Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Anger Is All the Rage

In his most recent op-ed piece, George Will indicates that anger is "all the rage" in America today. From political attacks to the anger on our nation's roads, anger appears to be an acceptable and expected part of our culture, which is quite different from earlier eras when polite restraint was the rule of the day. Mr. Will indicates that the blogosphere is especially rife with anger. In the Sunday paper I read that the blogs in the Episcopalian sector are very red with ecclesiastical wrath at the moment, as competing parties debate the issue of homosexuality in their church.

I suspect that anger has always been with us, although its expression has usually been tempered by society itself when people were forced to deal with the issues face-to-face. The Internet, from my perspective, has been a unique outlet for anger which is protected by its semi-anonymous two-dimensional existence. In other words, you can write scathing and hateful words to people you never have to look in the eye and see their pain. It shields you from the human element of personal interaction.

Now don't get me wrong. Anger has a place. Righteous indignation should rise within us when actions are truly unjust or when the Truth is at stake. Within the church we also have a place for anger, as when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple during Holy Week. God's house was being made into a den of thieves. The divine worship of the people was at stake, as was the honor of the one true God.

But should anger be tempered or governed by some restraint, even when it is justified? "Be angry, but do not sin," Paul said to the Ephesians. He wrote that "putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Yet how is one to "speak the truth"? "With love," Paul says earlier. For as "members one of another" this is the way God acts toward us. Thus, we "do not let the sun go down" on our anger. We do not nurse it and feed our personal desire for revenge. Anger has a season. For if left to continue unabated, it will become a useful tool of Satan. Therefore, Paul also adds that in putting limits on our anger we would "give no opportunity to the devil." Remember, Satan is a force of destruction, not edification. He tears down, he does not build up. He will use our anger, if left unchecked, to destroy all that is good.

The Episcopalians are probably at the media forefront of public ecclesiastical anger at the moment, but many others are currently in the game as well. The LCMS has it's own anger to wrestle with, and we are not any better at managing its limits. Of all people Christians should understand the devastating effects of anger and how Satan uses those forces against the church. It may be all the rage in our political places of power and on our interstate highways, but in the church such "rage" must find its natural limit before we consume one another and destroy the good that we still have.

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