Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Am A Sinner.

No Kendrick verses here though. No salacious secrets being revealed.

All over the internets today, black folks were in heated debates about Tyler Perry "laying hands" on Bishop T.D. Jakes. These are not the Lil Scrappy "put them paws on 'em" hands; instead, we're talking about praying hands.

These hands are those that are put upon on a person from another, also known as "the messenger" of God's word, so they can receive his message. Eh, that might not be the full message and if you're more "church-y" than me and can describe it better, feel free.

Anyway, there were two sides of the debate - one that thought Tyler is somewhat of a "messenger" even if he isn't a pastor and the other that thought this was all for show. For the sake of the story and my own thoughts, I'm going to focus on the latter side.

I grew up Catholic and thus, going to a Catholic church on Sundays. It is, like many people think, very quiet compared to a Baptist church or something like that.  I've never seen someone catch the "holy ghost" or "speak in tongues" in a Catholic church, but that's not to say people don't feel the "spirit."

The first time I saw/heard someone speak in tongue, I was a freshman in college. It was just before the Thanksgiving holiday and some of the girls wanted to do a group prayer for safe travels.  One of the girls was real religious and everyone knew it so it made sense that she'd lead the group in prayer.  I wasn't going home for the holiday but I thought it'd be nice to do it. A nice little group commenced and she got the prayer started.

About three to five minutes in (already too long for my taste because at the time, I'd never heard people pray that long), I hear her speaking but then she starts mixing in a, "Yesss, shabaya...ohhh bebabosia." No those aren't actual spellings but if you've ever heard someone speaking in tongues, you know the "words" I'm going for.

My first instinct? Laugh.  I got a very low chuckle in before I looked up and noticed I was the only one.  I quickly realized it was the speaking in tongues "thing" I'd heard about and since I was in school in Mississippi, this was a familiar notion to all the girls in the room (either Southern or Midwestern) and I better keep my giggles to myself.

She kept going for a few more minutes, both speaking regularly and speaking in tongue. I was long over the whole thing and was ready to get back to my room.  At the end of the prayer, the girl said that if anyone needed some additional prayer, she'd stick around. I saw her give it to one girl and also saw her trying to egg on some extra emotion so that she would then be able to lay hands on her. I assumed.

As I walked back to my room, one friend was like, "She always so extra." I didn't want to overstep anyone's religious bounds but I asked my friend if speaking in tongues and all that stuff was real because I'd never seen it before.  She replied, "Man, I don't know. I grew up around but I don't know."  That was that.

Let me speed this up some.  I tend to try and set a picture not realizing you might get bored. Just bare with me.

As the years went on, I saw more speaking in tongues and the laying hands on a person (complete with the recipient falling out into the waiting hands of ushers and deacons). I've never made any connection to that and after seeing it enough times, I pretty much came to the conclusion that I - me, just me and nobody else that I can speak for - thinks that it is an act.

There, I said it.  I don't understand how someone praying or preaching hard enough can result in some foreign "language." Some say it is God speaking through them.  How do they know that this is God's language?  And about the laying hands thing...yeah, no. After they've prayed and prayed, they tap the person needing prayer on the forehead and that person falls out. I mean, every time I see this, I roll my eyes in my head.  It isn't meant to be disrespectful to people's faith although I'm sure that's how it sounds (I'm reading it as I type and I know that's how it sounds).  My thought process just leads me in another direction: this is learned behavior.

Black churches have been around since...slavery.  I'm not sure what was going on then besides singing and intense - INTENSE - prayer but I know there was a lot of emotion involved. I don't know how speaking in tongues and laying hands started but I think it has been passed on from people simply...watching. If you were raised in a black church and had to go at last four times a week, you saw these things happening. So as you got older and Pastor encourages you to keep feeling the spirit, you can reach back into the mental vault and bring out what you saw growing up. That's how this cycle keeps going to me.

When I saw Tyler "lay hands" on Bishop Jakes, I thought, "Oh here they go." Now, I'm not a fan of Tyler Perry but I do believe that he is very in tune with his spiritual beliefs. That is a praying man right there and I'm not up for discussing that. However, I do feel that the excitement of the praying that was happening and the enormity of the Megafest moment added to their moment.  I'm not sure if either of them believed what they were doing in full but I am leery of thinking for them. Is that hypocritical to everything I've said? Perhaps but I'm okay with that for now.

By the way, I've talked to this with countless friends and associates who either say they've been through it or know someone who has. This is more than catching the spirit and crying and things like that because you get so into the prayer or worship. Some of them have tried to make me understand further but so far, nothing anyone has said has swayed my thoughts on it.

Let me say this and wrap it up: If this offended you, it wasn't my intent. I can't change how some of you may feel about this but my intentions were just to get out my feelings on this.  Religion and spirituality can be complicated and sometimes, complicated things is what this blog is all about.

Sometimes, it ain't even...simple.