Predicting the Future of Prophesy


People proclaiming the name of their God and prophets can, oftentimes, be seduced by their own aspirations, egos, and pride, with very destructive results. The weak minded, gullible, and vulnerable are particularly at risk of being manipulated by self-proclaimed spiritual leaders who have cloaked their own agendas, their desire for charismatic recognition, acknowledgement, authority, and pride, under the guise of being Holy, divinely inspired, or prophetically gifted.

Often, their victims are convinced, that by some act of obedience or submission, such as fasting, abstinence, generosity, or prostration, that they will receive spiritual gifts, manifestations and answers to their prayers, acts of faith healing, money, or other so-called “breakthroughs.” They seek power, and gifts, instead of seeking God, and are promised as much by those who would mislead them.

I have seen young women fasting, often without medical supervision, not for any health reasons, but because they believe that by doing so, they will be rewarded with intercessions, usually having to do with finances, the health of a loved one, or a broken relationship. Fasting is usually not a big deal, unless you’re on a hunger strike and have chained yourself to a tree somewhere. Eventually, if you fast long enough, you’ll pass out, and likely end up in a hospital bed; but the act of sacrifice, abstinence and obedience to what they’ve interpreted through scripture, or have been told by authors, read in religious material, or instruction, is supposed to gain God’s favour, and His intercession – at least when prayer alone isn’t enough.


Fasting might drop you down a dress size or two, but it’s motivated, in this twisted spiritual sense, by seeking gifts of power, instead of seeking or understanding God. If you already have a relationship with God, you already have the gifts that He’s given you, and you won’t need to seek them through ritualistic acts or divination.  (If you intend to fast for an extended period, be sure to consult your family doctor before you do – fasting can be dangerous if you’re not already healthy, and can cause problems with your liver and kidneys, and compromise weakened immune systems.)

I’ve also seen desperate and vulnerable people brought to tears by self professed prophets who “speak” over individuals, and offer them a vision of their future that plays into their egos, or fears. Some revelations are taken so seriously, that recipients record their prophetic encounter, and listen to it daily, hoping to glean some meaning from it, or use it as a basis for making significant life choices, or avoiding them. In many cases, the revelations are nothing more than uplifting and encouraging messages of hope, affirmations, and assurances, and usually validate what the individual already has in mind, or is seeking. “Yes, your loved one will be healed this year, and you’ll get that new car you’ve been waiting for,” or, “I sense that this year God will heal that troubled relationship, and set you free from the bonds that have been holding you back,” are typical woo woo horoscope-like prophesies you’ll find in many churches these days.

Other prophets go a step further, and will actually predict your future for you. If you happen to be living in uncertain circumstances, are confused, or wishy-washy in your commitments, it’s easy to interpret the message you get in ways that validate your own desires and fears. The message has authority over the individual, because he or she believes that the prophet is speaking from a position of authority, and is backed by God. In most cases, that authority comes without accountability. When a prophetic message contradicts facts or experience, it’s you that’s failed in your interpretation, and not the prophet who spoke the words. The only difference between palm readers and prophets seems to be that one has a certificate of ordination, and the other does not.

(For an example of a prophetic message, you can listen to one that I received myself recently while attending a local church in my city:  My Prophetic Message on Soundcloud .)

jbIn today’s spiritual culture, there are many who turn to spiritual guidance, particularly in times of crisis, confusion, and uncertainty. After 9/11, the pews were full every Sunday. We turn to our spiritual leaders, for leadership and guidance, because we trust them. We trust them, because we believe they act on God’s authority. Sadly, that trust is broken, and broken often. Bogus “faith healers,” like Popoff and Hinn, are a disgrace to the faith; corrupt pastors, like Jim Bakker and his kind, splash onto the headlines with such frequency, that we’re hardly shocked or surprised anymore when they’re lead away in handcuffs, often to return soon afterwards, having been forgiven after a suitable display of tears has been proffered. Multi-millionaire pastors like Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen dazzle us with their charisma, private jets, mansions, and celebrity status. Church is big business, a franchise, sanctioned by us, protected, subsidized and encouraged, with tax breaks, and almost no outside interference – at least in this country. Big business, without accountability.

Benny Hinn’s net worth alone is estimated at $52 million, while Creflo Dollar’s net worth of $27 million pales in comparison, making him seem to be the pauper prophet in comparison – check out Top 10 Richest Pastors in the World to see where your favourite celebrity preacher falls on the list of prophesy for profit.  While it may not be Coca Cola, or the “real thing” for everyone, I’m impressed by these numbers – not bad for a franchise that’s selling a 3,500 year old product that nobody can see, represented by an executed Jew who told his followers to give up everything they owned – by an outfit who, in principle, only needs to open its doors once a week. That’s not even considering the spin-off value of things like Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and subsidiary interests like St. Patrick’s Day.  Not that Irish beer needs the help.  It’s already fine as it is.

So what about smaller congregations? Surely, living room churches, and small groups of worshipers, are less likely to be hives of corruption, deceit and manipulation, at least, on such grand scales. They’re more accountable, at least, so we would hope, or like to think. Anyone these days can slap a cross on a store front and call it a church, and a lot of people do. Grab yourself a Bible, a keyboard and a few drums, a microphone and your laptop, and you’re all set. In many cases, the Bible is optional. Of course, there are many who genuinely feel that they’re called in this way, spiritually, and most of them are good, decent, devout folk who simply want to worship with others like themselves. These groups often become substitutes for the families we wish we had. That’s not a bad thing. But it does create a problem of accountability, of a different sort, even at this scale.

You might be mesmerized by the charisma and flash of your television faith healer, and even feel moved to call that toll-free number and give them your credit card. Maybe it’ll cure aunt Gerty’s angina, I don’t know, but it couldn’t hurt, right? Smaller, intimate churches, in particular, one’s that are eager to grow from the living room to the boardroom, and emulate their mega-church brethren, have a harder time drawing in the faithful, despite their often globally inspired ambitions, reflected typically by names that usually include reference to, “world,” “global,” “international,” or even “universal,” – some with congregations that couldn’t fill a school bus, let alone a stadium.

fcDespite a common devotion to Jesus, this is a competitive business, and oftentimes, smaller churches will over-sell themselves, their mission, and their ambition, through some special or unique aspect in their spiritual offering. They’ll host out-of-town prophets, movie nights in the backyard, breakfast club meetings, or music events – anything to get you to socialize, and maybe even bring a friend, or two. So far, so good. The group takes on an identity, and becomes a “family.” You know the secret handshake, you speak in tongues when the music plays, sway to the beat with your arms in the air in worship, like you’re at a Jesus rock concert, and for some, it’s cathartic. And the person next to you, that you invited to your church for the first time, bolts from the room in terror. It’s become a clique, and in the worst case scenario, it develops into a cult. Some groups, do of course, go on to establish themselves, and become genuine communities of faith, and not all evolve into radical incarnations of group ego satisfaction.

Of course, if you speak up about anything that seems amiss in the faith community, you’re anti-Christian, possessed by demons, or don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. You’re an outsider, and what would you know about prophecy anyway? Haven’t you read John Hagee?! At that point, they either ask you politely to leave, offer to pray for you (in that condescending tone that implies you’re out of your mind), or redouble their efforts to convert you.  In fact, after initially publishing this article, I received a frantic phone call from a so-called Christian friend of mine who had read it, and accused me of “attacking the body of Christ,” and that I wasn’t doing myself any favours by posting the article.  I wasn’t seeking any.

I don’t have an issue with anyone claiming to be a prophet, speaking in tongues, or believing that they’ve had visions from God. I DO have a problem with people who take advantage of the vulnerable, the desperate, the heartbroken, and the dying, who pander to their fears, egos, or hopes, for the sake of feeding their own need for aggrandizement, recognition, money, or followers. I DO have a problem with prophets who offer false hope, particularly where they claim that a loved one with a terminal illness will be cured if they just do as they’re told, have enough faith, and ignore or dismiss their doctor’s pleas for treatment. I DO have a problem with pastors teaching that you need to starve yourself for a “breakthrough,” or faith healers who discourage the injured and ill from seeking medical treatment in favour of prayer alone.

bhI DO have a problem with any prophet or pastor who is not accountable to authority and discipline, other than to God Himself, and who invokes his or her ordination as a shield to avoid it. The opportunity for corruption, manipulation, fraud, deceit, dangerous and false teaching, exploitation, and abuse of pastoral care is far too great, especially when you’re dealing with people who are seeking God in desperate circumstances. Getting people to leave their relationships, jobs, sell their homes, pull the plug on their lives in an act of faith, or wave a flag under the cloak of Jesus to support your church, its politics, and your salary, isn’t going to get you into heaven, anymore that it will your followers. If you’re really good at it, it might make you filthy rich; and if you’re not, it might get you some chrome-plated handcuffs.

I don’t care about your dogma or denomination, and I could give a rat’s ass about what you preach on your own time, but if you’re a manipulative purveyor of false hope, pandering to ego, fear and confusion, in order to make your living, feed your ego, or build your church, and you hurt someone *I* care about, I’m am NOT your friend. I will come for you, and I will confront you, and if what you’re selling is snake oil, I will expose you. I’m tired of seeing desperate families wheeling their dying children in front of faith-healers who receive the Holy Spirit through a wireless transmitter; I’m tired of seeing couples and families torn apart because you’ve planted seeds of doubt in their relationships in order to isolate and convert them to your own “family” of followers. I’m tired of the hypocrisy in our churches, the lack of true integrity and leadership, and the way that many of them now stand in the way of a genuine relationship with God, instead of leading one to it. And I’m tired of you using Jesus to justify your own distorted agenda, to fill a stadium for your next concert, or to sell more copies of your bullshit book.

My prediction?  As long as there are gullible, desperate souls looking for hope and miracles, would-be prophets will always have an audience, and as long as there’s money and power in it, there will be no shortage of willing prophets ready to profit from them.

I’ll take the bread of life over your fortune cookies any day.

Do I hear an Amen?!


Predicting the Future of Prophesy

The Skeptical Disciple


I grew up in a Christian home.  I was Christened as a baby at our family church, Timothy Eaton Memorial, in Toronto, a “United” Church with Methodist roots, ringing its bells above St. Clair neighbourhood rooftops since 1914.  My grandmother was an Anglican, and my grandfather was Catholic, so perhaps Eaton seemed like a workable compromise for them as a local place of worship in their community. I went to Sunday school at Eaton, and remember being taught about Noah and the great flood, Jonah and the Whale, and of course, Jesus, through colouring books, song, and prayer.  “Jesus loves me, this I know.”

My grandmother would encourage us to read the Bible, and on weekend visits to her house, I’d deliver sermons from a makeshift altar made out of old kitchen stools, draped with one of her handmade “afghan” blankets.  It was she who introduced me to Jesus. To her, Jesus was a healer, a kind and gentle shepherd, a comfort, and someone that heard her voice when she was lonely, or grieved the loss of her great love, her husband Thomas.  Now departed, she’s buried beside him, with her parents, not far from that church.  She always believed that she would be reunited with her Tommy in heaven, and passed quietly and peacefully in her sleep with his rosary clutched in her hand.

My grandmother, born in 1913, had lived through two great wars, the depression, watched men walk on the moon, and remembered when telephones, radio, and television were novelties.  She had an inner strength that was sustained as much by her faith as by her character, moulded by the desperate and uncertain times in which she lived.  She had a special fondness for me, as her grandson, and through her memories, I came to know my grandpa “Tom,” who had passed away on my mother’s birthday, just weeks before I was born.  He was a war hero, a carpenter, and a professional wrestler. He made her laugh, and years later, I would come to deeper insights into their love for each other through their letters, exchanged between them during the war.  They both knew what they were really fighting for.

Later, in my youth, I would take up her Book of Common Prayer, and attend the Anglican Church on Sundays, and I took the confirmation to explore and affirm the faith.  As a young man, I’d also been drawn to the sciences, my imagination captivated by childhood dreams of the space age, other worlds, and an ever expanding universe.  My Vicar tolerated my questions, questions that arose from contradictions in the faith that I couldn’t ignore, and as much as confirmation instructed, it also created doubt.  One summer afternoon, the Vicar and I sat on the front steps to his church, and we talked about faith, God, religion, and science.  I asked, for instance, why there appeared to be two separate accounts for creation in Genesis, and two accounts as to the number and type of animals Noah was instructed to take on board the ark, and how, if Moses wrote the pentateuch, he was able to describe his own death.  Questions that naturally arose from the Bible itself.  As my questions became more pointed, the Vicar finally ended our discussion abruptly, and asked me not to return to his church.  I never did again.

Maybe the Baptists had some answers.  A good friend of mine, James, invited me to attend a church he was excited about, in retrospect, I think mainly because of the nice young women that adorned the pews.  The pastor of the congregation was a fiery southern preacher, with a beard that rivalled that of Moses himself – Reverend Lutz.  I had a crush on his daughter for a while, and on occasion, would be invited to their home for suppers and a night of “black magic.”  As sinister as it sounds, the magic of course, was black only in that the parlour trick relied on the naming of something black as a cue that the next item to be named was the sought after article of mysterious divination in what to the uninitiated believed was a psychic phenomenon.  It was all in good fun, but looking back, I can’t help but be reminded of the “magic” when I hear news of discredited and disgraced pastors who employ deception on much grander scales, preying on the faith of the sick, the heartbroken, the poor, and the dying, for the sake of some slick suits and a shiny car.

Lutz’s church was based out of the basement of a run down apartment building, where the pool had been during better times.  It had been drained, but his vision was to use it for baptisms.  In the meantime, they were performed in a large metal tub, filled with a garden hose.  The congregation paid his mortgage, and the rent for the church, water bill included, and they were treated with Lutz’s passionate preaching, most of them scared to death by the time Sunday lunch was served.  I always thought it a bit strange that a southern Baptist preacher had travelled as a missionary all the way from Florida to the cold frozen north, to preach in the wilderness we called Toronto.

I’ve been to, prayed in, and even spoken to, many churches since those early days.  I’ve held lay positions, contributed to them, sang in their choirs, and dished out soup in their kitchens.  Many have had good leadership, with priests, pastors and ministers who are dedicated to their community, their congregation, and their faith.  Most of the people I’ve encountered in church have been good, decent, caring people, quiet in their beliefs, and content with fellowship and worship in their comfortable surroundings.  Some churches have faced crisis, have closed their doors as an aging congregation passes into history, their lights dimmed, and doors locked.  Other churches, mainly revivalist or evangelical in flavour, have sprouted up in their place, attracting new generations of young people, and a few of the older generation who remember when their shopping mall sized parking lots were farm fields, while some parishes auction off churches for a dollar hoping to free themselves of leaky roofs and crumbling bricks.

I’ve also been to new churches, small close knit congregations that operate out of the pastor’s home or backyard, in industrial warehouses, or golf course club houses, often with names that imply some sort of global presence or aspiration, where preachers still use an amplified microphone to reach an audience of dozens, with large overhead projectors hooked up to their kid’s laptop.  It’s hard not to get the impression that pretty much anyone with a Bible these days can get themselves ordained and open up the next living room church in town, and maybe that’s not a bad thing, but it makes me wonder about one’s real motive for doing so, especially when some of these outfits seem to put more energy into sustaining rumour mills and gossip parties than they do in preaching the gospel.

I think it takes more to be a serious Christian in this day and age than slapping an “I love Jesus” decal on your tailgate, showing up on Sunday for cupcakes and upper body worship calisthenics to the sound of the latest rock out of “Kumbaya my Lord” in someone’s living room, or expecting valet parking and dolby surround sound at your local mega church.

Christianity has some serious issues, and a lot of unanswered questions, most of which we’re asked to just accept and take on “faith.”  Those who speak up, ask questions, or present contradictory interpretations, are often shunned, mocked, ridiculed, or worse, by their fellow worshippers.  If you’re not the “right” kind of Christian in a particular group’s eyes, you may as well be the devil, as far as some of them are concerned.  And yet, that’s not how Jesus, we’re told, would have wanted it.  Or Paul for that matter, if you read his letters to the early church, that was just as divided, if not more so, than the one we have with us today.

Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, who loved Him very much, refused to believe in His resurrection until he saw it with his own eyes, and felt with his own hand, the resurrected body of His saviour.  Most Christians focus on the admonition that Jesus appeared to give when He said, in response to Thomas’ skepticism, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed,” translated roughly as, “shut up and believe what you’re told and don’t ask silly questions.”  What most of us miss is that Jesus did offer evidence to Thomas in response to his skepticism and doubt. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”  Jesus then went on to perform many “signs” for His disciples, which weren’t recorded, according to John, even though, presumably, they already believed themselves, or at least, were too afraid to ask after Thomas’ doubts had irked Him.

Some of us are reaching out our hands, and poking our finger in places, seeing, and testing, our own faith.  Jesus didn’t turn Thomas away, and He won’t turn you away either if you seek answers to questions that, you too, as a Christian today, may have.  It took great courage for Thomas to stand in front of his Master, with the other disciples looking on, shaking their heads, to ask for proof.  For evidence.  For an explanation. Thomas touched the body of the resurrected Jesus, the hand of God, and while it may comfort some to rely simply on hearsay, rumour, or faith, God reveals His truth to those who ask questions as much as He does to those who seek Him through faith alone.  For some, those answers come at the small end of a telescope, as much as they ever did from scripture.

Sometimes, the answers, when we find them, bring us closer to God, and to heaven, as we reach out our hand to Him.  Remember that, the next time you reach for that cupcake.

The Skeptical Disciple

The Unbelievable God


What is the nature of our God?  Modern Christians refer to Jesus as the Christ, or Saviour, the Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Emmanuel (or “God with us”), the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Good Shepherd, and a host of other regal, holy, and elevated noble titles.  We picture Him in many ways, as the gentle redeemer, a lost lamb draped over His shoulder (reminiscent of Kriophoros and our collective Hellenistic heritage), dressed in white robes with a beaming smile and brilliant blue eyes, long hair and a halo that seems to emanate from His head, to depictions of His suffering on the cross, bloodied, broken, wearing a crown of thorns, nearly naked and helpless.  We recall the miracles witnessed by His disciples, and picture a healer, a teacher, a fisherman, and carpenter.  It’s easy to fall in love with this image of Him, and many do, and have, and many find comfort in these depictions of Jesus, but how well do we really know Him?

Historically, we know so very little about Him, and what we think we know, comes from scripture written, not by people who knew or even met Him, but by people who heard about Him – in many cases, decades, if not generations after His death. We have no physical description of Him, although the world’s cathedrals, churches and art galleries are full of artistic representations of Him, usually depicting one or more aspects of His character in the absence of any real idea about what He looked like.  Most of what He taught, or we think He taught, survives in parables, in accounts written in the gospels incorporated into the canon of the New Testament, a collection of narratives written at different times (the earliest, Mark, being composed some 30 years after the death of Jesus, and the last, John, about 70-80 years afterward), jotted down on animal skins in a foreign language, in different places, by unknown anonymous authors (despite the names given to the gospels themselves, the true authors of these works may never be known, and they most likely drew upon earlier, even more obscure sources).

Despite the mystery of Jesus as a historical figure, the gospels do provide us with a fascinating, and in the modern sense, an outlandish and implausible story. Jesus, we are told, was born to a young virgin mother, Mary, who was engaged to a much older man who had other children by a previous marriage, Joseph, who had to be persuaded to marry her by the intervention of an angel.  The birth of their son occurred while the unfortunate couple were on a return journey after checking in with their hometown for a census, and for want of accommodation arrangements, were forced to have the child among the livestock in a stable under the watchful eye of sheep herders.  We’re told however, that Persian Magi, or wise men, kingly figures of sorts, were directed to the site, after having seen a star in the sky, and making the necessary enquiries of the ruling monarch at the time, King Herod, tipping him off to a potential rival, they then provided the young child and His family with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (substances traditionally used, incidentally, during death and burial rituals at the time – dramatic foreboding as it’s referred to in all the best literary genres). The child grows up, and becomes a carpenter, leading a quiet, at least unreported life, until about the age of thirty.

Jesus encounters John, a baptist on the fringe, and a family friend of sorts, their mothers having been acquainted with each other, and Jesus endorses his radical movement by submitting Himself to the ritual of baptism.  He gathers unto Himself several disciples, twelve we’re told, and embarks upon a mission of healing, preaching, and miracle working.  His followers form a motley group, and include mostly fishermen, and notoriously, a Roman collaborator (a tax collector).  Jesus quickly gained a reputation for healing and preaching to the marginalized in His society, and was known to have encountered prostitutes, Roman oppressors, lepers, the deranged, invalids, the sick, and the poor, among whom He performed miracles of healing, food distribution, exorcisms, and resurrections.  He’s also noted for having had the ability to walk on water, tame the weather, turn water into wine, and was rather handy at fishing and multiplying the day’s catch exponentially.  Despite warnings to the benefactors of His miracles not to say anything to anyone about them, His popularity, and notoriety, quickly grew.

Three years into His mission, Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest disciples, Judas Iscariot, who turned Him over to the Temple Priest in Jerusalem in return for some quick cash.  Jesus had been wanted on charges of seditious activities, having breached the peace in the Temple just days earlier during its busiest time of year – the Jewish Passover holiday. The city had been under Roman control for some time, and the penal system fell under their jurisdiction, and Jesus was appropriately turned over to the Roman magistrate, the governor at the time, Pontius Pilate, who ordered that Jesus be dispatched by way of crucifixion, a common sentence for non-Roman criminals, and threats to the Pax Romana. The followers of Jesus, we’re told, went into hiding, and denied ever having known Him, after having been His followers for three years, and dining with Him just three days earlier. Jesus was dispatched on the outskirts of town, and was then buried in the family tomb, which, as it turns out, was found to be empty some time later.

Evidently, Jesus had died, and been resurrected, and He was reported to have been seen by women loitering near His tomb, by several, if not all, of His disciples (some of whom had apparently gone back to fishing), a couple of travellers on the way into town, and a crowd of about five hundred people.  After hanging around for a few weeks as a convicted felon on the run, He ascended into heaven, with what some believed was a promise to return.  Most of His followers languished in obscurity, until, a Jewish citizen of Rome, who’d persecuted them, had a change of heart, and went on a road trip to establish a network of cells that he sought to radicalize with his new message.  The money poured in, but on the way back to Jerusalem, Paul was arrested, taken back to Rome, and was similarly dispatched by the authorities on the charge that he was a troublemaker.  In short order, many of Paul’s cohorts, including James (Jesus’ brother), and Peter (one of the fishermen who’d become an early adopter and organizer), also met their untimely demise, either by stoning, or public crucifixion.

Remnants of the “Jesus movement” continued to survive in small pockets for many years, under suspicion that they were incestuous cannibals (eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their boss), fire bugs, and were otherwise anti-social (particularly absent from the holidays), until their fortunes changed dramatically when Constantine, a new Roman emperor, officially sanctioned the movement after attributing a military coup to a “vision” that corresponded to it’s symbolism. Under the emperor’s governance and influence, diverse and radically differing views on the new “religion’s” dogma were ironed out, and the “church” became incorporated into Roman society, and grew accordingly as a result of the endorsement of the powers that were. Stories about Jesus were consolidated, edited for doctrinal appropriateness, and were incorporated into a canon of literature which formed the basis for the early church’s marching orders.  The church, ironically, survived the fall of the empire that had sustained it, albeit at the sacrifice of its homogeneity, and would, in time, fracture into a multitude of sectarian denominations, many of which survive to this day.

So how on earth did this man, Jesus, an obscure felon slapped with the death penalty, become the God worshipped today by nearly seven billion people?  Many of Jesus’ early followers believed that He was a messianic figure, a promised champion, who would restore them to freedom and release them from the oppression of occupation.  Some believed, then, and subsequently, that He was the messiah, not just a liberator for the Jews, but for all mankind, freeing us from the oppression of “sin,” reuniting us with God in a new pact based on forgiveness and His sacrifice as God’s only begotten son.  Some even believed, fervently, that He would return to finish the job, many of whom were sadly disappointed, when the Romans put down their revolts and razed their temple (ironically rebuilt by Herod, and still under construction), and city, to the ground, slaughtering all resistance (the second such unfortunate defeat of this kind, the first having been at the hands of the Babylonians several centuries earlier, resulting in the wholesale enslavement of the Jews for centuries). Rome was eventually usurped by the new faith, not by force, but by incorporation.

So what kind of messiah was this this man, this God, we know today as Jesus Christ? Throughout the faith’s history over the last two thousand or so years, many events, including wars, famines, plagues, and revolutions have seemingly warranted the belief that His return was imminent, at least according to prophetic interpretations of His seemingly reluctant role as liberator, returning, as it were, to establish a kingdom of His own in the place of such chaos and suffering.  Some have been so bold as to claim title to this kingdom, only to be met with failure, and often a swift dispatch of their own. Apart from some mentally perturbed accounts by dubious and desperate witnesses, discredited by failed “end of the world” prophecies of their own, there’s been no sign of Him, other than the faith we’ve institutionalized and integrated into our culture and society that bears His name.  His principle edicts were hardly radical, in ancient times, or now, being simply that we should love God, and each other, and that through forgiveness, rather that retribution, we could find salvation from our shortcomings, being, as it happens, all fishermen in the same boat.  So why do so many of us turn to Him in prayer, and believe and accept that He is our God? What, if anything, did He really “save” us from?

Perhaps the answers aren’t as clear cut as we’d like them to be, and in many ways, the whole story of Christianity is one big, mysterious parable.  Jesus was a radical, a reluctant revolutionary, who’s ministry consisted mainly of efforts to embrace outsiders and the disenfranchised, the marginalized, within a system that itself was in collaboration with imperial corruption and domination.  He was a Jew, living in an occupied homeland, with a social status that at best, barely got Him inside the gates of the holy temple, the place where God was believed to be directly accessible, at least by the High Priest once a year, on Passover. His contemporaries were not necessarily so fortunate.  Jewish purification rituals prevented the sick, the lame, and the “unclean,” from a direct relationship with God, and if you were a Gentile, a Roman, or worse, a Samaritan, you were written off completely.  Sure, you could worship other gods if you were so inclined, and many did, but you didn’t get access to the God of gods, the One God.  Jesus must have known that He’d be nailed for what He tried to do, and that deed, simply put, was to tear down the barriers to the divine so that God could be known by everyone, regardless of whether or not you were a Jew, “pure,” “clean,” or devout.  He ate with sinners, associated with prostitutes and low-lifes, and He brought God to the streets, where He was needed most, in a time when He was held hostage as much by His Roman oppressors, as He was within the walls of His own temple. He did it without killing anyone, and instead, sacrificed Himself, reluctantly to be sure, believing that we are all the son’s and daughters of God.  He came to fulfill the covenants of a people with their God, and more – He expanded it to all mankind, not just to a “chosen” few.

Many Christians maintain that Jesus is their saviour, and that through His death and resurrection, we’re saved from sin, and through Him, have the promise of everlasting life. His life and death have entered into legend, in profound ways, and His teachings, though at times obscured and distorted, still resonate with us today.  He makes us think about the possibility of a society based on fairness, mercy, love, forgiveness, and an inclusive, pluralistic and compassionate “kingdom” based on a profound respect for the fact that we are all each others’ brother or sister. He challenges us to know God, in ways that we never could before, and above all, to remember how valued and loved we are by Him. So, while we worship an executed criminal, we at least have resurrected His radical suggestion that love and forgiveness are viable, if not challenging, alternatives to violence and revenge, in the course of human affairs, and in our relationship with our creator.  If anything, these ideals have done more to rescue us from our true oppressor than any messiah imagined by the ancients ever could have – and the truth of them have made us free to embark upon the incredible undertaking of building the kingdom we have yearned for throughout much of our history, the last two thousand years of which, have brought many of us into a closer relationship with God, and with each other, in a uniquely personal, and profound way.

Whatever your theology, dogma, or religious beliefs surrounding Jesus, one thing is for sure, His story, no matter how far-fetched, continues to capture the imagination, and the hearts, of many who encounter it.

It’s a story that says as much about us, and our capacity for faith, as it does about Him.

The Unbelievable God

Are You a Religious Ignoramus?


Walking into a church once a week, (or in many cases, much less frequently), raising your arms in the air in praise to the sound of hymns, shouting “Amen” in agreement with your preacher, and flipping through your Bible like an unthinking robot, doesn’t make you spiritual, or religious, nor does it necessarily make you a faithful “man (or woman) of God.” There is nothing righteous about hypocrisy, ignorance, intolerance, or willful blindness, and if you’re too busy raising your hands in the air to point it out when you see it, or recognize it within yourself, or your church, something has gone terribly wrong. You might walk away with a false sense of arrogant piety, and if you think that’s going to save your soul, you might be in for a sad disappointment.

In my religion, as a Christian, I find there’s a lot of noise about the faith – zealous preachers, multimedia laser light shows, overhead projectors streaming scripture to the sound of teenagers belting out “I love Jesus” songs on their electric keyboards, and that’s great and wonderful to see – but I wonder sometimes if many of us have been blinded by the lights, and have dimmed down our real faith as a result, having placed more emphasis on the medium lately, and our own propaganda, than on the message. Worship is central to our faith, but what are we really worshipping? In the modern age, why are so many Christians willing to be spoon fed dogma in shopping mall styled churches? Religion has always been big business, but is there something more to our acceptance of branded faith than just the mere cynicism that comes with living in the modern age? Has the church become a sanctuary for ignorance, even from the true roots and nature of its own faith, relegated to the role of moral policing and conservatism?

Some Christian movements are louder than others, have amassed armies of volunteers, lobbyists, and hold considerable power and resources – and some seem to put more energy into fighting evolutionists, bashing gays, justifying slavery, condemning science, or finding Biblical justification for using corporal punishment with their kids, than they do in educating themselves when it comes to the Bible, the faith’s history, and some of its very dubious and doubtful sources. Studies reveal, for instance, than many Christians have never read the entire Bible, let alone refer to it more than a few times a year, but hang on to their beliefs steadfastly, despite having never examined the origin of their belief for themselves, let alone subject their prejudices to scrutiny of any kind. How does that make anyone “Godly?” It doesn’t, anymore than reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, or singing “Onward Christian Soldier,” does.

Claims that the Bible is the absolute literal Word of God, inspired or otherwise, outright dismissal of scientific discovery when it contradicts it, and using the vulnerable in our society as scapegoats for our own ignorance is both wrong, and about as far away from God as you can get. We may not like His answers, but they’re written as much in the cosmos, in our DNA, and in our story of human evolution, as in the Book that most of us have never read, and for the most part, conveniently relegate to the coffee table most of the time. Science is also an authoritative gospel, or good news, and one that does not rely on rhetoric, propaganda, or hypocrisy for its sustainability as a reliable testament to truth. How will we know if God is finished speaking to the human experience if our eyes and ears are closed, and our hearts are filled with piety and a disdain for science, discovery and truth? Are we really that concerned that He’ll disappear if our notion of God is exposed to the light of reason?

The Bible is full of stories that revolve around moral dilemma’s, replete with flawed characters struggling to find redemption in the face of challenging circumstances and choices.  It reflects values and beliefs, many of which are just as valid today as they were when they were first set down in the ancient scrolls that form the basis of this remarkable library, that have come to form the core of the world’s major religions, culture, and societies. Over time, that library has been added to, consistently, repeatedly, and with each revision, edition, and elaboration, our understanding of our God, and ourselves, has been expanded. That process didn’t end two thousand years ago.  We continue to add to the story, and we expand our interpretation and contextual understanding of what it has to offer us.  When the noise gets in the way of the signal, it’s time to adjust the frequency.

Using the Bible to justify persecution, war, violence, arrogance, promote hatred, or to police morality, invoking it as the “Word of God,” as an authoritative absolute and definitive end to inquiry, is an arrogant, and dangerously ignorant use of the treasure contained in this timeless tome.  Cherry picking chapter and verse from the Bible to support a moral judgment or condemnation against an individual or group, to marginalize them, or suppress dissent, isn’t just a misuse of the Bible, it’s also naively childish.  It’s the kind of “noise,” we can do without.  It’s the kind of noise, that if left unchecked, can lead to war, atrocities, genocide, and injustice – and there is absolutely nothing Godly in that.

My God is big enough to include real science, reason, experiment, real debate, and isn’t threatened by Darwin, gays, stem cell research, quantum mechanics, scientific discovery, or the truth.  He doesn’t need a host of PR men, cheerleaders, or slick advertisements, and He doesn’t speak to me through propaganda, over loudspeakers with the Gaither trio in the background.  My God is bigger than that.

Is yours?

Are You a Religious Ignoramus?

God’s Not Dead. The Age of Reason Is.


Not long ago, I spent an evening watching this “Christian” drama flick (directed by Harold Cronk, starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A. R. White and Dean Cain).

At first glance, I thought that perhaps it might have been a film that dealt with Nietzsche’s philosophical challenge to absolute moralism, and the film’s premise, at least as I inferred from its title, might have had some intellectual capital behind it.

The movie opens with a challenge by a tyrannical and belligerent college professor to his philosophy students, one of whom accepts and must persuade his class by way of a series of twenty minute debates that in fact, “God’s Not Dead,” or fail the grade. The scene begins to unfold under the classroom’s blackboard, on which appear the names of several renowned atheists, scientists, and philosophers, such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene, etc.), Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, Ayn Rand, and others.

The student proceeds to argue, among other things, that the Bible “got it right” when comparing cosmological inflation theory to creationism as described in Genesis, using references to Steven Weinberg, a world renowned physicist, Nobel laureate, and a strong supporter of Israel in order to persuade his audience that science seems to support scripture, at least in this instance (the Big Bang). Despite the obvious discrepancies between the two theories, I found it fascinating that this method of “reasoning” continued to pervade throughout the rest of the film. The clincher argument employed by the student comes near the film’s climax, when he confronts his professor with his contempt and hatred for a God that he does not believe in. After all, how can you hate something, or someone, that doesn’t exist? Or so the premise goes. (Personally, I hate dragons and unicorns, albeit in the complete absence of any evidence of their existence – the mere fact that I do so, does not necessitate their reality).

After winning over his classmates, the student’s professor meets his unfortunate end by being hit by a car, ministered to by two “pastors” who, by the miracle of their rental car finally starting, have arrived on scene just in time to bring him to Jesus as he bleeds out on the pavement in front of them. The film also includes dramatizations of a young Muslim runaway girl, who is banished from her family home for reading the New Testament and declaring her faith, who is then subsequently consoled with a box of kleenex while seeking refuge at church. She’s joined by the professor’s estranged parter who leaves him, unable to tolerate his atheistic non-belief and demeaning attitude toward her implied ignorance. As though that wasn’t enough, a heartless “atheist” employer fires his young female apprentice after learning that she has terminal cancer – what a cruel and evil bunch they must be! He gets his due however, when his aging mother, who suffers from dementia, reminds him in a prophetic trance, that his “success” is due to his benefactor, Satan.

Happily however, all the Christians are reunited, newly “saved” and old alike, (with the exception of the deceased professor of course,) at a Christian rock concert hosted by the NewsBoys, who of course, play their latest hit, “God’s Not Dead.” For good measure, the student is rewarded for his victory with a personal greeting from Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. *quack*

The film was produced on a $2 million budget and grossed $62 million as of late summer of this year, which is astounding considering that when it was critically panned, the film ranked a mere 16 out of 100. Proof perhaps, that consumers are still quite willing to pay for propaganda, even when it’s done poorly.

In my humble opinion, the film does nothing to add to theological understanding, towards any faith, promotes stereotypical views and interpretations, blatantly misrepresents science (while attempting to use same to bolster some pretty ridiculous claims), and really never addresses the fundamental statement from which it takes its title. As a “feel good” rallying cry for the growing evangelical revivalist movement, it doubtless has been an outstanding success, but apart from preaching to the choir, I sincerely doubt that it’s a message that adds anything to an already volatile debate between reason and religion.

God’s Not Dead. The Age of Reason Is.

The End is Near! Again!


Far be it for me to argue with scripture, (although I have been known to do that from time to time), but our culture’s apocalyptic fascination with the “end times” and the end of things seems a bit depressing, if you ask me (and you haven’t, but that’s alright – my page – my post). Whether it’s apocalyptic preachers invoking their vision of John’s Revelation in response to the latest catastrophe, war, or famine, or scientists and environmentalists trumpeting the consequences of melting ice sheets and plastics clogging the world’s oceans, the message of doom seems to resonate with many of us. Our apocalyptic imaginations rival those of Daniel and John in the modern age, and for good reason. (If you haven’t read your Bible yet, you might want to check it out – after all, it could be your last chance before “the end.”)

Yes, it’s true – today, mankind has, at his disposal, the capability to destroy himself, and every living thing within this solar system. We’ve had that power, more or less, since we learned how to light a camp fire. We’re at risk, continuously, from our own politics, economic greed, predisposition towards violence and conflict, not to mention natural threats, whether earth based or from cosmic sources. Humanity exists on the head of a pin. It always has. This understanding terrifies us. Mortality terrifies us – collectively, and individually. Humans have a unique relationship with death – having knowledge of its inevitability – we have a personal relationship with the grim reaper, a social relationship with mortality (and the rituals that accompany it), and a spiritual relationship with death throughout our history, the “soul.” We run from it, hide from it, put makeup over it, bury it six feet under our lives, build pyramids and staircases to heaven to usurp it, and we surrender much of our life to an obsession with it. Having eaten from the tree of knowledge, we’re forever chasing the magic fruit of immortality from the tree of life – oblivious, for the most part, that we ARE that life. In our quest for eternity, the “everlasting,” we can’t wait for it all to be over with, and soon, and we’re prepared to kill each other for it.

For the first time in history, our human history, we also have the knowledge, means, and technology to counter the imminent and persistent threat of extinction – a fate suffered by nearly all living things that have preceded man since life was first cradled here on earth (yes, some four and a half billion years ago – at least according to the scripture written in the earth itself beneath your feet, corroborated, in part, by the DNA you share with all life, contained your own genes (the human genome being smaller and substantially less complex than the genome for common rice, as it happens, but I digress)). A doomsayer culture can be a double edged sword, however. On the one hand, it draws attention to the threat, real threats – while on the other, it tends to be a fatalistic response to them (and like all good prophesies, becomes a self fulfilling one) – it’s an abdication of responsibility, and of hope, at least when it comes to the life that already is you (the prospect being somewhat remedied by the notion that a ready and waiting replacement is available on some un-earthly plane). In the simplest sense, wishing for the “end,” based on some notion that a post-apocalyptic world, or heaven, will somehow be a better option than trying to fix the one we already have, seems absurd to me, Biblically, religiously, spiritually, scientifically, morally, and it defies all sensibility – seventy-two virgins for every martyr, or not. It’s a form of assisted suicide that’s cowardly, based on a notion that somehow, the end to suffering is justified by the ending of everything, and that you’ll be rewarded accordingly if you execute the right escape clause or happen to have joined the right church (a Biblical literary notion echoed repeatedly throughout scripture – the “this is messy, let’s start over” story found in the “fall” in Eden, the “flood,” and of course, the crucifixion and resurrection – mirroring nearly perfectly the peculiar history of a people who in turn, faced many “do overs,” not to mention incarnations and resurrections of their national identity). At its worst, it gives credence and legitimacy to idealogical and religious wars that account for a very large proportion of the suffering that many of us are now desperate to escape from, an insanity sanctioned by some kind of “divine plan” that you hope to be on the right side of when the smoke clears. Meanwhile, those who pull the fire alarm, write books about it, fear monger us, preach ignorance and intolerance to us from the pulpits, sell bomb shelters, bullets and missiles, are getting rich on the dime of our fearful imaginations and the spectre of horrors we’re all too familiar with already.

Do we need a revolution? An overthrow of “Biblical” proportion? Assisted by horsemen and angels, stealth bombers, or otherwise? Maybe. Maybe that revolution needs to take root in the breaking of the seals of our own thinking. We live in a world where political and economic domination, war, hunger, inequity, slavery, and poverty exist – a world not much different than the one John himself lived in when he sat down to write about his vision of the apocalypse – a world that for him, and many like him, seemed inescapable without divine intervention. The real revelation he had was that changing it all is going to mean that we need to go to battle with these aspects of our human experience. Christianity didn’t conquer Rome by war, it did so by the spread of ideas and the institutionalization of love and charity.  Jesus just wasn’t that kind of Messiah, and He, unlike many of his contemporary apocalyptic messianic proponents who led thousands to their doom in futile and misguided revolts, Jesus was and remains a Prince of Peace, and never led anyone else into slaughter, despite His own sacrifice for us. Crouching in the corner of your church every Sunday, betting that you’ll be “raptured” before things get too messy, with the Bible clutched in your hand, might seem like a reasonable thing to do if you’re devout, but until then, the rest of us are fighting a different battle – a fight against the darkness of ignorance, fear, and for redemption through reason, action, and a morality based on peace, and respect for life. All life – regardless of what book it’s holding, what colour it comes in, or how or whom it decides to love.

We’re reaching out to the stars, exploring other worlds, reaching deep into the secrets of life itself, understanding, for the first time, how and why we came to be – what we CAN be, and we’re delving deep into the mysteries of time, and the nature of the physical universe, and we see there, hope, great hope, that we’ll evolve beyond our brutish beginnings, and rise to the challenges that limit us, to transcend them, and reach even further in this, beautiful, awesome and immense “heaven” that we are already a part of and continue to awaken to, and evolve within. It’s a “heaven” we’ve only recently grown into – much larger, vaster, and more mysterious than ever imagined by our ancient ancestors – bequeathed to us through an amazing dance of complexity, and luck, over eons of time – in such awe are we, that even our very notion of “God” seems paltry in comparison to the revelation that the prophets of science have provided us with (and if you do believe in God, you must admit, He’s certainly a LOT bigger than Moses could have discerned on the mountain – a burning bush that is not consumed is awesome, but a burning universe that is not consumed is absolutely mind blowing). Are these the end times? I hope so. The end of ignorance, of inequity, poverty, racism, slavery, the end of madness. The end of fear.

It may be, that one day, soon, our world will indeed end. Extinctions, as I said, happen all the time, and we’re by no means exempt from this rule, at least not just yet – but many of us believe we can change that. Looking to blood moons in the sky, labelling anyone from the Pope to Castro as the prince of darkness, and pointing to our own reckless abuse of the planet as “signs” of impending doom worthy of us abdicating all sense of reason isn’t going to help us clean up our mess as a species, or help it evolve beyond its own limitations – let alone fulfill any “divine” plan. Running back to our medieval caves, selling off the farm, and waiting on hilltops with signs strapped around our bodies proclaiming the end is near isn’t just ridiculous, it’s an abdication to ignorance – a surrender to darkness. It’s a cop out, an escape, and a cheap excuse to tolerate evil and abuses that can, and should, be remedied by man, while leaving our notion of the divine to wipe the evolutionary slate, and the planet, clean. “We’re saved, so we don’t have to do anything but wait for the rapture,” is not a legitimate, let alone loving, response to any of humanity’s earthly challenges or sufferings. I don’t want people like that in my idea of heaven. And if we do face our end, I’m not going to help you do it, and frankly, I don’t want you “helping” me or my friends get there sooner either.

Can we cure disease? Overcome poverty? Create a sustainable future for ourselves, and our planet? Can we harness energy without destroying our environment? Can we live longer, much, much longer? Can we put people on other planets, and live there too, amongst the heavens? I think so. I know so. It’s within our reach, our understanding, and our grasp, right now, right here. There are still powerful forces that hold us back, antiquated belief structures, biases, prejudice, and ignorance, mostly of our own making and tolerance, but we can, and have, overcome those in our growth as a species, and we will continue to do so. Some institutions, religions, governments and corporations are going to be threatened with this idea, and will have the hardest of times adapting to change, changes that must come, and that won’t be pretty, to be sure. Does it mean you won’t have God anymore? Or be able to enjoy a nice cold Coca Cola on the beach? No. Of course not. What it does mean is that for the first time in humanity’s brief history, you’ll have a choice. You’ll always be free to be ignorant, at least until it kills you. Being free to learn, to understand, and to think – now that’s something worthy of our hope, and it’s a freedom now available to every man, woman, and child within reach of a book, a keyboard, or television – within reach of technology, technology that allows that freedom to reach beyond it’s own limitations. Until very recently in the human experience, knowledge, wisdom, even having access to the written word, has been coveted and controlled by a few, made powerful by virtue of it’s exclusion from the majority – the mysterious fire that now illuminates all of our lives, within reach of our fingertips. The universe is sharing its story with us all, and we’re a part of it. Will you open that book as well, before it’s too late?

Heresy, you say? Maybe, but I’m in good company. Newton, Galileo, Darwin, and even Jesus Himself, were all heretics in their own time. We’ve outlawed, persecuted, burned and nailed to crosses far too many of them in our struggle to hold onto the very madness that we seek salvation from. What greater evil to man, or to God, can there be than the deliberate, willful, and perilous embrace of ignorance, the persecution of truth, the demonization of discovery, or the invocation of suicide through divine extinction, provoked or otherwise by jealousy or some “sin” injurious to some omnipotent eternal entity, of a whole species in the name of it’s “God”? Any species willing to carry out such a plan, in my opinion at least, isn’t worthy of evolving further, in this world, or any other – divine “do-overs” excepted, but I wouldn’t count on it. Maybe it’s time we stopped nailing our modern day healers, teachers, revolutionary thinkers and heretics to a cross. The Book of Revelation may have been a comfort to early Christians who felt persecuted and oppressed, and to some who still feel that way today, but the game has changed now with the prophesies of the likes of Albert Einstein, Oppenheimer, and the events over Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  God’s kingdom won’t be built on those ashes.  Nothing will.  Don’t want to invite me to your church picnic? I can understand that, but, it’s not the end of the world.

For my part, I certainly don’t want someone who wishes it’d all end in a silent puff of smoke, with angels looking on, holding the briefcase with the red buttons as a divine souvenir, watching my back, or looking out for my soul. Neither, really, do you.

The End is Near! Again!

Speaking in Tongues? Or Babbling Idiots?


Complex language sets us apart from the animals (dolphins, whales, and signing chimps being exceptions to the general rule), and has been central to the development of our society, its civilizations, and our survival as a species. Language allows us to communicate, convey information, and to understand that information, and pass it on. There are about 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, reflecting the diversity of our culture and our history. Recently I witnessed, first hand, what some suggest, might be an un-worldly language, being spoken in some halls of worship. It’s called “speaking in tongues,” or more properly, glossolalia. To believers, it’s a sacred language, and is commonly heard in the Pentecostal and “charismatic” Christian community, and is usually attributed to the Holy Spirit, and as some believers claim, is evidence of the speaker’s baptism in the faith and their receipt of the gift of prophesy.

There are five places in the gospels where the phenomenon is referred to specifically, namely Mark 16:17, in Acts 2:3, 10:46 and 19:6 in Acts, and in 1 Corinthians (12, 13, 14), and it’s inferred with references in Isaiah 28:11, Romans 8:26 and in Jude. Glossolalia is not unique to the Christian faith, it’s also found in Haitian Voodoo, and in Indian Hinduism, as well as throughout paganism, shamanism and in cult practices involving the use of mediums who claim to be in communication with the “spirit” realm. Proponents of the practice claim that the phenomenon is an indicator that the speaker is in possession of a spiritual gift, the instrument of a Holy intercession, and as such, it should be taken as a sign of spiritual authority, prophetic ability, and should be taken to indicate an attestation of the individual’s faith within their worship group. For charismatic evangelists, glossolalia is a sign for unbelievers that they too may believe and be inspired, touched if you will, by the Holy Spirit. Interpreting this otherwise undecipherable speech is also, accordingly, viewed as a spiritual gift (the art of telling someone what they said and didn’t say being employed in decipherable language even more commonly, as any married soul might tell you). In short, speaking in tongues, we’re told, is “evidence” of the Holy Spirit (usually manifested during charismatic sermons or in front of a television camera for the benefit of viewers in more modern times, filtered through wireless microphones and loudspeakers).

Far be it for me to argue with the Holy Spirit, but I think Paul had quite another thing in mind when he referred to speech in his epistles, and that it more sensibly, had to do with translating and sharing the “good news” so that he, and his followers, could reach beyond the Hellenistic audience of his time. Early Christianity was a diverse bunch, spread out over vast geography, with many variations of the fledgling faith taking form. They were already, even in infancy, beguiled by cultural differences, language barriers, and sectarianism, in a historical context of social change and upheaval. I mean no disrespect to those who believe that glossolalia is a legitimate spiritual phenomenon, but I would suggest that it also can be misused as a theatrical device by over zealous charismatics, and in a darker way, used as method of consolidating hierarchical control of “believers,” and as a method of group brainwashing (after all, if YOU don’t speak in tongues, then you obviously aren’t one of us, and therefore cannot be trusted as the Spirit isn’t upon you – ostracism and excommunication). Speaking in tongues, whether legitimate or not, can also be used, if given credence by the listener, to bolster wild interpretations of scripture, as the gift of glossolalia, by implication, would suggest authority granted to the individual by the Holy Spirit to interpret them in accordance with divine intention. Being privy to the language of the spirit realm, a language that requires interpretation by its very nature, goes a long way to persuading the naive that you’re on the right side of the heavenly discourse. In some cases, I would go so far as to suggest that glossolalia can just as much be an indicator of mental illness as that of spiritual robustness – you may just as easily be a babbling idiot, from what I can tell.

Some churches have banned the practice of speaking in tongues, having realized that it tends to alienate the faithful more than it tends to embrace new believers, and runs contrary to a more intelligent use of scripture. I’m not against spirited, zealous, enthusiastic or charismatic expressions of faith, but I do believe that for the faith to endure in a healthy, credible, meaningful and integral way, glossolalia, or any other phenomenon, such as faith based healing, claims of miracle works, prophesying over the individual or congregation, the use of mediums, including pastors, to communicate with the “spirit world,” (whether it be through the Holy Spirit or otherwise), need to be examined under far more critical light, both within the context of scripture and dogma, and by way of basic reasoning and common sense (a gift from God that many faithful have come to neglect). Church leaders need to be careful to ensure, that in their zeal, their own tongues speak truth, in a language believers can understand, and interpret for themselves. No one want’s an idiot minding the flock, or fleecing it with mystical trickery.

The Holy Spirit isn’t some etherial celebrity that descends upon the faithful whenever there’s an open mic in hand on Sunday morning. It’s the spirit of holiness, of God (YHWH), the divine aspect of wisdom, or the “force” and influence of the divine in the world – more like what Yoda understood, with his invocation of, “May the force be with you.” Christians interpret this divine spirit as the “Holy Ghost,” being a third divine “person” of the Trinity, or “triune” God, manifested in much the same way that Jesus was God manifest in man, sometimes metaphorically represented as a dove, or flame. There are over ninety references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and most of them play key roles in Paul’s letters to the early church community. The Holy Spirit is also mentioned in the synoptic gospels, present in Luke, for example, prior to the birth of Jesus, having come upon Mary. Mark refers to it specifically, and suggests that in time of need, the disciples of Jesus, when lost for words, should seek inspiration from it. God speaks through all of us, at many times in our life, but the inspired Word is given reverence, and we’re admonished not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, at our peril, it being an unforgivable sin to do so. Above all, the Holy Spirit, is a spirit of truth, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self discipline. To diminish it, though babbling, incoherent, unintelligible and cryptic speech, as part of an exercise of showmanship or self-aggrandizement, whether from the pulpit or the pew, reduces the Holy Spirit and reveals both an immaturity in the faith, and a lack of understanding of it. To me, that’s blasphemy.

The Holy Spirit, to me at least, acts in more direct and intelligible ways in the world, although, seemingly by way of familiar metaphors. Whether it’s the Holy Spirit’s action through water in baptism, anointing, transfiguration, the wind, peace, or in zealous charismatic oratory, the gifts of the Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and respect for God (a fear of the Lord). When the wind and tongues of fire rest over the heads of the apostles, ancient or modern, it’s more likely that God has something He wants to say to us, to you, and if you’re in the Spirit, you’ll be “inspired” by it. God speaks your language, whoever you are, or wherever you’re from, and He understands your words, in prayer, or otherwise. Perhaps that’s the real meaning of Paul’s message to the church in Corinth.

Speaking gobbledy-gook isn’t a sign for unbelievers, and it’s not a legitimate form of evangelism, and edification of either the speaker or the listener in the process diminishes the true gift of the Spirit. It may be that interpreting a strange hitherto unknown language is a gift to you, or to someone else, but if the Spirit is truly at work, it’ll bring counsel, wisdom and understanding, not confusion, jibberish, and ignorance. Is it the language of angels, overhead? Is it a prophetic utterance? A language reserved for those who are in receipt of a heavenly gift, bearing a message of God for a limited audience? Or is it a modern day response to a disillusioned church, struggling to find meaning through mysticism and spiritualism in all the wrong places. Jesus preached, and He spoke to us, not as a babbling idiot, but with wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and gave us divine counsel, peace, and hope, in a language we could hear, and understand. He didn’t need a microphone, television cameras, or a choir backing Him up. He spoke the truth, a truth we can still listen to, and hear, today. Paul’s zeal aside, it’s Christ’s message we really need to hear, and whatever way the Spirit guides to you that, is fine by me. If you’re prattling the Word with your blah-blah, double talk and drivel, trying to get me to listen to it through your mumbo-jumbo, hocus-pocus, I’m not sure I see the “good news,” in that.

Language is a gift, and it’s a precious one at that, and one that need not be perverted to oblivion for the sake of opening the door to confusion, misinterpretation, or manipulation by those who might seek to employ mysticism and superstition to effect or bolster their message, claiming sanction by God. Speak truthfully, so that all may hear. The Holy Spirit will find its way into those words, in whatever language you do understand.

Speaking in Tongues? Or Babbling Idiots?