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Integrating Heart and Mind

January 20, 2011

Do you ever get the sense that there are two separate tracks running in most of what we think of as “religion?” Religion is a broad category, and here I mean at least these elements: church services and special gatherings, books and study courses, and the various ceremonies conducted by pastors, priests, etc. 

Within these expressions are many for and from the heart.  There are also many for and from the head.  Music and prayer are primarily from the heart;  sermons and Bible studies mostly oriented to the mind.   Some of the world’s most sublime and uplifting music has been created by religious people for use in religious settings.    

Personally, I love things of both heart and mind, as I think most people do.  And I do not believe there is necessarily a clear split between the two.  Yet things of the mind can and often do overwhelm or overpower our hearts and create an inner conflict.  In our religions we are often taught to believe things that just don’t “set right.”  For example, what is said to be the justice of God just doesn’t seem to be up to even human standards.

The minds of leaders going back many generations, often millenia, have lined things up to all fit logically — a “systematic theology.”  Or so they have thought.  I don’t doubt that usually any one of them, individually, has had sincere motives and written or preached what he (almost always male) has thought was right.   But the cumulative effect has tended to result in teachings, head-oriented, that don’t feel integrated or consistent with the joyful hearts people often experience in worship and via religious music.   

What have you observed and felt along these lines? Do you have suggestions to help religious leaders as well as lay people move toward a true symphony of the messages and experiences coming from various angles?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    January 23, 2011 1:25 am

    Feelings of joy or bliss are a direct connection to God. And there have been many times in church services where the music has uplifted me to feel that deep connection only to have it severed by the the words of the sermon. I believe God loves us “unconditionally” and when we truly accept and believe that, we strive to be worthy of that love. Those who don’t believe will suffer due to their own lack of faith and their own choice to live separated from God not because of God’s judgement of them.

    • Howard Pepper permalink
      January 23, 2011 5:14 pm

      Thanks for the interesting comment, Emily. I couldn’t agree more. I know that gradually, more and more pastors and theologians are becoming aware of the kind of disconnects you mention experiencing. I do believe more whole-person, whole-world perspectives and practices are spreading within both Catholic and Protestant circles. (I don’t mean to slight the Orthodox churches, but don’t know enough about their world to comment… is anyone who is reading Orthodox, who might contribute and broaden our discussion?)

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