Awhile back I heard about a 20/20 episode that documented a woman’s gender change surgery whereby she became a man. Among the fascinating discoveries documented, the “new” man remarked, “When I received the first dose of testosterone I was overcome by a strong and powerful desire to both have sex and kill something. I did not know at the time how other men could live day in and day out with it.”
I join with him in saying that sometimes the insatiable urge to exercise our more natural tendencies is difficult to overcome. With the advent of the internet and “the portable screen” pornography has taken off as a top addiction among men (and even some women). Anywhere, at any time, anybody can access grotesque and lewd pictures of their favorite models, actresses and even sports stars.
This has led to a surge of Christian literature that seeks to help men overcome their hormonal instincts. One such book that appeared 14 years ago is called “Every Man’s Battle.” I admit that I have not read the book but understand it is a vital and important resource for men in helping them think through this issue. But I think the title is a bit overreaching.
In addition to books, many churches, including my own, have formed committees to address sexual addiction. These committees have sought to make recommendations for discipline. These recommendations almost always include immediate termination for clergy with little hope for restoration. Many of them have become church law.
While this is all well and good, I find that the emphasis on sex addiction has diminished our view of sin. We tend to think the only way men can violate God’s covenant is by misusing their hormones.
In turn, we have given an almost blank check to men who sin in every other way.
Therefore, I completely disagree with the title of the above book because I know several men whose primary struggle is not sexual addiction but greed/materialism, laziness, drug and alcohol addiction and of course hostile anger.
As with sex, we live in a culture that doesn’t just tolerate anger from our men (and women too), we outright demand it. Politicians are awarded with million dollar donations to their campaigns if they will go on national news and rage against the other party. Our sports icons notoriety increases if they will get passionately angry about some perceived injustice. We even encourage our Hollywood stars to find a cause and express the “appropriate” rage that such a cause isn’t important enough to the national consciousness.
In the church we are even more okay with “righteous” anger, even if it is violent. We love righteous indignation, albeit only if it is directed towards the same things we are indignant about. So while we would certainly fire a pastor who gets caught in a sex addiction, we instead feed off our clergy’s anger addictions. We yell “amen” to their fury when expressed from the pulpit. We seek to join in violently denouncing the “thems” who are against “us.” We are thrilled when we find out our pastor hates the democrats as much as we do and tickled pink when our pastor screams that the world is going to end tomorrow because of those lousy sinners that are destroying everything. Interestingly those sinners never sin in the same ways we do, though our sin is just as bad.
In all of this, we have absolutely missed the Biblical truth that there is no room for anger in the Kingdom of God, even so-called “righteous” anger. James 1:20 says, “Human’s anger cannot achieve God’s righteousness.”
There is a whole lot wrong in the world and a good deal of it tempts me towards a lot of anger. There are Sundays I would love to enter that pulpit armed with my sword of righteous indignation and lash out at all the “thems” who are destroying the cause.
But I fight it daily and it is a battle. I have found that almost everything we say about sexual temptation is just as true of anger temptation. It breeds and works in us in the same ways and once anger finds a host it destroys everything we hold dear.
Therefore, I wish our churches would take anger among the clergy more seriously. I wish we could start committees that would research ways to pinpoint and remove pastors who have fallen into the anger addiction. There should be paths of restoration for them and those paths should mirror the paths for those who have fallen into sexual temptation. There should be repentance, apologies, counseling, etc. We should be writing books about it and offering Sunday School classes on it. We should even go so far as to form support groups from those seeking to recover from an anger addiction. I truly believe it is that important.
And that is why this is the first post in a series of posts on anger. Tomorrow I will offer a devotional thought on Ephesians 4 and James 1. Wednesday I will seek to begin the conversation about what church polity should look like in diagnosing and helping clergy overcome anger addictions.