Lenten Anger About Anger

Anger is a tornado in the human soul.

Roiling within us, like warm moist air, are memories of past mistakes and a host of personal beliefs and biases. On the outside, from the imagined thoughts or real injuries from another person or situation, flows the cool, dry air. Over years, or in a splintered second, the dry wind swirls with that inner moist air and . . .

Anger!

Police and civil rights activists clash, fire hoses spraying, dogs lunging at the end of leashes.

The national guard, all young, grasping weapons, form lines on a college campus. They face the rebellious students, all young, their clenched fists raised in the air. A storm of bullets is released.

21st century Nazis march, in polo shirts and jeans. Some have, not long before, serviced someone’s car or managed a portfolio. But how skewed their hateful views are about our nation’s past and today’s diverse culture. They clash with others that also earn a paycheck and yet possess a different, more complex version of history and society. They are last year’s Charlottesville and this year’s looming headline.

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Anger!

John 2:14 – In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.

2:15 Wielding a Glock 22, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

2:16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Jesus, bearing the burden of the world, steeped in God’s compassion and concerns, sees and feels and acts out against those who desecrate the temple. How could Jesus not turn the tables over? How could Jesus, with his intense gaze and calloused hands, not charge into the holy mess of money changers? Had religion become buying and selling, a descent into financial and spiritual debt over the price of a man-made heaven?

We rarely experience a Jesus with emotions in the Gospels. His enraged words and actions against the money-changers was not Jesus the storyteller or the one supporting grieving parents and isolated lepers. And yet how could he not be angry?

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Anger is our friend. It is our worst enemy.

I am angry about another school massacre. But not as angry as I once was. Don’t MSNBC and Fox News agree: first we’re stunned, mumble thoughts and prayer, maybe cast some blame, declare why we will/won’t change, and then reset for the next time an AR-15 spews bullets at flesh?

I am angry with suggestions about turning schools into armed camps. Guards with guns! Really? Skilled teachers—the good guys—with pistols to shoot the bad guys! Really? And then the President, parroting the NRA, said, “We have to harden our schools, not soften them . . .” Why not attack-trained German shepherds roaming the hallways and concertina wire on the perimeter? Those short-term solutions will only lead to more deaths and more grief. (I sometimes say I could be wrong. I am not wrong about the death and grief based on the NRA’s solutions.)

I am angry about another school massacre because I’m male. Why are the shooters always male?

I am angry because every time we talk about guns, suicide is rarely mentioned. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “Every day in America, 93 people die from gun violence. Fifty-eight of those deaths, or nearly two-thirds, are suicides with guns.” If we truly addressed all the issues twisting around guns, would we have fewer suicides? I believe so.

I am angry, in this Lent of 2018, about guns because I’m of a generation forever tainted by bullets. When I was eleven, President Kennedy was shot. The assassin ordered his gun by mail-order. How much have we done to have well-regulated gun sales since 1963? Since Columbine? Since Sandy Hook? How can a country bear so many murderous arms and expect anything other than violence? Why does the bloodiest interpretation of the Second Amendment trump a child’s or President’s life?

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Last of the Mohicans.”

I am angry because of the arms we wanted the “right to bear” when the Constitution was written:

  • A musket. (In 60 seconds, 3-4 inaccurate shots could be loaded and fired.)
  • A long rifle. (Literally long and takes longer to load, but more accurate.)
  • A pistol. (Nearly useless, so keep your knife nearby.)

That’s it. (Well, back in George Washington’s day, a cannon was used . . . but gun advocates usually don’t suggest a howitzer for home protection.)

Today’s weaponry? Machine guns and sniper rifles, pistols and revolvers, bazookas (for military buffs) and derringers (fits in a purse), shotguns (Dad gave me a hand-me-down .410) and blunderbusses (for gun collectors). There are a thousand weapons of mass destruction at your trigger-happy fingertips. Where are the money changers these days? Online! At your gun show! At your Bass Pro Shop. Get your home protection gear here! Depending on your zip code, a carry permit costs a few bucks and is easy enough to acquire. Teachers and preachers, just pack heat to protect the classroom or sanctuary. No worries, the teacher has a loaded Glock? They’ll know we are Christians by our concealed handguns?

In the depths of my soul, it’s not guns that stir my anger. Not really.

I am angry about anger.

We have so little humble, righteous anger anymore. Jesus is at the temple, offended by those turning faith into a revenue stream. He overturns tables, snaps a whip, bellows about serving God and not money. How quaint. So . . . first century.

No, the anger in this season of Lent I worry about, that spoils and soils my sense of hope, is that everyone seems so angry all the time. It is always tornado season. We attack with words. We attack with guns. We attack.

Right now, another troubled person is concocting a plan that includes an AR-15 and a shitload of bullets. For real or imagined reasons, he’s angry at the girlfriend that jilted him. Angry at the teacher that gave him the grade he actually earned. Angry at someone that belittled him. Angry at the cop who pulled him over for speeding. Angry, and he has no one to talk to.

He’s crazy! Right? Isn’t that a swell excuse? You’d almost think it made sense of the senseless. Indeed, some are mentally ill. Let’s care for them, and care enough to make sure they can’t bear arms. And yet what about all the others that can so easily become isolated, fractured, afraid, and . . . angry?

I’d be less angry if the NRA stuck to gun safety issues. When they call for “hardened schools,” our collective hearts will become harder and the tornadoes will keep spinning.

I’d be less angry if the President learned from the Ash Wednesday survivors of a Florida school pockmarked with high velocity rounds of ammunition. Those teens know more about killing fields than 99% of card-carrying NRA members. Whenever the President stiffly reads a teleprompter about people getting along, and then tweets more insults, another tornado is unleashed.

In this season of Lenten reflection, where I am ash, and I have come from dirt and will return to dirt, my righteous anger seems meaningless.

The unholy tornadoes of anger rage on, fed by dry hatred and moist fear.

O Holy One, give me words for a loving, righteous anger that might bind some wounds.

Please . . .

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6 Comments

  1. Larry, your ache enables me to wake a little, to stir from blinded slumber on the other side of the pond. I realise how (forgive me) used I am to American school shootings. Why doesn’t it shock me more – ?! I realised today that I have lost hope of change in your gun laws that as a brit I fail to understand. May the Holy One indeed give you and many words for a loving, righteous anger that might bind some wounds. Thank you for gift and heart to write so powerfully.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Marc.

      I haven’t completely lost hope, but I’m more pessimistic than I’d like to be.

      I recently listened to a National Public Radio interview where one of the speakers pointed out the obvious difference between how the United States approaches any form of “gun control” vs. the rest of the world. It’s the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. The “right” to guns is protected. As obvious as that is, it is also telling. Any discussion about guns, as with “free speech” and “freedom of religion” is also a conversation about the highest laws of the land. Can the amendments be interpreted and re-interpreted? Yes. Can there be additional amendments? Sure. But any “new” way of looking at a constitutional right or any significant change is a HUGE undertaking.

  2. As I read it He drove the animals out of the Temple. Animals not raised by nomads and sacrificed through love and grief but merely as a part of a commercial transaction. Yes. anger because the Holy was the victim of piety…..think of basketball courts to attract young males so that we can seduce them after a hot game into spirituality. I suspect the Temple authorities meant well. In the same way that water wells 12000 miles away are a good thing but the trash in our cities . crazed, addicted, do not sell . you avethe right of it. Righteous indignation I think it was Bonhoeffer that said “It is a strange religion that offers as its greatest blessing participation in a crucifixion” Bless you for yet another great meditation.

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