This is an exact copy of what my monthly subscribers received this morning for the June Review. I’m offering you a glimpse in case you’re interested in becoming an email subscriber. Each month I offer updates on what I’m working and include an unpublished article. (This obviously is getting published as a teaser. ?) If you’ve ever wanted to comment or respond to my content, this is also your opportunity to interact with me. I make a point to respond to reader emails. If you enjoy this article, you can subscribe by using the form below. Enjoy!
First let me give you some updates:
- Mere Liberty Courses has had a successful launch with my new Liberty Seminars. In case you missed it, I’m offering my services as a virtual Socratic seminar coach, teaching critical thinking to middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults through pro-liberty content. You can find more information at Mere Liberty Courses. I am currently taking names for the fall waitlist. If you’d like to be included, you can simply update your subscription profile here.
- In my last email, I shared with you my interview with Aimee Byrd on her new book, Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Since publishing that interview, a whirlwind of controversy has blown up concerning the book, Byrd’s motives and the assumptions of her critics, and the publications of comments attacking her, myself, and other Reformed writers, academics, and pastors for daring to ask questions.
- Because of this, I decided to shift the angle from which I was writing my extended review of her book, which I hope to publish in the coming week or two. But all of this chatter about “biblical manhood and womanhood” is related to a broader cultural dynamic which can be seen in other current events such as COVID-19, the black lives matters protests, and the economic fallout.
How do our emotions relate to ideas?
These are all very emotional topics. A while back I wrote about how emotionally charged topics become polarized: Polarizing Abortion, Mass Shootings, Vaccinations. This happens to be one of the topics that I discuss with my seminar students, and both the kids and the adults were surprised by the connection, and their own lack of awareness concerning the relationship between emotions and ideas.
On the one hand, our emotions about these issues are very real and shouldn’t be dismissed.
- our insecurity over vulnerability to infections
- our confusion or anxiety about novelty in virology and our skepticism about the best ways to preserve the health of our communities
- our hostility or jealousy over the power and right to control what we do with our own bodies, especially in relation to the above concerns
- our anger over abuses of people, whether because of their skin color or gender, and the depression, sense of inadequacy, or helplessness about it.
- our bewilderment over systematizing those abuses through authoritarian policies, whether by church or state
- our frustration over the ability to provide basic necessities like food, shelter, healthcare, and education due to certain CDC recommendations
… this list could go on.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t let our emotions lead our judgements and decision-making. And yet, that’s exactly what we’re faced with today. Take any issue of importance to human beings, make a claim that civil governance or the church has a role in controlling it, then politicians run amuck with their rhetoric, the people choose sides, ridicule, belittle, and blame the other side, and what happens? All hell breaks loose!
It happens every. single. time!
Our emotions are certainly real and we shouldn’t ignore them. But our emotions are not what should rule us. Emotions are indicators that we need to pay attention to something, but they aren’t a means of making decisions and judgements about the world.
We need to be aware of how our emotions relate to our own thoughts and ideas about the world. We shouldn’t take this to mean that our emotions are wrong or our ideas are wrong (although our ideas may be wrong!). It means understanding that any given issue has a subject-object relationship. We subjectively experience objects in the world, and our subjective experiences are unique to us. We don’t always share the same subjective experiences with others, and yet our subjective experiences don’t change objective reality.
The subject-object relationship can (and is) often abused by two sides of a debate. One side places a higher emphasis on subjective experience (and maybe one kind of subjective experience) while the other side places a higher emphasis on objective reality (even though human beings can only interpret objective reality through subjective experience). The mistake comes when we reduce a complex issue down to one aspect of that issue, thereby minimizing other aspects. And that’s where we loose our civility.
Whether we’re discussing public health, economics, racism, or masculinity and femininity, we’re never going to make progress if we don’t learn how to use our emotions as a tool, rather than a guiding compass. Our guiding compass should be the truth of reality, not how we feel about that reality. And that requires us to take a step back and appreciate nuance instead of oversimplification.
A friend of mine recently invited me to explore a lecture series from Dr. W. Robert Godfrey called, Learning to Love the Psalms. One point he draws out is the importance of human emotion and how the Psalms help us process those emotions and move forward. I mention that here because it’s too easy, and I think Dr. Godfrey would agree, for us to downplay and minimize our emotions. That’s not the aim of understanding that there is a subject-object relationship with these issues. The aim is to process and understand our own emotions so that we can move forward and make progress on these complex issues. If you’re interested, you can find this lecture series here.
So when you find yourself impassioned about a given topic, pull yourself back and identify the emotions you’re feeling. Ask yourself why you feel that way about the topic. That’s the beginning of looking to what our emotions point at, rather than letting them rule us.