TJ Luhrmann (remember her? Templeton grant awardee who likes to pretend religion is all sweetness and light?) is now defending speaking in tongues in the NY Times, with one concluding caveat.
Speaking in tongues still carries a stigmatizing whiff. In his book “Thinking in Tongues,” the philosopher James K. A. Smith describes the “strange brew of academic alarm and snobbery” that flickered across a colleague’s face when he admitted to being a Pentecostal (and, therefore, praying in tongues). It seems time to move on from such prejudice.
Why? It’s a silly practice…well, actually, I can see some virtue in the practice, but absolutely none in the rationalizations used for it. For instance, there are bits of this that I don’t object to, until the end.
What dawned on me in Accra is that speaking in tongues might actually be a more effective way to pray than speaking in ordinary language — if by prayer one means the mental technique of detaching from the everyday world, and from everyday thought [yes, isolating oneself in mindlessness], to experience God. [who says?]
She mentions other practices, like meditation to disengage from thought, and focusing and filling one’s minds with imaginary scenes from scripture. She left out the more obvious example, though: doo wop.
Obvious to me, anyway. Sha na na, sh-boom sh-boom.
There is something in our brains that connects with repetition and rhythms and sounds — it’s why music exists. It can feel good and it can even have physiological effects to remove ourselves from the world or to just soak in a mood, and I can sympathize with the idea that people find pleasure in it. But “to experience god”? No. That’s where Luhrmann goes off the rails. And it’s going to carry a “stigmatizing whiff” for as long as deluded apologists for religion continue to pretend it has anything to do with a god.
Her article is titled “Why We Talk in Tongues”. It doesn’t answer the question at all, and she never will as long as she’s looking for explanations in magic.