Friday, November 12, 2010

We Need More Angry Preachers!

At the presbytery meeting this past Tuesday evening, I was advanced to the Candidacy stage of the ordination process. I have shared below the statement I submitted for that occasion. There were only two questions from the floor (so disappointing), but one of them I've been thinking about. Someone asked me to explain how suffering is a gift for ministry. I incoherently muttered something about how suffering opens up this tender place in your heart so that you can really empathize and be sensitive to others' pain.

But I was thinking--perhaps I am a little more unusual in feeling that not only can I bring to ministry what depths of sadness, loss, and despair I have felt, but additionally, anger. Perhaps most people would not think of me as a particularly angry or violent person. But indeed I have long struggled (especially in adolescence) with feelings of terrible rage.

Some people are afraid of their own and others' pain, and many are terrified by their own and others' anger. Having suffered some prolonged, seemingly unbearable emotional pain (and survived) I'm not so scared of acknowledging others' pain. And likewise, having myself experienced seemingly boundless rage, I am not too worried by others' expressions of anger.

This becomes an asset for ministry because it helps me both to be able to create space for someone to express their anger and be accepted (rather than shut down or ignored) and because sometimes people are upset about injustices that the community ought to get on board trying to address.

I think we could really use some more angry preachers in middle class American churches. I wonder to what degree the repression of anger in our society is symptomatic of a socio-political system where those "at the top" need to keep a lid on the righteous indignation of those "at the bottom."

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