Recently, a drunken hate-monger was arrested for public intoxication and screaming at a Muslim family enjoying a day at the beach. Many well-meaning Christians on social media stated we shouldn’t judge this man, that we don’t know what was going on in his head, and voiced concern for his soul. However, they most never mentioned the terror this innocent Muslim family must have felt as their young children were barraged by hate-filled rhetoric. How should Christians respond when we see any type of injustice or discrimination? Is it ever proper for us to demonstrate anger? What example does Christ give us about righteous anger in the Gospels?
Protesting discriminatory actions and seeking justice for people who are terrorized by hate-mongers is not a sign of anger or vengeance. It does, however, show a deep concern for justice. Jesus often showed anger when he witnessed injustice. Jesus condemned the powerful of his day for laying burdens on the people they, the leaders themselves, could not carry. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus calls out hypocrisy, injustice, and self-righteousness. He took a whip and chased the money changers out of the Temple because they were taking advantage of visitors who needed to convert their Roman coinage into temple coins. He called the religious leaders of his day “whitewashed tombs.” He referred to King Herod as a fox. Jesus was not a doormat, nor was he what is currently termed a snowflake. He was a champion for the oppressed and the dispossessed.
We are called to be no less than who Jesus was and is. So, let’s jettison the silly religious notion that Christians cannot be socially active, take to the streets in protest, and speak firmly about injustice in all its forms. It is time for the Church to take a firm stand for social justice. I get very angry when I see a drunken white man screaming at an innocent Muslim enjoying a day at the beach. I get fighting mad when a white customer throws her food in the waiter’s face because she’s not happy with her meal and he happens to be black. (This actually happened to one of my parishioners.) I am incensed when one of my Muslim friends is accosted at Macy’s by a white man while she shops with her daughter, all because they wore their hijabs. I am frustrated with some Christians because they don’t have the courage to take a public stand for justice and righteousness, but sit safely at home and talk about love and forgiveness from the comfort of their armchairs. And I’m beyond being tired of religious folks justifying and defending the immoral behavior of religious leaders in the name of spiritual obedience and Church unity.
People of God, we must stop being hypocrites and take a firm stand for what is just, holy, and righteous. We are called to care for the poor, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, and fight injustice in all its forms. That’s a tall order that takes courage. And it will offend people. Make someone mad by proclaiming the truth. Offend someone for the sake of the Kingdom. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. Tip the thing over already! God will give you a life vest, or better yet, teach you to swim. It’s time for the Church to find its purpose in this world again and take the lead.
Fr. Timothy Warren, a retired Air Force reservist and veteran educator, is the founding pastor of St. Francis (Independent Old Catholic Church), an outreach ministry located in Victorville, Calif. He is also President and Executive Officer for LifeSkills Development, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk young adults, those on probation, and other marginalized groups. Fr. Tim serves on the High Desert Interfaith Council in Victorville. He lives in San Bernardino.