Boiling Anger

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.” -Romans 1:18

William Blake’s “A Vision of the Last Judgment”

The first post I wrote for this blog was about love and anger. I stand by everything I said in that post, but I’ve learned more since then. I wrote that I believe God is leading me to be more attentive to my anger, and often to let it go. Like the feelings associated with my depression, sometimes my anger is just a wave on the surface of my being. It comes and goes. I acknowledge it, but shouldn’t chase it. It doesn’t touch the deepest part of me, what the Hebrew writers called the heart.

But sometimes it does.

I am attending an event at which I have had the opportunity to share and listen to experiences of race. Those of us participating have agreed to confidentiality, so I will be deliberately vague. The white people in the room were asked to name ways in which whiteness gave us power, access to resources, and other sorts of white privilege. The people of color in the room where then invited to share what they experienced as they listened to us compile this list. I felt very honored that several of them were willing to express their anger with minimal filtering. Part of the objective was for the white people to learn to listen and remain present when people of color, especially black people, are angry. It was also a chance for the people of color to name the ways in which they are denied access to the things that human beings need to live as human beings day in and day out, and what it does to their souls. As one woman described the struggles she has undergone to keep her children safe and get them access to educational resources, she described her anger as “boiling.”

And that’s when I realized that her anger is God’s anger. Meister Eckhart describes creation as God boiling over. This is a creative and life-giving boiling, and that is how I experienced the anger of my African American colleague. God is angry. It’s biblical. God wills the flourishing of all people, and specifically of that woman and her children. The racism that deals death to her people every day is an affront to God. And though it is a mystery why God allows it and all sin to continue now, God’s word warns us (and for once I like the way the Book of Common Prayer puts it) that patience with human injustice has its limit:

These things you have done, and I kept still,
and you thought that I am like you.
I have made my accusation;
I have put my case in order before your eyes.
Consider this well, you who forget God,
lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.
(Psalm 50:21-22)

Her anger is God’s anger. But just as her anger is born of love for her children, God’s simplicity means that God’s wrath and God’s love are not two different things. They are the same boiling over. And they are our only hope. The black community has been telling us #icantbreath. The woman who shared her anger with me today cannot live in a world that wages constant warfare against her children and tells them that they are less than human. And God damn it, I cannot be human in a world that kills my brothers and sisters and imperils my soul by telling me every day that the chief end of a human being is whiteness rather than the glory of God.

So thank you, woman I am not allowed to name, for sharing the wrath of God with me, and thus the love of God. I need that anger.

Edit: Please do not read this as a white man providing needed legitimation of a black woman’s anger. The only legitimation she needs is her own experience and the truth God has given her to tell.