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A Reformation Thought Before the Elections (2016)

We are about to complete 499 years since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Many Christian churches, particularly Lutherans, are already gearing up for the 500th anniversary celebration in 2017. Thinking about the many religious concerns that gave rise to the Reformation, I recently found my thoughts focusing on one of Martin Luther’s concerns, even though it was likely a secondary concern.  That concern had to do with the relative relationship between our emotions and our intellect.

This election cycle, primarily on the presidential level, has placed the contrast between emotions and intellect in stark relief.  Both presidential candidates (to greater or lesser degree) have generated strong feelings (emotions) of like or dislike, depending upon which political party is yours. Often these feelings seem mostly unaffected by the use of one’s intellect or thought. So Martin Luther provides a cautionary tale about the uses of these important and necessary human attributes.

In short, if either becomes the “master” of the other, the likelihood of a balanced understanding decreases. Nonetheless, whether it is in love or politics or religion, it is most often the fickleness of feelings, relatively unaffected by intellect or thought, that most often seem to get us into trouble.

So as you approach these final weeks of what seems to be an endless election process, perhaps the words of Pearl Buck (American writer, 1892-1973) have some merit, “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.”               Keep that thought in mind as you enter the voting booth on election day, 2016.