Emotion or Reason? What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Embracing a Full Humanity

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit distracted by the Coronavirus crisis. My youngest daughter is a trauma-ICU nurse in Nashville and she’s scared. They don’t have enough personal protective equipment and although her unit is not focused on COVID-19 patients, the physicians move between the emergency department and the trauma ward on a regular basis. One doctor has already tested positive and a few patients are pending. She texted me to say, “You and Dad aren’t going out, are you? You’re isolating, right?”

This sort of emotional response may seem like overkill to some. A longtime friend complained on Facebook about Colorado’s stay at home order, arguing it is unnecessary in such a sparsely populated state. This perspective may come from the fact that at the same time our governor is telling us to stay home, he is also trying to reassure us that only about 10% of cases need hospitalization and only 5% of those are critical. And when Time magazine reports a worldwide case fatality rate of 4% but a U.S. rate of 1.7%, no wonder people are complaining.

Yet those numbers belie the truth. If you go to the data website Worldometer’s page on the coronavirus, you see that for closed cases (where the person has either recovered or died) the worldwide death rate is much higher, with vastly varying rates by country. The difference between those numbers and the ones reported in the media lies in the fact that at any given time we do not know how the majority of cases will turn out. So giving a death rate based on the assumption that of the hundreds of thousands of people who are still sick or hospitalized with COVID-19 not one will die is misleading. By God’s grace, when all is said and done, it won’t be as bad as it appears now. Right now, however, things do not look good.

So what does the current situation have to do with discussions of gender, the Bible and human nature? I guess I was reflecting on the claim that women are emotional and men are rational, and that being rational is better than being emotional. There’s also the idea that the two cannot go coexist; either you are being emotional or you are being rational, not both.

Yet this is not how the Bible reveals the essence of human nature nor how it reveals the character of God. In the Old Testament God is consistently described as compassionate and longsuffering. He is also filled with anger or regret at times. Jesus was filled with compassion for the sick, suffering, and lost, anger toward those who perverted the truth and exploited the poor, and love for his friends. He did not make decisions based on emotionless “reason,” but rather on a rationality that has been instructed by emotion. 

When the situation called for it, Jesus wept. This in no way kept him from acting appropriately; on the contrary, Jesus’ emotion enabled him to make the right decision. Mary and Martha were no doubt comforted by the way Jesus entered into their grief. Jesus didn’t stop there, of course. He raised Lazarus from the dead. What I want you to see, though, is that it was Jesus’ emotion that informed his reason. 

Scripture says:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. (Eccl. 3:1-8)

The Teacher does not say there’s a time for women to weep or mourn, or for women to embrace and laugh and dance, while men remain unemotional and “rational.” Both emotionality and rationality are fundamental aspects of our humanity. The two go hand in hand and must be interwoven in order for us to most faithfully image our divinely emotional and rational God. 

Personally, I am sad that this is not the time for embracing. It is emotional to me, especially as I am staying away from my oldest daughter who is due to deliver her fourth child any day now. Though I regret missing the sharing of this season with her, my rationality tells me this is the wisest choice. Yet I do not deny the emotional loss, for an ongoing pattern of emotional denial would train me to be heartless. 

This is what I am trying to get at: A proper response to the varied joys and challenges of life requires the integrating of reason and emotion, two essential components of human nature. 

Here in the United States we have seen this integration in the midst of crisis. No one should fault Governor Cuomo of New York for becoming emotional in a press conference, whether raising his voice or seemingly verging on tears. Considering that his state has more coronavirus cases than all but five nations, I would be concerned if Cuomo did not display evidence that he has been deeply moved. And in the earlier stages of the outbreak in the United States, when Dr. Anthony Fauci was desperately trying to get people to pay attention, the emotional nature of his very rational appeal came through loud and clear.

Dr. Deborah Birx is another example of rationality combined with emotionality. Though she may not be as expressive as Cuomo or some of the others, her heartfelt concern and compassion are evident as she rationally explains the necessity of the course of action she and Fauci recommended to our president. Her name seems apt, as her footsteps follow after an ancient Deborah who, also in a time of great crisis, did her God-ordained job by convincing a powerful man to do his. 

The fact is, action based on “reason” devoid of emotion becomes heartless, self-protecting, and ultimately nonsensical. If we don’t allow our heart to be engaged our decisions overlook one of the most important gifts God has given us.

So what is the solution? Reason? Emotion?

No. It’s both.

“Does Gender Matter?” My Latest Podcast Interview with Dr. Juli Slattery

It feels strange to post about ordinary things – like the meaning of masculinity and femininity – in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Life has been put on hold in so many ways here in Colorado with school, restaurant, retail, resort, and government office closings. Applications for unemployment insurance have skyrocketed in the state over the past week, as thousands of people are suddenly out of work.

And yet I wanted to let you know about my latest podcast with Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy, if for no other reason than that the Java With Juli podcasts are only available to the general public for six months. After that you have to subscribe to listen.

Here are a few comments about the interview:

If we believe that we need representation by both genders in all spheres of society then we must believe that the differences between women and men matter. If we think it’s important to listen to the voices of both men and women, what we are saying is that the unique perspectives of males and females bring value to our lives, our homes, and our world. If all of this is true, then talking about what those differences might be is a conversation we need to have.

Is it possible to look at gender differences without falling into stereotypical, traditional, or hierarchical descriptions? Can we consider the topic from a theological perspective without defaulting to assumptions that have harmed women and men for millennia?

I believe the answer to those questions is a resounding yes. If we start with our fundamental humanity as image-bearers of God rather than with the differences, we position ourselves to articulate a full orbed picture of masculinity and femininity instead of a truncated and often erroneous version.

So when I was invited to talk about what it means to be a woman or a man with Juli Slattery and Glenn Stanton, I jumped at the opportunity. As you will see, Juli, Glenn, and I come to the table with different perspectives and different starting points on the topic. I hope this leads to thoughtful reflection rather than confusion for listeners.

I believe this is such an important topic because we need to turn the tide away from harmful and, frankly, untrue conceptions of gender that have too often been embraced in conservative circles.

My First Article Published by Fathom

This week my first article for Fathom Magazine came out. It’s more personal (and shorter) than most of what I write here. So if you’ve been wondering what in my story has made me so passionate about women and their identity as image-bearers of God, take a look! It’s very strange to me now that I did not see anything wrong with the concepts of male priority I was taught when I was young. I was just a teenager though, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

If you’re not familiar with Fathom you may want to browse a bit while you’re there. Here’s a little about them from their website:

Fathom is a digital platform that compels people to seek out the depths of Christian faith. We publish a digital magazine, a podcast, and a thing we call currents – basically a running list of curated articles on topics worth investigating.

All of our content seeks to stir our reader’s curiosity. We believe indulging our curiosity acts like a weight to pull us beyond the surface of our faith. More than just knowledge waits for us when we forsake the shallows. In fact, we will find out how little we know as we plunge deeper. In the depths we are shaped into Christians who embrace empathy, honor humility, desire intellectual integrity, laugh a lot, and believe in beauty. At least that’s the kind of Christian we hope to help cultivate with Fathom.

Enjoy your browsing.

“Around the House, Women Rule” and Other Marriage Myths

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing that women rule the roost. Recently I had a conversation with a Christian leader who said that it’s women who have the power at home. He went on to explain that, for example, men ask their wives before heading out to the golf links on Saturday.

Then I ran across an article at the Love and Respect website where Emerson Eggerichs responds to concerns of wives whose husbands seem less respectful of them since doing his study. After citing numerous Proverbs that warn about contentious wives, Eggerichs quotes a couple of sources including a USA Today article that claims “around the house, women rule.” Eggerichs goes on to say that the true problem in these marriages may be “a contentious wife who is expressing her disgruntlement over the fact that periodically her husband puts his foot down and breaks the pattern of her getting what she wants.” Continue reading ““Around the House, Women Rule” and Other Marriage Myths”

Who is Struggling More (Men or Women) is the Wrong Question

In my last post I mentioned a conversation I had with a speaker at a recent theology of marriage conference. I have since learned that he is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which may explain why our conversation was like two trains passing each other in the night.[1]

Anyway, this man joined my table during lunch, asking what we would have said if we had been part of the panel discussion that had just completed. Since the topic was one of my interests – gender differences – I jumped in and said I don’t believe the difference between men and women is a matter of leading and following, as had been implied by the panel. Ruling authority is granted to all human beings equally in Genesis, and since leadership and authority go hand in hand, it does not seem that there is any basis for claiming men were created to lead and women were created to follow. Continue reading “Who is Struggling More (Men or Women) is the Wrong Question”

John MacArthur, Beth Moore, and Jumping to Conclusions: The Assumptions Behind a Hierarchical Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12

Last week I listened to a podcast where two women explained how they “stand with the Bible” when it comes to their hierarchical interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12. As far as these Sheologians[1] are concerned, this verse proves that women should not teach the Bible to men, be in positions of authority over men, or be pastors and elders. The meaning of the verse is plain as day, they argued, so anyone who disagrees with their view is ignoring scripture.

These ladies went on to mockingly characterize women who believe God has called them to pastoral ministry as obsessed with selfish ambition. Women who “feel called” to church leadership, they laughed, go around whining about what they will do if they can’t be elders or pastors, as though there’s nothing else that needs to be done! As though men who aren’t called to be elders or pastors should go around complaining that there’s nothing for them to do, especially when there’s more than enough work to go around![

Then over the weekend a video of John MacArthur telling Beth Moore to “go home” hit the internet. After the laughter and applause died down Mac Arthur added, “There’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period, paragraph, end of discussion.” MacArthur went on to explain that “when you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority.”[3]

Continue reading “John MacArthur, Beth Moore, and Jumping to Conclusions: The Assumptions Behind a Hierarchical Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12”

It’s Good to Be a Woman Day Retreats

A few years ago I was asked to join a team of young women who hoped to reach the women of their generation with a conference designed specifically for them. Feeling that the women’s ministry of our church catered to an older generation, these young leaders were hoping to capture the hearts of their peers.

What struck me that day was what these women hoped to communicate through their conference. A lot of ideas were knocked about but in the end it came down to this: our generation needs to believe it’s good to be a woman. Some of those present expressed the idea that it can be easier to think it’s good to be a woman out in the world than it is in the church. Once a woman becomes a Christian, a whole new set of expectations and limitations is placed upon her that can cause her to doubt the goodness of being female.

We’re at a point in time when women need to know that God created a good thing when he created woman. Rightly understood, what the Bible teaches about womanhood is empowering and freeing. Women are both fully human and fully woman. Women fully represent God in his eternal essence, just as men do. Women also reflect humanity as the object of God’s affection.

There is a lot of confusion in current Christian teaching on gender and “gender roles,” however. In some cases fundamental human qualities are ascribed to men alone, leaving the impression that women are somehow a bit less than fully human. In others, differences between women and men are minimized or ignored. And, very often, the fact that a husband and wife point to the greater “marriage,” that of Christ and the church, is taken to mean all sorts of things that it does not.

For this reason I have launched my It’s Good to Be a Woman day retreats.

Continue reading “It’s Good to Be a Woman Day Retreats”

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