Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"I Have A Bad Feeling About This"

Emotions are an interesting concept. I say this partly because I have sequestered most of my emotions. I tend to be extremely logical. To a fault in fact. Mr. Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series and I would get along very well. We both make the same mistake, we fail to evaluate the emotional level of those around us. The question then becomes, how did I get this way? Did I, like Spock, choose to emulate the behavior required of me? Did I ignore my emotions because I was taught that they are unacceptable and perhaps even evil? A Vulcan does not have emotions. A Christian should control her emotions.

It all sounds eerily the same does it not? We are societally afraid of our emotions. Especially in the Christian evangelical setting. The strange thing is, there are many in evangelical churches who rely solely on their emotions to understand God. You know all those slogans about how Jesus is "my best friend" and we have "to be on fire for God." (By the way, if you're on fire you should stop, drop to the floor and roll around to put the fire out, only then should you continue reading this blog post.) I am not writing this to condemn or vilify Christian evangelicals. I think there are many good things that they do. Outreach is definitely one of their strengths and I applaud them for it. On the other hand, I am pointing out a logical anomaly in their doctrine.

Many evangelical churches despise the notions of doctrine and theology. Yet these are important things. Wars have been fought over different interpretations of biblical passages. You cannot convince me that doctrine and theology should be ignored in favor of experiences. I am not saying we should wage war over it now, heck, we have freedom of religion so we can discuss it freely. I encourage a positive response to the questions of what different doctrines mean. I am merely pointing out that doctrine is important (not all important, no, not more important than God). I do not think it is possible for humans to know everything about God. There are things we have to accept. At the same time, the wishy-washy drivel you sometimes learn in church is not helpful.

It is not so much the positive aspect of that drivel that I want to discuss. It is more the negative aspect. The continual need to tell the youth that their feelings are invalid or they should be ashamed of them. The fact is, obsession is a problem. Feelings are not. They are feelings, neither wrong nor right, but simply there. It is healthy to accept them for what they are and discuss them without hurting anyone. It is also helpful for parents to teach children how to express their feelings appropriately as they grow older. What would you rather have: A child who throws her ice cream cone on the ground because she wanted a piece of gum instead of ice cream (I can't justify her decision, no)? Or a child who says, "I really wanted gum not ice cream"? Okay, duh. The second alternative. Well, telling the child that she is spoiled and cannot have everything she wants is going to get you the former. Telling the child that you love her, you understand why she wants gum, but today we are having ice cream might still get you a tantrum. But it won't get you a child who goes through the rest of her life believing her needs are invalid and she should be ashamed of them.

There is nothing wrong with feelings. Even feelings that are rebellious toward a parent or authority figure. The fact is, children need to know they are individuals. They will never learn to live with their independence if they are not allowed to disagree. Pulling away from an angry child or withdrawing as if hurt when a child disagrees is damaging. In a rather evangelical sounding statement, I submit that God would not do that to his children. Even if he could not agree with us, he would not walk away to a distance or make us believe that we are always guilty of something (even just having a feeling). Why is it that evangelicals treat the youth this way? Not just in their own homes even, but everywhere? There could be many valid reasons. In fact, I am open to hearing them if you wish to join in the conversation. I am expressing my opinion and my hope that things will change for the better. That is all.


Tracy said...

I think for the same reasons that Ecclesiastes troubles so many Evangelicals and really challenges the thoughts of Christians of all sects. Meaningless, meaningless says the teacher.

I know for me as someone who is a member of the evangelical society to a degree it seems that the mind while not pure is a battlefield of spirituality. To beleive this in an evangelical context may just mean that to be 'conformed to the mind of Christ' is to be walking with him and to express feelings or "pathos" (lust) is to think in the flesh. For many evangelicals the thoughts of the flesh are just the first dangerous steps toward the deeds of the flesh (Psalm 1)

What is learned in church must have snappy conclusions and well-appointed "daily application." And unfortunately not all Scripture teaches us a snappy's only after life's trials and burdens do we look back and see where the application was...and it was in grace all along...apart from anything we could've done anyway.

As for me...I feel when I need to feel and usually more than I need to feel. I always refer to your scenario of the child with the ice cream as a 'heart by-pass' because it 'bypasses the heart of the issue.'

I liked this post

Esther said...

Okay, so we can have "holy emotions," just not human ones. That makes more sense. Yes, I am being facetious. But I do like your response. Thanks.

For the record I was a member of evangelical society and am now a Lutheran. I try not to be an arrogant Lutheran (there are so many of them). I still accept Christian Contemporary Music (as the LCMS calls it) as perfectly legitimate music. In fact, Skillet is my favorite Christian rock band. I do take some issues with the evangelicals more because of some hurts I received in their midst than anything else. Granted, not all evangelicals are like the ones I was around (e.g. you). If you have any questions you can email me as I am not going to put too much personal stuff on my blog (lots of people read it).

Tracy said...

Who listens to Missouri Synod people anyway? (grin)