Rage - Monday Musing, September 21, 2020
Rage. The outdated expression “all the rage” refers to the latest fashion, usually short-lived, which seems at odds with the definition of the word itself. Rage means violent, uncontrollable anger. Bob Woodward titled his latest book Rage on a conversation he had with the President in which the President said, “I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have.”
There is a fine line between rage and outrage. Both have their foundation in anger. Rage adds violence to anger, whereas outrage is simply a strong reaction of anger. There is no question that there is plenty to be angry about in these politically divisive times we are living. Partisan politics are tribal, which means that if you are not part of the tribe, your position/opinion is automatically wrong, and neither side wants to hear what the other has to say. (Now that is something to make one angry!).
Why are people so angry today? Possible reasons include political partisanship, economic disparities, injustice, unemployment, high cost of living, food insecurity, and coronavirus pandemic restrictions that are making us all cranky because we want to get back to “normal” – and make it soon thank you very much.
Overall, scripture does not have good things to say about anger. But then there is the account of Jesus cleansing the temple, recorded in Matthew 21:12-13 and John 2:13-17, which depicts an angry Jesus turning over the tables because traders were making a profit exchanging money and selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus saw this as a desecration of the temple, saying that the temple should be a house of prayer, but (the traders) “make it a den of robbers.”
We are warned in scripture against giving in to anger when we are upset by other people’s words or actions. “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8) “One given to anger stirs up strife, and the hothead causes much transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22) “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20) I could list more examples in scripture, but you get the point.
There is no question that there are times when we get angry. How we respond to anger, though, is what can get us into trouble. The Black Lives Matter movement is political speech that is protected. It is appropriate to be angry over systemic racism, which is a stain on our nation. But the outside agitators inciting violence during peaceful protests are another matter. Violence never solves anything.
Only in a perfect world would we not get angry from time-to-time. We cannot change how others react in anger, but we can strive not to give in to our own anger. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) I pray that rage is short-lived in today’s world and that it soon goes out of fashion.
In an e-mail to the Justice Committee this past week, Muska Yousuf wrote, “A reporter once asked A.J. Muste, a Dutch-born American clergyman and pacifist who protested against the Vietnam War, ‘Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?’ Muste replies softly, ‘Oh, I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.’”
May we be so changed in the work we are called to do at The Federated Church of Orleans.