Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance, that’s the thing we humans just can’t stand.  We’ll manufacture almost any what we can think of to eliminate it, even if it means twisting reality into unrecognizable knots.  Somehow we need to harmonize events and/or ideas with our own world views, attitudes and beliefs, and we work hard to do that whenever cognitive dissonance enters into our personal realms.  

In our tradition, Palm Sunday is the ultimate exercise in cognitive dissonance in which no amount of twisting or turning can achieve harmony.  We begin with the joyful singing of Hosannas, waving our palm fronds about, as we celebrate the entrance into Jerusalem of our Messiah.  Within moments, we are deep into the crucifixion narrative yelling Crucify Him! Crucify Him! and ending with the unresolved death of Jesus on the cross.  It is unsettling at best.  No one wants to be left with no clear way to harmonize the scene just played out.  There are only four solutions.  Ignore it altogether and just jump straight to Easter.  Include one part or the other but not both in the same service.  Invent some imaginative theological mumbo-jumbo to satisfy the congregation as long as they don’t  think about it too much.  Or, why not just sink into the mystery of God’s unfathomable plan being worked out.  God, after all, seems to have shown no real concern for whether we humans are or are not suffering a little cognitive dissonance over it.  Maybe we need to learn to live with it, not only in this moment but in others as well.  I’ll have more to say about that on Sunday.  You can say whatever you want now.

6 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. Well, here is an example of the problem with cognitive dissonance: When you say, \”Or, why not just sink into the mystery of God\’s unfathomable plan being worked out.\”, the question here is, of course, rhetorical (thus, honestly, no ?). But then we\’re presented with \”unfathomable plan\” which, of course, is not a \”plan\” (for a plan to be a plan it has to, in principle, be fathomable).Or rather, we\’re presented with the challenge of a certain kind of \”sinking in\”: \”unfathomable plan\” is an attempt to specify a mystery. The \”question\” is how to relate to the sheer outrageousness of this mystery, the \”answer\” is to (let yourself) sink into this mystery on its terms, terms that have to be oxymorons like \”unfathomable plan.\”Then I ask myself: when I\’m face to face with this particular person I keep insisting I love regardless, where is faith in oxymoronic mystery \”being worked out\”?

  2. Tom,I suspect that the unfathomable plan is so only to us, and that is part of what Paul meant when he wrote about seeing in the glass dimly. I like the term oxymoronic mystery in the sense that it implies a bunch of contradictory ideas to be held together at the same time. Thanks. For Christians, the curious part is that we understand that salvation is the product of all of this. So we may not fathom the plan but we see it\’s end. However, once said we begin to argue over what salvation actually means and who or what is included in it. As an Episcopalian in the Anglican tradition, I have much to say about that, a great deal of which has been the subject of these many blog entries.CP

  3. \”Maybe we need to learn to live with it, not only in this moment but in others as well.\”reminds me of a comment i received recently that offered, \”oh, get a life.\” hmmmmm. 🙂

  4. \”God\’s unfathomable plan being worked out. \”More on this please, How does God work God\’s plan? What role do we play in this? Is there a final outcome? is it an assured outcome? How does this reconcile with the God Jesus spoke of, the parables, the Gospel?Does God\’s plan go awry? What does that say about a God of the O\’s? \”Palm Sunday is the ultimate exercise in cognitive dissonance in which no amount of twisting or turning can achieve harmony. \”Atonement theology? God\’s desired sacrifice. A salve for our sins. God\’s Plan from the beginning of time?Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,,, and sometimes an execution is just an execution is just a way not to deal with our human desire to be masters and not servants.

  5. Bruno,You make my point. I don\’t think we can fully understand this working out. But each of us has to grab on somewhere and do the best we can with it. The problem arises when we grab on to some small piece, claim it is the whole, and require all others to agree with us or face damnation. In my opinion, that\’s where each of the doctrines of atonement go wrong, and today we have a large number of Christians hanging their hats on the substitutionary doctrine of atonement, which, to me, is the weakest of all. Maybe that\’s why I like Rowan Williams\’ \”Resurrection\” so much. One final note, I use the term God\’s plan. It\’s a common term but it always sounds like a blueprint of some kind, and the study of the ancient prophets shows that whatever and however God plans, it\’s not at all like the way we plan.CP

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