Years ago I sat in a bar with a friend who had been raised in a conservative Evangelical home, who now questioned everything, attempting to transcend the cultural views of Christianity and religion that had become so stifiling and irrelevant to his life.
“I don’t believe in an angry God” he said. “God is love.” His statement made me uncomfortable. At the time I was a dyed-in-the-wool, conservative Evangelical, with quick answers and little patience for people that didn’t believe as I did. I had a rare moment of respect for his process, stirred my drink, and let him talk.
He was bucking up against the idea of a “vengeful God,” one who spends most of His time angry, meteing out retribution and punishment to the unfaithful hordes of our world. I agree – that’s a horrible view of God, but the idea of God never getting angry is what made me uncomfortable. God might not be angry all the time, but I have a hard time believing that He doesn’t lose His shit every now and again.
For example, a group of people, who aren’t like other people, decided long ago to march across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, in a peaceful attempt to assert their rights as humans, and got the holy hell beat out of them for it. That makes me angry. I think it would make God angry too.
Or let’s say, hypothetically of course, that there are some kids who are dying from hunger on the other side of our world – a lot of kids. Imagine there’s this huge country, full of people who claim to be “God’s people,” who could wipe out global poverty in one very quick swipe. But it never happens. Another funeral.
Refugees, child abuse, dirty politicians, racism. Injustice. I’m not saying our world’s all bad, but there’s plenty for us to get mad about. If we’re mad, imagine how mad God is – He sees a lot more than we do. He sees it all. The idea of God being mad all the time makes sense to me.
But I also think that God gets mad at things that might not make us mad. If there truly is this thing living somewhere that’s beyond our ability to comprehend, who can make the cosmos, do whatever He wants, etc., He knows more about this place than we do. We’re like kids to Him, we don’t have the full picture. If God exists, and if He’s just, He will, by definition, get mad in ways that seem unjust to us.
Jesus, who seemed to think He was God, got so angry that He cleared out the temple with a whip. Some say He didn’t actually hit anyone, the idea of God getting that angry doesn’t settle well with us (unless it’s a story in the Old Testament, then it’s OK). There’s no way to clear out that many people, some of whom were there to make money, without causing some pain. On another occasion He issued a threat. “If you make it difficult for people to come to me, it would be better for you that someone tie a huge millstone around your neck (a rock so big that only a donkey can move it), and be thrown into the sea” (Oops. Hope that doesn’t apply today).
Jesus’ anger is fascinating to me. He didn’t get angry like the God of the Old Testament got angry, but He also did’t seem to have any issues with the Old testament, or the stories of God therein. He was a Jewish man living in the first century, the scriptures were just as central to His life as they were to everyone else’s. He didn’t get angry with all the people who were sinning their brains out. He had some things to say on a few occasions, but his followers were less-than-model-citizens at best. The people He did get angry with were the ilk who believed they were “in” with God – so righteous, so moral, so obedient, always looking down their noses at the “sinners.” Oops.
The God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to be someone who has rules that don’t always make sense to us, and, on occasion, punished people for breaking them. Then God pays us a visit in the New Testament, everyone expecting Him to be like the God of the Old Testament. But He’s not – peace and grace for the “sinners,” wrath for the “righteous.” So the righteous returned the favor, removed His clothing, beat the holy hell out of him, then put his dying body on public display saying, in a nutshell, “If you were God, you wouldn’t allow this.” But He did. His followers and authors of the New Testament claim that His death is the reason why sinners now get an unprecedented break, and why “come to God” is now the most important thing to God. He get’s really mad at people who don’t understand this, especially the people who read their Bibles “religiously.”
Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest ~ Jesus
Are you a “sinner?” Are you someone who has a lifestyle that the “righteous,” religious people frown upon? Go to God, He’s waiting. He’s not mad at you. He knows more about what you want than you do. He’s on your side. Good. News. Are you a religious person who thinks morality is the most important thing, always telling people, first and foremost to get their shit together, doing things in God’s name that He would never do? Has morality become more important than God Himself? Oops.
…You don’t love me anymore. Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did when you loved me; or else I am coming to you and will punish you ~ Jesus
I surrendered my life to Him years ago – I made Him the boss. Sure, I’ve changed some things, embraced some aspects of morality that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s so ironic that I still sin my brains out. I can be an outright jackass on occasion, ask anyone in my family. And God, who should be heating up the lightening bolts, instead walks beside me, speaks to me. Heals me. I have yet to meet anyone who drank the Jesus Cool-Aide who regrets it.
I do however know tons of “righteous,” “It’s all about morality,” “Sin management” people who are truly and utterly miserable, who seem to love doing things that, according to their own Bible, make God really angry.