Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘why are people so angry’

Don’t Get Mad, Get a Life

FIGHT CLUBOur beloved battle hymn foresees the Lord returning to trample “on the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”  Well if that’s a fair description of the end of time, then surely we have arrived.  Those bitter grapes are everywhere, indeed, the world is a vineyard.  Without a doubt, we are awaiting the last trump!  (Don’t scream at me: that last word is not capitalized.)

Here is the USA, fight clubs still sweep the country, not among gangs like MS-13, but championed by young, well-educated, urban professionals.  College students riot after being offended by trigger words.  Popular politicians are shouted down and hounded off the stage at town hall meetings.  If your business flight isn’t delayed while stubborn passengers are pummeled and dragged off the aircraft, it may be forced to land prematurely due to a furious passenger assailing the flight attendant. Meanwhile, social media like Facebook and Twitter are so charged with rage, insults, and vitriol that ordinary people are afraid to sign on for their daily dose of baby pictures.

What gives?  C.S. Lewis offered a precise diagnosis of today’s world three-quarters of a century ago.  “Aim at heaven and you’ll get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

There’s a powerful idea we’ve abandoned, and it begins with trans.  Does anything come to mind? Not transsexual: but transcendent.  People who cherish transcendent values can live with disappointment and adversity in life because their spiritual convictions lift them above the moments of mundane frustration. Because they believe in heaven, in divine wisdom, and in the power of love, spiritual people literally transcend the down times by trusting Providence and practicing delayed gratification. People of true faith believe many of the best things in life are invisible at the moment, and other treasures are awaiting the fullness of time.

Materialists, on the other hand, expect satisfaction every day because they live in a world filled with things; and things are supposed to bring us joy.  Who wouldn’t be happy with the newest smartphone, the most gargantuan HD TV,  and a futuristic home where smart devices do everything for them effortlessly?  Apparently, that’s not nearly enough for most people.  Look again at the seething multitudes all around you.  To paraphrase a former president, “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to smartphones or social media or antipathy to people who don’t agree with their ideas as a way to explain their frustrations.”

People who hope only in the here and now have no patience with delay and defeat, even the most fleeting variety.  And therein is found the crux of our national despair.  We suffer from the most powerful forms of addiction; big money and big government.  And now that both of us have failed us miserably, we are left in the misery of withdrawal.  We traded away the transcendent spiritual truths that could lift our souls from the Slough of Despond.  Very soon, perhaps an old cliche’ will begin to resonate once again: Jesus is the Answer.  The world is not enough… seriously.

Lift up the Cross!



Facebook Derangement Syndrome


Facebook encourages us to share our thoughts and feelings with the whole world- instantly, unfiltered, and unedited.  That’s one reason why the site that made social media a household term has now become such a bore.  Who knew there were so many angry, insecure people in the world? You could call it FDS.

Where did we lose those timeless truths; the insight that it’s generally not healthy to share everything you’re thinking and feeling instantly and unedited?  You can injure other people.  You can create unnecessary hostility and tension.  And you can make yourself look inexcusably ignorant, superficial, and immature.

When I was five or six years old, a garrulous neighbor stopped by the house to visit my mom. In my young mind, it must have seemed she had been going on and on forever.  So I blurted out a sensible request I must have heard someone else use: “Oh! Just get to the point!”  I don’t know how long the neighbor stayed after that: only that I got a swat on the bottom and a trip to my room!  My shocked mom later explained it’s uncivilized and unkind to say everything that comes to your mind. One of the most reliable metrics parents use to gauge how well their kids are growing up is simple self control.

Scripture counsels the people of God: “This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)  In the Old Testament, the writer of Psalm 141 prays, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Outrage is like formal attire: it’s only appropriate for select occasions.  But in American society today, indignation has become the first line of defense.  In the realm of Twitter, you have to say it in 140 characters or less, like it or not.  That means we should tweet less and think more.  The real question is not how many characters are required, but rather, what kind of character does this message reflect?  Am I behaving like a jerk?  Do I seriously know all the facts?  Does this really need to be communicated?

There are many, many reasonable responses to an unwelcome situation.  There are replies that can pour oil on troubled water.  There are attitudes that suggest this is not a crisis; we can all work together.  There are answers that apply the balm of Gilead to bruised and broken hearts. And then… there is the Personal Apocalypse!  Everybody on the floor! Now!

We live in a dysfunctional, distressing culture; so much that I often find indignation rising in my heart, quite unjustly, over something as simple as a thoughtless remark.  I quickly bite my lip. Silence can truly be the pause that refreshes.

  • Sometimes I realize the emotion that’s in order here is surprise.  I wasn’t expecting that! So I reply, “Sorry, you caught me off guard.  Tell me again….”
  • Once in a while, I realize that I am at fault.  It’s painful to be informed I have needlessly injured another person.  “I’m sorry” is always a good start.
  • Occasionally a situation occurs that simply disappoints me.  Sadness is a necessary part of life.  It’s not an occasion for a lawsuit or a fist fight. It’s okay to be sad once in a while.
  • Then there are those moments that are embarrassing.  My face glows red and I have no idea what to say.  So I break the ice, “Well, this is awkward….”  People smile and relax.

Even on occasions when outrage is appropriate, it’s often not effective.  Human trafficking is as outrageous and barbaric today as it was in the 19th Century when the British economy was dependent on slavery.  Outrage didn’t end legalized human bondage: that sort of rage fizzles too quickly:  too intense and not focused enough.  Rather, human slavery was finally outlawed in Britain as the result of prayer, cooperation, statesmanship, determination, and tenacious, tireless resistance against barbarism. It required a generation. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to live decades of ones life in a state of perpetual outrage, although some people foolishly try.  Even crusaders have to occasionally lighten up and let a few things pass unchallenged.

A thousand years before Christ, Scripture noted “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  In a world of Facebook flatulence and Twitter twaddle, that principle is just as valid as ever.  Being measured is a part of being wise.

Lift up the Cross!


Breaking News Hysteria


People have been asking about Kim Davis, the county clerk who was perp-walked to prison after refusing to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.  She’s been released now and has returned to work, but the questions linger: what should a Christian do?

In a sane world, an elected official like Mrs. Davis would have had time to work out her ethical dilemma with mayors and legislators and courts.  When the Supreme Court turned marriage on his head and ruled that most human beings through most of history have been bigots and homophobes, it should have surprised no one that there were many people in government jobs with traditional convictions about marriage. In fact, the dissenting Supreme Court justices predicted chaos would soon follow.  In a rational society, there would have been a period of transition when laws and regulations could be crafted to allow for the new vision of marriage while protecting people who cannot sanction such a radical departure.  Reasonable people could have applied for their marriage licenses in neighboring counties for a few weeks.

Unfortunately, in 2015 the United States is neither sane nor rational.  Thanks to 24/7 cable news and social media, we live in a society that thrives on hysteria. Today’s Outrage is the currency of every successful media career.  A stupid ruling by a high school principle in Texas or photos of a lion mistakenly shot in Zimbabwe can go blazing across the internet, often replete with misinformation, but always capable of sending one radical group or another into apoplexy and media mayhem!  Within hours, world capitals have villagers with torches and pitchforks marching off to slay the Monster.

In an hysterical society where political correctness has won the day, Christians still have clear choices when conscience and national mandates collide.

  1. As Kim Davis did, you can appeal for adjustments in regulations that allow you to delegate offensive new duties to people who do not have a conflict of interest. This will take more time than you are generally given in the press. In this case, a radical judge will very likely have you arrested.  You won’t be the first or the last.
  2. You can resign if you are not granted some sort of religious or ethical exception.
  3. You can clarify your convictions.  In the case of Kim Davis, one might wonder if her signature requires that she must approve every marriage she licenses. One suspects she probably disapproves of someone getting married for a fifth time, or a citizen remarrying within days of a divorce being final; yet she is able to sign those licenses. Perhaps a clerk is simply certifying that a couple meets the government’s minimal standards- not God’s.  Some might find they could continue to perform a government job without being compromised.

There’s more than enough outrage to go around these days, so I find it useful to pick my battles. Last week I read a news story about an office supplies store that refused to print pro-life flyers for a customer. The store manager labeled her prayer flyer unacceptable hate speech.

After confirming the facts of the matter, I looked up the website of the national chain and submitted a polite email.  I mentioned my concern that a local store has chosen to discriminate against the politics or religion of a paying client.  I explained my concern that this kind of behavior is discriminatory; that I would suggest the company apologize and correct the situation before many customers like me found it necessary to move our business to a competing chain. (I’m sure I was not alone in writing.) Within 24 hours, the management apologized to me and the pro-life woman in Illinois and to her attorneys, as well; they invited her back to print more flyers and expressed their regret.

Don’t explode or collapse when the pressure comes to bear on your faith. Stand firm.  And don’t leave other saints standing alone when the firing squad turns on them.  Let’s seek Christ-likeness and community wherever we can in these angry, divisive days.  And don’t get mad at the world just because some idiot with a computer gets a viral moment on Facebook.

Lift up the Cross!


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