I tend to beat myself up over my occasional bouts of ticked-offness, thinking that as a Christian, as a Catholic, I’m called to higher things. I’ve often wished a pox on those whose deeds I’ve found to be outrageous. I call it righteous anger but admit to thinking that I’m probably a better person when I’m not raining poxes down on people who piss me off.
Mark Shea has written a provocative piece, birthed by an outrageous deed, that ought to be read by us all, and makes me wonder about my thinking that I should be engaging less in self-flagellation:
Most of us modern Christians congratulate ourselves that we’re tolerant and not judgmental. All that Old Testament brimstone is old hat. We’ve advanced and evolved. We’re more forgiving than our ancestors.
But then a story like this catches our eye:
Shouting, “This is YouTube material!” a 27-year-old British man urinated on a dying woman who had collapsed on the street, the BBC and local Hartepool Mail and Northern Echo tell us. He also doused her with a bucket of water and covered her with shaving cream.
The woman, 50-year-old Christine Lakinski, died at the scene of pancreatic failure.
In a sad sign of the times, it was all recorded on a mobile phone.
Suddenly all those Old Testament curses come into focus. “May his name be blotted out in the second generation… and may his memory be cut off from the earth./For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death.” (Psalm 109)
Yeah, we think. Sounds about right! Everything in us revolts against this sheer outrage against human dignity. We recognize that some acts are so depraved and inhuman that it would be a sin not to be angered by them.
And all of a sudden our barbaric ancestors are revealed to be… people. People who felt exactly the way we feel when we see great evil done.
That’s important to see, because the reality is not that we are more forgiving: it’s that we are more excusing. We have created, for better or worse, a culture which excuses acts which our ancestors would have seen as appalling sin. We have figured out stratagems for avoiding feeling the sinfulness of sin. But when something does break through our comfortable numbness and cosmopolitan relativism, we are as ready to shout curses to the heavens as they were.
As Christians, of course, we cannot give our voice to such cursing. Jesus has very clearly told us that we must love our enemies and bless, not curse, those who despitefully use us. But that does not mean the Old Testament curses are bad or without value. In them, if we know what we are looking for, we see outrage at evil in chemical purity and know it as a gift of God. For righteous anger is not sin if we use it as God intended: as fuel for the engine of moral action. Anger only becomes a sin when we do not put it in the gas tank of action, but instead pour it on ourselves and others and set it on fire. Then it consumes us.
Read the entire piece.
Some say the world needs less anger. Mr. Shea would disagree while adding a qualifier or two.
What angers you?
What do you do about it?
Food for thought.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.