Ricochet Member Recommended FeedRecommended by R> Members

Playing with Fire

 

There was this guy who hated his brother. We’re not sure why; usually there’s more than one reason, or one reason leads to another that leads to another that may have little or nothing to do with the stated object. But anyway, hatred started with anger. Someone asked the guy, “Why are you angry?” He couldn’t answer. The questioner went on, “If you do well, will you not be rewarded? But if you don’t, evil is crouching at the door. It desires to have you. Shouldn’t you rule over it?”

The questioner was God and the guy was Cain, the first murderer (Genesis 4:7). Killing his brother was the first crime of passion and anger was the first passion.

It’s the first passion for all of us. We’re born angry, or at least severely peeved: Why did you people yank me out of my safe, warm place? Why don’t you feed me, hold me, reassure me? We’re supposed to grow out of it, but growing takes a while. Anyone who’s ever had small children knows how one little slight can set them off, and it feels so good to kick and scream they keep right on kicking and screaming until the little fire burns out. If you ask, “Why are you angry?” they couldn’t tell you. Though some children are more volatile than others, all are vulnerable. In fact, rage comes upon a child so suddenly, so naturally, it must be part of old Cain: a simmering pot on our unbalanced will ready to boil over as soon as the heat is turned up I once heard a preacher say, speaking of a child in the throes of rage, “If he could, he’d kill you.” Creepy. And probably true.

I’ve felt it myself — I used to bite down on my arm to keep from screaming, leaving red teeth marks that lasted for hours. It wasn’t painful until after I did it. Anger is, in fact, the opposite of painful — it’s a pleasure to give in, to stomp and scream and throw things. But of course, nobody can live on a perpetual fury high: you have to come down and then you just feel stupid.

But what if you don’t have to feel stupid? What if you can stoke that fire for days, months, years? The words most often used for anger, especially in the Old Testament, indicate burning. They are often translated that way: “Moses’ anger burned hot,” in Exodus 32:19; The “anger of the Lord burned” in Joshua 7:1; Saul’s “anger was greatly kindled” in I Samuel 11:6. Fires tend to get out of control, and that’s why, as we grow up, we’re supposed to keep a fire extinguisher handy, whether it’s counting to 10 or dropping to our knees.

But in contemporary culture, anger is justified for its own sake, not necessarily as the motivation for righteous action. It’s a virtue just to be angry. (Angry about the right things, of course. If you’re angry about the wrong things you’re a dangerous nutcase.) Individuals bring their personal grudges and slights to the protest rally and vindicate themselves by indignation. Every day, every hour, someone is publicly wishing a political figure dead. Ordinary citizens have begun to define themselves by what infuriates them.

Political rage has always been an undercurrent in America’s history, sometimes breaking out on the surface (see Civil War, the), but it struck me hard during the election of 2008, when the fulminations of Rev. Jeremiah Wright became an issue. Here was a man who may have burned with natural — perhaps even righteous — anger earlier in his life but now found an interest, for whatever reason, in maintaining it artificially. It was rage without action — more like an emotional catharsis. Members of Trinity United Church of Christ did not boil out of the church every Sunday to wreak havoc in white neighborhoods. Instead, I presume, they went home to have dinner with the family watch a ball game, like most Americans.

Likewise the pale political bloggers who latch on to the worst conspiracy theories and vicious rumors: if America was as wretched as they appear to believe, why aren’t they applying for citizenship to Canada? If the President is scheming to send gays to reeducation camps, forbid women to read, and sell our national sovereignty down the river, why isn’t there a stampede for the borders? Because anger itself is their moral obligation and their virtue. They are “right to be angry” (Jonah 4:9) because the other side is evil. They don’t have to actually do anything about it.

Until someone takes real action and fires real bullets that hit real targets. Then we’re told to calm down and try to talk civilly to each other. Okay, fine; I’ve been doing that for a while now. And my left-wing Facebook friends have cut the rhetoric somewhat, though the muttering has already started. (One of them seems to find moral justification by reporting that, of the security detail who downed the assassin, one was black and one was a woman.)

God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

Published in Politics
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Members have made 38 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Profile photo of Caryn Member

    Excellent analogy, Janie. Welcome to Ricochet!

    • #1
    • June 15, 2017 at 9:30 am
    • Like5 likes
  2. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    • #2
    • June 15, 2017 at 9:38 am
    • Like1 like
  3. Profile photo of Kevin Schulte Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    I would Like to hear Janie’s response to this.

    Mine is. Anger like all sin feels good for a season. Then the price/fruit of it must be paid. Anger gives us a fealing of power and self righteousness and this feels good. You can be angry and not sin, however one always dance’s on the line and usually goes over. Someone I know said it best. “I choose me” in retort to God. When I am angry, mostly I am saying. I choose me.

    • #3
    • June 15, 2017 at 10:13 am
    • Like9 likes
  4. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    (Self-proclaimed) Righteous wrath and the high (dudgeon) that goes with it. The feeling of being right and putting others in their place for being wrong. Plenty of people live on the chemical high that courses through the body with their anger.

    • #4
    • June 15, 2017 at 10:16 am
    • Like6 likes
  5. Profile photo of Randy Weivoda Thatcher

    Good article, Janie. When someone is throwing a tantrum, it is kind of like a high. And trying to reason with someone in that condition can be like trying to reason with someone who is drunk. They are riding that emotion and damn you if you try to talk them down with logic and reason.

    • #5
    • June 15, 2017 at 7:19 pm
    • Like3 likes
  6. Profile photo of tigerlily Member

    Excellent essay Janie.

    • #6
    • June 16, 2017 at 1:02 am
    • Like2 likes
  7. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Maybe worthy of discussion are the behaviors of so many who find themselves aligned with the Left and how this topic fits into that picture. Do those behaviors result from an inability to reason or from a substitution of emotion, perhaps including anger, for the rational process? Should we conclude that perpetual anger politically focused is actually the description of what the Right describes as the ‘evil’ character of the Left? Are the above questions simply products of my bias and what I describe is equally distributed across the political spectrum? I do have persons close to me that I would dearly like to have in depth discussions about this but if I try they shut it down immediately, either in anger, or based on an assumption that’s where it will go.

    • #7
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:36 am
    • LikeLike
  8. Profile photo of Kevin Schulte Member

    Bob, my thoughts are. The left is trying to build utopia. Many of them if not most have rejected God. So they think they will create heaven on earth. If you stand in the way of that you are bad or evil and must be dispatched. Their big mistake is you can’t build heaven with fallen man/woman. Conservatives know this.

    When one rejects Gods plumb line your only alternative is to erect your own. When Cain slew Able he rejected Gods plumb line, made his own and went on his miserable way.

    True, you can be an agnostic or atheist and believe in conservative principles. However that person is working knowi knowingly or unknowingly mostly on Gods plumb line.

    • #8
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:50 am
    • Like8 likes
  9. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are the above questions simply products of my bias and what I describe is equally distributed across the political spectrum?

    All of your questions are good. I think the media is working hard at getting the anger distributed equally, at which point the last recourse will be war. It’s why I hope the people on both sides turn off the TV and start thinking for themselves instead of emoting so hard.

    • #9
    • June 16, 2017 at 7:06 am
    • Like1 like
  10. Profile photo of David Foster Member

    Excessive anger can also have the effect of distorting one’s thinking in ways that lead to bad practical consequences. See some thoughts on anger.

    • #10
    • June 16, 2017 at 2:55 pm
    • Like1 like
  11. Profile photo of Seawriter Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    Here is a bit more on why anger feels good.

    Seawriter

    • #11
    • June 16, 2017 at 2:58 pm
    • Like1 like
  12. Profile photo of Hypatia Member

    I’ve always felt sorry for Cain. God made him a farmer and Abel a shepherd, right? (Or was Cain wrong ab initio to choose agriculture?) Then God disdains Cain’s salad and swoons over Abel’s barbecue. We don’t bknow why and neither did Cain.

    Then God goes out of his way to preserve the life of Cain the first murderer.

    Of course, in terms of folklore themes, the story makes perfect sense. Just not in religious terms.

    • #12
    • June 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm
    • LikeLike
  13. Profile photo of Dad Dog Member

    Grateful, Janie, to:

    1. Read your musings in World magazine.
    2. Hear them on The World and Everything In It podcasts.
    3. Read them here.
    • #13
    • June 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm
    • Like1 like
  14. Profile photo of Henry Castaigne Member

    Andrew Klavan, a believing Christian dude, said that “Indignation is the devil’s cocaine. It feels great and gives you energy but ultimately it’s a bad thing that makes you do stupid things.” I think of that alot.

    • #14
    • June 16, 2017 at 3:20 pm
    • Like8 likes
  15. Profile photo of Z in MT Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are the above questions simply products of my bias and what I describe is equally distributed across the political spectrum?

    All of your questions are good. I think the media is working hard at getting the anger distributed equally, at which point the last recourse will be war. It’s why I hope the people on both sides turn off the TV and start thinking for themselves instead of emoting so hard.

    It’s not the TV it is the intertubes and social webs that are the problem.

    • #15
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm
    • Like2 likes
  16. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Z in MT (View Comment):
    It’s not the TV it is the intertubes and social webs that are the problem.

    Those, too.

    • #16
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:17 pm
    • Like2 likes
  17. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Anger is a natural emotion. We all are subject to it. I remember being nervous when someone would tell me he or she was never angry. Right. I thought that person was a bomb in hiding or totally unconnected to his or her emotional self.

    Having been an angry person for many years, most of the time, I’ve learned to let it go most of the time. It’s debilitating to live in that place, and damaging to relationships. I do get angry, but it’s short-lived. I do feel righteous indignation at times, but still try not to stay in that frame of mind–it saps my energy and doesn’t contribute anything to the world.

    Thanks for a thoughtful essay, Janie.

    • #17
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm
    • Like3 likes
  18. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are the above questions simply products of my bias and what I describe is equally distributed across the political spectrum?

    All of your questions are good. I think the media is working hard at getting the anger distributed equally, at which point the last recourse will be war. It’s why I hope the people on both sides turn off the TV and start thinking for themselves instead of emoting so hard.

    Aircat, the emoting is so satisfying, though.

    • #18
    • June 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm
    • LikeLike
  19. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    Aircat, the emoting is so satisfying, though.

    For some more than others.

    • #19
    • June 16, 2017 at 5:55 pm
    • Like2 likes
  20. Profile photo of Eric Madison Member

    In response to @hypatia‘s comments are “lets look at the text”. Genesis Ch. 4 Vs. 3 looks at the offerings themselves, Cain’s are from the fruits of “the” fields (non- possessive), as if the offering was gathered from wherever Cain thought best to acquire them. Vs. 4 tells Able’s offering was the firstborn of his (possessive) flock. The difference? Able’s offering cost him something to give, a foreshadowing of the price God would pay for the offering of His gift of His son for our redemption.

    God tells Cain the if he “does well” that his offering will be accepted. Cain instead chooses his anger and kills his brother. Choices matter.

    Hypatia, your opening comment was the God made Cain a farmer and Able a shepherd. There is no indication of this in the reading, they were both free to choose their occupations and each occupation was good and necessary for survival. God did not direct their offering either, each offering was judged on it’s own merits and Cain’s was lacking. God admonished Cain saying “if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And it’s desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Cain was shown the way out, but chose to follow his feelings.

    Even after all of Cain’s failings, God still heard his cry and “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”.

    This is the combination of a righteous AND loving God.

    • #20
    • June 16, 2017 at 6:05 pm
    • Like11 likes
  21. Profile photo of Kevin Schulte Member

    Eric Madison (View Comment):
    In response to @hypatia‘s comments are “lets look at the text”. Genesis Ch. 4 Vs. 3 looks at the offerings themselves, Cain’s are from the fruits of “the” fields (non- possessive), as if the offering was gathered from wherever Cain thought best to acquire them. Vs. 4 tells Able’s offering was the firstborn of his (possessive) flock. The difference? Able’s offering cost him something to give, a foreshadowing of the price God would pay for the offering of His gift of His son for our redemption.

    God tells Cain the if he “does well” that his offering will be accepted. Cain instead chooses his anger and kills his brother. Choices matter.

    Hypatia, your opening comment was the God made Cain a farmer and Able a shepherd. There is no indication of this in the reading, they were both free to choose their occupations and each occupation was good and necessary for survival. God did not direct their offering either, each offering was judged on it’s own merits and Cain’s was lacking. God admonished Cain saying “if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And it’s desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Cain was shown the way out, but chose to follow his feelings.

    Even after all of Cain’s failings, God still heard his cry and “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”.

    This is the combination of a righteous AND loving God.

    Great round up Eric. Amen to that last line.

    • #21
    • June 16, 2017 at 6:47 pm
    • LikeLike
  22. Profile photo of Kevin Schulte Member

    With God, everything is about the state of ones heart.

    Psalm 51:17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

    God was not harsh with Cain concerning his sacrifice. As Eric pointed out, God provided the road map back to righteousness and it wasn’t complicated. Cains heart is exposed in his conversation with God after killing his brother. No contrition for the murder, no cries for mercy or forgiveness. His only concerned was for his own hide. The condition of his heart was stinking . What kind of hate does it take to murder your own brother without remorse? I think the hate preceded the offering incident. Interesting ,this also is the very first murder.

    • #22
    • June 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm
    • Like4 likes
  23. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):
    What kind of hate does it take to murder your own brother without remorse? I think the hate preceded the offering incident. Interesting ,this also is the very first murder.

    I’ve never liked the use of the word ‘hate’ in everyday conversation and I’ve encouraged my children and my grandchildren to avoid its use, especially when it is describing something they merely dislike. So I think that ‘hate’ is a strong word describing a strong emotion and maybe it is a typical precedent to anger. I’ve been angry, it does not make me feel good and I don’t like it. But I also don’t think I’m very good at this emotional thing and my thinking takes charge quickly most times. I wonder how much fear is coupled with the hatred we are witnessing as the power position of the Left weakens.

    • #23
    • June 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm
    • LikeLike
  24. Profile photo of I Walton Member

    Really good article and wise.

    “We’re born angry, or at least severely peeved: Why did you people yank me out of my safe, warm place? Why don’t you feed me, hold me, reassure me? We’re supposed to grow out of it, but growing takes a while. Anyone who’s ever had small children knows how one little slight can set them off” That explains a lot about the left but isn’t very promising comment on our millennial generation’s future.

    • #24
    • June 17, 2017 at 6:18 am
    • Like2 likes
  25. Profile photo of Janie Cheaney Member
    Janie Cheaney Post author

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    I guess it’s mostly catharsis–the rage has built up and clamors for an outlet. I can remember once, while storming around the house (alone, fortunately) being struck with how good it felt, and how justified I imagined myself, if only for a few minutes. There’s probably a chemical reaction in the brain. For decades it’s been considered healthy to “let it all out,” but I suspect the opposite is true.

    • #25
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:04 am
    • Like5 likes
  26. Profile photo of Janie Cheaney Member
    Janie Cheaney Post author

    Caryn (View Comment):
    Excellent analogy, Janie. Welcome to Ricochet!

    Thank you, Caryn. I’ve been lurking for several years.

    • #26
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:05 am
    • Like1 like
  27. Profile photo of garyinabq Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Janie Cheaney: God asks us, “Are you right to be angry?” Almost never, especially in a nation as blessed and prosperous (so far!) as ours. Anger is an invitation to the evil crouching at the door. But it still feels good, especially if you don’t have much else to give your life meaning.

    More on the bolded part might enlighten me since I have never thought it part of anger. And I certainly agree that most in the USA have little reason for anger.

    The answer is in the second part of the sentence. Our search for meaning is a central force in our lives. See Victor Frankl. Anger feels good because it dissipates our frustration over unfruitful searches.

    Is it possible that the Bible has better understanding than modern psychology?

    • #27
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:07 am
    • Like3 likes
  28. Profile photo of Janie Cheaney Member
    Janie Cheaney Post author

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):
    With God, everything is about the state of ones heart.

    Psalm 51:17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

    God was not harsh with Cain concerning his sacrifice. As Eric pointed out, God provided the road map back to righteousness and it wasn’t complicated. Cains heart is exposed in his conversation with God after killing his brother. No contrition for the murder, no cries for mercy or forgiveness. His only concerned was for his own hide. The condition of his heart was stinking . What kind of hate does it take to murder your own brother without remorse? I think the hate preceded the offering incident. Interesting ,this also is the very first murder.

    Kevin, I’m sure you’re right–the hate had been building for some time. God asks the exact same question of Jonah–“Are you right to be angry?”–and the Jonah’s anger, I suspect was only superficially about a plant that withered.

    • #28
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:09 am
    • Like2 likes
  29. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Janie Cheaney: It’s the first passion for all of us. We’re born angry, or at least severely peeved: Why did you people yank me out of my safe, warm place? Why don’t you feed me, hold me, reassure me? We’re supposed to grow out of it, but growing takes a while. Anyone who’s ever had small children knows how one little slight can set them off, and it feels so good to kick and scream they keep right on kicking and screaming until the little fire burns out.

    Here, it seems to me, the precedent for the infant or small child’s anger is often physical discomfort or an inability to cope with immediate circumstances. As one grows, abilities for coping are part of that and tolerance is a factor. So anger resulting from these early life conditions may not have any connection to the kind of anger we see in today’s political realm that derives from hate resulting from a choice of intolerance of others.

    • #29
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:25 am
    • Like1 like
  30. Profile photo of Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Andrew Klavan, a believing Christian dude, said that “Indignation is the devil’s cocaine. It feels great and gives you energy but ultimately it’s a bad thing that makes you do stupid things.” I think of that alot.

    Maybe anger only feels great if you think it has noble purpose. Anger can feel pretty miserable otherwise.

    While fooling ourselves into believing that our anger has a noble purpose even when it doesn’t is a common feature of our anger, it’s possible to perceive anger as destructive and counterproductive and yet nonetheless have it.

    • #30
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:25 am
    • Like2 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2