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Prejudice Against Emotion

from The Herald of Gospel Liberty, January 6, 1910

 Prejudice Against Emotion

The cold intellectualism of the Twentieth Century is opposed to emotion. Why, we know not, unless it be that the intellect is unwilling to give credit to anything other than itself. The intellect is fond of being covered with the glory of self.

In almost all the walks of life we hear men and women, and they are sensible people on most questions, speaking against emotion in religion. They look upon it, one would judge from what they say, as a relic of the most superstitious age of the world’s history. A large percent of the educated people of this day feel ashamed of any display of emotion. Even if a loved one should die, they would think it a sign of great weakness to give way to feeling on an occasion of that sort.

But the most regrettable feature of the matter is the fact that educated Christian men and women seem determined to freeze out all emotion in the life of the Church, and so leave the intellect a big icicle for the admiration of the church. And we must admit the icicle has a beauty all its own, but nothing grows, not even lives, within its circle. If the church needs anything, it needs life and warmth and activity and fruitfulness, but an icicle can give none of these.

We ought to remember that God gave to man an emotional nature as well as an intellect. The two have been given to the same life-they have been planted in the same mind and heart, and evidently for wise and holy purposes. Intellect is a means of thought.  Emotion is the fire God gave the intellect to keep it from freezing to death. When we seek to destroy the emotions of the heart life, we are also destroying the life of the intellect. If the life of the intellect be destroyed, then so far as the spiritual powers are concerned, we are dead to the better sensibilities of our higher nature, and we at once lose the sense of touch with God and the unseen, and we begin to build a tower of intellectual ice, seeking to find our way to Heaven apart from the glow of holy emotions.

This sort of thing has been going on till its fruits begin to appear. We preach and preach, but no one seems to be led to act in harmony with the truth preached. Why? Oh, it must be because the freezing process has gone so far as to chill the real life of the people till they are unable to feel. If unable to feel, then unable to act; if unable to act, then unable to live, and ‘spiritual death’ is inevitable.

Why is it our churches are so poorly attended, while the theaters are overcrowded? Why is it our churches have a hard time to raise enough money to meet current expenses, while the theaters are making money hand over hand, and prospering as at no other time in their history perhaps?

These questions may be hard to answer, but a very suggestive fact can be produced, viz.: While the pulpit and the church people are decrying emotion and cultivating a frigid intellectual life, the theater is playing on the emotional life of the people, and they have the crowds and the money to support them.

In this we are confronted by a fact we cannot down – it stares us in the face and will not go at our bidding, viz.: God gave man an emotional nature, and for wise and holy purposes. If we seek to destroy that nature, then we destroy the man as God made him, and we can but expect that he will dedicate his life to other ends than that for which he was created. Here is the explanation in a large measure of empty churches and crowded theaters: The church having repudiated largely the emotional nature, as God gave it, and the theater having been wiser in their generation than the children of light, in giving freedom to the emotional nature, why the crowds have been driven away from the church by its iciness and they have been drawn to the theater by the larger, though perverted, glow of the emotions. The church is cold and icy, in many instances, with small crowds to hear the Rev. Mr. Intellectual preach out of the fullness of the iciness of his intellectuosity.

We believe the present chill of the church will not be relieved till we, as Christians, get clear of iciness and give the emotions the place God meant they should have in the life of His people. We do not favor madness in emotion, but a sober glow of the warmer life in the fullness of God’s love. This we need – this we must have ere the church shall get back to its place of power in the world. Let us think – let us act!

The important thing, therefore… is that the church could make no greater mistake than to abandon the whole field of human emotion to the stage. The theater… is in danger of using it to poison the very springs of life. The church can use it to purify life. And in so doing, the church would be vastly more scientific than the men who are incessantly demanding a scientific religion and yet ignoring the tremendous place of passion and emotion in human life. A skeleton is a fact, but when the bones are clothed in flesh and blood there is a much greater fact. The modern idea is to strip religion to the bone: the older and eternal and only workable idea of religion is that it must have flesh and blood as well as bones.

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