Hi and welcome back! Last week, we touched on the anger of white evangelical men. That anger only worsens as white evangelicals’ cultural dominance dissipates. Their leaders’ conventional wisdom for dealing with anger is worse than useless, however. It’s not just because there’s no god in the middle of things making prayers work and whatnot. Rather, it’s because their vaguely-worded, folksy visualization process can’t actually help with anything real that’s gone seriously wrong. And today, I’ll show you this inadequate tool that white evangelical men have to help with their vast anger.
Confusing Narcissistic Rage for “Righteous Anger”
Nothing reveals the truth of Christianity quite like the behavior of white evangelicals. And I just had to laugh the other day when I realized that what these evangelicals call “righteous anger” simply betrays that their god is just a magical version of themselves. It’s a version writ large and deified, and then used as a schoolyard bully.
Here’s a description of “righteous anger” from CBN. But I’ve amended it below to make clear exactly what this “righteous anger” truly reflects:
Evangelicals are angry when people:
Oppose evangelicals’ plans for their lives.
Use their power to set themselves against evangelical power-grabs.
Willfully disobey evangelicals’ commands.
Reject evangelicals’ sales pitches.
Fail to trust evangelicals’ assurances (and insist on sex-abuse databases and stuff).
It amazes me to see how well it parses!
Interestingly, though, we never get a look at what righteous anger looks like. We never see it compared to off-limits anger.
CBN’s writer never tells us exactly how either form of anger should be addressed, either. Their implication appears to be that evangelicals should simply reject anger that isn’t tribe-approved. But how?
So as we discuss the attempts evangelicals make to heal their deep anger, bear in mind that even they don’t know what any of this stuff looks like in lived reality.
Yes, Yes, But What Does It Look Like: Evangelical Anger Edition.
Evangelical men suffer from three major problems when it comes to managing their anger.
First, they have to stuff Jesus into absolutely everything, or else it doesn’t count.
Second, whatever they do to address their anger, it must conform with the tribe’s lockstep ideology.
Third, the tribe will be watching them for any sign of weakness — and will attack without mercy if they see any openings.
Those problems combine to make it almost impossible for evangelical men to get real help for their anger.
Out in the secular world of real therapy, we find some good resources for managing anger. This post from Psychology Today includes some steps that helped me out a lot, long ago — and seem to help others too.
That 2013 Men’s Health article we checked out recently also talks about therapies that work for men suffering from anger problems. Their writer also covers ones that have been discredited. For example, “venting” or catharsis often just make someone’s anger worse. There are even some medications they discuss that can help even folks’ emotions out while they’re learning new ways to respond to their triggers.
But evangelicals don’t like the idea of real therapy. Real therapy trips all three of those problems I described above. If they try it at all, it’ll be the awful sub-par version of it they invented, biblical counseling. It acts as a sort of cargo-cult therapy engine.
Evangelicals may be very, very well acquainted with anger. But they are severely limited in ways they can address it.
A Beloved Non-Solution: Just Hand That Anger to Jesus!
By far, the most common evangelical non-solution for anger that I see involves the angry person visualizing the handing-off of their anger to Jesus. The angry person hands off their anger like it’s a basketball or bundle of old clothes. Jesus takes it from them, cuz he’s just cool like that. And then suddenly, they don’t feel anger at all anymore!
Ta-da! Tra-la! That anger is gone!
Here’s one fellow who offers a point by point, detailed plan for healing oneself of anger:
Ask God to forgive you for your harsh words spoken against someone. Give your anger to Jesus instead of embracing it. Drop the “righteous” act and let Jesus change your heart. Now you know how to fix broken relationships. Now you know how to fix a broken relationship. Amen!
See? It’s just that easy.
Even Billy Graham’s site had the same advice, though his version sounds fancier. Interestingly, the link at the bottom that says “give your anger to God” just leads to his Sinner’s Prayer page. Seriously. Only heathens can possibly feel anger, right? Right?
Another Christian even declares of this handing-off process, “Jesus makes the impossible easy.”
Yes, because imaginary things are, indeed, often quite easy to imagine doing.
Why This Anger Non-Solution Doesn’t Work.
Christians can visualize anger hand-offs all they want. They can put Jesus in modern clothes or a proper 1st-century toga or a Zapp Brannigan costume as they please. They can imagine their anger is a bundle of clothes, a bag of trash, a basketball, or a wad of plutonium as they wish.
When they’re done visualizing, once their hopeful euphoria wears off they will soon find that anger right where they left it: in themselves. No gods truly removed it.
That’s because anger is a reaction process. Our predispositions meet with trigger events or situations, then combine with our worldview. And all that stuff is still right there.
No gods ever magically change Christians’ predispositions. It’s entirely possible that evangelicals’ particular flavor of Christianity makes them more vengeful and controlling, not less. And unless someone’s need for personal drama artificially inflates trigger events’ number and severity, those happen to everyone.
Gosh, y’all, Jesus just doesn’t seem at all interested in speeding humans past the hard work of changing their predispositions and worldview.
Sidebar: What I Didn’t Find.
For some reason, I thought I’d find other white evangelical non-solutions regarding anger besides give it all to Jesus and let him solve it for you.
But I found no other non-solutions. I looked hard, too.
Even evangelicals who have some decent advice otherwise, as this church site does, still reveal how deep anger runs in their communities — and still punts to Jesus Power as a proposed solution for it.
This, literally, is all they have.
I wish I had words for how sad this is. Visualization is the one tool that evangelical men are allowed to use. And it categorically does not work.
All These Substitutes for Necessary Change.
But I guess evangelicalism really is the get-out-of-hard-work-free card for way too many of its adherents. We’ve talked before about how evangelicals use Christianity as a substitute for being decent human beings, and this visualization nonsense of theirs might just be one of the worst ways this substitution mentality manifests.
Ah, but it addresses all three of the problems I described above.
First of all, it’s stuffed with Christianese and Jesus-ing from top to bottom. #WINNING!
Second, this conventional folk wisdom fits perfectly into the tribe’s conceptualization of how their god operates. He won’t help unless you ask! He won’t heal you unless you beg! Gotta pray if you want the benefits!
Third, oh third, most painfully of all third, it keeps evangelical men from looking weak to the rest of the tribe. As one pastor recounts of his experience in therapy:
As a pastor, I often had people come to me for counseling. I never thought that I needed counseling. In my mind, I was better than other people. I was here to help them, but I certainly didn’t need anyone’s help. The ability to be open to receiving help was fear-inducing.
I’m sure it was. And I’m sure he had good reason to fear.
When we see all these white evangelical guys that are just powderkegs of rage and hair-trigger tempers, know that we’re just seeing the tip of the tribe’s anger-iceberg. They’re just the ones too far gone to pretend any different. And no gods are standing by to help them change a thing.
NEXT UP: The vast anger of evangelical women.
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