Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Ephesian 4:26
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. James 1:20
Anger is a common human emotion. Each of us handles anger differently. Some of us are quick-tempered, others internalize anger, and some of us count to ten or use other control techniques. No matter how anger affects us or how we deal with it, we’ve all been angry at one time or another.
People who says they never get angry are not being honest. Either they have a faulty view of what constitutes anger or they have deceived themselves about their emotions. Everyone gets angry.
Seeing a counselor on a regular basis has helped me to see that anger is a normal part of being human. For most of my life, I thought anger was a sin. If I got angry about something or someone I was sinning against God.
Most Evangelicals believe that there are two types of anger, fleshly or worldly anger and righteous anger. According to the Evangelical, fleshly or worldly anger is a sin against God. Righteous anger, however, is an anger to be desired and cultivated. Righteous anger occurs when the Christian hates what God hates. Of course, it is the Christian who, through his or her interpretation of the Bible, determines what and who God hates. When homophobic Baptist preachers are confronted over their anger towards and hatred of homosexuals, they often play the righteous anger card. In their mind, they are just loving what God loves and hating what God hates.
I find it interesting that what God loves and hates matches exactly with what the Evangelical loves and hates. Witness the culture wars with their vitriol and hatred. Culture warriors routinely say that they are just a mouthpiece for God. I find it strange that God talks out of his ass. Evangelicals are angry about all sorts of things that supposedly an affront to God: sin, worldliness, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, Barack Obama, abortion, Obama, sexual immorality, illegals immigration, Starbucks coffee cups, Barack Obama, nudity on TV, programs that mock Christianity. As offended Evangelicals rise up and vehemently shout their opposition, they are certain they speak for God and that their anger is of the righteous variety. Non-Evangelicals just see angry, hateful, offended people.
Evangelical preachers have a natural outlet for their anger. They can get up in the pulpit and rail against virtually anything and anyone and call it righteous anger. The preacher becomes God in the flesh, because he hates what God hates. Witness the preaching that goes on in many Independent and Southern Baptist churches. The preacher screams, hollers, stomps, spits, and hits the pulpit as he preaches against anything and everything he considers sin. Since the preacher’s sin list is exactly the same as God’s list, his angry preaching is considered righteous anger. Again, Non-Evangelicals just see an angry, hateful, offended person.
I am a temperamental person. I have red hair. Everyone knows redheaded people have bad tempers, right? (Combine red hair with being a Baptist preacher; well that’s a perfect recipe for fireworks in the pulpit every Sunday.) As I entered the ministry, I learned that I had to “die to self.” i.e., I had to die to my anger. I had to suppress my anger at all times. Any display of anger was a sin against God. I learned quickly that perception is reality. If I wanted to be seen by others as a “man of God” or as a “Holy Spirit filled preacher” I had to keep my temper under control at all times. No matter what anyone did to me I had to grin and bear it. No matter what anyone said to me I had to always keep my temper in check. Above all, I had to maintain my testimony.
Some of the nastiest people I have ever met were in church. People who were constantly critical felt it their calling to remind me of my deficiencies and failures. I’ve been abused by more than a few Holy-Spirit-filled, Jesus-praising Christians. No matter what they said or what they did I was never allowed to show anger. And I was, to be sure, angry. Really angry. The anger was driven inward. When it bubbled to the top it usually made itself known to the people who I loved the most, my wife and children.
Behind closed doors I was allowed to be myself. I was allowed to be angry. Unfortunately, my anger was misplaced. Instead of being angry with that pompous ass of a deacon or the bitch who thinks she controls the church, I was angry with my family. I transferred my anger from the people who should have received it, and took it out on those I love.
Now that I am no longer a Christian or a preacher I am free to be human again. Those who deserve my anger get it. I no longer try to suppress my emotions. There are things that SHOULD make me angry. My counselor tells me that to not be angry is abnormal. I am now free to be angry. Cut me off in traffic and I’m likely to wave at you. Show disrespect to me or to my wife and I am likely to let you know what I think about your opprobrium. I no longer have to put up with people who feel their calling in life is to make others miserable,
It feels good to say to the cashier from hell, “do you normally treat everyone like shit?” It is refreshing to get angry with the refs when they blow a call and my team loses. It also feels absolutely wonderful to be able to express anger towards people like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, and other right-wing zealots. Those who want to harm others deserve my anger, and now that Jesus is no longer looking over my shoulder, I’m free to pointedly say what I think about those who seem to think they are called in life to savage anyone who gets in their way.
I have found that anger has its place in my life. I’ve have also found that anger has its boundaries. If I want to practice mindfulness, I must learn to channel my anger into productive ventures. I’ve seen first-hand that living a life of constant anger will destroy a person, physically, emotionally, and mentally. But, so will trying to live as if anger doesn’t exist. I no longer concern myself with what God thinks. When anger is justified I allow myself to be angry. When it is not I try to realize it and act appropriately. My desire is to fully embrace my humanity.
What has been your experience with anger? For you who are no longer Christian, how have you dealt with anger now that there is no Bible prohibition to deal with? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.