Hearts and Minds

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Hearts and Minds

by monky

Woman SmokingMy mother was a smoker - but she only smoked at home or on social occasions. She would never smoke on the street or in a car. As a child I remember her telling me this on many occasions, and she would look down on people - especially other women - who would smoke on the street. I never understood why smoking on the street was worse than smoking in a pub or in you kitchen. It certainly wasn't related to health benefits. In hindsight, it was probably more about not wanting to look too working class.

However, I have recently become conscious of the fact that to this day, whenever I see a woman smoking on the street or in a car (which is pretty often here in Istanbul), my first response is to look down on that person and think of them as being dirty. At an intellectual level, that makes no sense. But in my heart, at an emotional level, the effects of what my mother "taught" me when I was a little kid are that I have this deep and subconscious, automatic "yuck" response programmed into me.

This is not rocket science - culture is all about what "feels" right or wrong based on what we experienced growing up, and what we (usually slowly) can pick up from those around us as adults if we start living in a totally different culture. Quite often, cultural norms are "explained" with reasons and perhaps given a historical explanation as to where the behaviour came from originally. My sense is that in most cases, we behave a certain way not because it makes intellectual sense (or not), but because that's what we learned from other people (especially our families) when we were kids. To behave otherwise just "feels" wrong and we won't fit in. The way you do the dishes, take your shoes off before entering a home, greet a visitor, protect children from a breeze, smoke cigarettes... the list goes on.

Many of these behaviours are not really that important. Think of all the different ways people wash dishes around the world. People passionately defend their way with a whole slew of reasons as to why it is the best - but do those who do it differently die of salmonella? Clearly, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The real reason most folks wash dishes the way they do is that that's how they did it growing up, and doing it any other way just FEELS wrong.

So, if people can hold on so strongly to stuff that isn't actually all that important, what does it say about how strongly people hold onto stuff that actually is important (i.e. their eternal destination, the nature of God, the reliability of a Holy Book etc). We can spend a lot of time trying to convince people at an intellectual level that our faith conviction is right. This is not wrong to do - but if the REAL reason someone believes the Bible was changed (for example) is a conviction they hold at a heart level (because everyone they have ever loved and trusted has told them it was changed since the day they were born) it's going to be hard sell! Believe me - I know this from a LOT of experience

We need speak to people's hearts just as much - if not more - than their minds. And that is where the arts, that usually operate far more at the emotional level, have such a place in evangelism. True, writing a good song about the textual integrity of the Gospel of Matthew would challenge even the most gifted songwriter (!), but in general, after a song, painting or play has opened the door into someone's heart and challenged their normal emotional (and usually negative) response to Christian things, then the door to their head may open slightly and they may be ready to contemplate new ideas which may not feel quite so wrong as before.

The criticism is raised that we should not use the arts to manipulate people's emotions. After all, Hitler was a master of it - and look where that went. But would we write off Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech on the grounds that it was emotional manipulation? The word manipulation carries a lot of baggage with it. But whatever word you use, I would argue that evangelism that does not touch the emotions is going to have limited efffectiveness. Unless of course you are sharing the faith with a Vulcan...