Social Issues, Theology

Can anger be holy?

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People of color are often used to hearing that they sound angry all the time. The “angry black woman” stereotype is especially common. What you may not know is that “angry Jewish woman,” or simply “angry Jewish people,” is also a Thing.

And I’m one of them.

In an unexpected way, the Trump era has brought out the ethnic and cultural Jewishness in me. Seeing injustice makes me angry, and anger over injustice is one of the few things that Judaism is pretty dogmatic about. To be Jewish is to be concerned for the underdog. To be Christian, too, is to be concerned for the underdog. But that concern doesn’t tend to manifest in the same ways.

I follow a few Christian bloggers whom I greatly respect, who have said recently that responding to a situation with anger diminishes the rationality of your argument. I also follow a few rabbis on Twitter who emphasize that righteous anger is often the motivator to get things done; to make positive change happen.

Both sides make great points. But I tend to resonate more with the Jewish perspective on this, because the majority of Christians in America can’t understand, on a personal level, what it’s like to be a minority; what it’s like to have high-ranking politicians cozy up to people who don’t consider you fully human (and who think the Holocaust was an elaborate hoax!).

For many of us, anger has been the default emotion since 2016, and we can’t just turn it off. Anger is really the only appropriate response to just about everything this administration has done.

Maybe anger is an underlying emotion that alerts us to a bigger problem: The Way Things Are is not okay. The Way The World Is is not God’s ideal. We still have work to do.

In this sense, I believe that anger can be considered a righteous, holy thing. To a point.

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Here’s one thing I’ve noticed about anger: it tends to affect people from the bottom up. People in poverty, or those who live paycheck to paycheck, are angry at how much it costs for a single insulin pump. Black people are angry at seeing their brothers and sisters become hashtags in the aftermath of police violence. The people at the top of the food chain either have no idea that these things are happening, or they tune it out because it makes them sad or uncomfortable.

What does it take to stir the wealthy, privileged (and let’s face it: white) people? When we are inconvenienced. When our comfort is slightly disturbed.

Only then do we catch on. Only then do we notice the outrage that has been simmering for years before we finally see it come to a flash boil. If we were better (and all of us can be better) at fulfilling our obligation to care for “the least of these,” at listening to others’ experiences without trivializing them, maybe they wouldn’t be so “angry” all the time! That it’s so easy for some Christians to dismiss anger as “unproductive” says volumes about their own priorities.

That said, what you do with your anger matters. Letting it corrupt your spirit and turn you hateful does not help anyone. I don’t want to be someone who delights in being angry for anger’s sake (which is pretty popular in many “hot takes” on social media). If I am angry, I pray that God can use it. I hope that it will motivate me to make positive change, to further the cause of the Kingdom.

If I let my anger cripple me, then it is no longer righteous. I would hope that Christians and Jews can unite around that idea.

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1 thought on “Can anger be holy?”

  1. You are right, to be Jewish or to be Christian is to be concerned about the underdog. The poor and the most vulnerable have been targets lately by the current administration. This is doing damage to the true church. Read “To The Next Generation of Evangelical Leaders.” I use Sarabeth Caplin as one of my sources for this short, insightful look at what partisan politics has done to Christianity.

    Like

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