Sunday, July 14, 2013

Righteous Anger?

Anger is an interesting emotion, one of the bad emotions, I think.  And we know it's bad, and so we sometimes deny that we are angry, we repress our anger or hide it. 

One of the fascinating ideas on anger comes into our culture from Star Wars

Darth Vader:  "Obi-Wan has taught you well.  You have controlled your fear.  Now, release your anger.  Only your hatred can destroy me." 

Of course, we're not supposed to agree with Darth Vader!  Anger is bad.  Anger leads to the dark side. 

Yet in Christianity we have examples of righteous anger.  Here is an interesting argument on behalf of anger from Mars Hill Church: 

Righteous anger is the right response to sin. This is a far more consistent response with the character of God than faking happiness, approval, or acceptance. The Bible, on many occasions, gives us examples of human anger that is justified. This is why Paul didn’t say, “Don’t be angry,” but rather, said, “Be angry, and do not sin.”

Paul accepted anger as a legitimate emotional response to sin. But he also warned us to be careful not to accept or empower anger that comes from our own sin. Instead, he said, we should harness the energy of our anger toward righteousness rather than letting it fuel our descent into clamor, slander, and malice.

I myself do not think Christianity is well represented by anger.  I like to see happy and loving Christians.  This is one of the reasons, I suspect, that we sought to separate church and state.  Not because the church would corrupt the state!  But because the state would corrupt the church.  Involvement in political disputes would make us quite angry.  And, many believe, the purpose of religion is to think in spiritual terms.  How is your spirit?  Are you prepared for the after-life?  Are you filled with spite?

One of the fascinating aspects of the Bible is how Jesus seemed to have very little interest in the political issues of his day.  He didn't criticize slavery, for instance.  We perhaps could have avoided our Civil War if Jesus had said that slavery was immoral.  Or Jesus could have said something about the Roman practice of infanticide.

Yet these worldly issues did not seem to inspire Jesus to anger.  The passage that is always quoted for righteous anger is this one...

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers."   Matthew 21: 12-13.

Maybe that's why I get a little nervous when I say I am a Christian, a follower of Christ.  The anger that Jesus feels most acutely is in regard to people who are using faith for selfish purposes.  He is concerned, first and foremost, with our spiritual selves.  After all, slavery or infanticide or any other wrong-doing is nothing compared to a spiritual loss.  We are on this world a miniscule amount of time, in the grand scheme of things.  But a spiritual loss is infinite. 

And I do get angry!  Infanticide makes me mad, and the corruption of the powerful makes me angry.  And I like to think, this is righteous, I am right.  And I think the abolitionists were right.  I think the denial of humanity is an ancient evil, and I am sure I will continue to speak out against it, with all the righteous anger I can find.  But I know too my own conceit, my own pride, my own selfishness.  

I want to get my way!       

1 comment:

edutcher said...

They're called principles, and standing up for them often leads to trouble of one sort or another.