Monday and Tuesday I wrote about anger in the lives of Christians, particularly among clergy. I mentioned that I have found the temptation towards anger has worked in me much the same way the temptation for sexual immorality seems to work in others. In fact if I read books like C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” or “Every Man’s Battle” and substitute “sex” for “anger,” I relate a lot more.
Yet nobody seems to be talking about anger or the addictions that can form around our wrath. More than that we seem to reward anger, with the stipulation that the anger is directed towards that which our anger is directed.
Today I want to begin a conversation towards a solution to the prevalent anger addictions. As with all my posts, I do not presume to have the final word but just hope to kick off a conversation.
I also do not endeavor to begin a new area where we can be overly suspicious of each other. One of the worst things that has happened in our struggle against sex addiction is that now every adult male who is younger than 40 is automatically suspected of being a pervert. I do not want to add to that absurdity by now claiming every adult male over 40 is now angry and bitter.
With that qualification I do think we need to be better at identifying and helping those who are struggling with anger. Here are a few areas where such intervention might work the best.
1) Pastors Retreats and Conferences: Over the last few decades retreats and conferences for clergy have become a multi-million dollar market. As a pastor I get invited once a month to someone’s next great conference. While these conferences and retreats tend to be ridiculously expensive (which leads to the exclusion of pastors of smaller churches), they are still a valuable venue for discussing vital aspects of ministry. Therefore I think these conferences should provide space in their plenaries and workshops for talking about anger.
2) The Ordination Process: I just now counted how many times I was asked about sex during my nine year process of ordination. I am sure I missed several instances that are buried in my subconscious but I can still count 30 particular instances where a governing board asked me about how I control my “hormones.” I cannot remember once being asked about anger. I was asked a few times about how I resolve conflict but never once about anger itself. Seminary classes, ordination interviews, interviews with D.S.’s and the like are all great places to discuss anger and its harm and it should be a topic of scrutiny in the ordination process.
3) District Superintendent Oversight and Mentors: When a Pastor is caught in a sexual sin the district is usually the first call, as it well should be. In those situations the D.S. is meeting with the pastor the very next day, if not by nightfall. A D.S. should take reports of hostile rage just as seriously. The goal of the reaction shouldn’t necessarily be immediate removal but the D.S. should intervene quickly and provide the necessary support and remediation so that one outburst does not become a habit or one bitter and angry sermon doesn’t bring down the whole church.
With that said, I do not seek to add more work to our all ready overworked church leaders which is why every pastor should have a mentor. There should be some form of direct oversight of the clergy from outside the congregation for issues like these. I have personally benefited from a few mentors as I have battled with the demons of anger, hostility, rage and bitterness. Those mentors have been invaluable, not just to me but also to my D.S. who doesn’t need me calling him every week.
I want to close this series by giving the same encouragement I was often given about sexual temptation: If you find the seeds of anger sprouting in your soul, please seek help before the weeds overcome your Spirit and destroy the harvest of righteousness in your local congregation.
Be kind and compassionate and patient, bearing with one another in love.