Speaking in Tongues: Denise's personal testimony

posted: 4465 days ago, on Monday, 2005 Aug 01 at 09:45
tags: psychology, religion, psychology of religion, fundamentalism.

While doing a literature review of glossolalia for the article Speaking in Tongues, I was introduced to Denise M., who had been a member of the His People Organization and had spoken in tongues regularly. We met and had several discussions, during which she agreed to write down her personal testimony, and answered a few questions I had.

Testimony

Denise writes:

I had been attending His People, a Pentecostal church, for a short while and it was here that I was introduced to the doctrine of tongues and where I received 'the gift', like a good pentecostal, myself. I was in a transition period between being a young ignorant Christian and reaching what is called 'spiritual maturity'.

It was a time in my life when I was driven by acquiring knowledge and experience that would qualify me as a mature Christian, on a level above that of the lay-believer. I felt that it was time to move on, nearer to the life-task predestined for me by God himself. So when the call from the Pastor at the pulpit came that evening, I realized it was meant for me. His invitation was to those who felt pressed on their soul to receive the gift of tongues.

I got up and descended the stairs, slowly nearing the pulpit, where I was sure something spectacular was about to happen. My heart was pounding in my chest, my senses overly responsive to the people next to me in the aisle saying things like 'Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!' and I remember this distinctly reeking of too much perfume. Soon enough I found myself hands-in-the-air, open-mouthed, hands being laid on my head and stomach while the pastor asked his Lord to anoint this faithful follower with the gift of the Holy Spirit and as a sign to enable me to speak with heavenly tongues.

So there I was, standing and waiting for God to manifest in lightning and thunder at the blow of a horn. I guess nothing happened for quite a while, as before I knew it, most of the congregation was praying in tongues and elders were giving me instructions through clenched teeth and lowered voices. I remember hearing 'Don't hold it back,' and 'Remember you've got to put the "ball on the roll", God enables you, but you have to do the talking'.

I was expecting a blackout or something while God will take control of my body and my mouth and speak through me in that manner. And then, not quite sure of what to do next I pushed out some word through my numb lips; it was received with great praise and encouragement. Soon I was praying in tongues while various thoughts flashed through my mind like 'Wow this is a lot more effort than I expected it to be'. I understood when an usher told me later to go practice at home; this was obviously an art, something to become proficient in.

And I did get proficient; soon I was teaching the doctrine to others, helping them to receive the gift of tongues as well. I was on the top of the world, I had something supernatural, something no one could explain other than with biblical doctrine. Or so I thought, until much later when I found that indeed other religions and pseudoscientific groups could do the same. Obviously the easy answer was to blame it on the Devil imitating the works of God; this satisfied me for some time until I discovered that science, too, had an answer an answer that made sense. Immediately I applied the scientific answer to the other occurrences outside of Christianity, but I still I believed that speaking in tongues as was taught in church was of divine origin. But after a couple of months I had to confess to myself that there was nothing supernatural or divine about speaking in tongues as I knew it. It was but me saying a lot of gibberish without thinking about what to say next.

Learning more about science and the power of suggestion, I began to examine the experiences I had as Christian and I found that there was nothing that happened to me that I thought to be supernatural that couldn't be explained. This lead me to believe that there is nothing supernatural and that those people who still believe in the supernatural are holding onto an ancient world view comparable to believing the Earth is flat. People believe something to be supernatural because they can't explain it otherwise.

People expect to speak in strange tongues after hands are laid on them. They then start speaking gibberish and believe that, even if it doesn't feel as supernatural as they thought it would, it still is of divine nature because, they feel, there is no other explanation and besides, it would be wrong to question the ways of God and his manifestations; "one should have faith like that of a child, for god works in mysterious ways."

Q&A

Question: How does it feel to speak in tongues or pray in your prayer language?

Answer: "Well it of itself doesn't feel weird at all, but at first when you remember speaking in tongues it sure feels weird. Unbelievable."

Question: When and where did you speak in tongues?

Answer: "Usually during Christian meetings or when I prayed (especially when I didn't really have anything to say) but it really didn't matter, I could do it anyplace at anytime."

Question: How did speaking in tongues change the way you thought about life?

Answer: "I couldn't explain this phenomenon other than that it was a gift of God, so naturally I saw this as a proof of the existence of God and the validity of the dogma I followed. This was obvious proof for me that my teachers were right all along and that I should question their teachings as they would probably be correct no matter what they said."

Question: When speaking in tongues do you have to think about what to say next or anything else for that matter?

Answer: "No, you could of course, but usually you don't think of what to say next you just say any random thing (as the Spirit leads you). You can think of anything really as you don't need to concentrate to make random noise in language-like fashion."

Question: In retrospect, was there any pressure applied on you to speak in tongues?

Answer: "Yes, if all around you people are speaking in tongues and you keep hearing teachings and testimonies of people that speak in tongues and you are given literature about it and your teachers speak in tongues and the Bible says you should speak in tongues and people are praying for you to be able to speak in tongues then I guess you are a little pressured to speak in tongues and join the rest."

nothing more to see. please move along.