I can not speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I have been an angry Christian, and I have also walked in genuine peace and humility. The first thing that needs to be understood is the emotion of anger, which I believe is misunderstood by many people. Emotions are treated as some kind of independent part of our human nature as illustrated by the common definition of the soul – our mind, will and emotions. This definition does a disservice to understanding our human nature, and I think (but do not know) that secular psychology is the cause of this misunderstanding.
Emotions are the expressions of our thoughts, both in our mind and heart, or our conscience thoughts (mind) and sub-conscience thoughts (heart). In other words, our emotions are the result of what we think upon. Film-makers and advertisers understand this and know how to create emotional roller coaster rides through their stories. Emotions, therefore can be controlled by controlling our thoughts, which is the heart of true Christian discipleship. Consider these imperatives from Paul in 2 Corinthians.
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Cor. 10:4-6 KJV)
In other words we are to watch our thought life and think on those thoughts that agree with God and to stop thinking those thoughts that oppose the way of Christ. Paul gives us more specific instruction in Philippians.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Php 4:8 KJV)
If we keep our thoughts on positive things, our emotions will express this. Anger is not an expression of positive thoughts. This control of our thought life is the meaning of Romans 12:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:2 KJV)
While emotions are controlled by our controlling the thoughts of our mind, they are rooted in our hearts which is another matter. The thoughts of our heart are ineffable: that is, without words. The mind expresses the thoughts of our heart with words, but the heart is the seat of reactions and responses to the real experiences of life. To tell a parent not to think about the death of their child, for example, will not stop the heart from dwelling on such a loss. This is the realm that the Holy Spirit works in us. He may orchestrate events to bring our attention to Him and He works directly on our hearts to work out and sort out the knots the thoughts of our hearts can be tied into. This can happen either quickly or over a very long time. Only the Lord knows what is needed for each of us and how we need to be dealt with by Him.
When I was a teenager I decided to leave home during the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school. I knew my mother was planning on moving, but I did not think about that when I left. When I returned at 4 AM, a week later, I found the house empty of furniture and I had no idea where she had moved. I remember sitting there in the living room, after I had crawled through an unlocked window, thinking, “How could she leave without me?” At the age of 33 after I had been a Christian for one year, I told this story to a sister in Christ. She was shocked and told me I had experienced a severe blow of rejection and that I needed to pray with the pastor. When I told the pastor I needed prayer, he told me to fast 24 hours first, then he would pray with me. The next day as I was about to join him in his room for prayer, the Lord spoke to me and said, “I make those things that are not as though they are” (a variation on Romans 4:17). I immediately understood that He meant that even though I had the experience, it would be as though it never happened. When I went in to pray, I never heard a word of the pastor because I immediately burst into tears. The next day when I experienced a small rejection (we experience rejection of some sort almost daily) I was surprised by the experience. In the past such a rejection would have been a gut wrenching experience, but now it was merely a slap in the face.
I don’t think that is the usual way of the Lord, though. When I married at the age of 38 (my wife was 36) I wanted a family immediately. But because we had not known each other for long, she did not want to have children for a couple years. When she was 38 she agreed to have kids, and we tried, but by that time fibroids had grown in her womb and she had to have a hysterectomy to remove them. My hopes for a family were dashed and I despaired blaming both her and God. I would not divorce her, so to placate my grief (which became lust), I fell into pornography. I knew this was wrong and I tried the recommended route of telling her and several men to keep me accountable. What a failed system that turned out to be. Men don’t keep you accountable and it was too hard for her to deal with. My deliverance came through the gradual work of the Lord. Every time I sinned He would let me see the death that sin immediately caused. It was from seeing the harm I created from sinning over and over again that brought a true repentance that comes from godly sorrow. It was not my wife’s fault, nor did God rob me of children, for having a family is His will. It was the fallen world of sin and death that we all live in – even if we are not directly sinning. We all die regardless of how virtuous we try to be. And I think, Father wanted me to know that He alone is my Savior, not other people. Perhaps the Lord uses other people for their deliverance, but my guess is that if success comes through these accountability groups, it does so because the person being delivered knows it is the Lord using those people on His behalf. But such accountability groups, without the guidance of the Spirit, is no more than just a work of flesh.
As a side note, that experience taught the truth about lust. Lust is not natural in men. Lust is natural desire compounded by obsessive imagination. When one stops dwelling on the lusted activity – not just sexual acts, but lust for power, money, or anything – the natural desire functions as designed by God. Any man who says his sexual lust is God-given is deceiving himself to justify his errant behavior.
Life is complex and is more than just the material world we see. Only God fully understands the complexity of life, and He will do no harm. So when we consider Isaiah,
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Isa 42:3 KJV)
This is how God treats our hearts. He works in us in such a way that He will not cause more bruising nor quench any life or spirit within us.
Why Christians are Angry
So, then, anger as an emotion is created by both the thoughts of the mind and the thoughts of the heart which reacts or responds to the real experiences of life. The thoughts of our minds can be fueled by things that have nothing or are remotely connected to us. The emotions of the mind, real or imaginary, are set in attitude by the state of one’s heart.
The Purpose of Anger
Emotions are part of our being in the image of God. Anger has a purpose. Anger is the emotion to right wrongs. But we deceive ourselves to think that our anger ever rights any wrongs in the world. What success we have is far from what the anger of God accomplishes. We are clearly told:
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (Jas 1:20 KJV)
When I looked upon the wrongs of the world, I used to say I had “righteous indignation”. But frankly I think that is merely an excuse for the “wrath of man” and is a lie. Even with Christ dwelling within us, I do not believe that God creates anger in our hearts because the work of the cross has “reconciled” God with man.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Co 5:18 KJV)
God is not angry, and His anger is not reactive but responsive. As a student at Christ for the Nations it was pointed out to me by Gary Osbourne that Jesus took his time to braid a whip before he overthrew the money changers in the temple (John 2:14 and 15). That was a response from Jesus not a reaction. We imagine God in our fallen image and do not see his perfect image, which is why without the new birth no one can understand God because what we think is god is merely a product of our imagination. Likewise the “renewing of our mind” (Rom 12:2) includes learning to know the true living God who has only revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. Therefore the emotion of anger we experience is not “righteous indignation” but the “wrath of man.” When we see wrongs and respond without anger, then we are more closely aligned to the Lord’s response.
The question also arises then, “What is the wrath of man?” The wrath of man is selfish; that is, it is anger centered on self. If injury happens to a person, they have been wronged and seek justice. If harm is observed in others and one gets angry according to the wrath of man, it is based in self righteousness. Self righteousness is a works point of view. I am righteous because I do this but I don’t do that. When the wrath of man is aimed at the harm done to another, it is still self righteous affirmation in judging another as unrighteous. James said:
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. (Jas 4:11 KJV)
It is righteousness based upon comparison.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Co 10:12)
Both verses are expressions of the failure of self righteousness. All wrath of man is based in self. The love of God is selfless. God was harmed by our rebellion, yet while we were His enemies, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8-10).
The Source of Anger in Christians
This is a complicated answer and there is no silver bullet solution. Quite a few issues need to be addressed, and each angry Christian is a variation in mixture of these different issues. So all I can do is list those that I have seen in me, and hopefully the readers by the Holy Spirit will recognize those issues in themselves. As I said, the thoughts of the heart are affected by the life experiences of each person. That is between you and the Lord. The gamut in people range from verbal, physical and sexual abuse, to dashed hopes and dreams that failed to come to pass. These personal matters will create the leaning of attitude and will affect the issues I am listing in either a small or large way.
Four Kinds of Christians
When we think of Christians we need to remember that we are talking about a variety of people. Jesus told us that there are 4 kinds of people that the gospel touches in his parable of the sower and the seed (Matt. 13:18-23).
- Hard Hearts The seed (the gospel) falls on hard ground (hardened hearts) and takes no root because birds (devils) snatch it up before it can take root. These people never become Christians. However, Jesus also spoke about wolves in sheep clothing (Matt. 7:15) and they may call themselves Christians, although I think there are Christians who are wolves, too. Satanists have called themselves believers just to create strife in congregations.
- Stony Ground These are people who have no depth in themselves, yet receive the gospel with joy. However, when trouble comes they forsake trust in Christ and put their trust in the ways of the world. These are people who will be quick to become angry and embrace hate.
- Cares of the World These are believers who have some root in themselves, but they are choked by the cares and troubles of the world. Jesus said they bare no fruit. They, too, are prone to anger and hate.
- Good Soil These believers have root in themselves and bare much fruit. They, too, can become angry and have hate, but they retain enough humility to repent when they realize what they are doing. Being good soil does not exempt any believer from the affect of the world on them. But they are the ones who regularly confess their sins and wash themselves in the life (blood) of Christ.
Of these four, only one bears fruit. It is wrong to think any Christian walks in the fruit of the Spirit all the time. The reality is that those who are truly seeking Him, and miss Him, will repent when they see their errors. Remember, only one out of four people calling themselves Christians knows the Lord well enough to be led by His Spirit nad makes repentance a regular practice as he or she sees him or herself going off course.
Discipleship is a partnership with Christ. Our part is to do what we consciously can, which is the area of our mind and choices of action. His part is to work where we can not, that is, in our heart.
1. Misunderstanding God
I think this is the number one cause of self righteous anger in Christians. They do not understand what it means that God is reconciled to us through Jesus Christ. Instead they are on the performance treadmill, never knowing whether they have pleased God or not. There is a tendency to divide God into two gods. One god is the loving god whose love is given to those who have accepted the gospel and are working to please Him, whereas the other god is the angry god who is ticked off at all those who reject Christ. And with the works mentality, which is the basis of self-justification, the believer never knows if God is angry with them or not. Reconciliation means that God has already poured out His wrath on Christ, which was His response, not reaction, to our sin. God is eternal which means He has no beginning nor end, therefore can not change and always is the same. So what does that mean about God’s anger? It is not an emotion, but a spiritual element of His righteousness. It is how He responds to wrong. Thinks of anger in God as the His immune system to wrong. The same is meant for humans. It is there all the time, but only is expressed when the wrong occurs. When the white throne judgment occurs, He is not going to be angry with those who reject Jesus, nor will He be angry with those who accepted Jesus. Instead He will be straightforward, just as Jesus was regarding the Pharisees, “they have their reward.” Their reward is to continue in the living death we already exist in (we are dead in our sins and trespasses – Eph 2:1 and Col. 2:13) which will continue as decay in the lake of fire (see “Christianity is Physics not Religion“). And for the believers our lives lived on Earth will simply determine how we live in eternity (cf “The Parable of the Talents” Matt. 25:15-30). God is reconciled to all people because of Jesus Christ, not just those who have accepted the free gift of salvation. This is the good news (gospel) that is to be shared. But the benefit of that reconciliation lies in our hands. If we don’t accept it, then we retain the living death that the universe currently exists in (called entropy in physics). God is working in the lives of all people to draw them to Him by His Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.
2. Erroneous Teachers
This misunderstanding of God comes from the teaching of men instead of the knowledge of God that comes from a deep personal relationship with God. In other words, it is the scholastic and academic approach to the Bible which is the natural mind comprehension, not spiritual mind understanding. So doctrines on God have abounded through the millenia by men with sincere intentions, but with erroneous results. This is compounded by organized religion which makes its living off the people of God. There is little biblical justification for men to make their living off the donations of people, and no justification whatsoever to build businesses with CEO’s calling themselves “pastors” and their businesses “churches”. That very system is going to create doctrinal error simply in its need to justify itself. Of necessity for the system’s existence, self justification and elitist attitudes underline many teachings which creates in the congregation self righteousness. To be fair, many in the pulpit also share wholesome and godly teaching, but organized religion creates a mixture of sweet and bitter water (James 3:1). That bitter water pollutes the sweet water.
3. Lack of Critical Thinking
Growing up in an atheist family, attending the government schools, I was taught hundreds of lies about world history. These lies are reinforced by magazines, television and movies. The primary lie is the theory of evolution. The secondary lie is the presentation of history based upon that premise. Third is the government spin on American history. Experiencing the Living God through the new birth gave the Bible the credence for me to trust the accuracy of its narrative. I immediately began a comparative study of world history and the Bible that lasted 7 years. What the Bible did was give me a reliable yardstick to compare what I had been taught to the truth. What I did not realize was that I had for the first time experienced critical thinking. It is not possible to think critically (i.e., analytically, not derogatorily) without some kind of unchanging standard. Inflation is confusing until you realize that the standard of measurement, the dollar, keeps changing. Earlier I referred to 2 Corinthians 10 which admonishes us to not compare ourselves to others. Why? Because people constantly change. Instead we compare our selves to that which does not, nor can not, change: God.
After my first year of salvation I had read the Bible from cover to cover dividing the number of pages in the Bible by 365. I told a sister who had been in Christ for 20 years, “Wow, you must have read the Bible 20 times by now!” She was embarrassed and admitted that she had not. In the last 28 years of my faith I have asked this question and have been dumbfounded by how many Christians do not read the Bible apart from a few famous verses taught from the pulpit. Consequently they don’t know God well because He has revealed Himself through the Scriptures. He and the Scriptures agree with one another. Our personal experience of God will be misunderstood or strengthened by how familiar we are with the Bible. Those who rely on preaching for their understanding of God are the ones who will blame God and be more angry with life crisis and politics.
Critical thinking and discernment of truth overlooks the rhetoric to see the action. Many of these believers who do not read the Bible for themselves and are in the habit of relying on what is preached, never get past rhetoric. A man’s character is known by what they do, not what they say.
4. Politics and Christian Media
When I became a believer in 1985 Christian radio was predominantly Bible teaching, recorded sermons and contemporary Christian music and worship recordings. Tele-evangelists and Christian television broadcasts such as Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” the Trinity Broadcast Network, and others shared Bible teaching, testimonial stories, and Christian music and worship. It was in the 1990′s that a shift began towards political activism in Christian media. Dr. James Dobson had a huge following with his “Focus on the Family” broadcast, and voiced his concerns over the political assaults on the family regarding abortion, homo-sexuality, divorce and other family matters. Likewise, Pat Robertson became politically active, even running for the presidency of the USA. I don’t know when the late Marlin Maddux began his Point of View broadcast, but he was an early Christian political activist. The point is that it was during the 1990′s that Christian media began informing the Church about the political injustice that occurred, and they actively encouraged participation in the Republican Party. These men and women are (or were) sincere in their genuine intention of righting wrongs. However, wisdom is preceded by knowledge, but misleading knowledge will result in misapplied wisdom. Or, to put it another way, it is a logical truth that if the premise is wrong, so will the conclusion be wrong. Two misleading outcomes resulted in believers because of this: 1. the growth of anger in Christians frustrated at the political abuses in America, and, 2. an alignment of the Church into the political divide that is orchestrated by the powers that be. Jesus said, “a house divided will not stand” (Matt 12:25), and the powers that want to control the nation know this full well.
5. Conservative Talk Radio
The move from expository Bible teaching and worhsip music into politics by the Christian media, made a natural connection to listening to conservative talk radio. Rush Limbaugh is a very entertaining man, and he shares some important truths regarding limited government. Many Christians began listening to other talk show hosts, many of whom are not Christians at all. Radio and television are expensive mediums to broadcast through, and those who control the purse strings, that is the banks who loan the money, choose who gets on the air by their decision for whom gets the loans. I believe that many conservative talk show hosts genuinely believe what they say, but they are there because they were given the money to be there. So, while they are sincere, what they talk about furthers the bankers, or globalist agendas. So the war on Terror is believed by many evangelicals because both the conservative talk show hosts and the Christian media build the case for it. And since too many evangelicals are not “Noble Bereans” who search the scriptures to see if this is so (Acts 17:11), and simply accept what they are told from the pulpit, neither do they question what they are told in conservative talk radio. At the risk of sounding cynical, I am now at a point where I consider most conservative talk show hosts to be shills. The “Hush Rush” bill and others that came afterwards, that so many talk show hosts sounded the alarm with panic, I now deem to be merely a tactic to increase belief in the listener that what they are being told is the truth, otherwise, why would they want to shut it down. Mark my words, the day is coming when the internet will also be controlled by laws requiring huge fees to post online that independents will not be able to afford to pay.
6. 9/11 and War
For many evangelicals they have trouble coping with the government abuses because they believe that all governments are ordained of God, therefore are the will of God. They misunderstand the Sovereignty of God as being all things are His Will. This is not true. A king is called a sovereign over his nation, but he can not and does not control everything the subjects do. The patriot community believes that the USA was founded on the idea that each person is sovereign, which is a characteristic of being made in the image of God, and means that each person has the right to life, liberty and property. What each person does with their own life and things is their business, no one else’s. Likewise, what God has given us is the freedom to organize ourselves as we see fit. What is ordained are not the people or types of governments, but the right to form governments. As the Sovereign, God has the right to create and determine what He wants to do with His creation. What He did was give us to the freedom to decide things on our own, with or without His advise.
So with so many Evangelicals focusing on getting the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, out of office they confused the walk with Christ as the same as thing as fighting political causes. I first began to see the futility of politics with the meaningless “Contract with America” that Newt Gringrich touted. When George Bush became president (I live in Texas so had him as governor) I had already begun researching into the shadow government, being motivated by both the Y2K fears of the 21st century, and Irvin Baxter’s “Politics and Religion” broadcast. So, I was already aware of the globalist agenda of George Sr and the Bush family banking relationships, and that George Jr was a member of the secret Yale society, “Skull and Bones”. Nonetheless I was optimistic that he, a professing Christian, would be the needed change. How wrong that hope was. I believed that the fall of the World Trade Center was a terrorist attack as I was told, but was surprised at how they knew so quickly that it was Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaida. When nothing was done to get him, and no effort was really made to protect the US-Mexican border, I stopped believing. Especially since attention was turned towards ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A few years after 9/11 I came across the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth material and became convinced that towers were controlled demolitions and that the American government had murdered 3,000 American citizens in a false flag operation to provide the excuse for an undefined, unlimited war on terror to keep the war machine moving callously forward to plunder the world. Needless to say, I became bitter and angry at this realization. I was polluted and defiled in my spirit. The Lord had to speak to me a reminder that I am not a citizen of America, but a citizen of the Kingdom of God and that I was a pilgrim and a stranger passing through as an ambassador of Christ. That Word from God restored my peace. I have told my wife and others these things. To my surprise they refuse to believe it. I understand why. To believe our own government is murdering its own citizens is horrifying, and it is easier to remain in denial for peace of mind. But denial does not eliminate anger in the heart. It suppresses it so that it explodes by trigger issues. This is no way to live as a Christian because the anger will only grow as the reality of abuse is seen, and the frustration at feeling there is nothing to be done. The heart perceives and thinks on reality in a way that the mind does not. I believe this is so because in our conscience and spirit is the knowledge of right and wrong, and it is the eyes of the heart that watches these things in truth. And it takes the work of the Lord, and the cooperation of believers with the Lord, in cleaning our hearts. That divine perspective that Christ gave me has been the anchor that lets me come back to the peace of God that passes all understanding when I see myself drifting back to anger at the blatant abuses of the government.