Getting Things Right
Your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. – James 1:20
The mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand brings to mind earlier violent events against precious people in their holy places: Charleston and Pittsburgh now meet Christchurch, a city far from either but now part of the same community.
The ongoing crisis of meaning displays itself again. A mistaken sense of self-righteousness. A self-deceptive racial superiority. A futile hope to get God “right.” An anger of certainty. Righteousness becomes violence.
And we can defend ourselves with anger against the violence, but this too will fail.
Getting things “right” is not an eye-for-eye or tooth-for-tooth kind of thing. It is instead what survivors of Auschwitz know. It is what parents in Parkland, Florida or Newtown, Connecticut know. Anger does not right the balance. It is only found in the great imbalance of grace, the kind that says righteousness doesn’t get even but gets generous.
Being angry is morally legitimate, but making society “right” is not an aim that can be achieved by drilling everyone into compliance or insisting upon one solution to all of the trouble we’re in.
We can’t get things right in the mixed-up-ness of human community. We can minimize the violence done—address its roots as well as its tentacles—by taming our anger and letting it drain into fierce love. Love does conquer all; violence conquers nothing. Both love and violence give birth to more of themselves.
The pivot from suffering to joy, from pursuing “right-ness” to pursuing community, is found in the choice to love, even if all we have is a little love left in our broken hearts. Love rights wrongs. That is not a drill. It can, however, become a habit.
So much is wrong, God. Pivot us toward love.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.