Friday, June 4, 2010

Slippery when wet…

Those who know me know about my strong attachment to our environment. I’ve talked with y’all about this some before. But I try not to talk about it too much. Perhaps I’m somewhat turned off with some fellow “Greenies” who wear their love for the earth like a badge of moral superiority. Not every out-spoken environmentalist does so, of course, but the last thing I want is to be judgmental with my values. Still, it’s an important part of my life, and my relationship with God. I know few things more awe-inspiring than the interconnectivity of all living things through God’s creative love.

I mention it now, however, as prelude to a confession: I’ve spent the last month managing an internal inferno, attempting not to explode with anger and frustration. I suspect I’m not alone. You needn’t be a card-carrying eco-nut to find the Oil Spill in the Gulf devastating. I’ve followed this story like some watch horror movies- Anxiety-ridden, eyes occasionally closed for fear of seeing too much carnage, and yet all the while, riveted with concern about what comes next. One of you once asked me, “Shane, you don’t seem to get angry very often. What makes you angry?” This.

One of my great privileges this past year has been leading Youth Sunday School. If you don’t spend much time with our youth, you should change that. They’re insightful, witty, and full of promise. For curriculum, most weeks we’ve watched this series of 15-minute video sermonettes that explore a spiritual topic and its impact in daily life. A couple weeks back, the video was about anger. It made a great point. Jesus got angry. In fact, sometimes Jesus got downright livid, like when he overturned tables in the temple. But the video’s point that was that while anger is a natural emotion that needn’t be feared, it can also all too easily distract us from faithful living. After all, anger is powerful, and power can be enjoyable. In fact, the power of anger is sometimes so enticing, we can dwell in it, become defined by it. At which point, anger is dangerous.

But Jesus modeled something different. His anger motivated him to seek first God’s Reign. And from his experience, and what I’ve noticed in some people passionately motivated to better our world, it seems that when anger leads a person to pursue a greater good beyond her/himself, amazing things can happen. Indeed, eventually, the anger dissipates.

Which returns me to the Oil Spill. Something that’s furthered my frustration about this event is how so many are allowing anger to define, rather than motivate them. Business executives, politicians of all stripes, commentators, everyday Americans, all treating anger, and its less-worthy companion Blame, like the best and final response. Perhaps for those living on the Gulf Coast, watching dreams for the future get tarnished, maybe for them this hits too close to home to expect anything more. For those poor communities, I have nothing but sympathy.

But for the rest of us, we might remember that anger, properly understood, is a motivator, not an end-in-itself. From Jesus’ perspective, anger at injustice and tragedy is a vehicle to actions more holy than the Blame Game. Have you heard anything, since this began, about forgiveness? I haven’t. What about compassion? There’s been some talk of that, but too little for my tastes. Perhaps we’re still too focused on screaming, “When will this end!,” to attain such perspective. But if we aren’t treating others with respect before the Spill is contained, can we expect to flip a switch and start acting well when that blessed day finally comes?

I wish I had room to develop this more fully. It’s very complicated, and I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s raw emotions, or belittle our collective frustrations at something so beyond our control. But I do believe, with all my heart, that Jesus’ message is that the power of love is the most powerful force in Creation. Greater than gushing oil. More powerful still than anger, however closely related at times. And certainly more holy than blame and derision. We should expect more of ourselves. God does.

Grace and Peace,


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