The Merchants of Anger | creed of jesus
Several years ago, a group of people approached me about doing a local radio show. The principle was simple. Nashville was open to a radio show talking about the family and life issues we all face from a common-sense, Christian-based approach. (Their words, not mine). The idea was tempting. I thought that would be pretty fun. That is, until I talked to a friend of mine.
“You’re going to hate this,” he said. I was curious. Why was he so sure that I would hate it? “Think about it,” he said. “The only way to make a radio show work is to make people so mad that they stop what they’re doing and call in to yell at you. Making people mad is how you stay on the air .” The radio only works when people are angry. Tennessee fans hate Alabama fans. Alabama fans hate Tennessee fans. That’s what makes the sports show work.
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but he was right. From political commentators to sports announcers, radio personalities have to say something so provocative and infuriating that you’ll drop everything you’re doing, pick up your phone and yell at the radio hosts while you try to convince them to your way of thinking. That’s what makes these shows work. Everyone listens to the show waiting for someone to call and argue. The show’s success depends on the hosts’ ability to drive people crazy. Tennessee fans hate Alabama fans. Alabama fans hate Tennessee fans. That’s what makes the sports show work.
It’s the same with political radio. You have to drive people crazy. The political media trades in anger. They don’t seek to inform. Ratings are not made with information. Success is found in anger. Our media make their living by peddling anger. The right says the left is guilty. The left says the right is guilty. It’s always someone else’s fault and we all end up mad. What else. We stay mad. We are crazy when we come home. We are crazy when we go to work. We are crazy when we go to church.
My wife and I, along with many people we know, turned off our social media and most news programs because we ended up being angry all the time. We were angry with people who weren’t vaccinated. We were angry with people who demanded that we get vaccinated. Wear a mask? You don’t wear a mask? I was angry with the government officials. I was desperate to hear something from government officials. I was angry and frustrated all the time.
My wife and I have agreed to disable all such platforms and programs to maintain our mental well-being.
I ended up turning everything off the other day. News of the school shooting in Texas was breaking and everyone was angry. Some people wanted to ban guns and others said we couldn’t do anything about guns because of the Second Amendment. I was overwhelmed with grief and anger. Everyone was too. People were calling radio stations and shouting into television cameras. Everyone was angry and the commentators made sure we all heard them.
Now, what happens to all that anger? One thing we know about anger is that it doesn’t go away. If you don’t deal with your anger, it deals with you.
Take what we know about the shooter. He is a lonely young man who had few friends, who was bullied and then somehow radicalized on the internet. He got angry and what did he do with his anger?
I am not a politician. I am a pastor. And our anger? What do we do with anger before it leads to action?
First, we need to disconnect from a culture that uses anger as a business model. Newscasts and radio shows don’t help us become more Christlike, and if something doesn’t help us become more Christlike, we throw it away. Jesus was serious. If your hand keeps you from following Christ, cut it off. If your eye is giving you trouble, gouge it out. The truth is simple. Everything that comes between you and Jesus must go.
Second, we must understand that anger will sooner or later lead to action. No one is bubbling with anger. Sooner or later, anger will require expression in action. Remember Jesus said if we hated our brother, we were guilty of killing our brother? This is what Jesus understood about human nature. Once angry, if the anger is not contained, the anger will continue to flow. Hateful thoughts, left unattended, quickly become hateful actions.
Third, we must live deeply in the peace of Christ. It’s not just a preacher’s speech. It is a deep and very real state of being. Because we are loved in Christ, because we are appreciated in his grace, we need nothing from anyone else. We have God’s validation by His Spirit and what we have the world cannot take from us. We are never under threat from the world around us. This deep reality gives us the ultimate freedom to live in our world.
We are free to love our neighbors without needing anything in return from them. We can diffuse their anger by the constant calm of the Spirit of God. As we live in the freedom of Christ, we invite others to do the same. We can be free from anger and free others from their anger as well.
And it starts with putting away those things designed to waste our lives in senseless anger. This includes social media and anything that continues to make you angry. We all get angry, but anger is never a license to sin. We are all responsible for our actions, no matter who drove us crazy.