Of course pretty much everyone knows the rest of that quote...
...you wouldn't like me when I'm angry!
That is, as I think I've said before, one of my great concerns - not being liked. It's foolish and stems from some deep insecurities, I'm sure, but I like being liked. I suspect most of us do.
But it does sometimes hold me back from saying what I actually think and feel, particularly in public forums (fora?) such as here, or Facebook, or Twitter, or even in conversation or around and about. There was an article a while ago in the Church Times about Clergy Stress and one of the notes said that many found it hard that they had to 'be nice to difficult people'. There's some debate as to what that might mean! Being 'nice' is, though, the perennial image - and perhaps failing - of the Clergy, and certainly a trap I find myself falling into.
One of the problems is that when something does actually challenge the niceness culture, when something happens, all the bottled up and repressed anger or whatever can suddenly pop out and all sorts of views, ideas, issues, stresses and opinions can come out in a rush - sometimes unrelated to the issue or event in question, often making such an event or issue more than it need be.
My two flashpoints, which threaten to breach the dam of all my niceness, are these; two things which make me angry, sometimes needlessly, often with good reason:
I suspect that most of us will go along with the technology thing. I love the things that my PC, iPhone and all the other associated gizmos and gadgets I have picked up over the past few years allow me to do, though I sometimes wonder just how much more distraction I could have in my life! When it goes wrong, though, my tolerance level drops through the floor... Mostly this is trying to produce and print things on a timescale, but sometimes its to do with things slowing down for no apparent reason. Getting angry with keyboards, PCs, Printers etc when they go wrong is completely pointless and unreasonable - but it's better than kicking a cat in frustration.
More important is the Christianity thing. My understanding of Christian Faith is that begins with Grace. I have an understanding of ultra-prevenient Grace - that God's love and grace come first, that God begins with an attitude of love towards humanity and that this love has been shown in its fullest way in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (of which I could say more, and probably will). This means I believe that God starts with an attitude of love towards his creation.
I saw a video today that suggested God starts with an attitude of hate. Hating sin, hating evil, and hating humanity that is so sinful. Mark Driscoll offers an exposition of Psalm 5v5 which says that God hates evildoers. In this understanding God's holiness means that he cannot stand sin or the people that sin, and that his love reacts to this by sending Jesus and Jesus saves those who come to him and accept him and believe in him. Along with that you also have to believe a whole load of reformed doctrine or you are in sin and God obviously hates you as you are an evildoer. I'm not going to link to the video because it made, and still makes, me so angry. This along with a whole load of other stuff (I went back and edited that word, stuff will have to do) which I have seen from that whole reformed movement that I have seen and read fills me with sadness, anger and a certain level of despair for the Church and reminds me why I have a fair amount of sympathy for Atheists. It begins with a God who is angry, vengeful, wrathful and negatively disposed towards the creation he has made. There is such an emphasis on the holiness of God that the stress is on how this holiness cannot countenance sin. Funnily enough, that's not what I see in Scripture, I see the parable of the son welcomed back - not only welcomed but sought, watched out for by the Father (Luke 15), the Samaritan - outcast, unclean, not part of God's people - who gives an example of loving service beyond the boundaries set up by people. I see a God who loved the world so much that he sent his son to take the effect of sin onto himself, the wages of Sin in Romans 8.28 voluntarily taken by Christ.
I don't see an angry God who needs satisfying, but a loving God who puts him (or her) self in our place.
I know this paints me as a bleeding heart liberal and that my desire to try and keep everyone on board with my niceness has failed, but if that's the case then my understanding of and encounter with Scripture leads me to that place. I don't believe in hell (and fortunately nor does my Church) as a place where people are punished for not believing the right things. I don't believe that the effect of Jesus' death, which is the removal of ultimate death, is only restricted to those who have signed up to a certain viewpoint.
As I journey through Scripture I see a lot which is objectionable; genocide, rape, mutilation, war, exclusivity which seem to be approved of by God. I also see those things being turned away from as the Jewish people and later the Christian Church realise that God wasn't sanctioning those things, but that he stuck with his people despite them and even through them. Within itself Scripture contains its own judgement of itself - from Jesus' 'you have heard it said...but I say to you' to Paul's radical re-visioning of the Old Testament and his interpretation of God's message of love.
I see a God who welcomes, not despises. Who forgives rather than judges. Who is love rather than wrath.
And when I am told that only certain people are 'saved' and that we have consigned most of the human race to eternal perdition because they haven't got their theology right, I see red. And I don't believe it, nor do I think it consistent with Scripture. Sure you can pull out proof texts to show that I am wrong and that we should bash the babies of our enemies against rocks, or exclude those who don't measure up to our standards, or make women cover their heads, or exclude women from leadership, or let men dominate, or tell gay people they are bad and wicked for how they are made. I look at the big picture, not the proof texts, and I see in the Bible that God loves us; fallen, broken, failing. And God loves us before we know him, and after - even if some feel the need to tell them he doesn't.
Rant over. There's nothing to see here folks, go back to your lives :-)