A religious understanding
I love being handed leaflets in the street. If I’d saved every one I’ve ever been given I’d have thousands. Come to think of it, I must have handed out a few thousand socialist leaflets myself over the years. But it’s the more amateurish, home-made looking ones that fascinate me.
The brightly coloured ones on multi-folded squares of paper that were probably done on a 60’s home printing kit are the best. And if the person distributing them seems to be slightly embarrassed about handing them out that’s also a good sign. So when I was approached recently by a man in orange trousers with a fistful of leaflets and a large cross dangling from a piece of string, who had been standing next to a puddle in Luton town centre, I knew I was onto a winner.
“Just as Adam and Eve chose to believe in themselves so people since have been living and dying in exclusion from the tree of life,” it started. Magic! Pure poetry. But that was just the beginning. I turned to the back and read on. “…then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the spirit gave them utterance”. Wow, I thought. That’s what you call utterance.
“What’s this speaking in tongues all about?” I asked.
The man introduced himself as George. “If you’d like to experience communication with the holy spirit you can come to a meeting tonight,” he explained excitedly.
“Will you be speaking in tongues?”
“Yes,” he promised.
“What’s the purpose of that?”
George thought for a moment and referred me to another passage in his leaflet. “God wants us to identify with Jesus’ death in our place by being baptised, and receiving his life. When you receive this God immediately leads you in an unlearned prayer language.”
“I see,” but George knew I wasn’t convinced. He scanned the leaflet for a more relevant passage.
“It’s about our spiritual awakening,” he eventually offered.
“Do you have to speak in tongues for that?”
“Of course not, it’s a spiritual gift from God,” he explained patiently.
“So if I come to the meeting and you speak in tongues how will I know what you’re saying?”
He looked at me as if I were a bit dim. “The speaker himself won’t know the meaning of his actual words,” he explained. “So you won’t. You might think it sounds a bit like Swahili.”
“I don’t speak Swahili,” I confessed.
“No,” admitted George, “nor do I.”
“So it might be pointless,” I suggested. “A bit like the conversation we’re having now.”
George could see I was a lost cause. He was a patient man but my spiritual awareness was obviously not up to the standard required. “That’s it. The discussion’s over,” he snapped and stomped off back to his puddle.
So I’m no wiser about speaking in tongues than I was before. If you’re interested in finding out more for yourself though the meetings are in Luton on Wednesday nights, 7.30. Bring an interpreter – on second thoughts, don’t, that might confuse the issue.