Unlike the January discussion on law, the theme for discussion in February is an adjective rather than a noun because, from time to time, we are all angry about something or someone. Generally anger is not welcome, either for the recipient or for the angry person. Anger can so easily become out of control, especially when it’s shared by others. The storming of the Capitol in Washington two years ago is an example of how anger, stirred up and manipulated, can lead people to irrational violence.
At the same time, anger can provide the energy for needed change and it can stir people to act, particularly if it stems from a sense of injustice. Anyone who has witnessed a picket line in recent weeks will have witnessed quite a lot of good humour but also anger provoked by a sense of being undervalued and not listened to. Anger can lead to constructive action, as for instance the anger generated by the murder of George Floyd by a policeman that led to the formation of Black Lives Matter; and the murder of Sarah Everard, along with other scandals, has provoked anger and a widespread demand for reform in the police service.
Please see the diagram and its explanation at the bottom of the page ...
A reading of the Bible reveals quite a lot of anger. The prophetic writings may contain passages of comfort, hope, and sometimes joy, but they also express real anger, divine anger, at the social injustices of their time. For instance, the prophet Amos has a whole litany of wrath to be poured out on both Israel’s neighbours and on Israel itself, those ‘who sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals’. Or in Ezekiel, we find God pronouncing that ‘Soon, I will pour out my wrath upon you: I will spend my anger against you’. Even the Book of Psalms is not all like the Lord being my Shepherd; the Lord is also the one entreated to ‘Let burning coals fall on them! Let them be flung into pits, no more to rise!’
It may be said, well that’s the Old Testament, but the New Testament reveals a God of love not of wrath. But that demands quite a selective reading. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of some of the Pharisees as a ‘brood of vipers’ and a whole chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is devoted to the woes on the scribes and Pharisees: ‘hypocrites’, ‘blind fools’, ‘whitewashed tombs’ – you cannot fail to feel the anger here. And Jesus’ anger finds physical expression in the casting out of the money changers – Jesus made ‘a whip of cords, drove all of them out of the temple, and poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables’. The great apostle of love (1 Corinthians 13), Paul, is certainly not immune from anger – ‘If anyone proclaims a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed’.
The Revd. Helen Burnett, a member of Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action, speaks on its motivation and means of action.
Followed by questions and discussion.
At the centre of the diagram is ‘Anger’ with the consequences of its negative and positive actions. Surrounding and linked are circles containing the many areas that can make us feel Anger. First there is the intimate circle, consisting of family and close friends. Next we have an outer local circle consisting of people we come across regularly, whether as near neighbours, work colleagues, or others belonging to the various communities of association such as clubs, churches and voluntary activities. This is extended to a further circle who we occasionally meet, or people of which we are aware, at a national or regional level. And finally there is the whole of humankind at the global level. Whether we like it or not, we are in some way interconnected.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”?
But you have made it a den of robbers.’
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. (Mark 11:15–19)
Towards the end of 2020 a group of us, mostly from the organisation ‘Modern Church’, expressed a deep concern about the breaking down of relationships at a number of different levels and also a sense of anger and frustration at the amount of injustice that nobody seemed to be addressing. We decided to write a manifesto which mentioned issues such as the breakdown of unity, nationally and globally, the strong economic challenges that lay ahead and the need to avoid placing the burden on the poorest sections of society, the need to work internationally to fight against climate change, greater integrity in politics and the media, and the provision of generous hospitality of welcome towards refugees and asylum seekers. The Public Square Group has held a number of zoom meetings, and has created subgroups to address these issues.
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