Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and is the author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and the forthcoming License to Sin.
In his just released article “Unhappy fault: on the integration of anger into the virtous life”, which appeared in Touchstone Magazine, Dr. Podles writes a rather stunning analysis of the contemporary Christian church and its failure (or fear) to properly employ Godly anger to effect change. In particular, on destructive moral issues of sexual immorality and sexual crimes by clergy, Dr. Podles says the church is bound by “emotional deformation”.
If you have ever asked yourself what in God’s name is wrong with today’s church with so much shocking open sin, blasphemy, heresy and likes going virtually unchallenged, this will answer why.
Laurie Higgins of the Illnois Family Institute said the article is of “critical and urgent importance to both the life of the church and Amercan society.” I agree.
Writes Dr. Podles:
Any institution tends to preserve itself by avoiding conflict, whether external or internal. In addition to this universal tendency, many Christians have a false understanding of the nature and role of anger. It is seen as something negative, something that a Christian should not feel.
In the sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church, those who dealt with the bishops have consistently remarked that the bishops never expressed outrage or righteous anger, even at the most horrendous cases of abuse and sacrilege. Bishops seem to think that anger at sin is un-Christian. Gilbert Kilman, a child psychiatrist, commented, “What amazes me is the lack of outrage the church feels when its good work is being harmed. So, if there is anything the church needs to know, it needs to know how to be outraged.”
Cowards in the army of the Lord?
Some today believe secret prayer is a panacea for all of the church’s problems. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer, there is something wrong with using prayer as an cloak for fearful inaction. Certainly, God has not given us the spirit of fear. Taking the path of least resistance in order to avoid confronting aggressive attacks on our faith is nothing short of cowardly.
Higgins’ commentary looked at the passive stance of the German Evangelical Church in Germany as Adolf Hitler began gaining power and the parallels are eye opening. She noted:
The German Evangelical Church acted in ways virtually all Christians now view as ignoble, selfish, and cowardly:
- Pastors resigned from the resistance out of fear that they might lose their positions in the church.
- Frightened by the boldness of the resistance movement, church leaders issued public statements of support for Hitler and the Third Reich.
- Some pastors believed that a “‘more reasonable tone would be more honoring to those with different views.'” One bishop told Martin Niemoller that those pastors who refused to join the resistance were “‘trying to bring peace to the church'” rather than “‘seem like . . . troublemakers.'” In response, Niemoller asked “‘What does it matter how we look in Germany compared with how we look in Heaven?'” The bishop responded, “‘We cannot pronounce judgment on all the ills of society. Most especially we ought not single out the one issue that the government is so sensitive about.'”
Most alarming she said about the two seasons of crisis is “its similarity to the ongoing disheartening story of the contemporary American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.”
Since July 2007, we have painstakingly documented some of the most egregious examples of blasphemy and heresy occurring in the Christian context today. That’s not to mention the epidemic of sexual misconduct among black clergy. Yet, it has barely elicited a yawn from those in leadership. As Dr. Podles notes, the church’s sleepy-eyed attitude seems to say “let’s just all get along and be happy”. Its really a desire to protect what they have sold themselves to gain: money, positions, influence and prestige. This is what really controls them rather than any concern for what has already breached the doors of the church. Dr. Podles says we should emulate Jesus and allow righteous anger to move us into righteous action.
“The emotions that are now suppressed are hatred and anger. Christians think that they ought not to feel these emotions, that it is un-Christian to feel them. They secretly suspect that Jesus was being un-Christian in his attitude to the scribes and Pharisees when he was angry at them, that he was un-Christian when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple or declared that millstones (not vacations in treatment centers) were the way to treat child abusers.”
Make no mistake, we are not talking about bombing abortion clinics, killing abortion doctors or committing acts of violence against homosexuals. That is demonic. But there is a doable balance where a combination of open resistance and denunciation of wicked legislation, educating those in our circles of influence and demanding that our leaders publicly take a biblical stand. Or else.
In doing so we should never stray from the inspiration example of Moses, a man noted for his meekness.
“Meekness, which is the virtue that moderates anger, is misunderstood as passivity. Moses angrily confronting Pharaoh was the meekest of men, because he moderated the plagues to allow Pharaoh time to repent. Meekness moderates anger so that it is in accord with reason. Since most people suffer from an excess of anger, the virtue that increases anger in those who are deficient in it so that it is in accord with reason does not have a name, but it needs one.”
Jesus himself warned the indifferent church Laodiciea unless they changed their position he would violently reject them. Is he saying the same to us today? The world and those who hate the church should hear very clearly from us:
1. Our meekness is not synonymous with weakness.
2. Jesus said he was the door, not the doormat.