“The opposite of love is not rage. The opposite of love is indifference. Love engages all our emotions: Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger is the force that protects that which is loved. We cannot access the depth of loving ourselves or others without rage.” —Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, 2020.
I began reading the book of Ezekiel at the end of October. It is dark and foreboding—and filled with Rage. It seemed to capture my own sense that we are a nation that is experiencing Exile on many levels in our culture, just as the people of Judah in ancient Palestine were when everything that had given them form and identity up to that time was either disappearing altogether or dramatically changed.
Specifically, the author employs a form of writing in which the nation of Judah’s felt-shame (from trauma and violence that we describe today as severe PTSD, of course) is couched within God’s rage. This is theologically very troubling, of course, if you read the text as a news story and not in the literary style of its time, for it makes God out to be some kind of abusive parent who beats and subdues the children “for their own good.”
Gratefully, biblical scholarship helps us take that literal interpretation and more skillfully understand the rage present as The Divine’s deep passion for humanity’s civility and well-being—and MAYBE EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, the continuing presence and solidarity of God even during what feel like times of abandonment.
Indeed, the book of Ezekiel, one of the Bible’s major prophetic books, has been referred to as both Disaster and Survival literature* because it was written as a text during the terrible—but importantly transforming—time of Judah’s exile in Babylon in the 6th century BCE, some 2,600 years ago now. Ezekiel told them in no uncertain terms that there is NO GOING BACK to the ways we once did things. Our institutions and religious understandings need to change BIG-TIME. And the same is true for the nation of the United States today.
We, like ancient Judah, are caught in a time of both disaster and hoped-for survival. And Ezekiel reminds us again and again in this very difficult book that there is NO GOING BACK to our pre-crisis world, if we are to truly live into our calling to be an expression of God’s Love and Light in the world, individually and collectively. If the last 4 years in the United States have taught us anything, it’s that we, like Judah, have been missing some really key points in what it means to truly be the people of God.
So, if you are filled with rage today, know that it has its place in the healing of things. Know that The Divine feels your rage at injustice, callous indifference, and abuse of power. God is living and breathing in solidarity with you. Draw on that divine rage for change and know that you stand in a long line of committed people of faith who have faced similar challenges in rebuilding their nation.
Again, in the words of a new prophet for our nation today, Valerie Kaur:
“…Anger is the force that protects that which is loved.
We cannot access the depth of loving ourselves or others without rage.”
*Louis Stulman and Hyun Chul Paul Kim. 2010. You Are My People: An Introduction to Prophetic Literature. Abingdon Press, Nashville TN.