Anger is not an easy emotion to wrestle with. But in times of grave injustice, righteous anger is what we need.
Righteous anger is a godly anger that is directed towards injustice. It’s the kind of raw emotion Jesus displayed in the Bible, when he fashioned a whip out of rope and lashed out at people who exploited the poor in God’s temple.
It’s hard not to feel angry in an America where six out of 10 black men say they have been treated unfairly by police because of their race. It’s hard not to see how unjust it is that at least 136 black people have died at the hands of police in 2016 alone. It’s hard not to cry out in indignation at the deaths of five police officers who lost their lives while protecting a prayer rally in Dallas.
While forgiveness has long been a cornerstone of Christian theology, some theologians have challenged that forgiveness in the context of Black Lives Matter can seem like a form of “appeasement” that dissuades people from confronting the horrors of racism.
For Joshua L. Lazard, a minister at Duke University, anger is an inextricable part of the black Christian experience.
In an article for Religion Dispatches, Lazard argued that “to skip over anger, to not allow one’s humanity to have a spiritual encounter with righteous indignation, is to avoid the desperately needed conversation about racism and white supremacy.”
We need peace. We need love. But in order to reach that place, we need to confront systemic racism and the disenfranchisement of black people in this country. And for that, we need righteous anger. We need repentance.
HuffPost Religion asked faith leaders in our network to wrestle with the concept of righteous anger ― and what we can do to turn that anger into love and action.
Scroll down to read their responses.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey
Founder and Executive Director, Faith Matters Network
“I am a clergywoman who refuses to silence my rage against institutions and peoples within our nation who believe black life is disposable. It is a rage born out of deep love and I will not, in the words of the Apostle Paul, let the sun go down on my anger until justice is served (Ephesians 4:26). Justice in this context means a society in which all people, regardless of the color of their skin, are living in conditions that allow them to flourish.”
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Founder of Crazy Faith Ministries
“It is singularly maddening and frustrating to see black people dehumanized and discriminated against, over and over and in spite of God and the Bible. And the frustration is exacerbated by the belief carried by black people that we are supposed to ‘forgive’ white hatred and just move on.
We cannot do it. It is too much. The cup of forgiveness is running dry because it has been emptied of the possibility to forgive a group of people who have shown no sign of abandoning their hatred and violence based on race.”
Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
“Hatred is coming for us; you know this. It is coming for immigrants, for Muslims, for Jews, for Sikhs. It is coming for gays, lesbians, for bisexual and transgender people. Hatred is coming for anyone who is “other,” and it is coming for Black bodies, for Black men, women, and children. And so we who believe in freedom must come to understand that when a Black body is killed, we have been murdered. When a Black child is hungry, our nation’s stomach must growl. When a Black grandmother goes to the polls and can’t vote, our rights are being dismantled. When it is done to the least of us, to the marginalized ones of us, it is done to us. To you and to me. To the Christ who calls us into mission. We still have a race problem in America. In the matter of Black lives, church has work to do.”
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III
Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago
[From a letter to his son]
“These days of recorded Black Death will tempt your spirit to run to the room of despair and play the chords of cynicism. You must not shy away from the pain and become an immobile pessimist afraid to take action, who believes hope is nothing but a fairy tale. Dare to lean into the storm, son, and draw strength from the history you hold and the faith you profess. Not the faith others claim you are to profess, but the faith where justice, protest, intellect, wonder, grace, and righteous fury meet with fists raised to do battle with dragons fashioned by old men.”
Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Senior Vice-President for Public Engagement at Auburn Seminary
“Loving, righteous anger is what the church should be about right now. We should be a place for the promotion of an active, prophetic, righteous love — singing redemption songs, preaching Jeremiads of justice, lifting up prayers of hope and reading scriptures that demand that ‘justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ We should be holding hands together, gathering our communities to organize against all forms of oppressive systems, and insisting that reconciliation and peace will come, that Black Lives Matter completely in God’s eyes and to our nation, amen and amen and amen. That sounds like church to me — a church that makes a difference and speaks to a nation’s sin-sick soul.”
InterVarsity’s New York City Urban Project Director
“The narrative for black and brown people in this country is that if you fight back, they will kill us. If we ask questions they will kill us. If we are impolite they will kill us. If you comply and do exactly what is asked of you we will still kill you. If we are chosen to be one of “us” and get mistaken for one of “them”, they will still kill us.
They will kill us with words, silence, rejection, anger, discrimination, solitary confinement, media and of course - weapons ... This is the world we live in now.”
Faith-rooted organizer, Founder of KineticsLive.com
“We must move beyond a state of powerlessness. We must move beyond making moral appeals and work to insure that 20 years from now our children are not fighting the same battles—achieving limited reform without gaining power. Our campaigns must be holistic, rooted in principles and create a way of life that is sustainable and centered on #BlackLife, not #BlackDeath. The time is now. Let us rise up and build!”