Charismatics & Emotionalism

Ever been in church and see someone stand up, interrupt the minister, and then give a long talk about how he or she agreed with them?  I have.  Ever seen someone crab-walking down the church aisle?  I have.  Ever seen people fall back into what looks like a faint at the words of a preacher or the ecstasy of a moment?  I have.  Ever seen a service with snake charmers?  Ok, I haven’t yet…but I did hear about it.  Such is the worship experience of many charismatics.

I remember getting into a great discussion in college with one of my best friends about charismatics and the danger of emotionalism.  He leaned on the side (which was also his church tradition’s stance) that all such charismatic activity was simply emotionalism and had no place in the Christian Church.  I understood his argument.  We had both come across a person here and there that relished the high of a hyped-up worship service, but were quite uncontrolled in other matters of faith expression, such as moral integrity or loving-kindness.  We did notice a trend with some that common sense devotion was replaced by Holy Spirit enthusiasm.


On one hand, I understand my friend’s point.  Yet there’s also something I admire about charismatic followers.  As a pastor in a main-line denomination, one of my largest tasks is to encourage and give permission for people to get a little more excited about their faith.  For many, faith expression has been reduced to “sitting through a service” once a week, giving a little money, and then trying to be a good person the rest of the time.  In this way faith almost seems like washing dishes -a task that you have to do to prevent a mess piling up on you.  I don’t know, Christianity just seems so status quo that way.  And when I read about the Christian faith, both in the Bible and in stories throughout history, I read about people whose lives were transformed.  I read about mile-marks of life.  I read about events and situations that describe the heights and depths of life…never the mundane.  I’m really not sure the status quo has any business meddling in the Christian faith, if I’m completely honest.


Now, to the conversation above, my friend wouldn’t advocate a status quo faith either.  He just doesn’t think it should get out of hand, nor should it drown out the importance of holistic devotion and belief.  Indeed, balance is fine thing to obtain.  When disordered, emotions can be the tail wagging the faith.  But let’s not completely carve out emotions in the life of personal faith.  After all, we love with emotions.   We experience gratitude with our emotions.  We unearth humility with our emotions.  Emotions are needed as we interact with God in a personal relationship.  Is it not possible that God moves in the hearts of people to such a degree that people then react in a very raw, human form,  emotions exposed and all?  I think so.  But let’s also stay open for God to touch all the areas of our personal character and life so that we’re not fixated on a singular event, moment, or experience.


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