Rage Porn

screaming-kid

My title selection may be a bit shocking, but it is not far from the truth.  No I am not talking about some form of violent pornography. I want to talk about our culture’s addiction to rage. Keep in mind that anything I write about is a reflection of my own struggles.  You can see the first two posts in a series I am working on about anger here and here.

Social media is a great tool. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and people we have not seen or spoken to in decades. This is really great for people like me who are Veterans and who know people literally all over the world. It’s nice to see how people have changed, raised families, and continue on their journey. This is all good stuff. What I am concerned with is the focus on presumed righteous anger within the Church, which is actually sinful anger.

I seldom use Twitter.  To be honest, it overwhelms me with information. I find it is a place where people can share their outrage in 140 characters. It’s a constant flow of bad news and information. Look at what the rad-trads did today and look at what the proggies are up to. Pope Francis is a heretic. Pope Francis is not a heretic. Change is coming to the Church. Obama is the anti-Christ. The world is ending, stock up on canned goods. The onslaught is unrelenting. To see the polarization that is occurring in our country and within the Church, take a moment to read a comments section on a news article or blog.  Then look away and stay away. It is startling.

We are turning the Interwebs into a place of “us vs them” and I can tell you historically that never ends well. We begin turning the people next to us in the pews or on the streets into enemies. There are genuine heretics (not our Pope) and people who are disobedient, but it really is up to a priest or bishop to correct them in private and in public, unless they are a friend who needs our guidance. Admonishment of sinners is not something that needs to be done whenever we see someone sinning in a manner different from our own. I like to share my love of the Sacrament of Penance as a way to help people find healing and strength against sin.  I get the struggle.  I have done it. I have a strong sense of justice and it is troubling to see people flout Church teaching and then proceed to the Eucharist line, but in reality, you and I are not the enforcers of canon law. We do, however, have an obligation to balance justice and charity. We do not overlook sin, but we discern where Christ wants to use us. There are moments we will be used for admonishment, but we should be clear beforehand.

There is little you or I can do about people who choose to be Catholics in name only, except pray for them and try to live by our example.  Let’s show people that things like NFP require sacrifice, but they are doable.  Let’s show love and respect for the gay community without accepting their behavior.  Let’s minister to the person embroiled in divorce and try to guide them through the love of Christ.  Let’s try not to make assumptions because of someone’s political leanings. Human beings are complex.  We are a sum total of a variety of talents, experiences, and above all we derive our dignity from being created in the image and likeness of God. I am not my politics, sexual orientation, or liturgical preference.  What a limiting world that would be!

My point is that social media can be a train-wreck if we make it one. I have shifted dramatically since joining Facebook in 2008.  My posts were almost entirely political.  I supported things that I never would support now, but I was sure through my presumption that I was right.  The Republican Party was the party of the Catholic Church.  I feel absolutely stupid for this now.  No political party is the party of God.  The immorality is on all sides and politics are inherently corrupted by human sin. The Republican Party will eventually fold on marriage.  It is inevitable. So then what? That is a very good question and it will put us in a difficult situation. But, I gave up politics for a while, so I will come up with in answer in a couple of years.

What should concern us, however, is when this toxicity spills over into the Church. Our primary mission to evangelize is greatly harmed by our inability to separate our ideology from Christ. Our political or even “theological” ideology is not a reflection of the authentic Jesus Christ who beckons us to communion with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, my constant focus on click-bait, rage porn drives a wedge between that communion and me.  It takes my focus off of Christ and drives me to dwell on things outside of my control, but in a controlling manner.  I am not arguing that we should not keep track of the world. We need to be aware of the landscape, but we should not constantly dwell on it. When we see bad news or conflict, the first thing that we should do is pray. Yes, while you are looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed, bow your head and pray.  Pray for them and for yourself.

When I see the anger of the Catholic blogosphere, the first thing I see is a lack of trust. I know this, because I have, and still see that in myself. Somehow the Church will perish in flames if I don’t tell Pope Francis how to get things done. If the progressive get their way then the Church will crumble because of changes in sexual morality.  Folks, the Church’s teaching on faith and morals will never change.  It is irreformable.  The Church will never change her teachings on divorce, homosexual acts, birth control, etc.  She can’t because Christ is the head, not men.  So stop worrying that she will.  She can find pastoral approaches to those who have been deeply hurt by the Sexual Revolution, but her mission is to heal and bring sinners to Christ.  To help them see why those sins tore them apart. So stop screaming in fear. Trust. Instead of writing hostile blogs and articles, how about we focus on fixing the brokenness? St. John Paul II left us a wealth of knowledge and tools to help us heal this pain and these sins.  Thanks be to God.  Let’s use Theology of the Body rather than ranting that the Church is going to change. The only one who will triumph in all of these things we worry about is Jesus Christ who reigns as our King, Priest, and Prophet.

And let’s stop being so hostile about the Liturgy.  Full disclosure I veil in the Novus Ordo. I have never been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, although I would love the experience it.  I want a reverent and beautiful Liturgy.  We are working our way back to that.  Christ did not say, in his Aramaic, that all Masses must be in Latin.  Yes, I am aware this argument is poor in the face of tradition.  How about this?  Latin is a discipline, not a doctrine. Yes, Latin has a long tradition and it is still the language of the Church.  I love Latin and chant.  They send my soul soaring to Heaven, but the yelling and screaming is doing absolutely no good.  The issue is not the use of the vernacular, the issue is a breakdown in understanding of the Liturgy and the Real Presence.  That is where our focus should be.  In fact the nastiness should be sending a lot of people to Confession, just like the sexual sins, because of sinful anger.

None of us wants to get pigeon-holed into the idea that we are better because we are not “them”.  Christ dealt directly with this problem.  Remember Luke 18:9-14? If we want to change the world, then we must start with the primary mission of our Baptism: Our individual sanctification.  If we work on our own personal holiness, then we can change the world around us.  Can you imagine how the Catholic landscape in social media would change if we were focused on helping others achieve holiness?  That is the goal: Sainthood.  We cannot help others to holiness, if we ourselves are strangled by our own denial of sin.  It is not that we aren’t supposed to help sinners, it just happens that we must work on our own personal holiness before Christ will use us.

I know this is hard.  Ask my husband about me! You and I have been given a desire to write and share our faith.  That is a stewardship that God has given us.  We should respect it and use it for good.  That does not mean that we cannot wade into political discussions, ethical debates, or the Liturgy.  What it does mean is that we need to go into those posts remembering that we are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a communion, not a community. We are members (as in limbs) within that Body and that means what we do profoundly impacts the other members.  So do we want to lift up the Body or do we want to tear it down? Do we want to bring people to Christ or drive them away?

Lenten Journey: Dealing with Sinful Anger Part I

I have a confession to make:  I really struggle with sinful anger.  I don’t just mean that I get angry in the sense of the passion.  I mean that I struggle with rage and the desire for vengeance at certain times.  It is one of the reasons that you will find me in the confessional every week or every two weeks at most.  My anger has been a decades old problem.  Yes, I am 33 and yes some of that anger is from my childhood; however, you are not going to see me justify my anger as my family’s fault.  Yes, some of my anger is learned and habitual, but regardless of what post-modern psychology says, I am responsible for how I respond when the passion of anger rears its ugly head and progresses to sin.  This is something that has been brought to the forefront of my psyche because I have been angry and struggling after an injustice that I experienced recently, as well as a clear sense of my own failings.  God is telling me that in order for me to progress on the path to holiness, I must start to seriously overcome my sinful anger under His guidance.  So how do I do that?

I happened to “accidentally” stumble on a book that deals with sinful anger by Fr. T.G. Morrow called Overcoming Sinful Anger.  When I saw the book staring at me on my computer screen my immediate thought was: “Okay, Lord!  I get it.” I then proceeded to order the book. I have only begun reading the book, but one thing that stood out to me immediately is that I must identify those things that cause me anger.  What inside of me leads me to serious anger in specific moments?

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One of the things that I have known for a while is that my anger is usually caused by a very serious struggle with self-hatred.  When I fail or mess up, I begin a cycle of destructive behaviors (stress eating, depression, self-loathing) that lead me further into sin.  I give up and then that giving up (because it is not in my true nature) turns inward into a deep hatred towards myself.  This came out in Confession a while back.  The priest asked me why I was there and I said, “I am tired of hating myself.”  His response was, “Yes!  Exactly!”  Yes, some of this anger is learned, but I have identified it, so it is time to move past blaming and focus on overcoming it.  That means the first task in overcoming sinful anger is to identify what causes anger.

What causes me to go into self-hatred mode and project it on others?  As I said above, my own failings are one of the causes.  Next is selfishness.  When things are not as I want them to be, I can immediately fall into a selfish angry mess.  This occurs most often with my husband or daughter. This is hard to admit, but my desire (by the grace of God) is to be a saint.  So I must descend into those dark places within myself (Dante’s Inferno anyone?) in order to come out into the light.

The other main reason for my anger is pain and injustice.  I have a healthy and unhealthy understanding of justice and righteous anger.  I have witnessed horrors in my life, (I was a 9-11 relief worker) and I have experienced pain. That means that I empathize with the suffering of others easily.  It also means that when I get hurt, I tend to internalize, especially when I am unable to respond to an injustice, and eventually it turns to anger or rage. There have been hard periods in my life when I have had to silently take the injustices of others.  We all have those times, but for me I internalize it and that is a dangerous thing for me to do.

So I have before me my primary motivators for my sinful anger: failure, selfishness, and injustice.  This is the beginning of my journey.  Now I must learn to identify these triggers in a moment when anger arises.  This will be the next difficult step.  I have to be willing to overcome that driving passion and take a moment to be introspective about what is going on inside of me.  For someone who analyzes complex theology and philosophy, this is difficult for me.  Part of that is because we have little control of the passions until we learn to tame them.  That is a major part of the spiritual journey. I must train myself to take a step back when the heat of anger rears its ugly head within me.

The most important component is Jesus Christ.  I cannot possibly overcome my inclination towards sinful anger on my own.  Nope.  Not going to happen.  I’ve tried.  To my utter shame, I still try.  I have to let God do it.  I have to be willing to fall to the foot of the Cross and say: “Lord, please help me to overcome this anger.”  One of the ways that I need to do this is to meditate on certain aspects of Christ’s life that coincide with my own pain and anger.

As I was going to sleep last night, I meditated on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.  There in the heat of the day and alone she went to the well.  She was an outcast.  I have spent a good deal of time feeling like an outcast for a variety of reasons.  While my sins are not the same as hers, they still coincide with the sense of not belonging and being unloved.  So there came Jesus in the heat of the day.  The blinding sun (both physically and metaphorically) who asked this outcast for a drink.  He met her in her brokenness and then proceeded to draw her into the reality of the Holy Trinity.  He filled her parched emptiness with the living water that can only flow from Him.  How can I possibly remain angry when He desires to fill me up?  See the necessity of meditating upon Scripture and finding those stories that will heal?

womanatthewell

This is just the beginning.  I have identified the reasons, now I must go deep into that hurt, guided by Christ so that He can fill me up.  So this is the first step: Identify what leads you to sinful anger.  Sinful anger desires vengeance and can become rage.  Not all anger is sinful.  Contemplate what drives you to sinful anger.  Perhaps order the book above.  Let’s spend this Lent identifying those triggers and then work to overcome them.  I will continue to post about my journey and insights that God gives me in prayer.  I pray for you too, who like me, struggles with pain and anger.  Please, pray for me. What are some things that have helped you overcome anger?  Have you identified your triggers?

Recommended Reading:

Overcoming Sinful Anger by Fr. T. G. Morrow
The Gospels