“In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves.” Abraham J. Heschel (1907-1972) Jewish theologian and philosopher
This past week has been difficult. It was the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and Muslim radicals decided to celebrate it by coordinating attacks on our Embassies in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, Iran, Morocco, and Pakistan. As the week progressed, they also rioted in Australia, Iraq & Afghanistan. Four people, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, were murdered. There are unconfirmed reports that he was even tortured and sodomized before being killed. Two of our Marines died in Afghanistan at Camp Leatherneck in that attack. Some protestors have also been killed in the rioting. As I read the news, I felt revulsion at all the barbarism. Memories of 9/11 flooded back. And I felt my anger start to rise.
Evil has a tendency to do that. It builds upon itself, sucking more into its black hole, expanding ever more to spread its destructive force even further. And it all seems to begin with anger. When we are angry we think less clearly, our responses are more primitive and less reasoned, and we tend to see our adversary as one to be defeated, by any and all means necessary. It is not until the heat dissipates that we understand all the consequences of those actions we take in anger, and rarely are they good ones.
The root of anger is often pain and hurt. I know mine in this case was just that. Memorials to those that died on 9/11 still bring me to tears. For me, it was like it was just yesterday. Perhaps it was because I had to engage so immediately with those affected by it, as it was part of my job at the time. I don’t know. It is what it is. So seeing all those protestors coordinate another 9/11 attack on so many Middle Eastern embassies, brutally kill our people, chant ‘Death to America’, and burn our flag, it all just hit me. And then our own government makes it worse, trying to hide the fact that they dropped the proverbial security ball by blaming some obscure, amateur YouTube video posted online months ago that no one even knew about. In doing so, they enflamed these barbaric radicals even further, giving them yet another excuse for even more destruction, as they began attacking the German and UK embassies. It was then my anger spread from those that hate us for who we are, to my own government who cared more about covering their butts than protecting American lives and liberty.
It took a friend of mine to gently remind me of who I was. What I believed in. Who I serve. Where my trust lies. I am a free American. I believe in God and Jesus His son. I serve Him. My trust and hope are in Him. I have no reason to allow evil to enter in like those on television were doing. We are all human. We are all subject to the same passions and failures as anyone else. But what we do with those passions and how we respond to those failures are what sets us apart from being no better than animals. Take heed to those that give into their passions and primitive instincts, be it here or abroad. They will leave nothing but destruction and death in their wake.
This week I personally experienced what that scripture verse means which says “in your anger, do not sin”. There is a fine line between righteous anger and ungodly anger. One leads to restoration and one leads to destruction, both personally and relationally. One is proof of strength, and the other is proof of weakness. I learned this week that it is a very fine line. We must be careful not to cross it or we too will fall into the abyss and be lost.
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” Frederick Buechner (b. 1926), American writer and Presbyterian theologian