Friday, August 12, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Praise the Lord and Pass the Chocolate Kiss

Santa Lucia Church, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

One afternoon I walked down 8th-or-9thish Avenue, aka Alameda de Santa Lucia, past the cemetery, and when I almost reached the corner of 7th Calle, where I intended to turn left, I heard a happy sound. Singing. Like gospel singing.

The sound soared above the usual raucosity of lumbering chicken buses, tuk-tuks, and motor bikes.

But where was it coming from? I stood still for a bit, trying to place its source. The church. The Catholic church across the street.

I crossed the intersection, crossed the church courtyard, entered the church. Smiling, huggy women greeted me in lilac blouses. They had chocolate kisses. One woman gave me a chocolate kiss. Maybe she hugged me. If not, I think she wanted to.

There were many people in the church, standing within the pews. Singing. Singing joyfully.

Santa Lucia Church, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Almost all were women. A man led the service at the front.

I had entered the realm of a pentecostal or charismatic congregation. Lots of positive energy. Swaying to the music, to the spirit, to the community of people gathering in a place to celebrate something together.

Being an opportunistic voyeur, I hoped there'd be some fainting or speaking in tongues about to happen right in front of me. Neither happened but I enjoyed being a temporary, happy participant in the service.

When I shared my experience with my airbnb hostess, she told me a story. My hostess has a couple of friends who are members of a charismatic/pentecostal church. They'd tried numerous times to persuade her to come to a service, unsuccessfully. Finally, one of the friends convinced my hostess to attend a weekend retreat with her, promising it would be low-key, relaxing, enjoyable.

My hostess did attend the retreat, only to experience relentless pressure to let her resistance go, to let Jesus take hold of her spirit, to move her to fall or speak in tongues. My hostess was adamant in not doing so, and as she continued to resist the pressure, the women present became more oppressive in their insistence. Finally, my hostess found a way to escape (and that's how she viewed it) the retreat and get home.

Below is an excerpt from a man who wanted to be a member, but became disillusioned, as follows:
 ... I repented and accepted Jesus as my Saviour with sincerity and fear. I did not want to go to hell. I was very zealous for the Lord and his Bible, a few weeks later hands were layed upon me for the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of this by speaking in tongues. I didn't feel anything, I was told to clear my mind and ask God for this gift of tongues and then speak the language that the spirit would give you. There is immense pressure on you to speak in tongues otherwise you are not empowered and you will struggle in your walk with Christ.

I would stand there with my mouth open waiting for the Holy Spirit to move my mouth but nothing happened, eventually I was told that "you must speak and that the Holy Spirit would not move your mouth. Just speak the first thing that comes to your mind, receive it by faith, you have been prayed for and hands layed upon you therefore RECIEVE THE SPIRIT." The Pastor says over me and so I begin to jibber jabber and the Pastor says "That's it, keep speaking that's the tongue you have recieved you must now cultivate the language by speaking it as much as possible."

I didn't feel anything no heat or electricity like some of the others claim to feel when they are given the "gift of tongues" Some people fall down or weep uncontrollably or sweat so much that they need to change their clothes, others gyrate or shake or bounce up and down. The ones that fall down may also gyrate and shake uncontrollably, it all depends on how much the Holy Spirit decides to touch you and how high a profile the Preacher has. 

This is all explained as the work of the Holy Spirit, people feel special and others envy at those that the Holy Spirit touches. I was one of those people that wanted an experience like that but never recieved it. ... After I spoke in tongues I went to see an elder of the church and told him that the tongues I'm speaking are just things I'm saying from my mind, anybody could do what I'm doing you don't need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit just speak anything. He told me that all these doubts are lies from the devil and that he is trying to steal your gift, don't let him do it. What could I do but believe what he told me therefore anytime I spoke in tongues I had these doubts but I had to ignore them because they were from the devil. When I asked the others about their experience, questions like what did you feel when you were baptised in the spirit they would answer with claims of bolts of electricity, heat, heart pumping vigorously and that they had no control of what was happening to them.  ...
Slaying in the spirit was something I never experienced. Twice I went to the alter to be slain but both times I was pushed. I was very disappointed and disillusioned. ... 

One evening a travelling evangelist with "great and mighty powers" was preaching at our church and then he had an alter call and began slaying people in the spirit, this guy was the genuine article some people were slain violently even before he touched them, they would fall backwards and be caught by "catchers"( this is now a calling and a ministry, to be a catcher) They would place them on the floor and be left alone for the spirit to do the work in their life that they needed, again some would shake, weep, and pray and occasionally hands are layed upon those that need further deliverence. 

One guy was on the floor stiff as a board and remained that way for the rest of the service.After the service a few of us went to a pizza place but first we picked up the stiff guy and put him in the back of a station-wagon and there he remained until about midnight. He was like that for 3 hours. We asked him what it felt like and he had the same feelings as others, warmth and electricity and no control over the situation, he said he tried to get up but couldn't. .... 

Holy moly.

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