Anyone notice a level of anger and even outrage increasing in society? Whether it is ‘road rage’ incidents on highways, or flight attendants facing unprecedented harassment and hostility, or restaurant employees dealing with boorish and overly demanding people, many of us are emerging from pandemic lockdowns with ugly attitudes. Where is this coming from? Certainly it is fueled by 16 months of intermittent lockdowns that continue in some parts of the world today. It is also generated by the media spewing out on both right and left a constant sense of moral outrage at the ‘other’, whether it is towards the ‘radical socialist left’ from the right or towards the ‘radical fascist nationalist right’ from the left. It seems unending.
What disturbs me is not only this anger and hostility toward others, but how followers of Jesus have so become immersed in the narratives of the right or the left. The outrage that this anger of name calling and typecasting produces is being perpetuated by people that name the name of Christ. I looked up the definitions of anger and outrage, to see the difference. Basically anger and hostility are attitudes that produce the more extreme actions of outrage that can include a viciousness that may even include violence. This may only be at the level of extreme verbal abuse, but any of us that have experienced that know how violent it truly feels.
Millions of us are giving in to a sense of outrage, perhaps only morally, that we are receiving from the nightly cable news or YouTube channels we follow. We may be trying to ‘take back our country for God’ and away from the radical left, or we may be trying to ‘take our country away from the radical right’. Have you noticed an increase since the election last year in the US of violent verbiage about ‘civil war’ and increased talk of our enemies trying to destroy our beautiful country?
I can understand why people who do not live following the beatitudes of Jesus and are not committed to living out the fruit of the Spirit would perhaps resort to the kind of anger and hostility being experienced. But what about Christians who follow Christ, which is supposed to be what a Christian is? What excuse do we have for following the same kinds of hateful language that the media is giving us, or that the former President is saying in his continued rallies claiming wrongfully that he won the election? Or in the hateful rhetoric of the other side as well?
We have become the ‘Church outraged’ instead of the ‘Church that shows the love of Christ’. We are known for our boycotts of Netflix or Disneyland or the NFL more than how we love those around us. We use the same terminology of calling people the ‘radical left’ that want to love the poor. Instead of being deeply engaged in racial reconciliation as the people of Christ, we whine and complain about Critical Race Theory, most of us really having no idea what it is, except we heard about it on the cable channel of choice.
If you are still reading, here is an important insight I think may help to explain some of this anger and outrage filling so many of us. And this is not just a USA phenomenon. Perhaps many of you reading from other countries can identify as well. This morning in a sermon my pastor talked about the grief that so many of us are experiencing from all the losses we have faced. It clicked for me with these thoughts I was planning to write today, as anger and even outrage are so often a big part of what grief is. All of us have experienced so much loss, we have so much to grieve about. The loss of jobs, of dreams, of people who have died of the virus.
We are emerging from the lockdowns, or still in it, with a level of global and personal grief. That grief is fueling an anger and outrage that may be irritation at people or much more destructive. It is causing us to label people on the ‘left’ or on the ‘right’. It is resulting in the US in what seems to be an even higher level of gun violence, and in other nations other forms of crime. Some have called it the ‘summer of discontent’.
And where is the Church of Jesus in all this? Are we so embedded in the Right, angry and outraged at the ‘radical left’ that we have forgotten that love and kindness is to be what we are known by? I can say that it is happening also by the Christian Left as well towards those on the right, and it is, but I do think in my opinion that this ‘taking back our nation for God’ outrage seems to indeed be more on the right.
We need a new baptism of the Fruit of the Spirit, and let’s start with Kindness. I have written about this before, including right before the pandemic started at the beginning of 2020. Who would know how much we would need a new level of kindness in mid 2021? If you or I have been angry and hostile towards others, whether in the restaurant, your job, or on social media, there is an answer when we are followers of Jesus. It is to REPENT, to turn from our sin of anger and outrage and receive the grace of God to love people and stop labeling them. And then to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged.
What in the Name of God are we doing as the Church? We may as well be a political party, or a social organization. Are we living in the power and presence of Christ, or living in the parroting of Fox News or CNN? How is your life different as a follower of Christ than those around you? Instead of trying to take back our nation from anyone, we can start with living the way Christ has called us to. And then trust Him to pour into us the new wine to fill the new wineskins we so desperately need to meet our needy world today.