasure, and does as he wishes to maximize his benefit. The reality is they’re not so different, only different sides of the same coin; each is ultimately looking to maximize his own best interests, only the Xian is willing to delay his gratification.

        So, do we REALLY need a God as an excuse, a pretense, to engage in good works, making the World a better place for ourselves and future generations of our offspring? Wouldn’t we do that ANYWAY without Gods, as if returning the favor of those who left US a better World?

        Is the threat of eternal damnation REALLY the reason, the motivator, that some need to be kind to their fellow man, to help others? Because the fact is that Hell IS a lie, a falsehood, a construct of men (and I’ve seen how some people go off the deep-end to the other extreme, once they realize how they’ve been duped by religion; they’ve lost their old World-view, and don’t have the ability to assemble another; they may resort to drugs, etc. sliding towards nihilistic fatalism. That’s NOT the required alternative to God, of course (and Xians LOVE to think it is….) but it IS a risk, if other grounding beliefs are not already in place, eg respect for gaining knowledge, trusting in one’s own ability to make rational decisions, etc).

        Much like using drugs, sex, money, etc, believing in imaginary beings is a crutch which fills a gap (and some even BRAG about the God-sized gap in their heart which is filled by Him); it’s a coping mechanism, and doing without it is not for the weak-minded.

        Fact is, some people really CANNOT handle stone-cold sober reality, and facing up to the truth that we really ARE alone on this watery orb, and that there’s no one around to bail us out or save us, is just too much for them to handle (and what we even need to be “saved from” is what I don’t get: it’s a false dilemma, a solution to a problem that just doesn’t exist. If anything, we only need to be saved from OURSELVES, eg religious extremist Nations (who believe in Allah, eg Iran) getting a handle of nukes, which would be a HUGE cost to mankind from religiosity, due to fundamental ignorance and bigotry).

        And if it happens, then, oh well: as Steely Dan say in their song “Everything Must Go”, we got a few good licks in (while we were the dominant species on the Planet. Heck, we raised the bar vs the dinosaurs, who were a bunch of underachieving LOSERS: they didn’t even develop tools, much less cable television!). Eventually it’ll be time for humanity to go (unless we craft a solution to the “Heat Death of the Universe”; time’s a tickin’, folks!) as that’s the cycle of life, whether on the individual level, or that of species.

        So, Corinna: did THAT answer your question (I’m a wordy bastard, aren’t I, LOL)?

        • Dave, When you criticize your JW relatives for pouring toxic oil in their backyard saying “Oh well, Jehovah will clean it up in the new system” it appears you are throwing all JWs in the same basket. My wife and I are JWs (for 56 years), and she would absolutely kill me (figuratively) if I pulled that trick. I wouldn’t in the first place, but your statement clearly intimates that all JWs feel that it’s OK to desecrate the earth since God is going to clean it up anyway. Not so, Dave! I don’t know what other JWs do, nor do I know what Methodists, Catholics, Baptists or Hindus do, but I know what WE (my wife and I) do about that subject. We are careful to recycle everything recycleable and do what we can to keep everything in and around our house impecably clean. Most of our neighbors do the same. Yes, you are bound to find some JWs and members of every other religion who behave toward this earth in the manner you describe, but let’s not judge all JWs because of the bad example of those JW relatives you observed. Most JWs are aware of Rev. 11:18, which says in part that Jehovah will “…bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” JWs in general that I know have more respect for God’s creation than to be placed into the basket by the action you describe. The next time you observe your JW relatives doing what you have described, you might do well to remind them of Rev. 11:18.

          BTW, Dave, I have noted a number of your posts and realize that you were raised in a JW home. Were you ever baptized? When did you leave the faith? I hope you have peace in your heart. Each one must decide for himself what he will do when it comes to learning about, loving, and serving Jehovah. Best wishes to you. Sorry this is almost a month late, but I just today read your post.

    • Dave, I am not sure if you are singling the Quakers out as being particularly susceptible to Not knowing the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes,” or if they are just in your focus at the moment. Personally, I think that many organizations—religious and otherwise-have a problem with people not being able within the structure of the group–usually associated with things like power—or not being courageous enough to step up to question or dispute. And it does take a lot of courage to stand up to even one other person, let alone a whole organization! This is another reason that I have opted out of what I guess I would call “mainline” Christian religion to go with the Unitarian-Universalists……where there are often more questions than answers. But there is certainly no group think. I personally bridle against people telling me what I should–have to–believe in order to belong. But again, that is just me. Thank goodness there are Churches where free thinkers can be a part of religious/spiritual communities.

      And Corinna…..I laughed as I got a vision (a non-religious kind) of a congregation of people with retractible sunroofs on top of their heads…..a convenient way to make yourself open to the message? Would it help? Does closing your eyes help?

      • Hi Merrill,

        “This is another reason that I have opted out of what I guess I would call “mainline” Christian religion to go with the Unitarian-Universalists……where there are often more questions than answers. But there is certainly no group think. ”

        But just to play Devil’s Advocate (a role for which I’m go to H-E-double sticks, for sure!), isn’t a belief system that’s based on acceptance of others a form of group-think, itself? eg how would the Unitarians react if a few Westboro Baptists church members showed up, and for whatever wanted to join to preach their fire-and-brimstone condemnation and intolerance to others?

        I’m guessing that whether they recognize it or not, Unitarians, like most religions, are selling their “brand” of beliefs, and potential members will select the group (and are then accepted BY the group, if they are deemed a fit). It’s human nature that like-minded individuals tend to associate with others whom they agree with (birds of a feather).

        Honestly, I find that a bit BORING: who wants to be around people who think like you do? Where’s the fun in THAT?

        Maybe I have a bit of that Groucho Marx Jewish tendency for self-loathing inside of me, but I love his joke that he wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would allow the likes of him to join! 🙂

  2. Thanks for this, Corinna. I hope these folks do give a “Word from God ” from time to time. When we were in missionary training, we had a daily time when we would all get together, sing worship songs, sometimes someone would teach, often spend a good bit of time in quiet prayer, but generally we had a spontaneous time of sharing. At such times, some would explain what they thought God was teaching them in recent days, or how they were growing in some way, and once in a while someone would confess to the group (in an appropriate way, mostly), some sin they had been convicted of. Yes, I suppose there was a bit of group think in it, but generally, we tried to keep it honest, and it would become apparent when someone was falling into the group think thing.
    It’s really a shame that few congregations allow time for such sharing in their services. One church we attended for many years did this during their evening service from time to time, and such sharing generally helped to draw the group closer and helped some to be more honest with one another about struggles in living the Christian life. This usually elicited prayer. Once in a while there would be a person who gave testimony about recently coming to Christ, and how that came about. Such times were great occasions for people to get together following the service and simply chat and perhaps get more deeply involved with one another–something that is really lacking in many local churches where the congregants come in, sit in the pew, watch the service (like a good audience at a movie), and go home at the end.
    I have sat in some churches where people might say they had a “word from the Lord” and say what it was. The unfortunate thing about this was that it was so general that one could never figure out if was genuinely from God or someone just had a “good idea.”
    Your post has brought back some great memories. thanks….

    • ps: Your picture of the “roof opening” a la observatory mechanics brought a big smile and I identified with it BIG TIME….I remember always being puzzled about such things as a new believer. Some people seemed to have such a great “lens” to see/hear what God had to say….others of us struggled with trying to understand how to “hear” the voice of God….. 😦

      • Perhaps, this may be a doorway for some….For me the Holy Spirit, is the Light and Sound of God, which together are the voice of God. In scriptures it is known as the Word, or Logos. How can we tune in to It? One simple way is by a form of prayer or contemplation where we don’t try to tell God what to do, we just listen to hear what God’s voice is saying to us. One simple prayer, that I use is the HU song, a love song to God. (Has been known for thousand of years, used by the Sufis and mentioned by Rumi.) HU is a prayer that anyone can use regardless of faith or path followed. It can be sung silently to oneself or aloud. It is a simple way to open our hearts to God’s love. I have used it over the years and it has given me great comfort and many insights, as I have always wanted a more personal relationship with God. It works for me and I offer it as a possible tool that may be of use to you as well. Here is an explanation of how to start that may be of help:

        With eyes open or closed, take a few deep breaths to relax. Then begin to sing HU (pronounced like the word hue) in a long drawn out sound: HU-U-U-U. Take another breath and sing HU again. Continue for up to 20 minutes. Sing HU with a feeling of love, and it will gradually open your heart to God. When you sing HU and sit in quiet contemplation, you might also perceive the inner Light and Sound. The Light may appear as brightness or colors on your inner visual screen. The Sound may be musical or the sounds of nature, such as the wind or the ocean. However you experience the presence of God, it is bringing you a broader understanding of the life you lead.

        May the Blessings Be…

  3. And Corinna, I am always a teacher so understand these comments are in that context: I was quite puzzled with your calling the Quaker woman “Ma Kettle.” I totally got the visual…..but Ma and Pa Kettle were comic figures and all of their characteristics….especially their “country/backwoods” ways were exaggerated, if I remember correctly. Although they were not negative characters, it just seemed strange and a bit disrespectful to use that name in the context of explaining a religious community. And I wouldn’t want someone to call me Ma Kettle if I was the one who offered you fig newtons! Am I completely off base in my thinking here……do people even know who Ma Kettle is?

    • Hi Merrill, I can appreciate your feedback on this detail. My using “Ma Kettle” to refer to the woman is mostly a way to refrence her in a shorthand that is also somewhat anonymous. I want to protect her identity but I also want to help my reader get a mental image. I think, at this point in popular culture, “Ma Kettle” is equivalent to “country grandma.” I, personally, don’t think it’s negative. Colorful, maybe. If some day I’m a “Ma Kettle” I’ll be okay with it.

  4. Corinna,

    I think I have more of a “hang” on using the blog. I see that you are working at a relationship with God. I, personally, don’t understand the idea of closing eyes for a fairly long time, and finding that a way to get knowledge and wisdom from Him and/or His Word.

    When I was a child, I got to go to Sunday School in a non-Christian religion. Mhy parents thought I should learn something about my heritage, but I don’t remember ever having a “spiritual” conversation with either of them. My younger sister hated to go to Sunday School, because she got nothing out of it. I think it caused me to consider the idea that the Key for us humans is to find out what God expects of us, and then GO AND DO IT.( John 17:3)

    This article about “methodism” shows that a Chrstian would want to please his or her Creator, by learning and then doing. That is why the Reformation woke up people to the notion that ” faith without works is dead”. (James 2:26) I have always been curious about other peoples’ religion. So, because of that, I opened the door to Jehovah’s Witnesses, got my Bible study, and learned how to apply, in my life, what good things I learned.

    I don’t get the Quaker “mode” that you wrote about—I don’t know what that DOES for you and your godly relationship. I can relate more to what you found in Methodism, becasue Wesley was looking for logic, knowledge and compassion.

    Certainly, I hope you will go to the local Kingdom Hall and observe the Memorial of Christ’s death. It is the only holiday he asked us to observe. (Tuesday, the 26th of March, after sundown……ENJOY!!!!)

    ADIOS, Cheri

  5. When I planted my first church 13 years ago, I spent time asking myself the question, “Why do people go to church?” That is, “Why would someone give up all of that time to go to a place with a bunch of other people every week?” I concluded that they wanted to connect with God. So, at its best, religion should be a vehicle for helping people to meaningfully sense that they are in touch with The Divine.

    In addition, people generally want to share their spiritual life with fellow seekers in a community seeking to connect with God.

    At their best, churches seek to facilitate the presence of God so that people can be transformed for the good. Unfortunately, when we try to package and patent our best experiences so that we can reproduce them over and over again, we run the risk of trying to package and patent God. And my understanding of God is that He will not allow Himself to be controlled in that way. As C.S. Lewis says through Mr. Beaver in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “Aslan is not a tame lion, but he is good.”

    Your experience with the Quaker meeting makes me think. In light of their past vibrant experiences of shaking and spontaneous hearing from God, they tried to hang onto it by keeping their meetings open. The irony is that this has now become their liturgy even after the vibrant phenomena have ceased. I am not trying to be critical of them, but it leads me to ask myself some questions. “How do I resist the temptation to put God in a can to open when I want it? How do I encourage people to participate without giving up their individual initiative?

    Thank you again for your insightful observations.

    • This whole issue is something of a balancing act, isn’t it. Humans seem to enjoy/need some sense of continuity, which is where liturgy and ritual come in. Even as much of a free religious thinker as I am, I like that we have the basic same order of service every Sunday, and we always sing the same leaving song. There is comfort in that order, because sometimes our world seems so random and out of control in its daily comings and goings. And yet, it is that liturgy and ritual that can stifle an individual’s ability to share their story…their spiritual journey……that can put “God in a can.” And the trouble is, that sometimes not everyone is allowed a can opener.

      I don’t have any problem with the “liturgy” of silence. If nothing else, reading this blog has made me both more aware and more tolerant of how different people celebrate their beliefs—not only through what Corinna writes, but also the rest of you. The differences and nuances are incredible—-even in the big group called Christian believers! And the “nones” too!

      I am, however, beginning to develop a nervous twitch, so to speak, when it comes to making judgements based on a single visit to any Church. It seems to me that a longitudinal series of visits would give a much clear vision of that particular Church……and we all know, I am sure, that Churches with the same name painted on the sign in front of the building, can be very different from one another. Something to remember.

    • Mark, your post reminds of a Bible story that always cracked me up. It’s where Peter, James & John have just had this tremendous experience of seeing their friend Jesus all shining and lifted up, talking with Moses and Elijah. And Peter’s response after it’s all over is just so pricelessly human. He wants to build little tents right there on the spot. It’s so like us humans to want to make something good last, usually long beyond when it was useful or relevant! To enshrine a God-moment, make a tent around it, maybe that’s how religions start. When all the while, God, who as you so rightly point out, is wild not tame, is on to doing something new.

  6. I must admit that I frequently use the period of the sermon at my church to sit and have a dialogue with God. Mostly, that is because I am hard of hearing and even with a hearing aid, it is difficult for me to catch everything said. But there have been moments when surprising gifts of Grace HAVE descended on me during such communion. It has a place and is a very active fact of worship, in my opinion.

    When you speak of the Holiness sects and particularly of “speaking in tongues”, I must tell you this story. My brother-in-law was briefly married to a woman who was a member of what, in Texas, is commonly called a “Holy Roller” sect. It is a term used mostly for Pentecostal groups, and I am sad to admit that it is often used as a denigration. It evolved from the fact that some of the really zealous congregations where looked at askance because of their habit of falling to the ground and rolling in the embrace of the Holy Spirit. Be that as it may, he was involved in her church at the time, and her church regularly had people “speaking in tongues.”

    One day my husband caught his brother standing in the bathroom, “practicing” his speaking in tongues!

    Now, I have a friend in my somewhat staid Anglican church who also speaks in tongues. She says it just happens to her when she least expects it. So, I am NOT denying that this happens. But as Paul basically says, it’s kind of the least of the gifts. It does men more good to hear God spoken of in words they can understand, as I interpret Paul’s remarks. Yet I once had to comfort a friend who was seriously concerned because her church said that if she didn’t speak in tongues, she was NOT a real Christian, baptized by the Holy Spirit.

    My inclination is to warn you to watch, listen and be wary when you enter this next phase.

    As proved by my brother-in-law, this is the gift most easily faked!!! Yet it does happen.

    Yours in Christ

    • I’ve had several good friends who speak in tongues. These are sincere believers who don’t make a big deal of it, but who consider it a prayer language — a way of communicating with God from someplace inside that bypasses their thinking processes. This makes sense to me, that God would provide a way for each of us to do that. I just don’t believe that there’s only one way, and that way is speaking in tongues. I think God’s made just as many ways to communicate with him as there are people.

      I’ve also known Pentecostals who insist that THE sign that you’ve received the Holy Spirit is that you speak in tongues. That if you don’t speak in tongues you haven’t received the Holy Spirit. This is one of those exclusion things that boils my blood. I just hate it when people are made to feel left out by God!

    • Patti said:

      “One day my husband caught his brother standing in the bathroom, “practicing” his speaking in tongues!”

      What, did he catch him listening to Berlitz or Rosetta Stone cassettes, or something? Because at least that would be more in keeping with the original intent.

      Many of these babblers forgot that SIT (speaking in tongues) is not just making up gibberish, but refers to being moved by God’s Holy Spirit to suddenly speak a foreign language without prior exposure to it, but SPECIFICALLY for the purpose of MINISTERING to native speakers of the language (Acts 2:11). The Greek word for tongues literally means “languages”, ie foreign languages.

      Of course, Paul was fully aware of the existence of honest-to-God interpreters, which was a valuable skill to have in the multi-cultural environment of the Ancient World to get a highly-compensated gig as an interpreter of the King’s court (a highly-esteemed career in ancient times, where translating was facilitated by the common roots of the Proto-Indo-European languages and the prevalent use of “loan words”). Hence Paul likely declared SIT as the “least” of the gifts, as if to discourage the fakers, knowing but it was the one least likely to impress the educated non-yokels who were more likely to know the difference between gibberish and a real foreign tongue.

      So we can add the modern-day pseudo-linguist wanna-bes to the list of circumstantial evidence that points to human drives, ie an intense need that some people feel to become a part of the Bible story, even willing to make themselves look like fools by believing “fake it ’til you make it” is a sound approach (and that explains much, like why we call it “practicing” religion, like a magician working the bugs out of his stage show).

      FWIW, Jehovahs Witnesses have more subdued opportunities for fakery, where some individuals (usually elderly) are convinced that they are members of the “anointed class”, the 144,000 humans who believe they have a Heavenly hope of serving alongside Jesus (vs the members of the “Great Crowd”, those JW’s who hope to live an eternal life on Earth after Armageddon). These so-called “anointed ones” partake of the symbols of Christ’s body (cracker and non-alcoholic wine) during the annual Memorial event, and the rank-and-file Great Crowd usually look on in reverence as they nibble and sip, thinking of how they’ll be BFF with Jesus in Heaven (and the great crowd often kisses up to them, hoping they can put in a good word for them if they should make it to Heaven before Armageddon).

      The Society of JWs doesn’t announce how many attendees actually PARTOOK of the symbols, probably because it’s well over 144,000 (and many who partook in the past are long-since dead, and thus already in Heaven. So either they’re already filled the quota in Heaven, or Peter is not counting and/or letting gate-crashers in).

      • Dave, all I can say is you spend a HUGE amount of time studying something you say you dislike intensely. I congratulate you on probably knowing more about most religions than the people who practice them. Luckily, it is God who reads a persons heart and knows the truth…isn’t it a good thing He is infinite? (I say this well aware you won’t agree with me, but that’s ok.)

        As always, yours in Christ.

        • Who said I dislike it? I wouldn’t study history if I didn’t enjoy it.

          Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m a sponge for ALL knowledge; at the fore-front is understanding why people believe what they do, and more importantly, studying how cultural beliefs evolve and meld: in religion, that is called ‘syncretism’, a blending or changing of beliefs.

          In fact, a similar process occurs with morality (since moral values are also beliefs, subject to change), eg the idea of a person’s descendents being condemned due to the sins of the ancestor is a common principle found in the Bible. Nowadays, modern men don’t use that in secular law, eg we don’t throw an entire family in prison for the crimes of the father. But that WAS the prevailing belief throughout the ancient World of 1,000 BC, where birth-rights and blessing (and cursing) of an individual’s lineage was respected: in fact, that’s the ENTIRE basis of God’s blessing of Abraham, with the promised land going to his descendents.

          That kind of reasoning explains why the Bible doesn’t blink twice at suggesting that ALL humans must bear the burden for the sin of Adam and Eve, being born into imperfection; that idea seemed fair (even the status quo) to most people 2,000 yrs ago (just as slavery was also accepted, and is an endorsed and regulated practice in the OT; and by extension, Jesus didn’t blink twice at it, using parables that included slashing slaves to death for property crimes against their master, etc. Jesus said he didn’t come to change a WORD of the Tanakh, but to fulfill it’s prophecies; that’s an endorsement of an ancient practice, hardly moving the moral goalposts one bit).

          Some people feel the need to cling to outmoded ideas, performing mental gymnastics to excuse what is OBVIOUSLY IMMORAL, and telling us the ideas are actually moral. That’s a level of denial that leaves Badhdad Bob looking like a rookie apologetist.

          BTW, if I WERE a believer in Christ, then I’d probably be a ‘gnostic’, a member of that diverse group that was squashed as heterodoxy/apostates by the early Church. I like their explanation of YHWH being a demiurge, an underling God, who served a superior God who was the ultimate source of life (but is preoccupied with other concerns). It’s a clever (yet not original) idea, in that it resolves the age-old theodicy issue by throwing YHWH under the bus.

          The recently-found Gospel of Judas (a so-called “gnostic” writing) makes an interesting point, saying that Judas was the most-faithful servant of Christ; in the Gospel, Jesus tells him that he has a deeper understanding than the others, and hence has the most important responsibility of all the disciples, one for which he will become the most hated of humans, being the seeming betrayer, the scapegoat. Of course, in the end Judas was used to facilitate the Divine Will, since Jesus HAD to be crucified to atone for mankind’s sins: no crucifixion, then no salvation for mankind. When you think about it, it’s really a valid premise, and Xian anti-Semitism and prosecution of Jews for rejecting the Savior is also non-sense: no rejection, then no sacrifice; hence no salvation.

          I’m currently reading John Van Seter’s work, “Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis “. Highly recommended, as he conducts a detailed comparison of the plot elements in Genesis to the other cosmological beliefs that existed in the Ancient Near East before Genesis was compiled.

          Spoiler alert: many other works (eg Hesiod’s Theogony) seemingly relied on the same ancient Babylonian source material (Astrahasis, fragments of which have been found that dated from the 18th century BCE; multiple later copies have been found in better condition, but are related works). It’s the epic on which the Enuma Elis relied, and which the Genesis’ authors modified to serve their needs in the 6th century BCE, when the Genesis creation prologue was added).

          Perhaps the Bible’s writers had their tongue firmly in cheek when they wrote that nothing new is under the Sun.

  7. Wow, this entry certainly brought a lot of response! I almost didn’t participate because of the time it would take to read 17 comments! I’m impressed that you lasted 45 minutes in silence, Corinna, and that in itself would bless me, to sit still and listen in a day and time when life is so filled with noise, busyness, and input.

    I would hesitate to say holiness or pentecostal churches are a strange offshoot; percentage wise, they are the fasting growing Christian denomination in the world (outside of the Catholic Church). Within the movement are a vast array of practices, some of them entirely strange! The subject of the movement of the Spirit is a broad one and there are no simple answers. Also, in defining the Greek word used for “tongues” has multiple meanings, just like many words in our own dictionary. “Language” is one of them, as is “organ of speech” and other expressions having to do with speaking.

    Thanks for your openness and willingness to listen to the “Ma Kettles.” Perhaps you can teach all to appreciate their wisdom.

  8. Wow, Dave. You are really intelligent and apparently an excellent researcher as well. You are way out of my brain’s league. But I just want to say that I’m glad you’re on this earth.

    • Thanks, homewithin!

      Truth be told, I’m just someone who has a bit of that Missouri “show me” cynicism in me, that’s all.

      My personal belief is that it’s not so much the destination, but the journey, that really counts…. All of my religious and spiritual needs are filled by the philosophy found in the lyrics of a favorite James Taylor song (The Secret of Life):


  9. Corinna, those Quakers are taking time to practice listening to God. And your experience in the meeting reflected that of most people when they TRY to listen. Do you remember when there was an art fad of pictures that looked like nothing at all when you looked at them, but if you could change where your eyes focused, a picture would become apparent? I remember someone giving me a clue about what to do with my eyes so I could see the picture. It was hard because I had to overcome my vision habits, but finally I could see. I found that if I did not practice that changed vision often, it was again very hard to see the picture. That is kind of how listening to God is. But who is giving the clues to make it easier? If you search online for mystic poets you will find a website that gathers together the names of poets of all religious who practiced listening to God, and then used their gift of poetry to illustrate their experience. There is a real lack of dogma in the poetry. Reading it helps one practice to see God through the heart. And I think the poetry helps in a similar way to the person who gave me the clue for looking at the odd picture.

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