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Charismatic TikTok Divided Over Praying in Tongues

In nearly 30 years of research on faith practices in the digital world, Campbell believes that Pentecostal theology provides a warrant for enthusiastic embrace of new technology.

“Pentecostal theology is all about being led by the Holy Spirit,” said Campbell, “so the idea of the Holy Spirit moving through the computer or having a spiritual experience through the computer is very acceptable.”

But not all believers on charismatic TikTok agree.

Taylor Cuthbertson, 27, has 27,000 followers on TikTok who watch her videos about living as a Pentecostal Christian. For Cuthbertson, there are some things that “are a big no on TikTok” and one of them is praying. “I’m a very private person,” she said.

Pastor Michael Grattan, of Manhattan Pentecostal Church, believes prayer belongs in public, but he’s not sure it belongs on TikTok.

Grattan explains the tradition of speaking in tongues through the Book of Acts in the Christian Scripture — it’s a sign of God’s spirit dwelling with baptized believers. The apostles were able to speak in many languages, to be understood as they addressed a crowd of people from different nations gathered in Jerusalem.

In a monolingual community, Grattan said, that sort of diversity of language becomes unnecessary, so the often unintelligible prayer language of “speaking in tongues” becomes a way of “expressing the deepest parts of your spirit,” Grattan said.

It’s perfectly appropriate for a public setting, Grattan said. But he cited Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which reads, “Let everything be done decently and in order.” On the internet, Grattan sees disorderliness and chaos.

Grattan does have an account on TikTok. “It’s a good way to get the pulse of the people,” he said. But he doesn’t post on it. He’s not sure it’s the ripest ground for prayer or evangelization, saying he thinks the internet’s constant stimulation drowns out the message of the gospel.

“When you have so many choices, it’s hard to see the real value and it’s hard to communicate value,” he said, “The vistas of knowledge available on the internet are unimaginable. But the flip side of that is that meaning is lost in the midst of it.”

“TikTok to me is the ultimate noise,” Grattan said.

Montana Cooley sees her mission on TikTok as breaking through the noise. “I want to spread the love of God,” she said.

At the end of 2020, Cooley, 19, said she was in a dark place. And then she started getting more involved again at the Assemblies of God church at which her great-grandfather was a preacher. “I fell back in love, I guess,” she said.

She wouldn’t show video of herself praying in tongues, however. First, she said, because it’s not premeditated but rather prompted by the Holy Spirit. “Sometimes I’ll do it out in public when the spirit comes my way,” Cooley said. But mostly because it usually happens in church.

Cooley does however talk about her experiences praying in the spirit to her 15,000 followers because she wants them to know that talking in tongues is a part of the Christian life. “Some people think that talking in tongues is demonic,” she said, “but it’s evidence, showing other people that the Holy Spirit is there in your presence.”

This article originally appeared here.