Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Anger. Mostly, I wish there was less of it and that is was better considered in relation to stopping us in our tracks and promoting positive change, rather than simply accusing, blaming and turning despair into a feeling of smug-but-impotent rightness. Which I suspect is what is happening a lot of the time. I very much speak to myself, not merely to others, though the feral environment of a lot of 'public debate' undoubtedly soils many attempts to distinguish what is truly worth getting annoyed about, and what is a trivial irritation that simply reveals our unhelpful egocentricity. Me in a painfully slow shop queue for example.

As I mentioned earlier: "Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy." - Aristotle.

But what provoked (if that is the right word!) this post, apart from a number of things going on in the world which, as they revealingly say, have "got to me", was:

“One who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.” - Thomas Aquinas.

Which is very true, though it is always worth bearing in mind, as the complementary and sometimes countervailing truth, this:

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for human anger does not bring about the just life that God desires... If [we] consider [ourselves] religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on [our] tongue, [we] deceive [ourselves] and [our] religion is worthless." - Epistle of St James

Do not let your anger, even when it is justified, put you beyond correction and awareness of your own fallibility and complicity, or of a good which is greater than the negation of wrong, in other words. And make it an occasion in life, not a condition of life. The words of St James were first quoted to me by a long suffering vicar in a parish I attended getting on for 30 years ago, after he had received a very long and intemperate letter. Needless to say, it was from me. Needless to say, it didn't do my cause in the world much good. But it did end up humbling me a bit, so it wasn't an entirely wasted effort. A more recent episode with a charitable trust (of all things) taught me the same lesson, when I had forgotten it again. As we do.

The Aquinas quotation was prompted by Episcopal Bishop Sergio Carranza in Los Angeles. He is a splendid man, and very annoyed indeed about the state of the Anglican Communion and those visceral hard-liners who seem to feel that they own the tradition and 'orthodoxy', when there is a very great more to be said on the matter - starting with the need for humility, compassion and a sense of perspective. Carranza is angry because people (women, gay people and others) are suffering as a result of all this. He is right about that.

Overall, however, I prefer the tone and approach to this wrought situation brought by the wonderful Savi Hensman, whose paper Binding the Church and Constraining God I am sure I will return to again very shortly. Do read it if you have any interest in understanding what may lie beneath current disputes, beyond the 'liberal' versus 'conservative' stereotypes, which are not bereft of truth, but which seriously mislead, too. (Thanks also to Susan Russell, whose blog is well worth a look).

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