I Don’t Care How You Feel

By Graham Glover

Your feelings mean very little.

I don’t much care about them.

In fact, you shouldn’t put a lot of stock in them either. They will betray you. They will deceive you. They will make you say and do things you will later regret. Their subjectivity is the source of eternal uncertainty.

How you feel matters not.

The problem is that our feelings dictate so much. They drive our politics. They feed our theology. They dictate what we consider to be right and wrong.

In our world, feelings mean everything. And this is a problem. In fact, it is THE problem.

It shouldn’t be this way – our feelings demanding and driving things. Our feelings should have little, if anything, to do with determining the truths of our polity, policy, and culture.

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Sadly, though it is this way. Our feelings dictate everything. They determine everything. Our feelings are everything. And because of this, everything is in flux – from our governance to the manner in which we practice our faith, both of which set the very foundation of the society in which we live.

Consider how so many come to determine who they will vote for, what drives them to a particular church, or how they determine whether something is good or bad. Feelings. Peoples subjective, fluid feelings. Emotions left unchecked, without any sense of eternal truth. Ideas prone only to how one thinks a particular issue should be addressed. Our feelings aren’t fact. They are nothing but selfish sentiments that change by the day. They may feel good. They might look good. But they offer nothing substantive for us to ground ourselves in or develop our societies.

We may talk a lot about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can quote endless passages about loving God and our neighbor. But when we’ve lost the ability to understand what life means, we have lost our ability to be fully human. When liberty means only what we want it to mean, then it really means nothing at all. When happiness is measured only in how we feel, we forget that true happiness doesn’t involve feelings at all. And when our faith is littered with talk about love, but does not and cannot talk about justice, then the love we think we know – the love we say our faith is about, is as shallow as our clichés about the modern understanding of love.

If a law is good because it makes us feel better, then shame on us for thinking that’s effective politics. If church practice is guided by the emotions we bring to worship or our interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, then what’s the point in believing in an eternal God? If there is no such thing as Truth, then our culture will continue to unravel until there is nothing left worth preserving.

I really don’t care how you feel because your feelings offer me nothing. Your feelings offer our politics nothing. Your feelings offer the faith nothing. When it comes to things of politics, faith, and culture, the only guiding principle worth considering is what is True, what is good, what is right. And this principle knows nothing of feelings.

So, how do you feel about that?

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10 comments

  1. To quote Captain James Kirk,when asked how he felt,”I feel fine”. Know what you mean,though. I don’t always “like” Orthodox Lutheranism,but I see in the BOC the truth of God espoused and His Word kept in tension…even when I don’t understand or feel good about it.

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  2. “If church practice is guided by the emotions we bring to worship or our interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, then what’s the point in believing in an eternal God?”

    Scripture must be interpreted. Why would we privilege one interpretation over another? Of course we do this. But, should not any interpretation be subject to scrutiny by each generation? Practice is even more culturally influenced than dogma. Why is the practice of one generation privileged?

    Even the English language evolves.

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    1. Which is why I object to “praise” music in church only on basis of content. The songs are wrong because of their messages, not the style of language or their aesthetic. Personally, I find the whole Hallmark/ American greetings aesthetic of their “poetry” as offensive as their musical stylings. Don’t even get me started on the fans of the Newsboys. What frustrates me is that those advocating for these are doing so precisely because of how they “feel” in church and want to express their feelings toward God, not preach the Gospel and His disposition toward us, and they do so while condemning the traditional aesthetic. Musically, the LSB is superior but, I can’t read music and I am no singer. So, I prefer the simple congregational stylings of the TLH. It is easier to blend in.

      I find limited redeeming qualities in some pieces – 10,000 Reasons (Ps 103) and God of Justice (Micah 6:8). the latter makes an OK sending song.

      The ESV has done some remarkable work with the language, even the Psalms, and is beautifully readable, out loud. No one I know objects to using it, not even the most rigid old folks.

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  3. I feel that God has a funny sense of humor that I should see this as the first thing when I open my phone after a panic attack. Your writing puts my “feelings” and PTSD into perspective…but it also puts into perspective what kind of pastor would write such a thing? Were you prompted by the Holy Spirit to write this or was it your sinful nature? God gave us feelings. Feelings are just information…and with this information…if we are even able to understand and discern it, we can cry out to God and turn to our Bibles for comfort…we can seek out our compassionate (I hope!) pastor for some reassurance and go to worship for the Word and Sacrament.

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    1. Sven, my point was not to discount feelings in all things. I guess I didn’t make that clear in the article. The point was the feelings shouldn’t drive what is true: in our politics, our faith, or our culture. My critique against feelings is focused on those who use them to change what is right and wrong.

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  4. Chaplain, interestingly I responded to your article first, then clicked on your name to see that you are in the Army. I was in the Army for 10 years…things are very different now…standards have changed drastically fueled by people’s feelings. I do not know how a Roman Catholic priest, LCMS or Southern Baptist pastor (maybe some others) who follow the authority of the Word in regard to marriage, roles of women in Christian ministry, homosexuality and now transgender issues, are able to adhere to God’s truths in their entirety. It is in our sinful nature to exchange truth for lies based on feelings which is why it is so necessary to profess the truth of Christ. I tell you Chaplain, being a Lutheran Christian helped me endure many horrific things. Thank you for your service to our country and ministry in the Army…especially at this time in history…to live is Christ, to die is gain. Peace be with thy spirit!

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    1. Sven, thank you for your service as well. It definitely is a challenging time: in the Army and elsewhere. So far, I have been free to proclaim the truths of the faith and maintain my LCMS identity as an Army Chaplain. I pray that ability does not go away.

      Thanks again for your points above. Good insight and a healthy reminder about the importance of feelings.

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