Mon, 23 Mar 2009 17:40:57 +0000 – You no longer have to read your favorite fringe blog to find outrage. Everywhere, it seems, fear of what might happen is turning into anger over what is. We are angry at incompetent big-bonus-executives, self-seeking politicians, ex-employers, overwhelming debt, the apparent triumphs of the unrighteous, broken promises of change, and at God--if he still exists--for allowing all of this to happen to me, the "innocent".
Anger is fire. It burns inside. It destroys.
Last week I had some extra time during a layover at JFK airport. Dragging my roller bag and watching the clock, I hopped on the air train to Terminal 7 with the small hope of delivering a souvenir from Rome to a kind woman named "Sam" who always goes out of her way to help me at the busy ticket counter she runs.
Sam has moved on, but not fully forward. Anger has changed her. She is a prisoner of her own memory, meaning her present is scarred by thoughts of what should have been and why, in her mind, such goodness can never be again. I offered her some advice. I don't know if it was the right advice or if it did any good. She smiled mostly because she liked the souvenir.
America right now strikes me as an angry nation. It's a country filled with lots of people holding on to very just grievances -- grievances they just can't let go of, precisely because they are just. But is an angry nation a happy nation or a productive one? In my experience (and that includes a personal experience I am living with right now), anger--the kind that burns and destroys--rarely produces the justice we desire. It more often tips the scales in favor of evil. The more we ruminate on what should have been, the more we suffer the mystery of what is and how it came to be.
Over the last few days I've given a lot of thought to how an angry nation can be happy and productive again. I have no doubt the ultimate answer is the power of grace to heal and restore, but I am equally convinced this miracle depends on us. Are we willing to let go of the past by pardoning from within a just debt we hold against another? I don't mean forgiveness of the intellect: "yeah, I forgive you, but I will never forget". I mean pardoning the just debt itself: "I no longer hold anything against you. In my book, you are free."
Yes, that's easier said than done--I know! It's painful to watch our hard-earned money evaporate in taxes that politicians swear don't exist. It's exasperating to watch our government take more control of our lives and communities even as Washington spins increasingly out of control.
But anger, I argue, must not be our weapon of choice because it will always hurt usmore than the enemy we seek to destroy. The peaceful, joyful fighter for justice, on the other hand, does so with the consciousness of his own weakness and guilt--that we are not wholly "innocent"--while always confident that the power of evil has nothing against the beauty of a life lived in truth and righteousness, and much less against a nation of people living this life together, the best we can.