I hate Precious Moments figurines. I know hate is a strong word but I really mean it. I hate them. I say this even though Pam and I had a Precious Moments figurine as the topper on our wedding cake. At that time I didn’t know I hated them. I do now and like I said I hate them. I hate them even though I love Carthage, Missouri, the that is the the home of Precious Moments. Carthage is great. Precious Moments not so much. Like I said I hate them.
Well because they reek of sentimentality. Those dopey, large eyed figurines try to pull on your sentimental hearts strings and make you say “AWWWWWE” but there is no true sense of awe in them. It is just sentimentalism. In my opinion rampant sentimentality is one of the biggest adversaries of true faith. Sentimentality expresses strong feelings without the cost that should be associated with those feelings. To quote Oscar Wilde (a person who is usually quite fun to quote):
A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.
Sentimentality as faith is focused on strong feelings without any sacrifice. It is basically worthless.
As a pastor I run into many people using the faith that shapes my and so many others’ lives for simple emotional fixes that make them feel good about themselves but do nothing else. Following Christ is a relationship that calls us to action not a set of emotional elements that give a person nothing more than warm fuzzies. Sentimentality takes the profound and covers it in a fog to reduce it to manageable and non-threatening levels.
Please don’t get me wrong. The true God does bring comfort to us when we are afflicted, that is a very true thing. Comfort isn’t sentimentality. Sentimentality just does a good job of pretending to be comfort. I have seen Jesus bring comfort into situations were none seemed possible. Yet this comfort was never some misty emotional feel good moment with no real meaning. Instead in such situations His comfort was amazing and challenging. It caused me, and others, to think “if He can bring comfort into this situation then why do I ever hesitate to follow Him, no matter the circumstances?” You see the old saying is true. Christ comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Sentimentality really does neither. It just pretends to bring comfort.
So what sparked this rant?
Well I have recently developed a habit of taking some of my favorite quotes and combining them with various images to produce cover photos for my Facebook profile. Yesterday I made the following cover photo.
I love Jürgen Moltmann, so many of his works including this book “Theology of Hope,” and the above quote. While editing the image and text I thought to myself that this quote could be viewed either as a call to arms to join God in the daily battle of overcoming evil that He brought about by the victory of the resurrection or it could be reduced to a warm, fuzzy, sentimental cliché that would go well on a poster of a kitten looking at spilled, wasted milk. The true God weeping with us is a dangerous thing that changes the world, our lives, and lives of those in our community. The God Who weeps with us will laugh because He has and will completely overcome evil. This God’s weeping pushes those who follow Him to fight against the evil they see. The sentimental statement, on the other hand, uses emotional warmth to lull people into inaction.
Sentimentality disguises itself as faith but it is far, FAR from it. I hate it.