Holy Anger!

Holy Anger! What does it mean for us as followers of the Prince of Peace?

I have learned to use my anger for good . . .
Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge.
It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.

Holy Anger! What in the world does holy anger mean for me?

We can begin to understand holy anger in the context of the present reality — the very real truth that so many of us are angry. After all, we saw with our own eyes a video of a white police officer with his knee on the neck of a black man. After all, we heard the man’s plea for mercy as he cried out, “I can’t breathe!” How could we not be angry? And shocked? And filled with grief? What we saw on a street in Minneapolis was a striking portrait of the kind of racial injustice and oppression that black people have suffered throughout history, now fully visible to us in the year of our Lord, 2020.

The tragic moments — 8 minutes and 46 seconds — are burned in our memories by the righteous fire of everything that is so wrong about George Floyd’s life slipping away, his breathing becoming more and more labored as the minutes moved on. I suggest that we who are God’s people are appropriately seething with holy anger.

Still, we seek an answer to the question, “What must we do with our holy anger?“ As we follow the way of Christ, what must we do to “overturn the tables of the money changers?” (Matthew 21:12-13) What do we do with our holy anger when we recall the anger of Jesus who threw tables to the ground and said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Perhaps, like me, you have been dealing with the struggle of reconciling your heart’s faith with the anger you hold in your heart right now. Dr. Barbara Holmes describes our dilemma well and gives us a construct that is true to our faith.

We all need a way to channel and reconcile our anger with our faith. . . . A theology of anger [for communities under siege] assumes that anger as a response to injustice is spiritually healthy.

Dr. Holmes suggests that, even though we serve a God of love, a theology of anger can wake us up and ask us to stand firmly on the holy ground of “justice for all.” Indeed, our holy anger can wake us up to the reality of racial oppression, of white privilege and of the violent brutality of systemic racism in our nation. Perhaps our holy anger will compel us to throw off the chains of weak resignation, as well as our persistent denial of the high cost of racial injustice. Perhaps our holy anger can empower us to transform our despair into compassionate action that transforms racial injustice and oppression. Perhaps we could even be labeled “justice-seeking folks.”

During a 2016 demonstration in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after the police shot an unarmed black man, Pastor Danny Givens publicly and peacefully challenged the Governor of Minnesota as he shouted these words into a microphone:

Your people keep killing my people. You keep telling me that you are going to do something. I just want you to put some action on it, put some respect on our people’s names . . . This isn’t black anger. This is black grief! [1]

How do we even begin to separate our anger from our grief? Pastor Danny Givens spoke in 2016. Understand that racial violence did not suddenly take over our community in 2020. It was a plague hovering over us in 2016, and before that — centuries of white supremacy, systemic brutality, lynchings and lashings, system-sanctioned murders. People of God, how can we not be angry?

I wonder how our holy anger will move us to holy action. I wonder where our holy anger will lead us with the mandate of ending racial injustice and creating Beloved Community. I am a long-time member of the Alliance of Baptists. Through many years, I have been proud of their broad influence against injustice and oppression. Today I am particularly proud of their recent statement on racism in the United States and I share portions of it here.


A Joint Statement on Racism in the United States
from the The Alliance of Baptists,
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America – Bautistas por la Paz,
and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
June 9, 2020

We have seen with dismay, pain and horror the destructive mark of racism on the soul of the U.S. Throughout our history, racism being the backbone of this nation’s development and unjust enrichment of many has become the choking source of black communities and people of color affecting every aspect of our collective life. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed these racial inequities that hurt black and brown communities by hindering their access to health but also their development, freedom, and pursuit of happiness. George Floyd’s words became prophetic for as a nation, we can’t breathe anymore.

The brutal and disturbing deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade have shaken our nation to its soul and painfully demonstrated the daily danger of being black in this nation . . .

The undersigned organizations publicly denounce the murder of George Floyd, its race-related violence, including the police brutality shown, and demand that each one of the four police officers involved in his death face justice for all engaged in disdaining the worth of this man as a human being and as a citizen. As peacemakers, we painfully recognize the sinful prejudice ingrained in our hearts, the violent actions deflecting the affirmation of justice, and the biased attitudes justifying hurting other human beings just because of the color of their skin and commit ourselves to dismantle racial oppression however we can . . .

We acknowledge our present time is difficult. We have become overwhelmed with a pandemic death toll surpassing 100,000 deaths, the desperation of millions unemployed, and the continuous disregard of black human lives. While these successive “pangs of birth,” can madden us, as peacemakers, it is essential to remember that grace and forgiveness heal our hearts, that we belong to each other (Rom 12:4-5) and that justice will be done for we seek it (Matt. 6:33). Under this yoke of darkness our actions today will define the future we want to build. We ask the Spirit to break us free and help us breathe.*

Amen! I can enthusiastically sign this transformational statement, with my commitment to respond to our beckoning God, to follow Christ in the way of peace, to breathe in the Spirit’s wind and fire, to use my holy anger against evil oppression. For me, the task of dismantling racial oppression is a holy calling that demands decisive action motivated by my holy anger.

May the holy anger in my soul abide with the holy peace in my heart, and may both compel and empower me to do the holy work of transforming injustice.

May God make it so for all of us and each of us. Amen.


*Please read the full statement from the Alliance of Baptists that includes five points that call for justice HERE.

[1] Morgan Winsor and Julia Jacobo, “Pastor Shouts at Governor: ‘This Is Black Grief,’ After Police Shooting of Minnesota Man,” ABC News (July 7, 2016). Available at http://abcnews.go.com/US/pastor-challenges-minnesota-gov-put-action-cop-shooting/story?id=40406186




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