When we finally arrive at the 38th chapter of Job, it’s been a long, strange, bloody trip. You need a white board to keep up with all of the dead people and animals. God has worked up a full head of steam for his final confrontation with Job. As I read through this long, one sided, passive aggressive speech from God (after all, why get mad at Job for questioning God when God started the whole problem in the first place) I saw this re-posted tweet from evangelist John Piper. The words “holy anger” jumped right off the screen immediately. In many theological circles there is a belief that God is perpetually angry, ornery, mad, and pissed off. We, humanity, are the source of God’s anger. Our attractions to gambling on fantasy football leagues, human trafficking, cheap beer, and genocide are sources of never ending frustration for God. Jesus’s death (and resurrection) was supposed to cure God of his perpetual bad mood. We keep gambling, drinking and waging war; now with the chance to obtain eternal life.
So goes one line of reasoning. Never mind that Jesus and other New Testament writers talk about God as love or God being in love with humanity. Jesus seems to be in a perpetually great mood. For someone whose about to be executed on trumped up charges, he’s in love with life. Yet this is not the message for evangelical Protestants in the 21st century. Love is for left wing sissy Christians. Anger, that’s for real Bible believing folk.
If God’s holy anger is the “heart of the gospel” i.e. the Good News of Jesus Christ; then I am in the wrong business. I do not come each week to my pulpit to preach anger and rage. Nor do I come to preach the transformation of anger and rage which never existed in the first place. Who wants to preach anger? Who wants to hear anger? Who wants to live that way? The world is angry enough. With domestic violence and alcoholism on our doorstep and a third intifada in Bethlehem, do we need to equate the Gospel with “holy anger?”
Or will someone proclaim that satisfying God’s rage wasn’t the reason Jesus came to Earth? How did a God of love, a God described as loving by Jesus, become the embodiment of religious rage in descriptions such as this? In a time when so much anger is justified as holy (whether in Christian, Muslim or Jewish circles) who are we to call any violence holy? Why do such blood soaked descriptions of a loving God persist? Because it‘s all we’ve ever known. Our world dwells in hand held isolated cauldrons of rage, why wouldn’t our God be angry too? And despite what the John Piper’s of the world tell me, about Jesus’ saving grace and the cross, the God they describe, still seems to be in a perpetually bad mood.