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Ask the Patriarch 70
Faking It by Speaking in Tongues

from Beset by Doubt

To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.

I am writing to you as someone who needs advice and possibly help as well.

I am currently a member of a small rural evangelical church in the Florida panhandle. I regularly attend services, which are held three nights a week. I also admit that I do like the company of many of the members and do regard them as close and dear friends.

Here is the problem. Often, during our services, many of our members will suddenly seem to "lose control", and start shouting incoherently, waving their arms, jumping up and down, falling to the floor, and even bursting into tears. They say that the experience is not something that they can control, and they say it is overwhelming and ecstatic.

Because I do not want to feel left out or hurt anyone's feelings, I will join in and mimic their behavior, even though I really do not feel anything out of ordinary. It is like I am "faking it".

Is this right? Is it normal? Am I the only person who is doing this? I feel so alone and helpless.

Lately, I have started to have some very disturbing thoughts, including the possibility that I may be a closet skeptic or something. I have been told that such a thing is morally wrong but I am getting very confused and afraid now.

Yours

The Patriarch replies:

Dear Beset:

I find it strange that an apparently practicing Christian would write to me on this matter. But, even when I have doubts about the seriousness of a correspondent, I try to give a genuine answer.

For my own view on "speaking in tongues" see the question and answer at: On Speaking in Tongues. For a Christian view on the same issue, see the discussion on the article.

Quite simply, "speaking in tongues" as practiced by certain Christian denominations today is not "speaking in tongues" as reported to have been practiced in New Testament times. It is pure gibberish, and that is why it is so easy to fake it.

In my view, it is normal to pretend to be speaking in tongues, when you, as a believer, find yourself surrounded by others vociferously doing so. In fact, psychological tests have shown that in most situations, people tend to go along with a vocal majority, unless at least one person is brave enough to speak out.

I would not call "faking it" morally wrong. It is neither right nor wrong in this case. It is just acting in accordance with human nature. However, in the religious context of the church you belong to, what you are doing might very well be considered a sin.

I doubt you are the only one faking it. But quite frankly, I think you are attending the wrong church.

Be assured, the majority of Christian churches, even the majority of evangelical churches, do not practice "speaking in tongues." Very easily, even in the Florida panhandle, you can find alternative Christian churches which give you the same opportunities for getting together, meeting others, and participating in worship, without being forced to feel you are faking it.

But if you feel you are faking your Christian belief overall, and not just the speaking in tongues aspect, then it is time to reconsider faith. If you are seriously questioning your faith, then perhaps you are indeed on your way to becoming a skeptic.

Best wishes

Footnote:

  1. And you will understand why I am skeptical about the truth behind your question.