The Elephant of Anger and Violence

Jesus had some rather harsh things to say about anger. In his sermon on the mount, generally regarded as a composite of all his preaching ministry, he went so far as to compare anger to the sin of murder. A reading of Matthew 5-7 gives us every assurance that Jesus left no family secrets on the table. He mentioned every elephant in the room, including sex. No mention there of homosexuality; only lust (gender non-specific) as being equal to the sin of adultery. And anger directed to either male or female, he preached, was subject to the same judgment as the sin of murder (Matthew 5:22).

My purpose in writing about anger and violence is not to infuse my own opinions into America’s gun control arguments. Clearly both sides in this battle are afraid of the other and are doing what frightened people always do: seeking control over the other. This amounts to fighting anger with anger, fear with fear. One common tactic in this struggle for control is the use of statistics, which are typically the weapon of choice to prove both side’s argument.

That said, I am deeply concerned about gun deaths in our nation just as much in connection with suicide as with homicide and accident. It bothers me that one U.S. military veteran commits suicide (mostly by firearm) on average every hour, for example. Yet, many churches pray over only those identified as “combat deaths” (which are fewer than our military suicide deaths). Such logic has always escaped me.

So my purpose in writing about anger and violence is to essentially ask why this elephant outed by Jesus in his preaching has been so widely stuffed back in the closet of family secrets. Here I don’t mean the elephant of death by abortion (which is rather widely talked about), or even death by firearms (less often mentioned at least in my hearing), but rather the elephant of anger Jesus was talking about in his own preaching. I see no solution to our nation’s gun problem until we solve our anger & violence problem.

What’s up with all our anger here in America?

Why are we mad at each other on our roads, our telephones, all cyber instruments, all social networks, all halls of government, and, yes, even our churches? And why does our violence take the form of bullying, domestic violence, road rage, political mudslinging, and the labeling of each other using derogatory words? Why do we abuse each other?

Why do we make excuses for abusing each other?

Most of all, why do we who uphold the name of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord defy the very One who called us out on our angry behavior? Other than to prove those who hate us for our hypocrisy to be right in what they say about us, I don’t have an answer.

Oh, I know. There are Christians In Name Only (CINO’s) who like to twist scripture into some proof-texted version of “Jesus commanded his disciples in Luke 22 to buy swords” — a passage scholars interested in understanding the “whole” of scripture nearly all interpret as his prophetic Gethsemane arrest scenario. There are those who like to excuse their own anger by citing Jesus attacking the temple merchants with a whip (forgetting the part about how he laid no hand, nor whip, on the merchants but only on the merchandise itself). To me, these have next to nothing to do with the questions at hand: what’s up with our anger here in America? And why do we make excuses for abusing each other?

This whole elephant metaphor is, for me, nothing more than a challenge for those of us who would claim to be followers of Jesus to, therefore, be this world’s “Light” that exposes all that the darkness hides among us, and within us. To ignore the elephant is to hide our light under the proverbial bushel. Anger, like murder, comes from a place of darkness, where lies masquerade as truth.

This is no sermon. I’m not worthy of preaching as Jesus did. Yet, if I’m to be in the Light as He is in the Light, then I must at the very least use social media to ask the questions seeking your comments.

So what do you think? Why are we so angry? And why do we accept violence even in the very words by which we abuse each other?