Monday, April 23, 2007

those churches where they roll around on the floor

Sometimes I tell personal stories and use jargon that make people respond to me as though they are kindly acknowledging my charismatic Pentecostal perspectives. That’s really funny to me because I’ve never been a part of a charismatic Pentecostal church service for more than a Sunday or two. I’m familiar with some of the “traditions” and expressions of that movement—about as familiar as I am with the African American church traditions.

What is interesting is how people often assume how their named traditions have informed my seeing the world. However, for me it has been different. I grew up in a buffered community where emotionalism was a misnomer for charismaticism. Generally nobody had any proof for what went on in “outsider churches”or traditions because no one ever went there. But there were always opinions about what happened in those churches when the rare topic emerged. It was experiences for which I had no words that drove me to begin looking for an expression for it. I’ve struggled to put language to the experience. I found some expression and language for these mystical experiences in the “charismatic dictionary” so to speak but not enough to snag me. I’ve heard about word of knowledge, prophetic utterance, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, holy laughter, slain in the spirit and holy rollers. After a bout of reading at a U of M library, I would begin talking about premonitions, extrasensory experience, centering, transcendental meditation, multiple personality disorder, shape shifting, projection.

As for the experiences.

At times it was as if a viewing window to the future opened and closed for me. Sometimes I would feel an emotion that was not my own but came from someone standing near me. Once I was with a friend when he spoke to me in voices other than his own voice. It was as though he was bleeping in and out of himself. Sometimes I could unexpectedly feel someone’s presence in a particular location of a campus of buildings and out of curiosity I would go to see and there he/she was.

Once after a period of time in a concerted search for language, two of my mentorees who had decided to leave the Mennonite church, approached me with a story they thought would shock me. They too were on a search of their own and had ended up in a church as they described—“Well, last night we randomly went to a church in town. And, you know those churches where they roll around on the floor. Well, we went up front at the end of the service and we were rolling on the floor too.”

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