By: Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
The Devil has got to be absolutely gleeful at the way some of us Christians act as we continually contributing to our own spiritual demise. Why? Because anger is a big problem in the Christian Church.
It’s hard enough to live the life of a growing, loving Christian, but when we add to the difficulty by literally doing the exact opposite of what Christ has called us to do, well, that’s just plain dumb. We must stop ignoring the issue and directly face it’s “cause and effect.”
Every time us “angry folk” persist in hating, separating, oppressing and invalidating another person’s Divine worth, we symbolically “slap God” about the head and shoulders with disrespect and disdain.
Angry people seem to be upset with many things – things like what songs are being sung, who’s teaching in a particular Sunday school class, which preacher is getting too much attention, and even the color of the new carpet in the vestibule. If that isn’t bad enough, there are people who show up at church with the sole intention of demonstrating their anger to all those around them. Someone, somewhere, and at some time has hurt their feelings; and because of their sense of personal insult, they’re going to make sure that worship and the fellowship surrounding that worship is injected with their personal indignation.
If the focus of a person’s anger was merely directed within their own religious circles that would be one thing, but some of our displayed anger, both as individuals and as an institution, is directed outside the church walls.
Unfortunately, this outward projection has led to “un-Christian” displays of invalidating and separatist actions, not only against each other but also against cultural philosophies, liturgical practices, ideas, expressions of faith, and theological preferences.
This sociological distinction can be observed plainly when some group or person doesn’t think or act the exact way as others around them. Because these people are perceived as being both different and because that “difference” in error. If those “other people” freely chose to be different from us, then far too many of us “good people” wrongly assume they have judged we’re wrong, stupid or less than adequate. Once such a thought-process takes hold, it is a very short journey to a perceived personal insult. Of course when this sequence takes hold its terribly difficult to remove it.
Unscrupulous, ignorant and deceptively self-serving “teachers” have contributed to this sociological distinction within all religious circles. In contemporary terms one needs to look no further than a handful of hateful….us against them….jihadists groups to see a prime example of this occurring. Even though radicalized Islam is a good example this, Christianity is certainly not excluded from this indictment. The shame of this historical reality is when the Bible is inappropriately injected into the process.
The bible is filled with monumental truths and Divine direction that will lead and enhance any one searching for a more fully established understanding of the Creator of all that is known and unknown. However, if the Bible continues to be misused by folks who wither use a few verses out of context to justify their own preconceived or prejudicial notions, or those who intentionally take Scriptural sections “literally” instead of as their intended metaphorical, symbolic or associative truth, then they’re guilty of tying a spiritual rope around the neck of a sincerely searching person.
Humanity’s anthropomorphic tendencies in Biblical literature are infamous. Anthropomorphism means giving human attributes or form to things that aren’t human. When we anthropomorphize God or any aspect of the expressions of God, when we speak of God as “a Person,” we ought to be conscious that we are really using an allegory which, if taken literally, an only belittle the same God we’re trying to describe and share.
Another example of cheapening the Bible’s message is converting the Devil or Satan literally into a specific “transcendent being.” When the believer does this, it can partially or wholly remove the personal responsibility for sinful activity. Can’t you hear the excuses?
“It wasn’t my fault… The Devil made me do it.”
Whatever circumstance the person finds himself in, he will quite naturally have the temptation to put some or all of the blame on an outside stimuli (the Devil) instead of looking inward where it belongs.
Because the outside source “caused” the temptation, then this allows the person to place a great deal of misplaced anger on outside things. This is extremely important because from personal anger to institutional anger is a short emotional trip. When that “institution” is a church, there’s a very real danger of irrational “group think.” Group think focused on projecting anger demonstrates a horrible example of bad religion; and when bad religion is demonstrated under the banner of Christianity, then the institutional church begins to falter miserably in doing and being what Jesus called His followers to share.
Irrational “religious anger”….whether Christianity or another religious expression”…. always requires a destination for that anger.
If we can’t blame the Devil directly for the failures of our own church, we will start to become angry and blame the more successful church on the other end of town. If we can’t blame the rival church, then we’ll blame the liberal theologians, the secular humanists, communists, Muslims, homosexuals, feminists or any number of other convenient targets.
The trouble is that unhealthy and insecure religions, which unfortunately could include a deluded form of Christianity, project outward fear that justifies crippling prejudices. We must stop making the “mythical” Beelzebub so happy.