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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