News and Views

When Feelings Reign

For some time, I have noticed an increasing emphasis on feelings, emotional reactions. More and more we say, “I feel ....” when we really mean, “I think....” I've recognized the use of feelings as a foundation for passive control with the appearance of sweet reasonableness along the lines of, “When you do/say that, it makes me feel bad” with the spoken or unspoken understanding that nothing may be done/said that makes this person feel bad. Protection of feelings is behind the huge nonsense lies Rick Warren identified, “If you disagree with someone, you must fear or hate them.” And “That to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.” To offend someone is to hurt their feelings, and our quasi-judicial Human Rights Tribunals are declaring more and more that to offend is an illegal offense. The list goes on and on.

Imbedded within a couple unrelated articles in a recent Maclean's magazine were a couple relevant statements. The first simply supplied another example. Colby Cosh stated, “There is a multi-part test for establishing 'cruel and unusual' behaviour. Among the questions are: Is the treatment 'unacceptable to a large segment of the population'? Does it 'shock the general conscience'?” He went on to describe how Justice Mactavish used opinions of doctors, provincial politicians, and editorialists and columnists, as reported in the press, to inform her judgement. He even recognized that, “One obvious problem with using pundits as an index of conscience is that people who are angry about something will write about it, and people who aren't, won't.” The second is from an article about Generation Z, the young people now in school or graduated from high school within the last year or two. In it is the statement, “This is also a 'post-logical' world that emphasizes emotional reaction: 'Social media is more right-brain, not left-brain.'” (Right-brain being more intuitive, creative and emotional; left-brain being more logical and linear in its reasoning.)

For years I have been aware of the promotion of getting in touch with our feelings, and I do recognize that it is important to recognize what we are actually feeling. However, I am equally convinced that we need to learn to control our feelings, and that feelings are the worst possible basis for important decisions. Feelings follow our thoughts, so when we learn to control the constant flow of thoughts in our minds, we can control our feelings. When making decisions, feelings are only one of a number of factors which we need to consider. When the published feelings of an angry few can affect a decision of the nations highest court, as Cosh discussed, we are in trouble.

But how does this matter to Christians? It is significant in a number of ways.

First, Christians are commanded to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Jesus speaking in Matt. 28:19-20 NIV).” God does not change. That command is for you and I as much as it was for Jesus' disciples to whom it was first spoken. In order to communicate the Gospel effectively, it really helps to understand how other people think, what a culture prizes.

Secondly, it helps to make us aware that a contemporary temptation is to make feelings most important, to make an idol or a god of emotions. To be aware is half the solution.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it compels us to consider the place of feelings and emotion in the Christian context. As humans, we have emotions because we are made in the image of our great God, who has emotions. I often express the primary goal of the Christian life as getting to really know God so well that we find our greatest joy and delight in our love relationship with Him. A lot is involved in getting to know God that well, but it is Biblical, an easy goal to desire, and a desire that God honours, both in this life and even more in Heaven where living in God's presence is what makes Heaven so heavenly. In the experience of myself and others I know, God communicates to us individually in a number of ways: through reading, studying and meditating upon the Bible, through visions and dreams, through words, sentences suddenly in the mind, and through feelings, especially in response to prayer. The fastest growing part of the Christian church, the Body of Christ world-wide today is the part that is most comfortable with emotion. God gave us emotions, and He uses them in our lives for His purposes.

That said, it is also good to remember that the Biblical, God-centred, Christian worldview actually provides the most logical, reasonable, and defensible worldview. When we give God absolutely first place in our lives, He will give us balance in in every other area, including in feelings and logic.

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