Friday, November 12, 2004

Getting angry at "what sucks"

I've found quite a number of kindred spirits out here in the blogosphere. One of them who consistently probes the balloon of my self-image and beliefs with a sharp needle is Rick, author of a new life emerging. The other day, he posted this entry entitled "Focusing on What Sucks... Sucks." It's definitely worth reading - and since my attitude, when I read it, was closer to "raw-sewage-brown" than "blue-sky," it was exactly what I needed to read at the time... and I told Rick so. (I find that God's economy is pretty amazing, that way...when the student is finally ready to hear, the teacher appears.)

However, this afternoon I read something by Chris over here at Radio Rebellion about the Iraqi war, and it just set me off. This topic has the ability to fire me up like few you can no doubt tell from my comments/sermon/rant at the bottom of his post.

I know, in my heart, that anger and resentment are poisonous to me. I can stay in the negative, and just spiral down into hopelessness, helplessness, and rage - in a New York minute. The book Alocholics Anonymous tell me that
Resentment is the "number one" offender... From it stem all forms of spiritual disease...It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while... [For those] whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. (Alcoholics Anonymous, chapter 5, pages 64, 66)
And later on, it also clearly says that
We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders. (chapter 9, page 132)
My struggle is, how do I get angry at injustice, at injury, at actions and beliefs which are clearly against the greater good, and stir up resistance to evil... and at the same time, maintain my sanity and serenity, without which I'm as good as dead?

You see, for better or worse, I am a child of the 60's and 70's. There was an awful lot of Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie mixed in with my rock-&-roll diet. There didn't seem to be a single neighborhood that was untouched by the Vietnam war - no church that had not had a flag-draped casket in its sanctuary. Even though I was only five when Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, I came to understand that racism was something worth getting angry about, and racial injustice needed to stop. As a teen, one of my mentors was Bob Walker, a youth-group advisor who often used the supposed-Buddhist acronym ITCTWWSOFCN - which he translated as "impossible to change the world while sitting on fanny contemplating navel."

Even in my brief sortie into seminary life, I have encountered folks like Heidi Neumark (read a wonderful interview with her here), Ed Chambers, Kim Bobo and the National Interfaith Council for Worker Justice and a whole bunch of folks like them, who believe that anger over injustice, and taking action to right those injustices, is part and parcel of where Jesus calls them in their faith walk.

Nicky Gumbel, one of the central figures in the Alpha Program, starts the first recorded talk of the Alpha series with "Christianity: Boring, Irrelevant, Untrue?" We will talk about charges 1 and 3 later, but for me, #2 was definitely true. What I found in church seemed completely irrelevant to what I was living and breathing at the time. And even though much of that was formed as a rebellious teenager, I have to say that much of my experience in the church today echoes that experience.

I have to believe that if the Church - emergent, pre-emergent, mainline, you name it - is going to remain relevant in the world, we need to continue to understand that following Christ isn't defending the world from the GLBT community, and it isn't ensuring the permanence of one-man-and-one-woman. It means two Great Commandments, and one Great Commission - and being willing to take a stand on what doesn't fit into that very, very large spiritual triangle.

And, as an old friend would say, "that's worth gettin' het-up about."

That's probably not the last word I'm gonna write on this...but for now, it'll do.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I was a teenager when MLK's I Have a Dream speech was given, and remember when the grainy black and white tv footage we now see was "live". And we in Canada were not immune to the Viet Nam war--we benefitted greatly, in fact from many young men coming north and making their lives here (think of Svend Robinson, the first openly gay MP in Canadian history, for example), but we also grieved the ever-expanding horror of it.

Nowadays and historically, part of our reality has been the United Church of Canada, which might be compared in theology and liturgy to the United Church of Christ, and which has the reputation of being a very "justice oriented" church, for better and for worse. I am a member of this denomination and have my own struggles for it and with it (, as you know.

I used to believe, as you do, that we need to get angry over injustice and get out there and get at things. That's still valid in a sense, but over the years, I came to realize two things: one personal, one more global.

On a global level, I learned that if you go out there and don't get spiritual nourishment, you'll simply burn to a crisp and be no good to anybody, especially those you most want to help. That, to me, is the role of our church, to provide that nourishment, that refueling depot, that safe place to struggle with our faith, be challenged, and reflect and celebrate. So the church is anything but irrelevant if it provides these things to us as we work for justice. If it doesn't provide these things, it fails on a very important level, and the Great Commission (which needs to be interpreted very carefully, in my view) is dead in the water. Where the church fails for me is in this very area, with liturgy and music mired in a dead past--now That's irrelevance! {Grin}

More personally, I have ADD. People like me are the last people who should be "out there" on the front lines. Though I write and can communicate, encourage, perhaps even reveal the Community of God and empower people with my writing, I have learned that Being is as important as Doing. And that's because sometimes, Being is all I can Do. And no matter how upset and angry at injustice I get, this must guide whatever action I take.

I've encountered many fine people over the years who beat themselves up for not "doing more" for not joining the thick of the fight for justice. Almost invariably, when their lives are examined, they are literally doing all they can without self destruction.

I offer this up to your anger, for your reflection.