Well, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore
Or how your correspondent "fell into a burnin' ring, er, tunnel of fire" :)
You may recall that a few posts ago, I was wondering about the lyrics of a 1950s pop song. Specifically, I was wondering what "She did the chicken in the middle of the floor>" might have looked like.
Well, after recently attending a charismatic Christian religious meeting in Vancouver, which featured a "fire tunnel", I think that I may know. :)
Charismatics, as you may know, believe that the Holy Spirit works today as He did in the days of the book of Acts. Some of these manifestations can be speaking in tongues, or being "slain in the Spirit" (being prompted to faint due to God touching your heart in some way). One technique in the more "out there" edges of charismatic practice is called a "fire tunnel". In a fire tunnel, ministers and prayer team members form two rows facing each other. Those receiving prayer walk between the two lines, allowing those praying to lay hands on them and pray for them to be blessed.
I was at the meeting for another reason that didn't pan out as I had hoped. After a good message (I attend a church with Pentecostal leanings, so I am not averse to trying to glean Biblical truths from charismatic ministers), they announced that there would be a "fire tunnel" at the front of the auditorium. Not seeing any
baskets of snakes for the assembled worshippers to pick up and play with nearby, I decided that it might be interesting to look and see what was happening. (Once a reporter, always a reporter. Although I may not be working in journalism for the time being, I expect that my "news nose" will never lose its sense of smell.)
I got in the line-up as it snaked up and down the aisles of the church. I noticed one young lady about four or five people in front of me. She seemed a bit inebriated, but I knew that she certainly had not been drinking. She was doing half-twirls, and then falling to the ground giggling. She kept bending at the waist. It all looked involuntary on her part, but she had a big smile on her face.
I mentioned to another lady beside me "You know, I think the tunnel is supposed to be down there at the front." She just smiled.
We eventually meandered our way down to the front on the auditorium. I entered the tunnel. At first, it was relatively calm, with people gently laying hands on me as I walked past and saying things like "Fresh fire." and "More Lord".
As the tunnel progressed, those who were praying seemed to build in intensity. I noticed that people further in front of me were starting to be bent backwards or forwards for some reason. Others were slumping to the floor.
As I got toward the end of the line, the pray-ers were doing things like jumping up and down like pogo-stick users. One guy roared in my face, and I just laughed a bit back at him, only to feel a lady blowing on my face. I could tell this, infortunately, because I felt a drop of spit fall on my face.
As that demonstrative young lady that I had seen earlier went around to the back of the line for another go, I stayed down in front to watch, as people went through. Now the pray-ers were hopping, moving back and forth and jumping up and down. It reminded me of the toga party in the movie Animal House without the liquor and debauchery.
Finally, the prayers went into the line themselves and the tunnel collapsed into itself with groups of twos and threes of people laughing or crying softly.
The evening was wrapping up, and as I was leaving, I saw the young lady who could not wait until she was in the tunnel. "I hope that you were blessed," I told her. "It looked like you were having a lot of fun." She said "Thanks!", and I left.
At the other side of the auditorium, the young lady caught up to me. "Hey," she said. "Can I pray for you?"
"Okay, but why would you want to do that?" I said.
"Freely you have received," she smiled, "Freely give."
So, I let her bring me back to her friends, and they prayed for me. The young lady prayed that my hunger for God would be satified and that He would touch me.
"Do you feel warm or hot?" she asked. (Warmth is often a test amongst charismatics to see if the Holy Spirit is working on someone.)
"Yes, I feel a little hot," I said, "but I am wearing my jacket." I felt a little bit like Dan Akyroyd's character in The Blues Brothers when John Belushi's character has his revelation from the Lord in James Brown's church. [Belushi is bathed in sunlight while Aykroyd is reduced to asking "What light?"]
Looking back at all this, I am grateful for that sympathetic young lady's sweet intentions that I should be blessed too. If I were to think like my old Report colleagues Colby Cosh and Kevin Michael Grace, I would also have to ask myself if I was laying myself open to empty emotionalism.
I do have one thought, though. So often faith is an intellectual thing, where the mind observes a set of moral principles. That said, men are beings that feel, with hearts and emotions.
For faith to work it has to touch both the mind and heart.
So, when people are looking for a light at the end of their tunnel, I'm not surprised if they happen to look for this light at the end of a "fire tunnel".