The Curse of Emotionalism – Concise Version
Emotionalism can be seen with the Prophets of Baal, in 1 Kings chapter 18, as they sought the false god Baal to prove himself and bring fire down on their offering which they made to him at Mount Carmel. This offering was made in response to the Prophet Elijah’s challenge regarding whether the Lord (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses; the God of the Bible) is the true God; or whether it is Baal, the Canaanite fertility god whom Israel was whoring after (with the exception of 7,000 people). Leaping, screaming loud, and even cutting themselves to get their god’s attention was in the mindset of these idol worshippers. The mindset that the hype, exhibition, and imagery which they generated would somehow affect or obligate their god to hear their prayer was inherent in their religion. When emotionalism then is mixed (attempted to be mixed, that is; God doesn’t accept such a mixture), with the God of the Bible’s worship, then that is evil and it causes confusion, misrepresenting the true God and what proper worship is in His eyes. You cannot mix emotionalism with Christianity without violating Christian principles.
Jesus gave a warning related to this in the Gospels, especially in relation to the things which the prophets of Baal were doing in their attempt to be heard by Baal. Matthew 6:7-8: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Thinking that our prayers will be heard for our being long and/or loud in making them, for excessive crying, for exhibitions we display, and for the overall hype we generate when we pray is a heathen concept. And yet this mentality is evidently common in Christendom (i.e. the realm of professing Christianity) due to the Pagan emotionalism which has significantly influenced many segments of it.
Pursuing emotional experience is a way of the heathen, whether it is labeled as Christian or not. And people who don’t even claim to be Christians will regularly say that a concert they attended was like a religious experience; or was the closest thing that they’ve ever had to a religious experience. Likewise, other environments and venues where emotional highs and lows are experienced can cause the same. People at sporting events, political events, and game shows (like the Price is Right) will experience emotions which can make it seem like they are having a spiritual experience. And sometimes, even real spiritual experiences can be downright evil and harmful. The Bible speaks about other spirits besides the Spirit of God (in 1 John chapter 4, 2 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 4, etc).
Music is often consciously calculated to move people’s emotions in a certain way. Through the means of music, other media, and various exhibitions people can be moved emotionally in a powerful way. Often this is so powerful that the emotional experience can masquerade as a spiritual experience and easily be mistaken as such. Those who are skillful in psychology, and who also seek to manipulate people, know these things and seek to control people by deception related to this. Don’t think that churches are off-limits to such operations. It is quite the opposite.
Pre-planned emotional movements of a church congregation through the means of song selection, methods of preaching sermons, lighting, and/or in other ways are manipulative and a curse to those who are affected by such. It is especially common for such means to reach a climax which is centered around, or happening especially near to, the time of the collection plate being passed (or other means of collecting the offering). And this problem of infiltration of emotionalism into Christendom is especially common in mega-churches. A few of the most glaring examples are the extremely popular Bethel-Redding church (and its associates) and the Hillsong churches.
Music, when played to honor God and not calculated to appeal primarily to man’s feelings, can be a powerful tool for praising and worshiping God- which might perhaps generate emotional experiences in people hearing it- as a by-product. Music might also be selected to reflect healthy emotions related to commonly known circumstances which are greatly affecting many in the congregation. That is not wrong. Yet when the music is written or selected to deliberately alter man’s psyche in a given way, then it is controlling, manipulative, and used for evil ends. It is a strange fire.
Environments where this strange fire is offered confuse the simple, as they are taught to label their altered emotional states as “the presence of God.” Such environments may even deeply harm an already psychologically damaged person even worse than they are already hurt or make a grieving person’s grief even worse. An example would be a fast-paced environment where everyone is implicitly pressured to tap their feet and act happy. When the psychological pressure of the environment is strong enough, people feel compelled to do this even when it doesn’t reflect the state of their present psyche. This is not appropriate in their circumstances (the Bible says to rejoice with them that rejoice; and to mourn with them that mourn in Romans chapter 12; certainly not to act excessively the opposite around them, hoping that emotion will spread to them contagiously). This can also tempt and provoke people to put on an act to fit in with, and conform to, whatever heightened emotional state the congregation is being pressured to conform to.
Hype is also not compatible with authentic Christianity. By hype, I mean deliberately generating excitement and seeking to get people to move or act based on that excitement. Hype is ultimately an expression of emotionalism. Churches and charismatic leaders will try to get people on board with them, and subservient to the methods they’ve contrived, through hype (like a lot of other institutions, as well as ideological and political movements). It is especially bad and deceptive when Jesus and Biblical terms are attached to hype.
The term soul power has to do with such emotionalism when applied by someone with a strong personality or through an environment of human pressure and/or intimidation. Many people are pressured and manipulated into making professions of Christ in this way (coming to the altar, saying a sinner’s prayer, getting baptized, etc), as well as into doing other things to conform to the demands of the group and the individuals in it exercising strong soul power. Such power, a prevalent extension of emotionalism, cannot produce genuine Christian faith and righteousness. It leaves those who have responded based upon its influence especially deceived and confused.
Simplistic propaganda slogans are an example of how the world influences us to act on emotion rather than upon truth and logic. Those who promote abortion give slogans advocating women’s health care which are ultimately emotionalistic propaganda. Those who fall for it respond by saying things like “Yeah! Who do those pro-life people think they are to deny a woman her right to health care!” They conveniently don’t talk about the baby which is gruesomely killed in their message. For every woman who had an abortion for whatever reason, a woman can be found who was in similar circumstances that had the baby- and was fine. Yet in every case where an abortion was performed, a baby died- and the woman was not always well afterwards either (often not even physically and/or emotionally). Abortion promoters have to resort to emotionalism through sob stories of women “who just had it so hard”, and allegedly needed to have the abortion, to try to make their case. And then they must resort to rage and profanity or more crying when anyone dares to logically question the validity of their claims and/or states the obvious regarding the dead baby, whose life was most certainly destroyed- possibly much more so by the pressure of the father, or another influential person in the mother’s life, than by the choice of the mother herself. To make abortion primarily an issue of women’s rights indeed glosses over the obvious fact that often the woman would rather have the baby, yet is strongly influenced or virtually forced by another to have the abortion. It is operating on emotionalism, and an overall lack of resorting to truth and logic, which causes many to never even consider things like this in deciding their stance on the matter.
Emotionalism also has a lot to do with the Jezebel spirit. Manipulating through emotional appeals and emotional displays is a skill which Jezebels thrive on and are among the best at. Find our message on “Warring Against the Jezebel spirit” to learn more about the curse of emotional manipulation, as the two topics are very closely related. In fact, it would be hard to find an environment, especially a church environment, where emotionalism reigned, without finding women leading outside of their God-ordained Biblical roles- or at least without finding Jezebel-type women influencing the male leaders away from Biblical commandments and order.
God has designed mankind so that emotions matter and play a key role. Yet they should never lead. They should be regarded as a servant, not as a master. The Bible often relates being righteous and faithful towards God with soldiers and military discipline. It is well known that soldiers are trained not to respond to situations according to their emotions. That is an essential part of their discipline and training. And that is no less true of disciples in the service of the King of Kings.
Emotionalism does not hold up when one is actually faced with the real life demands of true Christianity. The pursuit of emotional experiences, operating upon hype, and the general leading of emotion don’t lead to the walk of righteousness, and consistent faithfulness, which we need to have to please God and inherit salvation. Consider what Jesus said about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. It is the goats who might have not done what they should have (in identifying with Christ’s people in their need; and in loving their needy neighbor as themselves) because of how doing so would be inconsistent with their feelings at the time. The hype and the fuzzy feelings will not always be there. And if they were, you’d still be too caught up in such to recognize the opportunity to serve Jesus, and the great test you were under, when they were right before you!
Luke 10:25-29: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor (this lawyer was emotionally attached to his fellow Jews, but not to others; he was especially alienated in his feelings from Samaritans)?”
Jesus then told the story of the Good Samaritan in verses 30 to 35 -and then turned back to the lawyer with this conclusion in Luke 10:36-37: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him (that’s the Good Samaritan). Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Yet doing so would have been contrary to this lawyer’s feelings! The quality of one’s faith is shown by what one does when confronted with the demands of righteousness, especially when one is seen only by God or seen only by God and those who don’t appreciate a right response before God in the particular scenario. Emotionalism does not beget genuine faith towards God nor beget a righteous walk of faith before God. Emotionalism may however lead to, or be compatible with, a flowery apology which sounds really good. Yet anyone with much experience knows that emotional apologies are not always followed through on.
Luke 19:1-10: “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (How emotional was Zaccheus when he said this? It doesn’t matter enough for God to even tell us. Jesus saw deeper inside Zaccheus; and He knew that Zaccheus had turned to righteousness from sin) And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham (that is, a true son of Abraham who became circumcised before God in his heart and proved it by his deeds). For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Thinking that emotionally moving music and hype which humans generate can bring a person to a righteous faith in Christ, like Zaccheus came to, is ridiculous. Those who resort to emotionalism lack real wisdom and power from God. Make sure that you have an authentic faith in the Jesus of the Bible which will hold up, causing you to trust God and work righteousness before Him, in the darkest and loneliest hour when emotional satisfaction is out of reach for you; and there is no one there to hype you up nor cheer you on.
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]