Have you ever met anyone in church or in any Christian circle, really, who claims to have the gift of speaking in tongues?

You know – tongues – that spiritual gift first mentioned in Acts, occurring on the day of Pentecost, when the apostles went out and shared the Gospel with the crowds in their own languages. The Greek translation of tongues literally means “language,” so receiving the gift of tongues – biblically speaking – allowed the apostles to speak in foreign languages they did not previously know as a means to spread the word.

I could go on in some detail about this spiritual gift, one I find genuinely fascinating, one I often wish I experienced. It’s truly one of those supernatural gifts that is on par with the gift of singing – no one can explain why some can and some can’t.

I could go on about the biblical passages from which tongues were introduced and intended for use. I could go into the historical context of tongues, and how they’ve shifted in use throughout time, for some – and I want to underscore the word “some,” here – 21st century Christians. But I won’t go into all that. I’ll just say that today, speaking in tongues, in some churches – can often be somewhat of an event and not always a positive one.

Too many times I’ve been in or around a church environment where tongues are spoken or the gift is spoken of by others, and I find myself disappointed, considering all the ways I’m witnessing or hearing about the gift and seeing it carried out in direct contrast to how it’s explained in Scripture.

I’ve been in churches where tongues-speaking was an unintelligible free-for-all, a measure by which one grades their fellow believer on who’s more spiritual, who’s louder, or worse still – who’s actually been saved, as if the gift of tongues were the determining factor. In these situations, there’s no interpreter, no speaking in turns, no adhering to the “two or three at most, each in turn and one interprets,” rule. It’s just a church of Babel, noisy and confusing and I’ll say it – weird – and no good news can be heard over the ruckus.

I wonder if Paul ever looks down from heaven and shakes his head at how often we ignore his teachings on the matter, especially when it’s done around non-believers. Something like, “Look, guys, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. Go read 1 Corinthians again.”

Scripture is so clear about what this gift is, when and with whom it should be used, who receives it and who doesn’t, and for what purpose, and that there should always be an interpreter when speaking in tongues around non-believers.

Otherwise it’s just crazy babel. Otherwise, we would make God a god of confusion, which we know he is not, for the Bible tells me so.

I was thinking of tongues-speaking the other day, and how many other areas of life, spiritual and not, where we as a society are inclined to babble. It’s become a regular thought at night, actually, usually while watching “Who’s to Blame for All of America’s Problems,” shown on most major broadcast media outlets and perpetuated on the 24-hour news cycle like there’s nothing else in the world going on.

The commentary these days is out of control – and yes, I know we’re in an election cycle. And yes, there are a lot of areas we need to improve, clean up, get moving, change and leave in the past. But so much of the message nowadays just comes out as filler information intended to rile up viewers, rather than for the purpose of curating a peaceful and civil exchange, where solutions and real progress plans are posited.

Every night, for the past many nights, I listen to the commentators – across all the various stations, by the way – and think, “It’s like we’re all speaking in tongues, and no one’s around to interpret.”

No one’s pausing to ask, “Are we doing this the right way?” or “Is this contributing to the good of society?” or “Are we trying to all get on the same page?” No one seems to be speaking with any intentionality to speak across the aisles and learn the foreign political tongues of the other side, in any unifying way.

People everywhere, not just broadcast media, are talking so quick, so fast, so publicly in the town halls of social media, no one is bothering to listen.

This party is attacking that party. This group is highlighting their social crisis as more important or pressing than that group’s social crisis. This leader is better than that leader. And this time in history is worse (or better) than that time in history, and here are 10 reasons why we should be angry right now.

I guess I’m getting tired of all the babble, and I would love to one day see an election cycle go through where everyone just stays on point, a time when we all speak the same tongue.

Wouldn’t that be edifying to God?

Because just like Paul said, “I would rather speak five words with my understanding that I may teach others also, than 10,000 words in a tongue.”

Jennifer Preyss-Mathlouthi is a thought leader on religion trends and global issues. Email her at jlpreyss@vicad.com or follow her on Twitter @jenniferpreyss or jenniferpreyss.work.

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