Tag Archives: Christians

Late Medieval People Speaking in Tongues

Introduction to the late-Medieval accounts of Christians speaking in tongues.

Medieval Hagiographa accounts are an important part of the christian narrative and have a special section in the Gift of Tongues Project. The Medieval doctrine of speaking in tongues demonstrate this practice has progressed from the fourth-century. However, Medieval literature is steeped in christian mysticism and often saturated with excessive miracles and witnesses of the supernatural. Many works are good, some bad, and others in between. One has to be conscious of discerning between what is real and myth within these documents. This is not an easy thing to separate. Even if a certain story is indeed myth, it plays an important role of story telling and teaching, reflecting the perceptions of that time. It should not be easily discounted. The stress here is to investigate with a sympathetic and cautious attitude.

The Christian Hagiography section in the Gift of Tongues Project is dependent on a number of sources. Two of them are by far the most prominent. The first one, The Legenda Sanctorum, was originally compiled from earlier sources around 1260 by Jacobus de Voragine. He was an Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa.(1)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08262b.htm This book soon evolved and settled into the name Legenda Aurea “because the people of those times considered it worth its weight in gold”.(2)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08262b.htm

Jacob de Voragine attempted to make short biographies of hand-selected Christian Saints and attached these personalities with a specific day in the year for remembrance. His biographies portrayed these Christian heroes in mythical proportions with sensational miracles and epic supernatural tales. These descriptions are a fanciful read, but these accounts cannot be taken as factual historical documents. Neither is it easy to discover where these perceptions were first established and how far back these thoughts go in history. However, it does reflect the theological, mystical and intellectual perceptions of the late-Medieval period. This is very helpful for the Gift of Tongues Project. Portions of their stories demonstrate how the late-Medieval Church and society understood the christian doctrine of tongues. Perceptions do not necessarily need to be right or real. They simply are what they are.

For a full history and debates about Legenda Aurea’s credibility, see the Catholic based New Advent website article: Legenda Aurea.

Legenda Aurea was constantly being updated, translated and distributed throughout Christendom. By 1450, with the aid of the printing press, the Legenda Aurea began to outnumber the Bible in editions. Fordham University claims it was the most printed book in Europe between 1470 to 1530 and over 900 manuscripts are available today.(3)http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/goldenlegend/

An English edition, called the Golden Legend, has its own unique history and is described at Fordham University’s website;

There have been numerous translations, into English and other languages. The Golden Legend was one of the first works produced by the English printer William Caxton. This was reproduced and “modernized” frequently. Now, the standard English version is the 1993 translation by William Granger Ryan. The 1993 version is a full translation, unlike his earlier 1941 translations, which summarized many of the stories.

The English references used at the Gift of Tongues Project will be the 1931 edition edited by F.S. Ellis and found housed at Fordham University’s Golden Legend website.

Some Saints listed under Christian Hagiographa section may overlap with earlier mentions in the Gift of Tongues Project outline, but the Hagiographa stories will not be integrated with them. They will remain separate. This is because these hagiographa are late-Medieval perceptions. They are stories that do not fit in the earlier narratives. These works align with the religious experiences, perceptions, and expectations found in the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries. It is a reflection of these times and little to do with anything earlier.

The Acta Sanctorum is another work similar to Legenda Aurea and plays an important part for late-Medieval studies. ProQuest has digitally captured the entire 68 volume work and describes it as;

“. . .a principal source for research into the societies and cultures of early Christian and medieval Europe. Our knowledge of this period relies heavily on Hagiographa literature, and specifically on this monumental collection of texts, published over a period of 300 years by the Société des Bollandistes.”

The resurgence of interest in Hagiographa materials in recent years reflects the growing recognition of their value to historical research of many kinds—social and ecclesiastical history, art and architecture, literature, folklore, and ethnology. Acta Sanctorum records every detail of domestic and public life. It’s an inexhaustible fund of information on every aspect of life from the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the 16th century.(4)http://www.proquest.com/products-services/acta.html

The Christian Hagiographa section of the Gift of Tongues Project wishes to thank Christine F. Cooper-Rompato’s excellent book, The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages for bringing to light such important sources from the late-Medieval period. It is the best book on the christian doctrine of tongues published so far.

I had thought that the genre of tongues speakers in the late-Medieval Church was small and careful attention, except for one or two persons, was not necessary for this period. Cooper-Rompato dispelled this notion.

This author makes an important assertion about Medieval tongues being ubiquitous during this period.

. . .descriptions of the xenoglossic gift became more popular in the later Middle Ages because there occurred an “expectation of tongues”; once the miracle entered the horizon of expectation of audiences, the miracle propagated itself. The miracle also became an important proof of sanctity. . . . To call attention to the lack of xenoglossia in the life of a popular holy preacher would seem to indicate that by this period the gift of tongues was almost expected in the vitae of famous preacher, and that if a prominent preacher perceived as blessed did not receive it, an explanation was deemed necessary.”(5)The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages Pg. 14

As per the mandate of the Gift of Tongues Project, a digital copy of the pertinent texts will be available in the original language, along with an English translation, and some commentary.

There are a number of Christian Saints who spoke in tongues according to the Medieval accounts and they will be added on a person by person basis. This will happen on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until complete. The best way to keep up with the latest additions is to become a subscriber. This can be done by clicking the subscribe button found on the right sidebar.

The following Saints will be documented. If completed, a link will be available in a bold font:

There are also women who spoke in tongues according to Christine F. Cooper-Rompato that needs documenting. These are a bit harder to cover. Cooper-Rompata described that female accounts of speaking in tongues are different from male accounts. They are accidental, semi-private, temporal, and convey a lack or limit of control. They are also frustratingly brief accounts.(6)The Gift of Tongues: Women’s Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages Pg. 40

This genre is in development and will be included later on.

References   [ + ]

Evangelicals in the Canadian Political Realm

How Evangelicals can and can’t contribute to the diverse Canadian social mosaic.

Many Evangelicals hold to an ideology that to bring about positive moral change in Canada is to directly influence those in power, and the values endorsed by the powerbrokers will trickle-down to every part of society.

In order to bring about this type of revision, the Christian movement needs leverage, clout and people power — a force that draws the attention of the key public decision makers, who then recognize the political necessity to change. If a maxim existed for such an approach, it would be, If you want God’s kingdom to have a strong influence on this land, learn to influence the key decision makers in all.

This immediately poses a number of questions. Two especially come to mind: is this trickle-down concept moral or the best methodology the Evangelical community can provide? And, are religious leaders properly equipped to delve into the political realm?

Religious Canadian leaders have successfully entered the political realm. Powerful voices in the such as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, and William Aberhart have contributed with great success. Their experience has demonstrated lessons for others who follow. However, the line today between religious and civic leaders are drawn with little crossover. It is a new era where those Evangelicals entering today must be fully aware of what they are getting into. It can be done and is necessary, but most churches are not prepared, nor politically astute enough to provide the proper checks and balances.

Religious leaders can be exploited because of their lack of experience with the political system. David Kuo, former second in command to President Bush’s office admits to milking the religious right for their allegiance. In a Time Magazine article, he quoted Chuck Colson, once aide to President Richard Nixon, saying, “I arranged special briefings in the Roosevelt Room for religious leaders, ushered wide-eyed denominational leaders into the Oval Office for private sessions with the President,” and then Colson adds, “Of all the groups I dealt with, I found religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many come from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is the result of a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity … Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power.”(1)David Kuo. Tempting Faith. And Inside Story of Political Seduction. New York: Free Press. 2006. Pg. 172

The late Chuck Colson, who was an important aide to President Nixon, and later a born again Christian, added that Christians must be engaged, but with eyes open, aware of the snares and to not be beholden to any political ideological alignment.(2)Charles Colson. Kingdoms in Conflict. New York: Harper PaperBacks. 1990. Pg. 477

No religious leader can remain altruistic. One of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the quest for power exists in every individual and must be publicly recognized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the concept of power and one-upmanship as being motivated by the ‘Drum Major Instinct’, and that no-one, including himself, is outside its influence.(3)http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/ If this is true, one of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the drum major instinct exists and must be publicly recognized.

If people or organizations from a faith perspective do not acknowledge the drum major instinct within their realm, along with the proper checks and balances to control, potential problems may arise in the future that not only defeats the aims of the political activist, but harms the corporate religion.

Another important point Canadian religious leaders must be mindful of is public fear that religious advocates would force their agenda. Preston Manning opined this at McGill University’s “Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy” conference held in 2002, “When advocates of faith-based positions convey the impression that they would force their positions on the rest of the population, if only they had sufficient power and influence to do so, is it any wonder that the rest of the population is reluctant to grant them standing and influence?”

From a Canadian standpoint, this fear is very ubiquitous and is found both in our creative literature and in politics. For example the well-known Canadian literary giant, Margaret Atwood, wrote a fictional novel, The Handmaiden, on what she thought could potentially happen if protestant fundamentalists took over the government — an event that she perceived would have catastrophic repercussions on the role of women in society.

The public ideological alignment of Evangelicals with the Conservative Party of Canada could especially have long-term negative damage. Although this party may best represent many Christian principles, it is still a political party, and any large political fallout with the public by way of hypocrisy, scandal, war or moral debate may cause a harsh public backlash against the Evangelical Church and foment publicly acceptable anti-Christian and Church rhetoric.

A closer look at Jesus teachings on leadership indicate that the trickle-down theory was antithetical to a message to the majority of people whom He served. He did not come to persuade the powers-to-be. He came directly to the disenfranchised and gave them hope.

Traditional Evangelicals may posit that the power Christians are to wield in this world is evangelism. Social reform is dependant and can only happen through widespread personal repentance and submittance to God. Although evangelism has a high importance, this is an incomplete answer that is over-simplistic.

Many belonging to the burgeoning charismatic movement would argue that power is to be defined in supernatural terms; it is to destroy the works of Satan. This too is not a consistent nor a comprehensive definition of power from a heavenly perspective.

Nor is it the Churches purpose to respresent, lead, and empower the oppressed and marginalized to overthrow tyrannical despots, or corrupt leadership. This is also a top-down strategy that is ineffective.

St. Francis of Assissi provided part of the answer when he wrote: “where there is hatred, let me sow Your love” which tends to go nicely together with Christ’s admonition, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. This may seem like such a cowardly withdrawal from conflict that allows for exploitation or abuse, but rather, it is breaking the cycle of absolute power. They are encouraging people not to be controlled by conventions of worldly power, but guided by a higher law of love and servanthood that is not subject to corruption, dishonesty, anger, bitterness or revenge.

Jesus described the heavenly definition of power as that of servanthood, “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” And also, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”. His definition of power ascribed almost the exact opposite of what we instinctually believe it to be.

The idea of leadership from a heavenly perspective is about the person who is most willing to do whatever it costs for the betterment of another being and respects everyone as equal partners. In many circles this is called service. It is the opposite to pursuing power. Carl Jaspers, a humanist philosopher concluded this when he wrote, “Where love rules, there is no will to power and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”

There are many implications of holding onto such a philosophy, especially where faith and politics intertwine. First of all it changes the role of the Christian. Instead of the Christian standing aloof and judging against the world, the main purpose is helping others arrive at completeness in whatever area they lack, whether spiritual or physical.

It also avoids and corrects the idea that the Church and Christians want to lord over others and force their opinions.

The mission of helping others then becomes the message. People such as Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, and lesser-knowns such as Dr. Paul Brandt, a specialist in leprosy, the late Winnipeg Pastor and activist, Harry Lehotsky, and more whose mission to serve has naturally also became the message. These names are all a positive part of the public conscience and transcends racial, socio-economic, cultural and religious barriers.

The Church then becomes a center for serving those in need and constantly making adjustments as the needs arise. By doing this, the Church through service will become an active part of the Canadian mosaic rather than an outside bystander.■

References   [ + ]

Fanatics, Extremists, and Religion

The difference between fanaticism and true religion.

Fanaticism is an unhealthy set of principles that takes the letter of the law too literally and avoids compassion or feeling towards self or others. It is found in all faiths and ideologies. It is part of the human narrative.

On the other hand, true religion is one who lives by the higher law of love and commitment to truth. A condition that takes much more effort, patience and sacrifice to achieve than simply following a legal code.

There are good Christians and bad Christians, same with socialists, capitalists, Jews, and also Muslims. History shows that even non-religious systems such as Communism, and the attempted establishment of Western Democratic countries in the Middle East have run into the same problems of fanaticism. The ancient texts and modern history weaves the account that wherever humanity exists, greatness is found, but also the element of corruption and inhumanity always runs in parallel.

Is it the fault of religion or ideology? No. Any system designed for the benefit of humanity can also be a source of bondage. From my observations as a member of the Charismatic Church community, there are many stories where people are rescued from their own destructive behavior and discover a newfound sense of community. However, there are also those who have personally suffered either at the hands of those asserting legal principles over human need or are using religion to avoid dealing with their inner demons.

How can that be? If one lives simply by the rules and adheres to the Bible as a legal text of dos and do nots, it absolves one of any personal responsibility. The letter of the Law does not require one to love another, or even care while the spirit of it does.

The present Church is a combination of some who just go by the letter, and those who strive hard to go by the higher law. Most vacillate between the two sides – not because these are bad people, it is because the Church is a human entity. Being human is a problem of imperfection, and the ensuing challenge is to go beyond self and to be altruistic. The achievement of such a condition is not an easy path to follow.

The legal vs. spirit of the law is not just an ancient religious problem. It is a common theme today but masked in different motifs. It is seen in my place of employment where the Collective Agreement between the Union and Management is like a Bible. There is no higher standard than the words in the agreement between the two parties. Management does not have to care at all about the individual employee in any decision-making, and can harass, shame, or push for productivity as long as it does not contravene the Collective Agreement. The Union too can call out names and shame management, and treat with contempt because this behavior is not explicitly found in the Collective Agreement and therefore not punishable. The Agreement is not designed to force anyone to like, respect, or treat each other humanely. This is not in the spirit how people should treat each other, but this is the reality.

People can easily hide behind the façade of the secular Western democratic systems of governance and justice.The halls of democracy can equally abuse as that of a religious system. If people follow the legal text without being encouraged to reach for a higher standard above the Law – that is of loving one another, then it fails.

When the Law becomes a daily part of our lives, and the spirit of the Law is removed, it takes away the responsibility to think about others, communicate, or even care. Inhumanity then easily can sink in.

Are there fanatical Christians? Yes. Fanatical Muslims? Yes. Fanatical Jews? Yes. Fanatical secularists? Yes. Are most people fanatics in any system or ideology? No, but the majority voice of compassion and patience can be drowned out by a small minority of passionate zealots. Fanaticism is not the fault of any religion or ideology, it is simply the dark part of the human character that hides behind legal texts for its self-seeking purposes, and thus avoiding any personal responsibility. It’s an easy-way-out.

To not recognize or address fanatical elements in any religious system or ideology is an immature view of our human capabilities for both good and evil. It is also dangerous because ignoring the fanatical dark side in any movement can have damaging future consequences.

Film Review: God Loves Uganda

God Loves Uganda Cover

God Loves Uganda — a faulty premise that neglects important details and falls for grandiose stereotyping.

This documentary film by the acclaimed director Roger Ross Williams is a story about the complex mix of homosexuality, faith and politics in Uganda. He sees it as religious fanaticism stoking the flames of hatred and forcefully blames the influence of American evangelicals as the root cause of Ugandan homophobia.

His documentary thesis is supported by filming a devoted group of followers, and highlighting one of their former leaders, Lou Engle, from the International House of Prayer — an unaffiliated charismatic community located in Kansas City.

John Stackhouse, who holds the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., reviewed the film for Christianity Today and wrote:

Some people, alas, will be tempted to channel their outrage into hating evangelicals right here at home, those frightening people who are trying to wreck Africa and who, if they only could, would criminalize homosexuality here, too, and even kill unrepentant homosexuals. Such seems to be the unsubtle subtext of the film. More moderate evangelicals need to say, and say clearly, that to identify Scott Lively or Lou Engle as a typical American evangelical is like suggesting that Osama bin Laden was a typical Muslim or, closer to home, like suggesting that all homosexuals are like the most outlandish figures in Gay Pride Parades. We must speak up in public and both denounce and distance ourselves from such extremists, rather than muzzle ourselves in misguided charity for errant brothers and sisters, or we will see the gospel increasingly attacked as homophobic in just the way these people are.

…Yes, homophobia is bad. But so is evangelophobia. And what might have seemed just a decade ago to be a ridiculous and paranoid parallel doesn’t seem so now.

Stackhouse’s claim of evangelophobia has generated considerable buzz and I think he is right in this assessment.

The documentary succeeds at evoking immediate anger against evangelical christians and reinforces the stereotype of them being weird, racist, white bigots who are attempting to force their brand of truth throughout the world regardless of any human consequence.

It thrives by sweeping all evangelical christians under the same category of having a homophobic agenda. In reality, the evangelical movement is split over the topic of faith and homosexuality. This movie in no way represents this spectrum and neither is there any attempt to demonstrate that the International House of Prayer is considered a sect outside of mainstream evangelicalism. Williams selected it because it fit his premise.

It is a movie not only about Uganda, faith and homosexuality, it is also a journey for Williams to make sense of himself as a gay person who grew up in an American religious home. This should have been stated somewhere in the movie about why he was personally motivated to cover such a topic. It would give the viewer important context.

The film touches on an important subject that is becoming a genre. It is that of charismatic extremism. This can also be found in the controversial movies Machine Gun Preacher, and the The Jesus Camp where they are about independent and pioneer charismatic leaders doing their own thing with little training or external accountability. Williams has grouped IHOP as evangelical and pentecostal while it is actually charismatic – an important nuance neglected in his coverage.

Charismatic churches are hard to define and has been a subject of debate for over a decade. They are typically independent bodies that have split from a mainstream denominational evangelical church over the doctrines relating to the christian mystical experience. Many of these churches have little or no external accountability, tend to rely more on personal revelation and divine encounters which do not necessarily have to be rational. This movement is much smaller than its pentecostal counterpart, but it is highly emotive and vocal This form of mystic extremism can be very damaging for the christian movement as a whole and has to be urgently called into account.

IHOP and its brand of faith do not represent any pentecostal organized constituency which has a much larger member base. Neither am I aware of any mainline pentecostal North American organization promoting a homophobic agenda. If that was the case, then Williams would have filmed a historical masterpiece of immense value.

The film also fails to take into account that homophobia is a part of the Ugandan and African social tapestry. Same-sex relations are illegal in 36 of Africa’s 55 countries, according to Amnesty International, and punishable by death in some states. according a Guardian.com article written by David Smith. This is a huge oversight by the Film and seriously erodes the argument of American evangelical influence interfering with Ugandan politics and being responsible for increasing homophobia in Uganda.

God Loves Uganda starts with an important survey of homophobia in Uganda but denigrates into a poor stereotype of Christians. He took the easy-way-out on a very difficult topic and oversimplified the causes. Because of this, I would rank this movie a 4 out of 10.

Book Review: Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet is an examination of mental illness from an Eastern Christian perspective.

It is very well done work on the topic at hand, but it is not intended to prescribe therapeutic solutions for those who are suffering, or dealing with a person struggling with some form of mental illness. One has to read it for the historical value. It is a detailed history on the perceptions and practices by various Eastern Church leaders on the subject.

The author’s knowledge of both modern psychological conventions and Eastern Church practices regarding this subject is finely interwoven. There is some very well documented work here.

It is partly an apologetic of the Eastern Church writers in light of modern psychiatry. Larchet strives to promote that these Church leaders were very thoughtful and insightful in relation to those who had mental illness. He clearly demonstrates that these leaders were not foolish and neither quick to attach a demonic definition to everyone who had mental health issues.

He does go into significant detail showing that many of the Eastern Church leaders discerned that it was a multifaceted problem — a physical disease or injury, a persons temperament, demonic influences, and a number of other variables could be valid sources of a persons mental suffering. Some of the solutions to this problem were a patient long-time intervention, one-on-one intense relationships, a specialized prayer, holy oil, singing or reciting scripture, seclusion, fasting, and encouraging sufferers to participate in their own healing as much as possible. Larchet does not demonstrate any serious negative viewpoints on the treatment offered by these Eastern Church leaders.

It outlines a general idea on how to deal with mental illness within a Christian context, but fails to build a clear doctrine. A large number of Church leaders are introduced on the subject but there is no perceivable pattern or evolution of thought around this issue.

This book hardly addresses the theological basis of mental illness and spirituality. It assumes that readers know what demons are, and that they do exist. He hardly addresses these axioms. Neither does it address the question of why there was so much emphasis on expelling demons in Jesus’ ministry while other Jewish literature was less inclined to do the same during this period. Nor did he express what the influences were that led to the informal structure Eastern Christians used in response to this malady.

Jennifer Doane Upton would disagree with the assessment of this book so far, she takes an altogether different perspective in her book review found at the publisher’s website, Sophia Perennis:

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing presents the viewpoint on mental disorders held by the early Church Fathers, and in so doing provides a fresh “new” look at psychotherapy, as seen from the standpoint of a tradition which knows the human being as composed of body, soul and Spirit, and gives precedence to the Spirit. The author, Jean-Claude Larchet, is a practicing psychiatrist as well as an Eastern Orthodox Christian.

One wonders if he is choosing the best writers on the subject and ignoring the poorer ones, such as the writings of Pachomius, who believed that anyone who has a demon had a sign of a physical entry point. It was Pachomius duty to find the entry point and expel the demon, whether it was in the finger, foot or whatever. Although the many writers he lists are prominent, one questions whether their opinion was the popular one, or did the masses follow something similar to Pachomius.

This is definitely not a how-to guide on distinguishing between mental illness and demonism. If anything Larchet promotes that the eastern fathers treated whatever state the person was in with respect, though some of their practices seem barbaric to our standards — like placing a violent-to-self or -other type person in a secured sack until the anger abates.

The real strength of this book is in two observations. The first one is the Eastern Church perception of a psychological condition they called acedia — a type of sadness equivalent to what we call depression. The book itself does not make this correlation but it seems close. It goes on to list various remedies that do not deal with the sadness directly but with addressing or limiting the various expressions of sadness to cure it. It also demonstrates that ancient authors have identified a human condition whose appearance has not changed even to this day.

The second is found in the last chapter, entitled, A Most Singular Kind of Folly: The Fool For Christ. It has little to do with defining mental disorders at all, but is about a stratum of Christians who purposely pretended to be mentally ill for various reasons; whether for attaining humility through abuse or rejection, or it was a representation for detachment from this world, or it was for charity purposes. For if one feigned madness, this gave entrance to world of the low and downtrodden. This association became a source of ministry.

It is not a difficult book to read. The author does use some technical vocabulary but never quotes esoteric texts in the original Greek or Latin to prove his point. Everything can be understood by the English reader.

The whole subject of the relationship between mental illness and spiritual influences is severely under-represented in Christian literature, The author is one of the few, and maybe the only one, that has attempted such a rigorous examination. It is a good start. Hopefully more researchers will use this to build a more complete framework.

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet, Translated by Rama P. Coomaraswamy and G. John Champoux, can be found at Amazon. It is only available in print format.

See also the previous article on this subject A Religious Look at Miracles and Mental Illness.