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Signs of the Times  •  12 July 2018  •  No. 167

Special edition

Commentary and a collection of quotes


        Few topics are as ambiguous for people of faith as anger. All of us get angry from time to time. But something inside us tells us we’re not supposed to be angry—even though sometimes it feels right.

        The Bible itself seems to be ambiguous. Jesus appears to forbid it when he says “every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22—although a textual note adds: “Other ancient authorities insert ‘without cause’ in this verse. The rest of this text involves Jesus’ warning about insulting behavior.)

        God surely gets angry. A lot. How come God gets to, and we don’t? The Psalms, in particular, are packed full of angry statements., though we almost never read those. (For more on this, see “Angry words in the Psalms: A collection of texts.”)

        One Saturday evening a church member called my wife about worship the next morning. She had assigned him a Scripture reading.

        “I made a mistake and wrote down Psalm 109,” he said.

        “That’s the one,” Nancy said.

        “Are you sure?” he replied, “This one’s not very nice—and you want me to read this in church?!

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        Sometimes we muster the will power to “swallow” our anger. Doing that, however, is like swallowing a mouth-full of nails. It usually produces serious digestive problems. (Have you ever heard someone described as “eaten up with anger”?)

        Psychologically speaking, swallowing anger leads either to depression (when internalized) or aggression. I am convinced we can no more stamp out anger than we can destroy energy. It simply assumes another form.

§  §  §

        I probably have as many questions about anger as anyone. I know four things for sure.

        1. If you’re never angry, you’re not paying attention. Conflict is constitutive to life as we know it, and envisioning and practicing redemptive response is the heart of faith.

        2. Anger is the appropriate response to every form of abuse and injustice. It is, in fact, the animating presence of God; for life as we know it is not finally fated to destruction and will be transformed. This is the promise on which faith is formed and engaged.

        3. Yet anger’s sway easily becomes a cover to act out our own fears and self-centeredness—and is especially brutal when invoking religious identity and divine blessing. Truth be told, the only way to God is through unwelcomed, unruly neighbors. (See Matthew 5:23-24.)

        4. As with all such weighty matters, talking about the appropriate use of anger is immeasurably easier than practicing it. We remain acquainted with failure; it is risky; and sometimes bruising. But such is the stuff of glory. —continue reading “Where do you put the anger? Anger and the animating presence of God


A collection of quotes

§ “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment. . . .” —Matthew 5:22a

§ “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” —Ephesians 4:26-27

§ “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” —Saint Augustine

§ “Anger, used, does not destroy. Hatred does.” —Audre Lorde

§ The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” —Joe Klaas

§ “Give in to your anger. With each passing moment, you make yourself more my servant.” —Emperor Palpatine in the “Star Wars” movies

§ "If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

§ “Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.” —Zora Neale Hurston

§ "Beneath the shouting, there’s suffering. Beneath the anger, fear. Beneath the threats, broken hearts. Start there and we might get somewhere." —Parker Palmer

§ One Saturday evening a church member called my wife about worship the next morning. She had assigned him a Scripture reading.
        “I made a mistake and wrote down Psalm 109,” he said.
        “That’s the one,” Nancy said.
        “Are you sure?” he replied, “This one’s not very nice—and you want me to read this in church?!

§ “Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” —Ecclesiastes 7:9

§ “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ―Mark Twain

§ “Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see—egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be read to fight the enemy you can see.” ―Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

§ “Men in rage strike those that wish them best.―William Shakespeare, Othello

§ “The best answer will come from the person who is not angry.” —Arabic proverb

§ “Anger as soon as fed is dead– / 'Tis starving makes it fat. ” ―Emily Dickinson

§ “Not the fastest horse can catch a word spoken in anger.” —Chinese proverb

§ "Jesus does not weep in anger or in indignation or with any satisfaction. He weeps in profound grief for this gift of God that has died." —Walter Brueggemann

§ “The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable, / Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.” ―Euripides

§ “Anger is the prelude to courage.” ―Eric Hoffer

§ “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves: one for the enemy, one for yourself.” —Confucius

§ “At the heart of all anger, all grudges, and all resentment, you'll always find a fear that hopes to stay anonymous.” ―Donald L. Hicks

§ “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.” —Marcus Aurelius

§ “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” —Gautama Buddha

§ “Hatred bounces.” —e.e. cummings

§ “Talk to us about reconciliation / Only if you first experience / the anger of our dying. / Talk to us about reconciliation / Only if your living is not the cause / of our dying.” —excerpt from a poem by Filipino author Justino Cabazares

§ “No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.” —Nigerian proverb

§ “Every war already carries within it the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed.” —Käthe Kollwitz

§ “I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and, as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a power which can move the world." —Mahatma Gandhi

§ “Anger makes us all stupid.” —Johanna Spyri

§ “If I have learned anything in my life, it is that bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it.” —Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

§ “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” —Chinese proverb

§ “Conquer anger by love; conquer evil by good; conquer the miser by liberality; conquer the liar by truth.” —Gautama Buddha

§ “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” —Romans 12:21

§ “Let us not be afraid to protect the weak because of the anger of the strong, or to defend the poor because of the power of the rich.” —Brazilian theologian Rubem Alves

§ “What Christians call discipleship is nothing less than organizing people for another way of life that deals with the inequalities, the frustrations, the anger, and the hopelessness of their times in constructive ways.” —Joerg Rieger

§ “For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature . . . we lack a holy rage—the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth . . . a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God's earth, and the destruction of God's world.” —Kai Munk, Danish pastor killed by the Gestapo in 1944

§ “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —Gautama Buddha

§ The seven deadly sins: Luxuria (extravagance, later lust), Gula (gluttony), Avaritia (greed), Acedia (sloth), Ira (wrath, more commonly known as anger), Invidia (envy), and Superbia (pride).

§ “What do you think we ought to do with the anger and the yearning for vengeance that is so powerful among us? I proposed in [Praying the Psalms] that what the lament psalms do is show Israel doing three things. First, you must voice the rage. Everybody knows that. Everybody in the therapeutic society knows that you must voice it, but therapeutic society stops there. Second, you must submit it to another, meaning God in this context. Third, you then must relinquish it and say, ‘I entrust my rage to you.’” —Walter Brueggemann

§ “A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them, ‘In every life there is a terrible fight—a fight between two wolves. One is evil: he is fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion.’ A child asked, ‘Grandfather, which wolf will win?’ The elder looked him in the eye. ‘The one you feed.’” —Cherokee parable

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