What Makes a Christian Rationalist Cry

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I don’t cry when my closest friend gets in a taxi, moving to another continent; but I do cry when reason in spirituality is threatened. You too might react with a tangle of concerns during ‘worship time’ if your leaders repeated the same strange syllables again and again. They’d say they’re speaking in tongues, but it sounds more like a babbling one-and-a-half-year-old. The kind of religion you’ve been raised with, something stable, considered and kept, isn’t here. The right side of the brain has a party while the left disintegrates from lack of stimulation.

But this overemphasis of emotions stirs up my emotions, those of a highly linear thinker: my eyes are warm and start sagging. Something is wrong, something is forgotten. I’m not a ‘feely’ person but when people seem to get all Pentecostal on me, I’m unnerved. When I see them speaking in tongues, it often doesn’t look miraculous.

prayer, lifted hands
Source: Pixabay

They’re distressed by traditional churches and that millennials don’t come, but I’m distressed by them. Why don’t they think hard and ask questions? They just want ‘spirit,’ ‘power,’ ‘presence,’ and ‘healings’. They can rattle off jargon about things they’ve experienced, or only think they’ve experienced. And then, it’s the same people I see arguing and telling others what to do. The problem is, they’ve pushed me more away from faith than bring me to it.

Although, I’m aware that I need to be rational about this. I need to be myself. I won’t base my worldviews off of one experience that I alone have had. There’s a lot of trash in the church, but that can be managed, if not expected, if Jesus’s claims are true. He can fix all the excesses, all the problematic behavior.

The funny thing is that I’m also an artist. I’m not a bookworm stuck in the pages of Karl Barth or John Wesley all afternoon. Sure, I listen to podcasts while running and read before bed. I’ve made one-sided friendships with Tim Mackie, Jordan Peterson, and, yes, even the Liturgists. But I’ve also spent hours painting, designing, photographing, drawing, and seeing the world with the eyes of a girl digging for beauty.

And yet, can’t anyone else say they also get tense when thinking about the atmosphere in a Hillsong Church? Any movement that’s intellectually boring, like emotional drugs, will not last. It is not sustainable and it’s better to consider that before it confuses so many people that the condition of Christianity crumbles even more.

Christianity can be just plain weird at times: there’s Anglicans, Evangelicals, Catholics, Charismatics. There’s communion every week, communion once a month, communion only if you’ve been confirmed. There’s hands by your side, hands raised, bodies swaying, bodies rolling on the floor in spasms. There’s thinking, contemplating, and meditating. There’s distracting people and invisible people. There’s judgmental hearts, hurting hearts. There’s young people and old people, black churches and white churches. There’s short thirty minute sermons and long ten minute sermons. There’s icons, paintings, stained glass windows, bare walls. There’s mood controlling bands with dim lighting and cult-like candles. There’s long prayer and short prayer, individual prayer and loud prayer. There’s prayer of commanding and prayers of request. There’s attendants trying to raise moral kids and members who bake for every business meeting. I’m exasperated sometimes. How can Christianity be such a split-up mess?

I’ve had three encounters with my own tears this year. One was on June 23rd when I said goodbye to my parents and my dog at the airport in Chicago, about to fly back to England for half a year. Another time happened in September, when I had a meeting with someone in a position of spiritual authority over me. When I spoke with him through my tears, he listened. He “em-hm”-ed and waited through my emotional tumble.

But the most significant cry happened as I sat in a pew halfway to the back of an unfamiliar sanctuary. I had been spending time with a couple of people who behaved far more charismatic than I anticipated — and it affected me more than any ordinary preference of expression would. Their brainless trance-like behavior unsettled my spirituality, so I sat in the back, trying to pray and not let myself just take off.

When emotional highs are given more value than the life of the mind, I can frighten myself with how troubled become. Feelings are good and right, but not when taken out of place. What we need is balance. It is good to feel and be in touch with our own unique personalities. But never exclusively. I’ve come to see how there is more potential in the combination of head and heart, thinking and feeling, intuition and sensation, than in either left alone. They are a cosmic pair, but dangerous singularities.

Based in Pennsylvania, Emily is a storyteller, both intellectually-driven and artistic. She focuses on Christian faith and the global advancement of justice in her writing and photography. You can find her website at https://emilyenelson.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Instagram as well.

Editors comment: This article might not reflect the views of Siggiblog.com, but it is an honestly written and very interesting article, and we do hope you have enjoyed reading it and that it might have stirred something up in you! It is never wrong to think on your own!!!

2 Responses

  1. Tears may not be synonymous with spirituality but, if the Lord moves that way, let them flow. I recently had tears fill my eyes after listening to a moving song while driving my car. Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. Emily, thank you for sharing such a thought-provoking and introspective piece. Your exploration of the tension between emotional experience and intellectual understanding within the context of spirituality is both relatable and illuminating.

    Your candid reflections on encountering charismatic expressions of faith and the dissonance they create for your linear thinking offer valuable insights into the complexities of belief systems. Your call for balance between heart and mind resonates deeply, reminding us of the richness that emerges when we embrace the fusion of both.

    Moreover, your honesty in navigating the diverse landscape of Christianity, with its myriad expressions and practices, underscores the need for open dialogue and critical inquiry within religious communities. Your willingness to engage with these complexities while maintaining your individuality is commendable and inspiring.

    Overall, your article serves as a compelling invitation for readers to reflect on their own spiritual journeys and to embrace the complexity of faith with humility and curiosity. Thank you for sharing your perspective and encouraging us to think critically and authentically about our beliefs.

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