Glossolalia or gibberish?

ADAM QUINNOpinion Columnist

I say Baptist and you think hellfire. I say Methodist and you think of a lazier Baptist. I say Catholic and you think smells-and-bells, Presbyterian and you think of the frozen chosen, Episcopalian and you wonder when I became so rich.

But when I say Pentecostal what do you think of? Do you think of snake handling or speaking in tongues? Or do you think of a small but growing number of Samford students who are sincerely and authentically expressing their faith in a slightly different but completely valid worship format?

Even though the Pentecostal presence at Samford has been steadily increasing in the last few years, many Samford students still seem to be uncomfortable with Pentecostal worship styles. Most of these students either do not know, do not understand or simply have not experienced the reason that Pentecostal worship incorporates elements such as speaking in tongues or an emphasis on the presence of the Holy Spirit.

John Michael Blackmon, a junior religion major who identifies with the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions at Samford, said, “I do believe the tradition has made other Samford students uncomfortable. I have found, in my personal conversations on the topic, that what makes students most uncomfortable with the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition is the fact that they know so very little about it.”

Blackmon said, “I have found some students who are genuinely interested in learning about the Pentecostal tradition, which is encouraging.”

The Pentecostal tradition in America grew out of the Holiness Movement of the 19th century and soon became one of the largest American Christian denominations. Today, many Pentecostals are related to the charismatic movement that began in the 1960s and has since influenced the way almost all Christians in America worship.

Pentecostals and charismatics believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts that early Christians practiced in the New Testament such as prophecy, speaking in tongues and miraculous healing. Just as on the day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues is a way to show the presence of the Holy Spirit, participate in worship with a congregation and in some traditions pray to God in the language of the Spirit.

However, to fully resolve the division between the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions and other Christian traditions at Samford, we need to have more than just an academic understanding of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements.

The Pentecostal tradition is about experiencing the spirit of God; in order to truly understand Pentecostal worship, it has to be experienced in person, without judgment, and with an open mind.

My challenge is this: find and attend a worship service from a Pentecostal or charismatic tradition either on Samford’s campus or in Birmingham this semester and discover the different ways Christians worship. Go seeking to experience worship on its own terms and with its own value. Ultimately, not only will it give you a new perspective on the worship of your tradition but it will also make this campus a more unified place.

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