Monday, November 19, 2012

How to fight for justice in a Christ-like way.

The way of the Christian should never be one of violence and anger.  Of course, there are numerous accounts of the history of Christendom which are flooded with bloody wars and violent battles in unenlightened times.  If I were given ten cents for every time that the horrors of the Crusades were thrown in my face, I’d have a sizeable kitty by now.  Christ is known as the Prince of Peace, and yet, there have been many who have used religion to start wars and cause strife and suffering.  But we don’t have to talk about outright violence in terms of actual wars.  Even on the level of peace-marches, one can have a violent and angry attitude that would serve the cause in a very bad and ineffective way. 

How can one be angry in a right way?  When the anger that is in us for a justice to be done is an anger that is fueled and motivated by our love for the opponent we are against and the one whom we have an issue with.  I remember being part of the March for Life earlier this year in Washington DC.  Though it is generally a peaceful protest march, there were some groups who had a certain anger, bitterness and resentment in them, fuelling their march.  These contrasted against the other groups who were clearly peaceful and non-aggressive in their approach towards the march.  It brought to mind the truth that though a cause may be one that is seen as a good, what also matters and makes a huge difference is what fuels the spirit and movement towards the cause.  A movement that is energized by outrage, wrath and hostility can hardly be something that can truly move the hearts of one’s opponents ending in any kind of conversion or different viewpoint.  It is always good to go to scripture to see how Jesus deals with his own anger when he sees his Father’s house turning into a market place.  His love for the Father is clearly evident, but also present is his love for the people who have misplaced interests and impure motives.  This is clearly portrayed on the Cross of Calvary where he asks that the Father forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.  This is a love that, as St Paul would put it, “does not accuse but excuses”. 

But how do we ‘use’ anger this way, and control it, when most of the time, it seems to be that anger is the thing that controls us?   What needs to be developed is what I would call the "second self" that allows us to look at our actions and our movements from an angle other than our own eyes.  This can only come about through concerted prayer and awareness.  If we look at St Paul and his life before his conversion through a powerful grace, he had only one way of looking - through his own self-righteous eyes.  But when he allowed the grace of God to work powerfully through is own self-surrender, he could see that his view was myopic, after the scales fell from his eyes.  The Greek origins of this word "myopic" means “to shut the eye” or to have a very narrow view.  When we are in touch with the spirit of God and his movement in our lives, our view becomes broadened in many ways, and often, it allows us to see beyond the horizons of our actions. 

Living this way is hard, because it often asks that we die to our old visions and ‘controlled’ way of dealing with issues.  There is a surrender that happens.  To admit that our ways of seeing things and doing things may not have been the only way is a real dying to the self.  It means that we also let the views of others count, and gives us the real need to walk in the shoes of others.  When this happens, there will inevitably be scales that will fall from our eyes and we will see life through the pains and struggles and fears of others, leading to true compassion, which is at the heart of all conversion.  

1 comment:

  1. For most of us who studied in Mission Schools, we are very familiar with ‘Anger’ as one of the Seven Deadly Sins and have often been berated by our teacher/priest catechists to make sure that we ‘’do not let the sun go down on our anger...’’ So it was a bit disconcerting to find Jesus seemingly in a fiery anger against those who were using the temple for their own purposes. (Gospels of Luke, Mathew and John) – and if we were brave enough we would venture to query this of our catechists – only to be met with – ‘ that’s righteous anger’ Or as you put it –‘’how can one be angry in a right way?’’ When we are aggrieved or angry over real or perceived injustices, we may unleash or vent our anger on the perpetuator of the ‘harm’ – blaming and condemning and wanting to punish him – which we sometimes justify as ‘’giving someone his just desserts’’

    Reflecting on John’s account on the cleansing of the temple, I slowly began to appreciate Jesus humanity and divinity more. Like us, Jesus feels angry and deplores the action of those who have put the temple to wrong use but unlike us he does not devalue people by condemning their persons – such as cursing them as fools, nincompoops or some such derogatory names. His words condemn their actions and tells them how they have erred and corrects them– like .......‘’ Stop making my Father’s house a market place’’..... and we are also told that ‘’his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ Seen in this light, his word and action bespeaks of a confidence, authority and power that is more than human. Jesus knows who he is and anger does not overcome him. Instead he uses it in a positive manner to teach and in so doing shows us the patient and compassionate love of the Father who cherishes all his children – warts and all!

    God bless you, Fr