Updated: Aug 15, 2020
I don’t get angry often. In fact, it’s taken years of therapy to be able to see anger — my anger — as a safe expression that can be channeled and used effectively for change. It’s a normal human response to all sorts of situations and we shouldn’t hide from it when it comes; instead we need to face it head on, look it in the eyes and ask why.
Of course, it goes without saying that anger can be scary, threatening, abusive and frightening. It hurts, it can cause pain and can leave long lasting trauma. This is not the kind of anger I’m talking about, but it’s important to recognise the thin line that exists here. It’s essential for us all to own our anger but remember it’s not all that difficult for us to tip and we can snap and lash out, accidentally hurting someone who at that moment is crossing our path. One thing I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that with our anger, we’re all capable of doing wonderful life-giving things but we can also maim and hurt others through selfishness, pain and greed. It’s a life-long task to try and find that balance, to not let the scales tip too much one way or the other, to apologise, move on and use that anger for positive and life giving change.
Why am I talking about anger on a blog called Grace Notes? Well, because I think we need to reconnect with, and embody the grace to be angry, to feel the hot red rage that courses through our veins, to grit our teeth and to stand up tall.
This is what I call holy rage.
There is an incredibly well known story in the Gospels when we see Jesus filled with such seething anger that he physically acts out. The Gospel writers tell us that he arrives in Jerusalem and goes to the Temple where he finds all sorts of people, trading, bartering, selling sacrifices and making money. Jesus is so cross he turns over the tables, causes a scene and says,
“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17)
There, in the centre of the temple, the Holiest of Holies is a rebel, a revolutionary, a challenge to the authorities shouting at the top of his lungs. Products and wares and coins are scattered on the floor and the passers-by are stunned into silence. What is this man doing? What is he saying? Who does he think he is?
There are so many ways of interpreting this story, but I think more than anything else and considering the current political climate in the UK at the moment we need to have the grace to embody this holy rage. We have been in lockdown for months now, tens of thousands of people have died. Our homes, hospitals, streets, supermarkets, crematoriums, hostels, funeral directors, cars and parks have become houses of prayer. They have been sites of tears, frustration, longing, grief, pain, suffering, death, laughter, new birth, joy and every other feeling in between. God has existed in all of them, even when we cannot, do not or will not believe.
We have all been instructed to go in, shut the door, retreat and look out. And as we have looked out, our eyes have been opened and we have seen and witnessed the den of robbers. This government, our prime minister, his chief aide. One rule for us, and another for them.
These houses of prayer that we have carefully crafted have been threatened by the rulers at the top, just like the chief priests and the scribes in the temple who wanted to control and constrain, make money for themselves and keep the people needing more. The people have seen and they are angry. Some of us are stunned into silence, some of us have turned over the tables already, some of us are lying on the floor not sure of what to do but feeling the blood pump around our body as we try and comprehend it all.
Lord, how long? God, show yourself!
What do we do? I have a suggestion. Take a deep breath and try and embody Christ with the grace of holy rage. We do all we can in our own ways to turn over the tables, to call out the gas lighting and the lies and the wrongdoing and to call for a better way. With his grace, Jesus called us to be revolutionary people and say no more to those who were harming us and we have the power to do this too. It is my hope that it is never too late to have the grace to make this change.
Let us breathe in the rage and breathe out love and liberation. We are table turning people and God exists in the mess of it all.
Lu is a non-binary Anglican living in Sheffield. They are currently studying for a DthM at the University of Durham focusing on the intersections between queer bodies, trauma and the Eucharist. They are a lay leader at St Mark's, Broomhill and work in mental health communications.