Friday, November 24, 2006

postal scrotum: Charles and more Charles!

Charles writes in about that bread (email edited for privacy):

As for the bread, pumpernickel is basically a dark rye bread (it's the rye that makes it pumpernickel and not just "dark bread"). Every pumpernickel recipe I've seen achieves this primarily by using molasses as the sugar, although some recipes will add ground coffee or cocoa to make it even darker. My own pumpernickel is pretty straightforward--just rye and molasses. I like to make a light rye/pumpernickel marble roll, which always impresses guests.

But back to your bread: judging by your description, it doesn't sound like a pumpernickel. For one, I've never heard of nuts in pumpernickel. It was probably a straight wheat flour bread (maybe with some whole wheat mixed in) darkened with molasses or some such. I think I've had the same (or similar) bread at the Outback Steakhouse--I'm only guessing, of course, but that bread looked purple in the restaurant's lighting as well. It was also quite sweet. Does that sound familiar?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it couldn't have been pumpernickel. The bread's flavor was subtle and had no trace of rye. I can say this, though: it decidedly wasn't the same as Outback Steakhouse's bread. Yesterday's bread had a crackling crust that was almost reminiscent of a baguette's shatter-prone exterior. The interior, however, wasn't baguettesque at all.

Charles also has plenty to say about glossolalia:

I think you should reinstate comments just for me, as I seem to be doing a lot of commenting lately.

As usual, Paul has you covered on the speaking in tongues, in particular 1 Corinthians chapter 14. This is the chapter I like to refer to when it comes to tongues.

As I may have mentioned to you, I grew up in a Pentecostal church (our first church was Presbyterian, but we moved to the Pentecostal church when I was 11). I enjoyed the church and made a lot of friends there, but one thing really bothered me: the speaking in tongues. Not that I have a problem with speaking in tongues. I'm not one to judge how God is working in someone else's life. But that was the problem, really--in a Pentecostal church, if you don't speak in tongues, you might as well walk around with a sign on your chest saying, "Hi, I'm demon possessed." It's almost like not speaking in tongues is some sort of disease to be cured.

But I found comfort in the words of Paul. Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians talks about gifts given to believers, and one of those gifts is speaking in tongues. Where I take comfort is that Paul specifically states that not all people speak in tongues, just like not all people heal or prophesy. In Chapter 14 he goes into more detail, and this is probably a chapter that most Pentecostals would like to ignore. The whole chapter deals with tongues, but here are a few choice samples that got me through those tough Pentecostal years:

6: Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

10: Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. (Preach it, brother!)

19: In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

23: So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

Granted, toward the end of the chapter Paul goes into some rather outdated stuff about women not speaking in the church, but his stuff on tongues still holds, I think. The loophole that Pentecostals use to get around this is in verse 13: "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says." Basically what they take this to mean is that whenever someone in the church speaks in tongues during a service (this happens fairly often in Pentecostal churches), someone else has to interpret. The way I see it, though, it's more like how Moses allowed the people to divorce because of the "hardness of their hearts," not because divorce was necessarily the right thing to do. I think Paul makes it pretty clear that tongues is a very specific gift that is to be used for the private edification of the speaker.

This next anecdote will probably not hold much water with you, but I'll share it anyway. In my church people would often break into tongues in the middle of the service (this generally happened during a pause or a lull, and not usually while the pastor was speaking--although sometimes that did happen). Now, because Paul says that if someone speaks in tongues he should also interpret, the pastor waited for someone to interpret that before continuing. I always felt awkward during these pauses, and sometimes I wanted to stand up myself and say something, just to get it over with. Yes, I know that's bad, but it's true. I hated those moments. There was a woman in the congregation, though, who would more often than not "interpret" the message--invariably beginning with the words "Oh my people" and sounding like she was on the verge of tears. I always got an odd vibe from her, and one day during Sunday brunch my father said that he thought she was making up her "interpretations."

One day a prophetess came to our church (bear with me here). During the service, someone spoke in tongues, and the woman gave her "interpretation." When she was finished, the prophetess stood up, pointed her finger at her, and said, "Woman, that started in the flesh, but ended in the spirit." I really wish she would have just lambasted her rather than saying that it had ended in the spirit, because it gave the woman an "out," so to speak--she could still claim that God was speaking through her. But it also proved my father right. She embodied for me everything that was wrong about tongues in the church.

As you probably know, tongues are seen by Pentecostals as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and even though official church doctrine admits that they are not the only possible evidence, in practice they are treated as the sole evidence. This means that if you don't speak in tongues you haven't been baptised by the Holy Spirit, and if you haven't been baptised by the Holy Spirit then you aren't really a Christian. So you can imagine how seriously they take this. I had revival preachers tell me to just let go and God's spirit would flow through me, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. One time I did--I just opened my mouth and made noises. I didn't feel edified. I didn't feel anything, really.

I was never able to say what I wanted to say to these people: if you want to speak in tongues in private, that's fine. If God speaks to you through tongues, if he edifies you through tongues, then I'm happy for you. But don't try to make me feel less of a Christian because I don't do the same. The people who speak in tongues during the service, would they still do it if there was no one to interpret? I remember times when no one offered an interpretation, and this was silently taken as a sign that the person who had spoken in tongues was out of line. No, this was never said aloud, but that's what people thought. With all that pressure to interpret, is it any wonder this lady tried to find some meaning in her faith by making up messages from God?

This was just going to be a short comment--I hadn't intended to carry on like this. But I guess I still carry around this burden, and it weighs heavier on me than I thought it did. I was hurt a lot when I was younger (my formative years, from 11 to 18) because of speaking in tongues, and it is probably the sole reason I will never go back to a Pentecostal church. Not that I don't love the people at my old church--I'm sure they felt that they were serving God the best they knew how--but I just can't help wondering how many people were driven away.

Yeah... look at Sam Kinison, himself a former Pentecostal minister who did a 180. When religions traffic only in black and white, clearly defining themselves according to in-group and out-group, the potential for alienation and other corrosive tendencies increases.

The people who speak in tongues during the service, would they still do it if there was no one to interpret?

With regard to public piety, this bit from the Sermon on the Mount says it all:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.


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