During my stint as a Bible College student, I took a class in which we studied the book of Isaiah. The teacher went to great lengths to explain to us the context for which the book was originally written. Much of it had to do with the idea of social justice, and the notion that Israel was falling apart because they stopped taking care of their weak and poor. Isaiah, a prophet, became a vessel of righteous fury as he pronounced the coming doom waiting to befall the jaded nation.
Our teacher went on to say something that has always stuck with me… “Many of you may have trouble grasping that kind of anger. It isn’t every day you experience true, burning, fury. And that’s okay. You’re young. You haven’t witnessed the travesties the world can hoist upon the poor and unsuspecting. One day, you’ll find something that you can’t abide. You’ll learn something so gut-wrenching, the only response that seems real is to fight back.”
Despite the presence of thirty-five other students, he was speaking directly to my soul. I grew up in the church. I’ve gone to the conventions, heard the impassioned pleas to get involved, I’ve read the pamphlets. And yet, I’ve never been driven to act. Aborted babies? Starving children? The homeless? The gays? Animal cruelty? I keep waiting for something to finally push me over the edge, I keep waiting for something to make me angry enough that I feel the need to do something about it. Instead, the best I can muster is sympathy for those that have been wronged.
I’m smart. I know there are starving kids in Africa, I know there are homeless right here in Knoxville. I know that animals are being badly treated somewhere, I know that Wal-Mart and a terrifyingly large number of corporations are evil. I know that more and more I count America as one of them. For years, I’ve been aware of these things, and my response was to shrug and chalk it up to the system. I’ve struggled with cynicism for years, and it seems my righteous fury was the first casualty.
Lately though, things have been changing. Warming my face in the beams of God’s grace has begun to light a fire in my heart that I’ve not felt in a very long time. The radically minded high school student I used to be is beginning to break through the shell of my heart and whisper subversive thoughts into my ear. For the first time in ages, I’m feeling my stomach clench when I examine how our politicians are failing us for the sake of another digit in their bank account. I’m beginning to see the barrage of advertisements we swim through every day as the mental sludge that keeps us from being beautiful.
It seems that Grace and Anger go hand in hand. You can’t truly experience one without realizing your outstanding need for the other. And this is what Jesus wants for us: To be so utterly fed up with this world that we’re willing to do something to fix it. I find myself wanting to watch “Fight Club” and read “Culture Jam” by Kalle Lasn. I suggest you do the same and we’ll meet back here next week.