Sunday, April 11, 2010

Righteous Anger

Anger seems to be the defining attitude for today. At every turn it seems that we are encountering individuals who are angry about something. From road rage to the service counter at the local Wal-Mart … people are angry about something or at someone. Maybe it is simply the “sign of the times” – what with the down turn in the economy, people out of work or underemployed, the fear factor being released by the various political figures, and any number of properties either in foreclosure or simply cannot be sold – which is producing the unrest that we are witnessing.

My Christian Ethics professor in seminary had the class do a field experiment on the issue of anger as he was trying to help us understand the issue of Righteous Anger. He sent us out to various locations on campus to observe people “discussing” the Viet Nam War – especially from the standpoint as to when the emotion of anger was introduced to the “discussion.” What we all observed is that the first person who got angry was the person losing the argument or was failing to win the discussion.

I listen to a lot of news programs from a wide number of sources – ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, plus a full range of conservative radio talk programs. I find it interesting that under the present political landscape the more conservative the political pundits are they getting very angry. One particular individual becomes so angry that he literally is shouting and screaming at the top of his lungs at least once every half hour while calling people he disagrees with some rather awful names. Which causes me to turn once again to the issue of righteous anger.

Righteous anger is another matter totally. St. Augustine liked to define a virtue by expressing the two extremes and suggesting that the Christian virtue is in the middle. With righteous anger he defined the extremes as “always angry” and “never angry” – thus the Christian virtue of angry would be “sometimes being angry.” So, when is it a Christian virtue to be angry? Following the example of Jesus it would be over the wrongs suffered by others, especially those who the disenfranchised of society – not when you are losing an argument/discussion or when your idea is being discounted (i.e. the talking political pundits).

How the present climate of anger can be changed is anyone’s guess … it probably is going to have to start with each of us as we seek to change the tone of our discourse. Speaking personally it is difficult and quite the challenge, but it has to begin … doesn’t it?

Quote for today: “It is he who is in the wrong who first gets angry.” William Penn

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