Photo by Thomas Angermann/Flickr

The Pontifications Of An Angry White Man

Photo by Thomas Angermann/Flickr
Photo by Thomas Angermann/Flickr

I don’t think real change can happen until someone get’s really angry.

“The supreme task [of a leader] is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force,” -Mlk, Jr. in Freedomways magazine in 1968


The kind of love that sustains deep transformational change must be ignited by something more than mere goodwill, a vision of a better future or calm, sentimental hope. For death to be throttled by resurrection power, anger must be kindled in the space between what is and what should be.


“I never work better than when I am inspired by anger.
When I am angry I can write, pray and preach well;
for then my whole temperament is quickened,
my understanding sharpened, and all mundane
vexations and temptations depart,”
-Martin Luther, Catholic monk turned Protestant reformer


For this to happen, something must happen to us. We must suffer in some way that moves us from observation to sharing in the pain of injustice. We must taste it, feel it, see it and hear it. We have to weep for ourselves before we are able to cry for justice with any authentic voice. Until you are broken, you have no real power to heal much of anything. Only those brought up from the dead have anything worth giving that resonates and animates life.


“Love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD,”
-Solomon, the wisest man on earth (Song of Songs 8:6).


We must be driven by a consuming passion, a holy jealousy for the will and the kingdom of God to break in like a descending torrent of justice, a mighty river of righteousness, sent to sweep away all the sins of human indifference, blindness, callousness and duplicity. Our lukewarm experience with life threatens the future of freedom, equality and peace.


“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate…”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”


In his autobiography, MLK Jr. wrote about a foundational event that ignited a potentially destructive fire within his own life, but in time became an indomitable fire that helped fuel his work for justice. That incident occurred in 1943 on a bus in Georgia:


“When I was 14, I traveled from Atlanta to Dublin, Georgia with a dear teacher of mine, Mrs. Bradley (to) participate in an oratorical contest.  We were on a bus returning to Atlanta. Along the way, some white passengers boarded the bus, and the white driver ordered us to get up and give the whites our seats. We didn’t move quickly enough to suit him, so he began cursing us. I intended to stay right in that seat, but Mrs. Bradley urged me up, saying we had to obey the law. We stood up in the aisle for 90 miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.”  


Anger is a fire that has the potential to melt the shackles of any injustice or burn down the community we feel imprisoned within. A fire in the furnace brings life sustaining warmth but cast on the living room floor, it will consume the home and all who live there.


Sometimes fire smolders the unseen within our own souls, and if not harnessed and channeled it can fry us from inside. It will dry up all vitality, leave us as ashes of bitterness and resentment. Unfulfilled expectations, grandiose messiah complexes, unrealistic imaginations about humanity or the reality of sin often leave reformer burned out in the ditch of history. Fire is sacred and only sanctified hands and hearts can carry its flame without devils wedging themselves into the room. Satan is always trying to find a seat at the table where bread, wine and prayer is animating a revolution.


“When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin. Don’t let the sun set with anger in your heart or give the devil room to work,” -Paul, apostle of the resurrected Jesus (Ephesians 4:26-27).


In 1956 MLK Jr.’s home in Birmingham, Ala. was bombed by white extremists. In his autobiography, he wrote:


“While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I was once more on the verge of corroding hatred. And once more I caught myself and said: ‘You must not allow yourself to become bitter’.”


These are the seismic moments that can crush or channel the power of anger. These horrors can become holy if they direct the raw power of fear and anger towards helpful action. But don’t be fooled by the stories you know the endings of, these moments are black holes that often swallow up all perception of God, goodness and any path ahead. Jesus bled first in a garden called Gethsemane, where the struggle was in the space of what was and what could be. It is here where the will of God and the way of God are submitted to in a manner no song or sermon can prepare one for in life.


Psalm 4:4:
Think long; think hard. When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin. When night comes, in calm be silent.


Think long and hard in this night. Let all the pressure of possibilities seen and unseen birth in you the seeds of righteousness that can grow into oaks for future generations. Let the darkness birth light in your soul. The fruit of wisdom that can only be grown in the garden of blood and tears. It is darkness that births the brightest light in the soul and it’s that light that will overcome the darkness.


In September 1962, during an Southern Christian Leadership Convention as MLK Jr. sat on the stage, a white member of the Nazi party jumped up to the podium and punched him several times in the face.  As the security rushed to his help and pulled away the hate-filled youth, Mr. King said calmly that he would not press any charges. He said in Martin Luther King on Leadership: “The system that we live under creates people such as this youth. I am not interested in pressing charges. I’m interested in changing the kind of system that produces this kind of man.”   


As I watch, pray and think long and hard on events that are happening in Ferguson, Mo, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine or in the sufferings of Ebola ravaged West Africa, I see and feel the heat and blaze of anger. I know it can potentially crush any hope of good, or it can be channelled towards justice. Unless we understand what it feels like to live in these type of situations and be trapped by impossibilities and indifference of the world around us, we are still outsiders. Until we have skin in the game, we haven’t walked the road of incarnation modeled by Jesus.


“I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world,” -Mahatma Gandhi (Young India journal, September 1920).


I pray that the anger of the red, black, white or yellow person that we see and feel today will be controlled and channeled and eventually overcome evil with good, starting in our own neighborhoods and then spreading like a wildfire across this desperate planet.

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Mark Hilditch

Wow! Great piece Eric. Thank you. Much over which to pray and ponder. Well done!

Eric Blauer

Thanks Mark!

Tom Schmidt

Again, you’re right on. I’m angry, too. And if I witness any cop arresting any person of color for such a pitiful reason as peacefully walking down a very lightly used residential road, with no one protesting, I will stand near the cop and slowly disrobe, giving him my underwear when he takes my coat. His humiliation, not mine. That Ferguson cop made it harder for us all to live peacefully together. I won’t tell any person of color what they should do, nor criticize them. I will try to take care of my group, and offer criticism where appropriate. Thank you for your message.

Eric Blauer

Tom I support your streaking for justice but I’m just not seeing how anyone can be naked and angry. 🙂

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