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January 23, 2006 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Worship in Lifting Holy Hands. Lifting hands over the head and waving them is a taught religious practice. It does not normally happen (except in utter lostness and hopelessness) unless it is in response to a charismatic leader with whom the worshipers have developed a too-close connection.
posted by The Jesse Helms (43 comments total)

 
I think lifting one's hands is a natural response to a feeling of ecstasy, whether through music or worship, particularly in groups.
posted by empath at 12:57 PM on January 23, 2006


lifting hands is a universal expression of surrender.
posted by quonsar at 1:04 PM on January 23, 2006


Is the lifting of hands something generally limited to charismatic or pentecostal worship? I grew up in a mennonite church and rarely if ever did anyone move an inch during worship.
posted by genevieve at 1:07 PM on January 23, 2006


Tee hee. Look at the internet nutcase. He's so craaaaaaazy!
posted by mr_roboto at 1:09 PM on January 23, 2006


On occasion I enjoy throwin' my hands in the air, and wavin' em like I just don't care.
posted by ND¢ at 1:09 PM on January 23, 2006


I went to various types of worship services around Syria last year. Most of the people raised their hands as in the illustration of the "masculine priests," that went for Muslims, Jews, various types of Christians, Druze, Nestorians and Alowites. Some of the Christians prayed like Muslims do now (stand, drop to knees, plant face, reverse, repeat), which the Syrians replied, "of course, that's who muslims learned to pray from."
posted by Pollomacho at 1:11 PM on January 23, 2006


dammit. ND¢ beat me. everybody say "ho ho"
posted by keswick at 1:12 PM on January 23, 2006


What I've always found bizarre are the commercials for those "Sounds of Worship" Christian music compilations. They show audiences waving their hands in unison, eyes closed, caught up in the glory of God or something... in front of some Christian boy-band. It looks like they're worshiping the Backstreet Boys.

Nice title for the post, by the way.
posted by brundlefly at 1:15 PM on January 23, 2006


I admit with some shame that I encouraged lots of hand lifting during church service back in my "worship leader" days, singing at a Baptist church in the Philippines. Also "clap offerings."
posted by brownpau at 1:16 PM on January 23, 2006


Now it's about three AM and I see people goin'
spinnin' jumpin' and grindin'
as if they had wings on their feet
raising both hands in the air as if Jesus was the DJ himself
spinnin those funky funky funky house beats

--Fatboy Slim - Song for Shelter
posted by empath at 1:16 PM on January 23, 2006


It's basic body language. Raising hands is a way of opening the body, which signals you're receptive to what you're hearing. It's the opposite of crossed arms and legs, closing the body, which means you're not receptive.

Some say that forcing body language forces the associated response. If I make you raise your arms, or open your palm (like as in an oath), or such, you'll therefore be more receptive to me.

Use it to pick up chicks. It's great.
posted by JWright at 1:18 PM on January 23, 2006


Well, come on, if you were a struggling messiah, trying to make your way in the world, and your followers had a habit of interpreting hypoxia of the palm as a divine gift that you have delivered unto them, wouldn't you encourage them to continue the practice?
posted by ulotrichous at 1:19 PM on January 23, 2006


That's hilarious, JWright. Thanks for the tip!
posted by brundlefly at 1:23 PM on January 23, 2006


Amongst fundamentalists the word 'charismatic' often has a different meaning - a 'charismatic' church refers not to a leader but to a style of worship frequently involving raised, waving hands, people shouting out prayers in the middle of a (typically modern) hymn, and occasionally speaking in tongues. The whole hand-waving thing is probably the least of the signs of a charismatic church.
posted by Ryvar at 1:25 PM on January 23, 2006


So, when athletes lift their hands over their head to celebrate a touchdown/home run/goal/etc, are they hopeless/utterly lost, or are they worshipping a charismatic leader? Or is the roof, the roof, the roof on fire?
posted by JekPorkins at 1:51 PM on January 23, 2006


*Cheers in sign language*
posted by JeffK at 1:55 PM on January 23, 2006


Throws up hands in despair.
posted by Joeforking at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2006


Kneeling with palms pressed firmly together is a posture war lords like to make supplicants adopt so they can't make a fast move on the health of the warlord.

I'm allways amused a pictures of children in this position saying their bed time prayers. So God is afraid that the kid might try to kill him?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2006


I'm allways amused a pictures of children in this position saying their bed time prayers. So God is afraid that the kid might try to kill him?

Maybe it's just a pose of supplication.

From the common bedtime prayer:

If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.


Seems like the kids are more worried about pissing off God.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2006


doctor_negative: Maybe it's just a pose of supplication.

But why a pose that says the begee is a dangerous paranoid. If I were God I would be insulted.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2006


"How shall we fuck off, oh Lord?"

Simpletons.
posted by Decani at 3:54 PM on January 23, 2006


But why a pose that says the begee is a dangerous paranoid.

It doesn't say that unless the person doing it means to say that. If there's a god, I'm betting he doesn't misinterpret nonverbal cues all that often.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:58 PM on January 23, 2006


Pollomacho: "Some of the Christians prayed like Muslims do now (stand, drop to knees, plant face, reverse, repeat), which the Syrians replied, "of course, that's who muslims learned to pray from."

Do you have any more information on this? This fascinates me - I always wondered if early Christian practices influenced other Western worship traditions.

Also...that would be awesome if it were true.

because sometimes mean Christian kids make fun of the way Muslims pray.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:14 PM on January 23, 2006


As they say in the Evangelical churches - "Hands down those who want coffee"
posted by A189Nut at 4:54 PM on January 23, 2006


"lifting hands is a universal expression of surrender."

So let me get this straight: The French are actually cheese-eating surrender-worshipping-monkeys?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:54 PM on January 23, 2006


The cultural transmission of religious practice is always interesting. Off the top of my head, the hand signal used by Greek Orthodox priests (make a gun with two fingers as the barrel, stick your thumb straight out) is taken directly from the signal Roman senators used when they wanted silence in order to speak.

And obeisance is an underused word.
posted by bardic at 7:25 PM on January 23, 2006


In the quasi-Hindu cult I belonged to in the seventies (Divine Light Mission, led by teen guru Maharaji) we used to raise our hands at the end of a mass personal encounter with him to receive his divine energy. I quit the cult thirty years ago.

The nerve endings to the hands, lips, tongue etc. take up a huge part of our brain....see homonuclus (sp?) for further info...I'm a little rushed right now...

In fact, a great beginning meditation is sitting with hands up on your lap and concentrating on the sensation in your hands...it creates a feedback effect to your brain (IMO) that leads to relaxation...similar to breath meditation.

So there's a non Xian opinion.
posted by kozad at 7:49 PM on January 23, 2006


"an emcee told a crowd of hundreds
to put their hands in the air

an armed robber stepped to a bank
and told everyone to put their hands in the air

a Christian minister gives his benediction while
the congregation hold their hands in the air

love the image of the happy Buddha with his hands in the air

hands up and feel confused..." -Saul Williams

(He gives it a better cadence than it appears.)
posted by redsparkler at 8:44 PM on January 23, 2006


bardic: obeisance is an underused word.

In somewhat modern days, obeisance as a physical act has one lower the body (bow, genuflect, curtsy, etc.) to metaphorically show that one is of lower social status and will/may obey those higher.

Metaphor aside, I think these practices derive from warlords who when talking with untrustyworthy people demanded that they approach in a posture and assume a posture that would give the guards plenty of time to kill the people if they left that posture.

So, crawling on your belly from the door to near the throne was not so much a social put-down but a matter of safety.

Then it turned into a social put-down.

My guess (with little evidence) is that through much of European history supplicants had to beseech their betters in a kneeling posture with palms pressed together. The only evidence is the numerous paintings of people in this position.

This posture is not mentioned in the Bible so I can only assume that it came up as an obeisance for European nobility and was transmuted to a Christian obeisance.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:53 PM on January 23, 2006


Baby_Balrog: while I understand where you're coming from, "mean Christian kids" is an oxymoron.
posted by hrbrmstr at 10:55 AM on January 24, 2006


hrbrmstr, I was mocked non-stop by Christian kids in high school for not believing in God. It is not an oxymoron. Don't give me any crap about how Christ's teachings preclude meanness. Christians can be assholes, just like anyone else.
posted by brundlefly at 11:20 AM on January 24, 2006


If there is any evidence, any, that adherents to, say, Christianity, practice any more faithfully the admonitions to love, respect, etc., fellow human beings than the adherents of any other belief system, I would like to see it. Most adherents of a religion spend their time practicing the meaningless rituals (singing hymns, saying prayers, wearing the right headgear, hating those who don't subscribe, etc.) so that they don't have to actually treat people any differently than they are inclined to anyway, and that way is the usual combination of impulsive selfishness, occasional altruism, and general indifference if they are unrelated by blood, marriage, or social affiliation. Acting with kindness and respect is not dependent upon a magic being that punishes you if you don't; rather, it is rooted in the whole idea behind culture, government, families, etc. You treat others as you would be treated yourself, whenever you can. You try to give up impulsive selfishness when it is counterproductive to the general weal. This ain't rocket science, it's just socialization.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:42 PM on January 24, 2006


If they don't practice faithfully the admonitions to love, respect, etc, fellow human beings, then by definition, they are not "adherents" to Christianity. Similarly, though many mean people may consider themselves Christian, if they are mean, they are not actually Christian.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:47 PM on January 24, 2006


Uh huh. You could say the same thing about any religion. It's a copout.
posted by brundlefly at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2006


Yes, you could say that anyone who does not "adhere" to the tenets of any given religion is not an "adherent" of that religion. By definition. That's the point.

People who don't practice Buddhism aren't Buddhists. People who don't adhere to the tenets of Zoroastrianism are not Zoroastrians.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:06 PM on January 24, 2006


It depends on your definition of "Christian." Take someone like Jerry Fallwell, who clearly does not follow Christ's teachings of forgiveness and love, but who also clearly worships Christ. Is he not a Christian?
posted by brundlefly at 3:42 PM on January 24, 2006


If he doesn't follow Christ's teachings, he doesn't actually worship Christ. Some might say that he worships money and fame, and uses Christ as a pawn in that worship. If someone doesn't follow Christ's teachings of forgiveness and love, then they are not truly Christian.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:44 PM on January 24, 2006


then they are not truly Christian.

And if someone's balls don't swing free under his kilt, then he's not A True Scotsman.
posted by boaz at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2006


People who don't practice Buddhism aren't Buddhists. People who don't adhere to the tenets of Zoroastrianism are not Zoroastrians

Whereas people who believe that some geezer was born of a virgin, was the son of god, healed the sick, raised the dead, died for our sins and rose again...because a collection of really ancient writings say so... those people would be "true" Christians, right?

Like I said, simpletons. Credulous, whacked-out, needy little asswits too, I'd add.
posted by Decani at 6:48 PM on January 24, 2006


Decani: The ones who only believe because a book tells them to are probably a bit foolish. But if they really believe and earnestly adhere to the teachings, then yes, they're Christians. But most believers in Christ that I know don't believe in Christ because an old book says so. If they really believe, it's generally because they've tried it and it works as promised, and many of them have had experiences that they believe are divine affirmations of Christ's divinity.

But go ahead and call them crazy or whatever, even though you don't even know who they are or what they've experienced. If they're really Christians, they'll turn the other cheek.
posted by JekPorkins at 6:54 PM on January 24, 2006


Let me ask you this, Jek: I pretty much follow the teachings of Jesus. Even if I fall short sometimes, I at least try to "love, respect, etc, fellow human beings." However, I don't believe in God, have no opinion on the afterlife, and don't believe that Jesus was anything other than mortal human who was conceived in the normal biological way.

Am I a Christian?
posted by brundlefly at 7:08 PM on January 24, 2006


Nope.

Just because you're driving down more or less the same road as me doesn't mean you're following me ;-)
posted by JekPorkins at 7:13 PM on January 24, 2006


Fair enough. But, would you say that the huge "Christian" majority in the US is not indeed Christian? If so, what should those folks be called? Pseudo-Christians?

In my view, Christians by your defintion (ie, people who worship Jesus as God/the son of God, and follow the teachings of Christ) are in such a minority as to be statistically non-existent.
posted by brundlefly at 10:49 PM on January 24, 2006


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