21 August 2010

atmosphere of evil

I suppose it seems like it’s in today’s America (and today’s church) that people more readily give way to anger than before. At one level, I know that that isn’t true. It’s not like we’re actually fighting a civil war. Still, terms like the “culture wars” either describe, or add to, collective paranoia.

I’m divulging my own perspective here, but when seemingly innocuous statements and actions result in a crescendo of outrage, I wonder if we all aren’t on a diet of crazy pills. In a previous post, I included an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin asks, “Doesn’t it seem like everybody just shouts at each other nowadays?”

Someone who knew a little bit about anger was Heinrich Schlier, who passed away in 1978. During the Nazi era, he belonged to the Confessing Church, a Christian movement that opposed Hitler’s regime. In his book, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament, he comments on the apostle Paul’s quote in Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” (Please overlook the gender-exclusive language.)

“This may appear exaggerated, for what has a man’s anger to do with the devil?” Good question, especially for a scholarly German theologian. I think his answer is the result of both study and experience. “When a man gives way to anger he makes a place within himself for the devil, and he gives the devil and his ruinous power a foothold in the world. Through his anger the man helps, as it were, to intensify the atmosphere of evil.” (61)

Atmosphere of evil. That’s a good description of an environment in which we spew whatever ill-conceived thought that enters our heads—and then foster conditions for more of the same.

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20)

1 comment:

Gail Osmun said...

Last week, I had a similar discussion with a friend about how all of the shows geared to young people these days had all the characters yelling at one another. Everyone seems so loud and so irate. It is almost as if life has become a Jerry Springer rerun.