I’ve done a lot of thinking about anger lately. I’ve seen so much of it as these months have droned on, and I’ve felt it enough that it’s captured my attention.
It’s one of the “negative” emotions. One I’ve sought hard my whole life to keep restrained; yanking the prong collar each time a flare lasts more than a moment. It’s the “wrong” thing to feel. I’ve most often thought of anger as the reaction of a threat against self. Something is not right, and it springs to my defense, whether I deserve a protector or not. Too many times, I’ve found myself caught in that wave of heat, thinking, “How dare I be so selfish. How dare I feel so much.”
But (opportunity for psychoanalysis of my emotional issues aside), I have found that it does have its usefulness. Anger removes inhibition. Remove too much, and it becomes truly dangerous. But directed, focused, glowing embers, can give just enough of a power surge to do what is right. Just enough of an adrenaline rush to let go of fear. Like a red hot rage can blind one to the reasonable options, a controlled burn can provide single-minded purpose to stay the course. (Although even a controlled burn requires that you acknowledge there may be other options, and purposefully shove them aside. More on that in a bit.)
Social justice is one of the pursuits prominently demanding a measure of rage. Something, or several somethings, is not right, and many are wielding this emotion for the protection of others. I believe, if I have learned anything from Jesus in the temple, that this is appropriate. Something is wrong. The way we have allowed other humans to be treated, and even blamed them for it, is wrong. It is appropriate to feel a measure of rage. It is appropriate to allow that measure to drown out the voices in opposition, so that we do not cease in doing good.
It is even appropriate to feel a measure of rage at the Church. We have dishonored our Leader in innumerable ways. The many variations of hypocrisy I’ve seen have frequently left me furious, exhausted, and defeated. We have stained our witness for generations to come. We have, as we would have said in Bible college, “majored on the minors, and minored on the majors.” And this has done unbelievable, systemic damage. I have admittedly not been one of the ones desperate to get back into a sanctuary, because I’ve felt so jaded. Frankly, some days I feel like we deserved to be sent on a break.
Many of us look at the Church and say, “How could you? How dare you? Why do you continue?” There has not just been an ethical fading in the secular- it’s permeated our churches, too. Many are feeling that burn of rage and using it to call out our brothers and sisters. As we should. Iron sharpens iron. Silence sharpens its opposite. The anger hones our focus, makes us bolder, encourages us to speak the truth.
But. Circling back around to what I mentioned at the beginning, the honing requires us to ignore other options. Yes, if we are right, if our viewpoints on justice and right and wrong and politics and relationships are spot on, then we will be vocally funneled into the direction of good. But if we are wrong, if we ever begin to stray, we will likewise have closed (permanently or temporarily, depending on our humility) the gate to the path we thought we were heading towards all along.
“There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.” -Proverbs 14:12
The issue with naturally trusting ourselves to have chosen the correct path and to be thinking the right things and fighting the right battles, is that we are finite, and we are sinners. We will often look at “the others,” even the Church, and think, “How have you gotten it so wrong? How can you not see?” We can’t fathom it. But if we think we are invulnerable to the same, we’ve already begun to blind our own selves.
I’ve felt rage at the Church. I feel disillusioned. But to disregard everything that comes from the Church is foolish. To disregard old teachings because they don’t seem to correspond to current social issues does not necessarily mean it’s the Church that has gotten it wrong. I’ve seen too many biblical stances that, while handled poorly, are not incorrect at the foundation. But we rage against them, because they are tainted by a group of people that wielded them to fit a favorite culture.
Be careful. Use your anger to call each other to righteousness, but remember: We are not dependable. He is. We are often right. He always will be. We are finite. He is infinite. We need something more than our anger accompanied by a good opinion. We need our anger accompanied by Truth. And that is something we will never be able to provide on our own.