An assault on human dignity; the anger problem

January 13, 2014

In a few days, I will be speaking to a recovery group on the topic of anger. Just for the record, I am generally against it. This is a tricky discussion because sometimes Jesus became angry, and there was the unfortunate incident with the bankers in the temple. That’s not the only time Jesus got angry either, and the Father has a serious heavyweight reputation from the Old Testament. To cut this all down to the right size, and leave a little bit for my Wednesday night talk, there is a right kind of anger and there is also another kind, which is a sin and can lead to some serious undesirable outcomes.

The wrong kind of anger is uncontrolled negative responses to real and perceived slights. It is grudge-holding, simmering resentment. You might see it displayed in backstabbing and resentment. This kind of behavior is wrong even when the other guy has got it coming. It is found in vengeance. All of these are sinful and separate us from God.

A thoughtful Christian might wonder why anger is such a big deal, and getting to the bottom of it requires several steps. This little essay does not pretend to get us through all the steps, but let’s start with the most important thing. This is also one of the most neglected aspects of Christian teaching. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. The likeness exists in our ability to communicate with each other, and with the Supreme Being. We are creative and strive for beauty and ideals. Humans are, therefore, different. If one damages a special and important part of the creation, it is a great wrong and there is a consequence.

Anger defaces, defiles, desecrates the image of our Creator. Most people would not go along with this and probably label such thinking as hopelessly outdated. There is a tremendous irony here. Those who claim no special importance for the human species often say that those of us who do are being arrogant and that we ignore this entire rest of the universe. There is a serious disconnect for those who, on one hand, deny specific creation and the supremacy of humanity in the material order, but also claim themselves as sovereign individuals to be competent judges of all moral and ethical matters, without need to consult the outdated religious systems. Modern people just do not do such things.

In other words, human beings are ordinary pieces in a mechanistic process that have no special value of themselves. Now, here is where it starts to get dicey. Modern thinking people do seem to recognize the supremacy of certain humans who are exceptionally productive or unusually reliable consumers of all manner of non-essential stuff. There are particular standards for beauty, and those at the supposed top get extra goodies. The most physically strong and socially ambitious get ahead. As it turns out, modern man does create his own superior order of creation based on temporary and arbitrary standards.

The “standard” is really no standard at all. The society possesses a powerful religious presence. It is the worship of goods and the earthly salvation for those who are especially good at making goods and earning income to buy the goods. Sometimes this state religion steals the good name of Jesus Christ in order to keep things quiet down on the lower end of the productivity ladder. The real Jesus, the one who calls us to pray for enemies, help all our neighbors, and wash one another’s feet is nowhere to be found.

Does this sound like the blueprint for a living hell? It looks a bit like a biology experiment in which one grows anger like some sort of virus. The message of scripture, on the other hand, is to be reconciled and live in harmony. We are made in God’s image and are seeking union with Christ, who is the exact image of God. This means not being jealous of those who have a lot or contemptuous of those who have only a little. The holy writings tell those with the patience to listen, that God is bringing a people to himself and he is ultimately in charge of justice and restoration. It is a message of peace.

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