In these trying times we need to be wary of any sustained anger. Brief anger from stubbing a toe or being cut off in traffic is unavoidable, but such anger ought to dissipate rapidly. This passing anger at small injustices does not pose a problem for most people unless the small issues become chronic problems that have to be endured frequently, which often happens in a marriage. These chronic problems can lead to resentment and over time can hinder, cripple or even destroy a relationship.
The more dangerous anger that we need to avoid is the type that breeds the urge for vengeance or retribution. This type of anger is usually brought about by large, even profound injustices. Being furious over someone murdering a loved one is understandable, but an-eye-for-an-eye response does not conform to the Gospel. Whether the anger is small and passing, small and chronic, or profound, the Christian teaching remains the same. From the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna” (Mt 5:21-22). Jesus equates anger towards another with murder. This would apply to any deliberate, chosen anger irrespective of the anger’s source. So often, however, the angry man justifies letting the anger grow to hatred. On this point, St John is even more direct: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him” (1Jn 3:15).
Sadly the amount of anger and raw hatred in our culture is stunning. Even more shocking, it is coming from people purporting to be Christians, and not a small number of which claim to be Catholic. Some peoples’ hatred is so obvious that they want to do emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and social harm to a specific politician and those who are like-minded. They are going so far as to label ordinary, honorable, and innocent citizens as domestic terrorists because they support, agree with, or voted for that vilified politician. Indeed, a low-grade form of tyranny has already begun. Innocent citizens are being silenced, threatened, and ‘doxed.’ One proponent of the vilified politician has had his life insurance canceled by a major insurer solely because of his beliefs. Will they stop there? Will they cancel his family’s health insurance? His car insurance? His mortgage? His checking account and credit cards? These peoples’ hatred is likely to seek the total ruination of innocent men because these innocent men love God, they love America, they love freedom, and they love the truth.
Being innocent is no defense. False evidence has been manufactured against innocent people in this country and elsewhere. Some of those innocent people have been bankrupted just trying to defend themselves in court. Others have been incarcerated on falsified evidence. Cardinal George Pell was falsely accused and convicted of crimes he could not have committed. Australia’s highest court eventually concluded that ‘an innocent man had been convicted.’ Except for the hatred of a few men, the charges against Cardinal Pell would have been dismissed long before court proceedings began.
So how does such anger and hatred turn rational people into tyrants who think they are promoting justice by persecuting the innocent? When anger festers into hatred it easily leads to the demonization of others. It could well be that demonizing others, which is happening more and more, leads to behavior that is, well, demonic. This makes sense since St Paul warns us “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph 4:26-27). What kind of opportunity for the devil? It seems likely that those who harbor deliberate anger can become agents of satan’s will. So, when one sets out to falsely label innocent people as moronic, homophobic, misogynist, terroristic white supremacists, it is only a matter of time before the false labels become a perceived truth and the perceived truth is acted upon. Wouldn’t the elimination of moronic, homophobic, misogynist, terroristic white supremacists be perceived as good thing? That sustained and deliberate anger gives the devil opportunities explains much of what is currently happening and stands as a warning that such anger has no place in our lives. None.