“One should not think slightingly of the paradoxical; for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity. The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls are exposed to passions, it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes, which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo. The supreme paradox of all thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think.” ̴ Soren Kierkegaard

In reading Kierkegaard, it been refreshing to view Christian faith through the lens of vulnerability rather than the usual North American Evangelical “I’ve-got-my-life-together-why-can’t-you” outlook. Until now I was unable to articulate why I shun most Christian authors except for a few exceptions. Whenever I found myself skimming youtube for “inspirational” preachers I felt red alert buttons flashing on my dashboard.

I learned somewhere how “dissociation” often mimics spirituality. This word caught my attention. It wasn’t referring to dissociation within its usual clinical parameters — characteristic of severe mental health patients, but to a version applicable to the masses. Under this newer definition, dissociated folks construct a persona designed to guard the ego from pain and contradiction. It makes the individual look stable and intact, yet its stability is based on smugness, comfort and denial. It is a state of being out of touch with the internal self. It treats internal matters with triviality and/or suspicion. According to Kierkegaard the problem with dissociation rests in how people choose to approach truth (though Kierkegaard never refers to the term, but to the concept).

“One of Kierkegaard’s recurrent themes is the importance of subjectivity, which has to do with the way people relate themselves to truths. He argues “subjectivity is truth” and “truth is subjectivity. What he means by this is that most essentially, truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. While objective facts are important, there is a second and more crucial element of truth, which involves how one relates oneself to those matters of fact. Since how one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity.” ~ Wikipedia

When I began my studies to become a Baptist pastor, I was disturbed by this kind of dissociation. It contrasted completely with my candid yet bumpy upbringing. I wanted answers and all I got were band-aid responses. This left me frustrated and perplexed. Where I expected to find consolation, I found evasion.

What is the lesson?

Whenever knowledge, even Biblical knowledge substitutes for empathetic listening or connection it results in dead religion. Truth is living and breathing and without personal searching it is devoid of meaning. Those who honestly contemplate the struggles of life often seem emotionally distressed and unstable. This is unfashionable. They often find it impossible to fit into surroundings where inauthentic conditioning is the norm.

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“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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