Here’s a brief rundown for today:
Progressives are angry because Christians are against abortion. Christians are angry about physician-assisted suicide. Both of them can agree to be outraged at The Bachelor, though Salon is mad because the women on the show are too white, while Plugged In is mad because they’re too trampy.
Somebody’s mad about Mother Teresa’s possible sainthood (though I can’t quite figure out who), everybody’s mad about Donald Trump’s possible nomination, and I think some people are maybe even still angry at Obamacare, Chick-Fil-A, and the big Confederate Flag thing from last summer, somehow? I don’t know.
Maybe you check your phone first thing in the morning to see who you should be angry at today, or maybe you just laugh at everybody who’s outraged (until it’s something important, of course). Either way, anger is a big part of our culture. It has been for a while.
Psychologically speaking, there are three types of anger: anger from fear, anger from injustice, and anger from within. We share fearful and internal anger with animals – but anger from injustice is a particularly human trait.
In fact, it may be one of our oldest emotions. The first emotion named in the Bible is anger; it ended with a murder and an excommunication, though, so probably not something to emulate. The early church even called anger one of the “seven deadly sins.” But it does highlight an important truth: God has given us a heart that desires justice, both for ourselves and for others. He is a God of justice; He defines justice in much the same way as He defines love, as a core part of his being. So that makes sense…but why does this lead to outrage?
Justice is the recognition, both in theory and in practice, that we are all equally valuable and equally sinful in the objective eyes of God.
Maybe this is why we experience outrage, sometimes. It’s difficult to admit that we are just as valuable as everyone else; but also, we tend to hate in others the thing we dislike most about ourselves. We see someone being cruel, and we recognize on some level that the same selfishness lives within us, driving our evil as well. Without the grace of God, that could be us up there.
Not that we would ever admit that. Not even to ourselves. The pain just builds up, until one day, it explodes.
So what can we do, if not cry out in anger?
As Russell Moore notes in his article for Desiring God, “We must learn to lament, because once we no longer lament we turn instead to anger, outrage, blame, and quarrelsomeness.” Jeremiah confirms this in his prophecy from God to Israel:
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
We should not stay silent. No, we should weep.
For our sin, and for theirs. For our broken world and our failed attempts to reach God. For a world which is desolate because of our actions. But most of all, for two things: that every human has chosen something other than God to satisfy us, and that every human will fail to be satisfied by the lesser god we have chosen.
So in your outrage, remember the sad, lamentable truth: we are all thirsty desert-diggers, seeking a leaky puddle instead of the overflowing spring.
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Russell Moore’s post mentioned above, “Too Scared to Cry: Social Media Outrage and the Gospel,” was written nearly two years ago, but it feels more timely than ever.
And yesterday, Anne Kennedy at Patheos wrote an article called “Outrage Fatigue,” which discusses the exhausting nature of consistent, baseline rage.
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Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture. Hope this post didn’t make you too angry.