Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Borat!

In the movie Borat - Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the title character, Kazakhi reporter Borat Sagdiyev, played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, travels across America with his producer, Azamat in search of Western culture and Pamela Anderson.

One of the most memorable (and disturbing) scenes in the movie, besides the naked wrestling scene at the hotel, is the scene at the United Pentecostal Church. The scene started off with Borat abandoned by Azamat, penniless and heart-broken. He wandered into a church where there was a church service or a camp going on. People were singing, dancing and worshipping.

The preacher was preaching that he didn't come from a monkey (whoever said he did?). He said he didn't come from a tadpole (Dude, everyone knows that only a frog comes from tadpole). At the height of his message, a weird guy dashed across the floor with hands in the air. Later came the prayer session. The preacher invited people to come up and pray to God. Borat went up and told the congregation of his troubles. The preacher and church members attempted to pray for Borat. They surrounded him, they spoke in tongues, the preacher forced his hand on Borat's temple as if channeling the Holy Spirit into Borat and on cue, Borat went into a fit.
The really disturbing part is, in that scene, the only person acting is Borat! The rest are real. This really happens in pentecostal and charismatic churches everywhere. They speak in tongues, and they display 'manifestations' of the Holy Spirit. They call it holy laughter, holy tears, holy-everything. I, myself have seen these live once or twice before, so I wasn't that shocked to see it in the movie.

I am aware that not all churches agree with such practice. There is some controversy surrounding speaking in tongues, although the pentecostal people will point out that it is stated in the Bible, so speaking in tongues must be allowed and encouraged. It never made much sense to me. Why would God want us to speak unintelligible mumbo jumbo when worshipping him? It seems pretty easy to fake.

Imagine if one day in a church, one person started babbling away and claims that he's been given the gift of tongues. Who's to argue with him? Everyone will think that this guy is favoured by God and his stature in the church will rise. So it seems like there's tremendous incentive for one to display these 'holy gifts'. Pretty soon, everyone will realise how easy it is to 'obtain' this gift and how easy it is to get away with faking it. Soon everyone will be babbling away too. They're all faking it but nobody will admit it.

I've been told that there are those who are gifted with interpreting tongues. Again, I find this dubious, because how do you argue with someone who claims to be able to understand the mumbo jumbo from waggling tongues? Is there a tongues dictionary? I've also been told before, that speaking in tongues is like speaking in a foreign and maybe ancient language. If this were true, then it'll be pretty easy to prove. Just do a recording of your speech and send it to a linguist to tell you if it is a language you just spoke or just plain gibberish.

But I think no one is interested in proofs. People are content believing that they are special and that they are favoured by God. But I know one guy who's not too thrilled to be speaking in tongues. His name is Evan.


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