Should a blind person be permitted to carry a loaded weapon? That was the focus of a 2013 court battle in Iowa. Advocates for extending the state’s “Conceal and Carry” law to include blind citizens said the visually impaired should not be discriminated against because it is the right of every American to own and carry a gun. Amazingly, the courts agreed with this argument.
Sometimes there is a gap between legal sense and common sense.
I feel the same way about anger. I’ve heard numerous theological and biblical arguments about Christians wielding “righteous anger.” There are many examples of God becoming angry in Scripture including a few unpopular stories in the Old Testament and those of Jesus overturning tables in the temple or calling down judgment upon religious leaders in the New. If our Lord demonstrates righteous anger, shouldn’t we follow his example?
I believe a theological case can be made for the righteous deployment of godly anger. In the right hands, with the right training, and from the right heart anger can be used redemptively. However, I rarely see all things clearly and a weapon as dangerous and destructive as anger is best deployed by someone with 20/20 vision and untainted motives. I trust Jesus to use anger righteously. I don’t yet trust myself. I have misfired too many times and I have hurt too many people with my anger, but that doesn’t mean I am never tempted.
It seems like our entire culture is addicted to outrage and applauds its use, including the church. Anger has become the acceptable, and even expected, sign of one’s commitment to any cause. I have learned that if I fail to show sufficient outrage on my podcast or in a sermon, I will receive messages from fellow Christians who are angered by my lack of anger. They usually say, “Don’t you care that…” somewhere in the tweet, post, or email. I sometimes feel that my credibility as a Christian depends on my willingness to at least brandish my anger arsenal if not unleash it. In some Christian communities, particularly online, anger is so ubiquitous one might suspect it is a fruit of the Spirit. When did outrage become a Christian virtue, and why has it found such acceptance among us?
Perhaps our constant media consumption has deadened our ability to feel the more subtle human emotions. In this over-stimulated environment, only the sledgehammer of anger is able to get our attention, and if we don’t to use it to convey every emotion we are accused of not having any. Or maybe we are collectively in the second stage of grieving our loss of cultural significance as the Church in North America. The first phase was denial in which we rejected the evidence of declining church attendance and cultural marginalization. (A few pollyannas are still in this first phase of grief.) Many of us have now moved to the second phase—anger.
As we sense the culture moving into a decidedly post-Christian posture, and as more Christian institutions contract or close, there is a sadness that manifests as anger from those who once enjoyed cultural privilege and political control. If you do not share sufficiently in the collective evangelical outrage over this loss, you may be suspected of “not really being one of us.” I’ve heard that one too. If our attraction to anger is a part of a communal grieving process, then eventually I expect we will move on to bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance that our time of cultural power has passed.
Until then, I’m looking for ways to resist the temptation to join the advocates of outrage. There are many injustices and evils in the world that provoke me to reach for my sidearm of anger. “I would only do it with the best of intentions,” I tell myself. Bullies, including the Christian variety, always justify their actions by their good intentions. That’s why the road to hell is paved with them.
Stop just living your life FOR God, and starting living WITH him. The With God Daily Devotional is an email written by Skye Jethani that greets you first thing in the morning to turn your eyes toward God and the wonder of entering the day with him. Formatted for smartphones, each day’s devotion includes a brief reflection on Scripture, theology, or culture. Every email also links to Bible readings and features a prayer to guide your own communion with God throughout the day. Fans of “WITH” will recognize themes, and be drawn into a new way of seeing God and our place in his world. Subscribe here.