Dies Irae



It is becoming increasingly common for people to have "anger" attributed to them as an explanation of their behaviour or beliefs.

Opponents of the ordination of women as priests; critics of Porvoo;  those who are less than enthusiastic about inclusive language;  activists in movements like Reform and Forward in Faith; over and over  again such people are alleged to be motivated by their "anger".

It's not difficult to hazard a guess why these allegations should be  made. There are three reasons why it is expedient to attribute anger  to one's adversaries, and even better to be able to prove that it  exists. These reasons are as follows:  

1) In an age which has become almost totally subjectivist in its  thinking it is convenient to believe that one's opponents are just as  subjective as oneself. It then becomes not so much a matter of which  one is right but of resolving the differences between us and them by  showing that they are based on nothing more than an emotional blip.

2) Anger is an infantile response whereas (say) the patient endurance  of pain is an adult one. If Smith can prove that Jones' beliefs are  the product of Jones' anger whilst Smith's own beliefs are the outcome  of pain nobly borne then Smith starts off several jumps ahead in the  debating stakes. Smith is behaving like and adult, Jones like an  irresponsible child.

3) It is usually possible, sooner or later, to generate a response  which might be termed "anger" in someone else, even if this has to be  achieved as a result of the first party being, or continuing to be,  sufficiently obtuse and irrational; exasperation can be generated by  wilful obtuseness, and that exasperation, however justifiable, can be  passed of as anger in one's opponent and his rationale thus  discredited.

So, by and large, anger attributed to or generated in one's opponents  is a simple, effective, but logically indefensible way of disagreeing  with them or supposedly discrediting their beliefs.

Anger in Christians As a matter of fact anger in any obvious form is seldom evident in the  lives of Christians today. Sometimes one wishes that it were less  rare. Far too many questionable practices and ideas are allowed to  slip through because potential opponents lack the will or the courage  to speak out against them, so determined are they not to permit their  (righteous) anger to show and therefore run the risk of discrediting  themselves from the start.

No doubt there are displays of anger from time to time at public  meetings like the PCC or the AGM or Vestry Meeting. Someone who has a  particular axe to grind, or has taken unusual offence at the  introduction of some innovation or the discontinuation of a supposed  long-established custom may decide to hold forth upon their grievance.  But it tends to be the same people holding forth about the same  subjects year in and year out.

The charge, then, that Traditionalist (say) are angry is based in the  first place upon a good thumping lie. Most of them believe that they  have a legitimate grievance which they would express if only they knew  how, or thought that people would listen to them. The fact that they  neither know how to express it or anticipate any support leads them to  remain silent. Such well-placed and justified anger as might provoke  them to speak is restrained by the habit which Americans call  "Terminal Politeness"  Carte Blanche  This silence plays straight into the hands of anyone who wishes to  promote some cause however dubious in the parish or in the Church at  large. They know that for the most part their fellow churchgoers will  say nothing; whilst if any opposition is forthcoming it can be  neutralized by being shown to come from "deeply angry people".

An Emergency Toolkit  It is much to be desired that the "guardians of the faith" in any  parish, of whom there are usually two or even more, and certainly one  always one at least, should be given a little training in the skill of  theological self-defence. The toolkit does not need to contain very  much, but the tools which it does contain should be familiar to its  owner, both as to how they work and what they are for.  Here is a list of useful tools in defence of the truth:  1) What Christians believe (for instance the articles of the Creed)  are a series of propositions which may be true or false but cannot  possibly be both.

2) The truth or falsehood of these propositions never changes though  the language and imagery by which they are explained can and should  change, as our understanding of them develops  3) The truth or falsehood of these propositions remains unaffected by  how many or how few people believe in them at any one time. "Nobody  believes that" is ultimately irrelevant as "Everyone" [or "every  intelligent person"] believes that.

4) The truth or falsehood of these propositions remains unaffected by  the personal disposition of the believer. The fact that I have a  headache today makes the square on the hypotenuse of a right angled  triangle no less equal to the sum of the squares on the other two  sides than it did yesterday when I believed it feeling perfectly well.

5) Any reference to a person's feelings, either by them or anyone  else, in matters of belief is liable to give the wrong answer to the  only question that matters, namely is this true?  Tell-tale Phrases  There are a number of tell-tale phrases which act as signals that the  person using them is about to "pull a fast one" on the person with  whom they are speaking.

 "You only say that because......."    
"How do you know what it feels like to be .....?"  
"Everyone has the right to................."  
"I used to feel the way you do about it, but......."  
"It's not fair!"  

In addition there are a number of words the usage of which may presage  "fast one coming!": 

These are: selfish, greedy, angry, insecure,  inward-looking, violence, cruel, immature, adolescent, materialistic,  old-fashioned, dated, justice, rights, homophobic, exclusive,  discriminate, natural, narrow-, open- and broad-minded.

Of course any or all these words may be used in a legitimate,  objective way. The chances are, however, that anyone who employs them  is preparing the pitch to deliver a subjective googly, which appears  to be going to break one way but in fact does exactly the opposite!  

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