Pastor's Blog

My favorite character in the original Star Trek series was Mr. Spock.  Spock, half-human and half-Vulcan, is dominated by his Vulcan side.  Vulcans live by sheer logic.  Reason means everything.  Emotions do nothing but cloud judgment.  Feelings are unimportant.  What is the truth?  What are the facts?  That is what drives Spock.

Mr. Spock is surrounded by highly emotional fully human characters like Captain Kirk and Dr. “Bones” McCoy, who constantly act on emotional impulse and gut instinct, and who, despite bypassing logic, somehow end up doing the right thing and saving the day.

To which Spock can only raise an eyebrow and respond drily:  “Fascinating.”

The characters of Star Trek, much to my chagrin, reflect truth about reality.  Vulcans don’t exist.  Spock is just the fictional foil for Captain Kirk and the other characters to demonstrate that emotion and feeling, not reason, are what make humans human.  It is Spock with his constant appeal to logic alone who seems less human, unreal, robotic.  His inability to engage emotion is what is often lamented in the series, not Kirk’s inability to stay the course and be logical.  Kirk’s success apart from logic always puzzles Spock.

The clash between reason and emotion has created an internal battle for me ever since I’ve been in ministry.  Spock represents my own approach, my ideal.  People should be persuaded by the truth alone.  If you need to appeal to more than truth to persuade – if you must use gimmicks, if you must manipulate feelings – you are attempting to bypass the truth.  Why?  Isn’t the truth good enough?

An appeal to logic may be a great ideal, but Vulcans are fiction.  Real people in the real world are emotional.  Like it or not, how they feel about things is important to them.  And if your appeal to reason doesn’t take into account the fact of their emotions you are perceived as lacking compassion, lacking heart, lacking sensitivity.  You are perceived as impersonal and uncaring.   You lack humanity.

When it comes to matters of reason and emotion, humanity falls on a spectrum.  On one end you have people who are almost robotic – completely given to logic and reason (like Spock).  On the other end you have people who are completely given to feelings and who can’t track with any reasoning that runs contrary to their feelings.  And then you have the entire spectrum of different balances of reason and feelings that fall in between.

I fall on the Spock end of that spectrum.  It’s not that I don’t feel things.  I am very emotional.  I am moved to uncontrollable tears by Gustav Holst’s Jupiter, and my voice cracks and breaks off in silence if I have to sing And Can It Be or How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.  Our congregation can testify to the many times that I have been overcome with emotion in preaching, especially when I begin thinking of selfless sacrifice – like that of Jesus or John the Baptist or the American founders or those that have given their lives in military service.

What I have found, however, is that when they are given free rein, when they permitted to take the steering wheel, feelings rarely steer life in a good direction.  Feelings are my personal response to the world around me, to how the world is affecting me.  But my view is narrow and small, and when my feelings drive I fail to consider the numerous other things required to make wise decisions and plot a steady and successful course forward.

I can’t escape having feelings, but I can control them and keep them at bay.  I am not always successful, but many things, including my upbringing and many life experiences, have taught me how to suspend feelings when I am assessing a situation and making a decision. 

But what do you do when you are oriented toward the Spock-end, have learned to be that way, and then you encounter people at the opposite end of that spectrum?  If you want to minister to them, to serve them, you have to meet them where they are – and that means developing some level of understanding of emotions and emotional people – people who not only don’t feel that emotional manipulation is bad but whose lives are actually driven by it!

This is one of those places where reality has not totaled my ideals, but viciously dented them and forced me to adapt.  Adapt -- not completely concede and surrender. 

And that is one of the crosses upon which my own soul must die almost daily in the hope of being raised with a better understanding of this dilemma and how to minister patiently and successfully, serving others where the Lord has put them rather than demanding that they move to where I want them to be.

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