Wednesday, June 01, 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

The United States has an anger problem.

Take, for example, a story from earlier this month in Dallas, Texas: A 21-year-old man who was mad at his girlfriend broke into the Dallas Museum of Art and proceeded to take out his rage on a number of the displays, including several ancient artifacts. Damage estimates have ranged as high as $5 million.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt in that incident. But elsewhere, when anger is combined with easy access to deadly weapons, we know the human toll can be significant. We’ve seen that all too frequently in recent weeks: a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.; a church in southern California; an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; a hospital in Tulsa, Okla.; and far too many others.
The motives cited have included anger at family members, anger at a particular race, anger over politics, anger at a doctor over a surgical procedure. In each case the anger was released through a trigger. Whatever the cause—mental illness, a short fuse, racism or prejudice, a perceived slight, family dynamics, or other factors—the results are devastating and painful.
We see the fruit of anger elsewhere, too: in comments and exchanges on social media, in daily interactions in stores and restaurants, on airplanes and on roads and city streets, in the tribal nature of contemporary politics, and, yes, in our churches—which have often absorbed some of the worst instincts of our larger culture.
In a CNN poll last fall, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were either “very angry” or “somewhat angry” about the way things were going in the US today. A 2019 NPR-IBM Watson Health survey similarly found that 84 percent of people said Americans were angrier today than a generation ago. A doctor reviewing the results termed this spiraling surge of anger “a health risk.” It has become our default setting.
Certainly, it can be appropriate to be angry about some things, and anger that is reasoned through and channeled well can yield positive results. But getting to that point, and being sure that we’re angry about the right things, can be a tricky business. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin.” James later adds, “Let everyone be … slow to anger, for human anger does not produce God’s righteousness” (1:19b-20).

The old adage of counting to 10 isn’t a cure-all, but it’s not a bad start—especially if we use that space to come to God in prayer. Then we can take a look at how we engage with one another and defuse strong emotions and effect change in constructive ways.
My hope is that we can learn to model “another way of living,” as Brethren have often said, because our country could use a peace church right now. And it’s hard to be a peace church if we’re angry all the time.

District executive schedule: In addition to regular meetings, Walt will be officiating a wedding in Bloomington on June 11 and one in Mount Morris June 25, conducting a licensing service and preaching at Highland Avenue on June 12, counseling and leading Bible studies for Camp Emmaus’ senior high camp July 2-8, attending part of the Council of District Executives meeting and Annual Conference in Omaha July 9-13, preaching at York Center July 17, helping to lead worship at the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference (and traveling back with the district bus) July 21-29, and co-directing Junior High Camp at Emmaus July 31-Aug. 6, followed by vacation Aug. 6-13.