Many years ago I spoke at a prayer breakfast. I had recently assumed the prestigious position of President and General Manager of Radio Station WGHN in Grand Haven, and I was still in my 20s. I knew a lot in those days. The topic of my remarks was “Righteous Indignation,” and I pointed out that even Jesus got angry with the money changers in the temple…that, if for the right reasons, it was OK to get angry.
Well, there are some things that still make me angry, but I must admit that many, many years later, my thoughts have tempered on the subject of anger. I’m hearing and reading about anger at levels higher than I can ever remember in my 80 years on this earth. The newspapers, the TV, social media, are all bursting with vitriolic comments.
Time to take a deep breath.
I’ve found three quotes that I appreciate: one from a famous philosopher, one from the brother of Jesus, and one from a theologian. Here goes:
“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
On human response to anger:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. ---James 1:19-20
Yes, as I work with prisoners around the clock, 7 days a week, I’ll admit I get angry.
I get angry at Prosecutors who deliberately avoid, distort or hide facts leading to wrongful convictions.
I get angry at the judicial system in my country, the “Home of the brave, and land of the free,” where we shamefully (or shamelessly!) claim the highest rate of incarceration in the world, where we refuse to ban the death penalty, and where we continue to sentence people to life without parole.
I get angry when we refuse to properly compensate the wrongly convicted.
I get angry when Parole Boards refuse to release prisoners who deserve to be free.
I get angry at all kinds of mistreatment of prisoners, both by fellow inmates and by some staff members.
I get angry, all right…and the list of things that make me angry seems to grow every day.
I mentioned at the beginning of this rant that I wanted to pass along three quotes. I’ll conclude with the third one: good advice for all of us, especially me. This comes from an article written by Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service and the author of "Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars."
Leaders will debate what should be done in the face of an epidemic of violence, but something must be done. A life of faith is a life of prayer and action, but never one without the other. Action without prayer is merely activism, and prayer without action is useless piety.
Let’s take time to pray. And act!