Musing 8.28.20

During my recent vacation I watched more cable news than I usually do. When I realized how monotonously repetitive my customary channel was, I flipped to others. Then I noticed how angry so many commentators were on every channel. I started to feel as if their purpose was not to keep me informed, but to keep me angry. If I was angry, I needed to keep watching to feed my anger. My anger may heighten my anxiety, but it also boosts their ratings. There is money to be made in anger. This awareness of anger is not unique to me. Many of you have commented about it. We are an angry nation. I want to share with you what some classic Christian writers have shared on anger. They write so well that I have decided to quote them rather than plagiarize them. I wouldn’t want to make them angry.

Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking: Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you (page 2).

Dorothy Sayers in The Whimsical Christian: That is not to say that scandals should not be exposed or that no anger is justified. But you may know the mischief-maker by the warped malignancy of his language as easily as by the warped malignancy of his face and voice. His fury is without restraint and without magnanimity – and it is aimed, not at checking the offense, but at starting a pogrom against the offender. The mischief-maker would rather the evil were not cured at all than that it were cured quietly and without violence. His evil lust of wrath cannot be sated unless somebody is hounded down, beaten, and trampled on, and a savage war dance executed upon the body….[anger] is likely to stagger to its own opposite, the equally fatal sin of sloth or [apathy] (pp. 161-2).

C.S Lewis in The Quotable Lewis: I suppose that when one hears a tale of hideous cruelty anger is quite the wrong reaction, and merely wastes the energy that ought to go in a different direction: perhaps merely dulls the conscience which, if it were awake, would ask us “Well? What are you doing about it? How much of your life have you spent in really combatting this? In helping to produce social conditions in which these sort of things will not occur!?” (page 47).

Paul in Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity for the devil.

John Keeny, 8.28.2020 Musing. Apparently, there is room for anger. First, denying our feelings of anger is unhealthy. Angry behavior is usually questionable, but angry feelings are valid. We cannot deny them. The issue is how do we express our anger

Second, there are things about which we should be angry. We ought not tolerate the intolerable. This is what Jesus’ anger in the Temple was about. He could not tolerate God’s house being misused for profit and mistreatment of the other (John 2:13-22). There is much about which we should be angry. We know that. If we are not angry at injustice and inequity, our consciences are our numb or dead. Anger is a sign of our moral and spiritual health.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity for the devil. Sin is fundamentally separation – from myself, from my neighbor, and from God. Sin pushes the other away and divides. This is why injustice is sinful. Where anger is a sinful is that it separates and divides. Where anger is righteous is where it sees the separation and division and is motivated to heal the breach. Anger over the sin of separation can either increase the divide or lessen it. I wrestled with omitting the line about the devil. If you are more comfortable with “evil,” that is fine. The point is, when our anger separates and dehumanizes, it is of the devil, or evil. When our anger humanizes and unites, it is of God.

And then “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Certainly, don’t let your anger destroy you. Don’t nurture it. But I think it is also related to the C.S. Lewis quotation, “Act on it.” Don’t delay. Don’t put it off. Do something constructive. If the voting situation bothers you, do something. If abuse of the earth is intolerable, do something. You get the point.

Be angry but do not sin. Great words for this time.

Hope you are safe and well.