Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Gift of Wrath

I found myself engaged in uncensored honest discussion this week. The friend I spoke to queried me about my thoughts lately on women and the bible, women and the church, women in ministry. Frankly, I confessed, it's rather difficult for me to think too much on these subjects. Out tumbled my next secret: I get so angry as to get sidelined. Too much investigation into the workings of misogynistic thought will, I fear, prove debilitating to me. I can easily comprehend what tragedy it would be to avoid the questions that ignite such anger, but how do I walk the line between outrage and constructive response?

The assumption hidden in my logic: Anger is not constructive.

Is anger constructive?

As a strategy (mostly subconscious), I've worked terribly hard in most areas of my life at converting anger into meaningful, constructive conversations, devoid of emotional stickiness. I point out injustice and flaws in logic. I knit words and ideas together to form my (non-emotional) argument, appeal to mutually respected authorities on the subject. I know how to avoid words that indicate frustration and anger, certainly wrath or rage. Except in a few relationships, I rarely let on that a raw center exists, that my feelings, like anyone else's, can tumble about like nerves wired to an electrical outlet. This is in part due to an underlying belief that the expression of anger brings distance, while something less emotionally charged can bring about more positive change.

However, when it comes to the issue of misogyny and ministry, I have to face the fact that principle is not the only thing driving me to suppress my anger. I've been raised with the cultural pronouncement that "women are emotional." (I hear this as a slur most of the time). I've also been raised with the pronouncement that "women can't be leaders" because they are "so emotional." This understood, I've worked extra hard at pretending to not be emotional, so I won't fall into any stereotypes, and so I won't be discounted as a leader...or so my thinking goes. Obviously I see the pifalls in line of reasoning. I realize that practicing the suppression of the truth, even of one's feelings, is a surefire way to exhibit a false self to the world. Not only that, my suppression implies cooperation and agreement with the very system of thinking I find so destructive: that emotion is weakness, that those who feel cannot be strong leaders. It's unhealthy and dishonest, yet so darned easy to bow to.

If we could put matters of fear, honesty, and integrity aside for just a moment, I'd like to ask when and how anger in its raw form is constructive? Is it an uncalculated expresson of anger we witness in the accounts of Jesus flipping over the money-changers' tables in the temple? When is a shout, a flip of a table, an appropriate gesture? When should it be channeled toward other ends? And when should anger inspire us to be as creative and brilliant and wise as we can be in working out injustice, as we see Jesus--wise and brilliant--challenging the social and religious systems of his day?

1 comment:

Amy said...

Such good questions to chew on... I really enjoy your thoughts and your writing- thanks for sharing.