(Here's something I wrote awhile back. And if I'm wrong here -- I can always be glaringly, spectacularly wrong -- please tell me how. I should note here I write as someone who wants to follow Jesus's example in how he dealt with people, and as someone who believes God uses the Bible to instruct us with wisdom. Without that as a background, the following will make no sense.)
You're not allowed to be angry at George W. Bush.
I'm serious. You're not allowed. This is not because George W. Bush is not Evil Incarnate, even though he isn't not...not not Evil Incarnate...or not...or whatever. You're not allowed to harbor anger toward anyone...including me, for saying this.
I don't think lots of people agree with me on this. I sense this, because lots of people say, "I don't agree with you on this." I've got antennae for subtlety like that. I pick up on things.
Typical: This entry from something called "Nehemiah Notes", an online devotional, dealing with anger. The writer gives what I think is the reigning understanding: anger's pretty damn good, sometimes:
There is also a positive, even essential, side to anger. I doubt that we ever accomplish anything fruitful when anger isn't part of our motivation, on a certain level at least.
We don't ever accomplish anything fruitful without anger? WOW, devotional-writer dude. Here's an example of how we retrofit actual scripture with our current embrace of anger-culture:
Ephesians 4 (NIV translation)
"In your anger do not sin"Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold
Ephesians 4 (The Message paraphrase version)
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry.
I like Eugene Peterson -- the guy who wrote The Message -- but...sheesh. "You do well to be angry"? That ain't in the original, folks. That's the updated version, hope you like it better.
Remarkably, Peterson does this, knowing that just a couple sentences later, it says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger". Get rid. All. Anger. "You do well to be angry"?
God is "allowed" anger, yes. God is also allowed vengeance -- but it ain't ours. We're not allowed it, I believe, because we stand as guilty as whomever is the target of our anger. God? He doesn't.
We positively love "righteous anger". The operational definition of "righteous anger", of course, is the anger that I, Brant Hansen, feel, usually because I'm ticked that somebody done me wrong. It helps that we humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims, and re-writing narratives that put us in the center of injustices. And we can re-paint our anger or hatred of someone, like a President, into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, in Jesus' teaching, there is no allowance for "Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk..." We're flat-out told to forgive.
Anger is very easy. Love is very difficult. Upon hearing my ideas on anger, one bright person told me today, "I don't get it. What about the guys who beat up the homeless people in Fort Lauderdale? That's got to make us righteously angry!"
My understanding is this: We're to grieve this stuff, and be motivated to pursue justice, and to defend the vulnerable. The problem with anger: According to the radical teaching of Jesus, I stand as guilty, morally, as these guys who beat up homeless people. I asked the guy, "How long do you think you're allowed to keep this anger?" He said something like, "You can keep it for a little while."
We can keep it awhile. Sounds...reasonable. I just can't back it up.
In Proverbs, anger is always -- not sometimes, always -- associated with foolishness, not wisdom. The writer recognizes that anger may visit us, but when anger finds a residence, it's "in the lap of fools."
Harboring "justified" anger, towards a President, your neighbor, your spouse, your deceased father -- whomever -- is foolishness. And foolishness destroys.
I get angry. Can't avoid it. But anger can't stay here. I can't try it on. I have to take it to the Cracks of Doom, like, NOW, and drop that thing, much as I want to wear it awhile. This silly LotR analogy breaks down quickly, though. There's not a single, hyper-destructive "One Ring". There's like...six billion.
Went to this medium-sized, mainline, American church, budget of $1 million a year, negative growth. Yeah. Let's see: $1 million, negative growth, no one new added to the church, tiny fraction of budget sent elsewhere. Multi-thousand dollar sound and light system.
And yeah -- here's a rural church: Budget $125,000, three new converts, per year. Three-thousand dollar sound system. And a liberal church in town: Neat sermons and posters aimed at idenfication with the poor. Budget of $400,000, almost none sent out of country. Instead, vast majority to church leaders (Americans), who give sermons about how America isn't the be-all end-all. Zero-to-negative growth.
Big church down the street, $20 million budget, several hundred newcomers. Staff of more than a hundred. Kickin' video things accompanying awesome singer-people, trying -- pleading! -- to persuade people that Heaven is really going to awesome. Kids' wing -- BibleFunLand -- is already awesome!
Growing church in Africa: Let's see...can't afford single guitar. Pastor not eating very much. Children in church program not obese -- malnourished. Church aches to feed desperate children lined with their parents outside the building, but no money to do it. Trying -- trying -- to scrounge money for ARV drugs for AIDS victims in fellowship.
Two hundred children in program, total toys: one jump-rope.
Let's see, divide by six...carry the three...uh-huh...
Because there's nothing more fun than forcing people to look at your own photo albums, here's an online version.
I can't force you to look at it. I can't even force myself to think you'd want to. But here it is.
Oh, the places you'll go!