Despite my smiling profile pic, I carry around a good deal of anger. I don’t say that to be flip, but rather to confess to what Garret Keizer calls “a sometimes deadly sin.” I knew I would like Keizer’s writing when I first read his own confession in The Enigma of Anger: “I have chosen to write about anger because I did not have enough material to write about faith.” The passages below come from the chapters entitled “Anger in the Lord” and “Christ the Tiger.” Keizer’s other books include A Dresser of Sycamore Trees and God of Beer.
I am writing in petulant resistance to the idea that anger is an emotion with no rightful place in the life of a Christian or in the emotional repertoire of any evolved human being. Darwinian evolution I can buy; most of the other forms, however, I can neither buy nor stomach. Darwin saw us linked with the animals, and therefore to the material creation as a whole; so do the Old and New Testaments. But the popular theology (most of it Gnostic) that portrays perfection as the shedding of every primitive instinct, and portrays God as an impersonal sanitizing spirit, is to my mind evidence of a satanic spirit. The Lord my God is a jealous God and an angry God, as well as a loving God and a merciful God. I am unable to imagine one without the other. I am unable to commit to any messiah who doesn’t knock over tables . . .
. . . Of course, there are those who argue that Christ is not angry when he cleanses the temple. His action is calculatingly symbolic, they would say, not the result of his being “mad.” He only seems mad. Such a view strikes me as very close to the beliefs of certain Gnostic sects, who held that Christ only seemed to suffer on the cross . . .
. . . Still we can go to the other extreme, which is the perennial temptation of those who want a more gallant messiah, a temptation probably as old as Judas Iscariot. In this frame of mind one reads the gospel like a Hollywood director, with an action tag that has the temple money changers going down like mobsters on St. Valentine’s Day. American Protestantism especially has often seemed to regard Christ like an ex-Marine father regarding his overly bookish son, hoping he’ll bloody someone’s nose just once, wishing his appeal among women had some other, earthier explanation besides his appeal to them as human beings. But the gesture in the temple is all the more poignant and prophetic when we imagine it executed by a man too slight to carry his own cross without assistance, a man whose idea of a workout is a forty-day fast.
The Enigma of Anger: Essays on a Sometimes Deadly Sin, pp. 10, 27-28