Personal reflections · Psychology and mental illness · Religion and Spirituality

Compassion as a Prerequisite to Questioning

I used to really hate emotion. I didn’t think it was logical to trust your feelings. What do your emotions know? They’re just a distraction or an obstacle to doing the reasonable thing.

As it turns out, intuition is ridiculously helpful. Our subconscious awareness is way ahead of our conscious awareness a lot of the time. In many situations, the most logical thing I can do is stop to ask, “Do I feel uneasy or impulsive right now? Why do I feel this way?”

Because our emotions are so informative, it’s illogical to ignore them. They aren’t conclusive, but they are an important element of analysis. Emotions correlate to situations, but they might not specifically identify elements. As Randall Munroe put it, “Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing, ‘look over there’.”

This is what runs through my head when people criticize my reasoning against the Bible and supporting same-sex marriage.

More than one person said it looked like I felt compassionate toward friends, and thought therefore the Bible must be wrong. Such an argument, they told me, was a slippery slope. Why, if I could accept my gay friends, I could accept anything. There needs to be some standard for truth, and the Bible is that standard, they said.

First of all, that’s not what I did. The compassion made me start asking questions where I’d just accepted what I’d been told. It opened the case, and I started researching and studying. I was motivated to find an answer.

More importantly, though, so what if it started with compassion? Shouldn’t all the things that trouble us warrant digging deeper than what we’ve been told?

The pattern I learned in various churches and Christian groups was this:

Don’t be compassionate. That leads to questioning the way things are.

Don’t question the way things are. Questions lead to seeking out explanations.

Don’t think about our explanations. Then you’ll realize those explanations are flimsy at best, with ulterior motives at worst.

Don’t expose us. Then we’ll lose our power.

In every theological argument, I was deemed too compassionate. I couldn’t understand the way Calvinists shrugged at the thought of people being predestined for hell. I couldn’t see why someone on the other side of the world, having been born into a different culture, should have less of a chance of finding the one-and-only way to heaven. It’s like the leaders of these churches didn’t want me to be compassionate.

No wonder I didn’t trust my emotions. They only got me into trouble.

Yours will, too. Better to shut off your heart and your mind if you don’t like the idea of change.