Divine Rage? Yes. I am reading Valerie Kaur’s memoir See No Stranger with a group of people from church. It has a nice title. But what got my attention is her chapter “Rage.” We often talk about anger in church. We do not, however, talk about rage. Kaur is a Sikh. Her interest in the topic of divine rage is rooted in her own experience or patriarchal manipulation. She finds her solution in the religious traditions of southern Asia. What about the Christian tradition?
Covering Up Rage
When Christian leaders cover up abuses, they also attempt to cover up the anger, depression, and harm to the victims. The bad advice of “let it go” or turning one’s thoughts to those who have it worse does nothing for the victim. The problem becomes entirely the victims and no one else’s. “Vengeance is mine, I shall repay,” is offered to make one feel that justice however much delayed will not be denied. The resulting rage comes from being and feeling helpless. Yet, we refuse to talk about it.
Marvel studios released a mini-series called She-Hulk Attorney at Law. Jennifer is exposed accidently to the blood of her cousin the Hulk. The similar genes in her body are activated where she becomes what he is. There is no cure for the condition. Bruce takes her away to train her in being a hulk. He tells her, “You must control your anger.” Jennifer explains that women are always being told to and controlling their anger. She has been trained all of her life to control her anger, to tamp it down, and cover it up.
Until it is controlled, the Hulk is a wrathful beast that reacts to injustices. It is the model of out-of-control anger. She-Hulk is the opposite. She does not react the same way. Male rage is uncontrolled. Female rage is not supposed to exist. The Hulk is the image of an avenging god.
Kaur points out this is not necessarily the case in faith traditions even patriarchal ones. The myth and devotion to Kali is her prime example. Kali is goddess of life and death. And she is the image of divine rage.
The Rage of God
Progressive Christians do not discuss the wrath of God. I wonder why. What can Christians learn about rage from that image? Have we, while reading the Bible with patriarchal eyes, missed the point of several stories involving women? Are the actions of Sarah, Hagar, Deborah, Tamar, Hannah, Michal, Jezebel, and the Canaanite Woman in the gospel examples of rage at the situations in their lives? Did we miss the point of their stories by not looking for where they could have justifiable rage? I think so.
Christians think about God the Father (or the Old Testament God) as being full of wrath and dealing out harsh justice. We tend to hide from that image by going to Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or even in some cases Mary. The Canaanite woman’s famous reply to Jesus are the words of rage due to helplessness. “Yes, but even the dogs get the droppings from the master’s table.” She will advocate and fight anyway. Did Jesus see divine rage in her eyes?
Desolation is a spiritual feeling we experience from time to time. What causes it? Often it is a response to unjustified attacks or evil. I experience these feelings in the course of my ministry. Someone recently said to me, “If you do not think about quitting ministry at least once a month, you are not doing it right.” I replied, “Just once a month?”
Spiritual desolation comes from justifiable rage. There is no offering of comfort with food, or promise of greatness, or of justification that overcomes it. This is where we touch the wrath of God and understand it better. We take then, Kaur says, our first step to loving other people.
We often quote the questionable text from Luke where Jesus says, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” We talk about the importance of forgiving our enemies. But pastors, how often do we acknowledge what “they” did was wrong. We often justify it by declaring Jesus died for us. Let’s dwell a moment on the wrongness of the crucifixion and get in touch with that desolation.