When I reflect on our anger with God, I immediately remembered of how Adam reacted when God confronted him about eating the forbidden fruit that Adam thought would “make him become like God.” God asked Adam, “What have you done?” Adam blamed God and the woman: “The woman that you gave to me gave me the fruit and I ate it.” Ever since, we have been looking for somebody else to blame for whatever trouble we are in.
Very soon after Adam tried to fight with God and lost, Cain became angry with God and killed his brother, Abel. The biblical account of Cain and Abel is a remarkable study of how anger springs from rejection and leads to hostility and internalized anger, isolation and depression. The story in Genesis 4:3-16 does not tell us why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, but it was. Wayne Oates said, “The angry self is the rejected self.” Cain could not get at God, who had rejected him; so he transferred and misdirected his anger and struck out and killed his brother. Later, Cain became depressed, isolated, lonely, paranoid and homeless. He was afraid and his self-esteem was gone. God acted to preserve Cain and give him a fresh start.
The Bible and Anger
The Bible is full of stories and teachings that deal with anger. No problem so completely obliterates your good judgment like anger. “Blind rage” is more than just an expression. Rage does indeed blind you to reality. We use “mad” to speak of anger and insanity. They are very closely related.
Job’s wife had some definite advice for Job when he lost all of his possessions, his health, and his family and just about everything except his wife. She said, “Curse God and die!” Some have said that Job’s wife remained with him as his most severe test of all! Job’s friends, whom Job called “miserable comforters”, came to Job to accuse him of terrible sins that must have caused his suffering. They were wrong.
One of the most complex biblical stories about anger, violence, depression and suicide is the saga of Saul, David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel, especially 1 Samuel 18-20 and 2 Samuel 1. Saul “loved” David, but Saul also tried to kill both David and Jonathan.
Our Angry Culture
We live in an angry world. Anger and violence simmer under the surface of millions of human relationships of couples, families, gangs, clubs, churches, nations and schools. We are divided, isolated and set against each other by forces of separation and abuse within our culture. Churches and other religious groups, which should be bringing all people together in Jesus Christ, are incredibly rejecting, divisive, abusive and judgmental.
The current listing of major religious denominations in America now numbers close to 500. The individual denominations are divided into liberal and conservative, homophobic and gay-affirming, rich and poor, White, Black, Asian, Hispanic and many other isolating configurations. I grew up in a very small town in South Carolina where there was a clear division among the Baptist churches. First Baptist Church for town people, Calvary Baptist Church and Lydia Baptist Church for mill workers, and separate and very unequal Black Baptist Churches, along with various “independent” Baptists. These divisions have greatly multiplied in recent years, and there is no end in sight. Religious separatism breeds hostility and leads to violence, suicide, physical and verbal abuse, ridicule, family fights, child abuse and war.
Jesus Included Everybody
To follow Jesus is to be inclusive. The thief on the cross was included. Mary and other women, social outcasts, “unclean” people and “sinners” were included as disciples of Jesus. “Whosoever” was included, including you.
As long as churches continue to identify themselves by whom they reject and leave out, even by implication, they fail to be “Christian.” Every major story of the actions and teachings of Jesus in the Four Gospels demonstrates the principle of inclusion. Including everybody was not just a teaching, it was the main teaching. Jesus included everybody as his basic plan and his way of life.
Many of you have rejected and abandoned the church because of the anger that church has created in you through rejection and abuse. You are not angry with God. But are you? We have been so brain washed by the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” preaching and teaching of evangelical churches that we have difficulty seeing God any other way.
We are a little like the man who got his arm broken in three places. He decided not to go back to those places again! We have been going down a dark haunted highway where we are whipped and bruised by shadowy forces that claim to speak and act for God. No wonder we are angry. We need to find a different highway to travel.
What Works For You?
What have you found that gives you spiritual guidance and strength? Where do you go for your inspiration? Don’t abandon Jesus. Truth and power are still to be found in the real Jesus. Anger hides and sneaks into your personality and into your life with great destructive force. Anger turns you against yourself and depletes your energy and health.
Religion that creates hostility between people and that intentionally sets people against other people is alien to God, the universe and objective rational thinking. Anger is contagious. Angry preaching produces angry people. Judgmental preaching produces hypocrites. Hostile judgmental hypocrites give the whole human race a bad name!
Conquer your anger, or your anger will conquer you.
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.