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Hallo again to all.

Though this is somewhat a reflection of our own internal state, the Western world seems to have been busy being outraged, frustrated, upset, and angry of late.

Despite feeling like a single emotion, we are struck by how many different words we have to express the notion that we do not like something—and that this moves us to an internal state of feeling 'not right'.* Certainly English is not the only tongue with nuanced language for anger. Homer made famous use of this:Wrath of Achilles, Drolling (1810)

            Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades' dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
(trans. Lombardo 1997)

The 'rage' or 'wrath' that is the Iliad's first word is a very particular sort of anger reserved for the gods or—as in the case of Achilles—the heroes descended from them: μῆνις ('mēnis'). This is in contrast to the more garden-variety ὀργή ('orgē') that both mortals and gods can share in freely.  The word is rather ancient and, by the time the Church fathers penned the New Testament, even God's wrath was 'orgē', not 'mēnis'.

The Anglican tradition in the West has not spent much time talking about God's anger in recent years, perhaps because it so often gets used as a proxy for a human's anger when he or she would like to attribute something to the Almighty. Wrath too is reserved as a deadly sin. For all that, the human experience cannot escape anger. Whether fury at economic conditions, fury at those who make political choices with which we disagree or fear, or even simple frustration, the emotion seems endemic to the human experience.  On some level, it also seems endemic to our theology. Archbishop Cranmer's words of the general confession, which Anglicans have said in some variation since 1549, remind us of God's wrath front and center:

ALMYGHTIE GOD father of oure Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all thynges, judge of all men, we knowlege and bewaile our manyfold synnes and wyckednes, which we from tyme to tyme, most grevously have committed, by thought, word and dede, agaynst thy divine maiestie, provokyng moste justely thy wrath and indignacion against us . . . .

Not even Jesus could have had a full experience of human life without feeling some anger. To have a wag with the somewhat played out phrase 'What would Jesus do?' (WWJD), one need remember that flipping tables and chasing money changers with a whip is an option.

In our tradition this stands in stark contrast to the Prayer of Humble Access, said only moments after the confession, in which we are reminded that God's 'property is always to have mercy'. Or for that matter, there is the witness of Dame Julian who said: 'But in God there may be no wrath, as to my sight: for our good Lord endlessly hath regard to His own worship and to the profit of all that shall be saved.'

This, to our mind, is a salient point. All anger is not created equal—neither in degree nor in purpose. Anger at injustice that in turn motivates change is not wicked. Sometimes naming what makes us angry is the only way to find some catharsis from it, yet we find ourselves shrinking from the ugliness we have seen on the television and social media in this year past, and even in the first weeks of the New Year. We are told it is déclassé to be angry. Showing our anger is not safe. As we have seen, however, church history is rife with anger. Martin Luther's temper was famous, and anger seems very much to have been key to his creative process:

I find nothing that promotes work better than angry fervor. For when I wish to compose, write, pray and preach well, I must be angry. It refreshes my entire system, my mind is sharpened, and all unpleasant thoughts and depression fade away. (trans. Daudert 2009)†

As we see above, our tradition wrestles with this tension every single time the Eucharist is celebrated. Anger moves us, whether for good or for ill. It reminds us too of a conversation in C.S. Lewis's 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe'. When Susan, who has yet to meet Jesus/Aslan asks if he is 'safe', the reply is that Aslan is not safe, but he is good.

Likewise, perhaps talking about our anger is not safe, but it can be good. May we all find productive ways to do so. And on that note, see you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

22 January 2017

*A partial list: angry, vexed, irate, annoyed, ticked, enraged, frustrated, grouchy, irked, displeased, pissed off, crabby, grousy, cranky, cross, indignant, furious, hot under the collar. Feel free to continue as necessary.
†See also the Lutheran Insulter. We are particularly fond of 'you abominable abomination'.

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