The Anger Merchants
Several years ago, a group of people approached me about doing a local radio show. The premise was simple. Nashville was open to a radio show talking about the issues of family and life we all face from a common sense, Christian based approach. (Their words, not mine). The idea was tempting. I thought it would kind of fun. That is, until I talked to a friend of mine.
"You'll hate it," he said. I was curious. Why was he so sure I would hate it? "Think about it," he said. "The only way a radio program works is you have to make people so mad they'll stop whatever they're doing and call in to yell at you. Making people mad is the way you stay on the air." Radio only works when people are mad. Tennessee fans hate Alabama fans. Alabama fans hate Tennessee fans. That's what makes the sport's show work.
I hadn't thought about it like that, but he was right. From political commentators to sports announcers, radio personalities have to say something so provocative and infuriating you'll put down whatever you're doing, pick up your phone, and yell at the radio hosts while you're trying to convince them to your way of thinking. That's what makes these shows work. Everyone else is listening to the show waiting for someone to call in and argue. The whole success of the show depends on the hosts ability to make people mad. Tennessee fans hate Alabama fans. Alabama fans hate Tennessee fans. That's what makes the sport's show work.
It's the same with political radio. You have to make people mad. Political media trades in anger. They don't seek to inform. Ratings aren't made with information. Success is found in anger. Our media makes their living peddling anger. The right says the left is to blame. The left says the right is to blame. It's always somebody else's fault and we all end mad. What's more. We stay mad. We're mad when we come home. We're mad when we go to work. We're mad when we go to church.
My wife and I, along with a lot of people we know, turned off our social media and most news programs because we ended up being angry all of the time. We were angry at people who didn't get the vaccine. We were angry at people who demanded we get vaccinated. Wear a mask? Don't wear a mask? I was mad at government officials. I was desperate to hear something from the government officials. I was mad and frustrated all the time.
My wife and I agreed to turn off all of these platforms and programs to maintain our mental well being.
I ended up turning everything off again the other day. The news of the school shooting in Texas was breaking and everyone was mad. Some people wanted to ban guns and other people said we couldn't do anything about guns because of the second amendment. I was overcome with grief and anger. So was everyone else. People were calling radio stations and screaming into television cameras. Everyone was angry and the commentators made sure we heard from all of them.
Now, what happens to all of that anger? One thing we know about anger is it doesn't go away. If you don't deal with your anger, it deals with you.
Take what we know about the shooter. He's a lonely young male who had few friends, had been bullied and then, radicalized in some fashion over the internet. He got angry and what did he do with his anger?
I'm not a politician. I'm a pastor. What about our anger? What do we do about the anger before it leads to the act?
First, we need to disconnect from a culture that pumps anger as a business model. Television news shows and talk radio don't help us become more like Christ and if something doesn't help us become more like Christ, we get rid of it. Jesus was serious. If your hand keeps you from following Christ, cut it off. If your eye gets you in trouble, pluck it out. The truth is simple. Whatever gets between you and Jesus needs to go.
Second, we need to understand anger will, sooner or later, lead to action. No one just seethes in anger. Sooner or later, the anger will demand expression in action. Remember Jesus said if we hate our brother we were guilty of murdering our brother? This is what Jesus understood about human nature. Once angry, if the anger isn't dealt with, the anger will deal on its on. Hateful thoughts, left unattended, soon become hateful actions.
Third, we need to live deeply in the peace of Christ. This isn't just preacher talk. It's a deep and very real state of being. Because we are loved in Christ, because we are valued in His grace, we don't need anything from any one else. We have God's validation through His Spirit and what we have, the world can't take from us. We are never under any threat from the world around us. This deep reality gives us the ultimate freedom to live in our world.
We are free to love our neighbors without needing anything back from them. We can diffuse their anger through the abiding calmness of God's Spirit. As we live in the freedom of Christ, we invite others to do so. We can be free from anger and liberate others from their anger as well.
And it starts by putting away those things designed to waste our lives in meaningless anger. That includes social media and anything else that continues to make you angry. We all get angry, but anger is never a permission to sin. We're all accountable for our actions -- regardless of who's made us mad.
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