Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Passion of Christ (Part 2)

For The Passion of Christ (Part 1), click here.

This week is all about passion, about caring so much for something or someone you will do anything for it or them. The joys of passion are powerful, the depths of passion endless. It is intense, it is emotional, it will involve sacrifice, it will include suffering. It will hurt to love this much, to care this much, to believe this much. We remember this holy week that our God is a passionate God, a God who loves us so much that Jesus was sent to show us the ways of passion and compassion.

- Mary Carter Waren and James Crafton
Living in the Mystery of God: Reflections for Lent


Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
By Doug Blanchard


The Eros of Anger

Excerpts from Holy Eros: Pathways to a Passionate God
by James and Evelyn Whitehead (Orbis Books, 2009)

The eros* of anger is the energy of social transformation. Anger arises in the service of life; it is the passion – painful but crucial – that energizes our commitments and sustains our resolve in the face of injustice.

Such a view of anger sits uneasily with a religious tradition that favors the image of Jesus as “meek and humble of heart.” Does not anger rank high in the traditional list of seven deadly sins? Yet in the midst of this enduring prejudice against anger, we recall other biblical testimony. The prophet Jeremiah raged at his community’s unjust behaviors: “I am full of the wrath of the Lord and I am weary of holding it in” (Jer 6:11).

Such holy anger is not restricted to the Hebrew Scriptures. Throughout the gospel we again and again meet an angry Jesus. Not only does he overturn the tables of those trading in front of the temple, he frequently lashes out at the pseudo-righteous: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mt 23:13). When Peter counsels him not to risk a return trip to Jerusalem, Jesus’ anger flashes again: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16:23). And when confronted by people who would prevent him from healing the sick on the Sabbath, Jesus “looked around at them in anger” (Mt 3:5). In the lives of the Old Testament prophets and in the life of Jesus, anger was an honorable emotion.

The Christian vocation calls us to continue Jesus’ ministry in our own lives. In our works of love, anger is not simply a misadventure or a sign of moral weakness. Anger can be an essential resource for facing injustice. It is the passion that equips us to challenge wrongdoers and to stand up to malice in the world.

. . . Befriended, anger is a valued companion. Anger is always assertive, as it makes its claim and indicts injustice. But anger is not always aggressive. The eros of anger moves us, but the goal of our anger need not include inflicting harm on other people.

. . . Anger flares in the face of genuine grievance. We see people we love treated unfairly; a colleague’s behavior offends our sense of decency or fair play; a politician shows contempt for values that are at the core of our worldview. When we are confronted by injury or injustice, the eros of anger fuels our commitment to right the wrong. All of us can recognize ways in which would-be righteous anger can misfire, aroused by injustice plays an indispensable role in social life. Theologian Beverly Harrison reminds us: “We must never lose touch with the fact that all serious moral activity, especially action for social change, takes its bearing from the rising power of human anger.”


* James and Evelyn Whitehead begin their exploration of eros by acknowledging the “mysterious Presence at the heart of the world.” They note that this presence “comes as gift, with a power that creates, sustains, reconciles, and heals. It is a presence that engages us personally, leading humanity beyond narrow self-interest into fuller participation in life. It is a presence that defies simple definition, but as theologian Michael Himes reminds us, the ‘least inadequate’ way we have to describe this presence is as radical love.”

According to the Whiteheads, “Christian thinkers today, Pope Benedict XVI and philosopher Charles Taylor among them, are returning to the ancient image of eros as an apt symbol of God’s radical love. This is an eros known through and beyond sexual arousal; its vital energy courses through the world, enlivening and healing hearts. Experienced as affection and also as compassion, in desire and also in hope, eros becomes ever more generous as it folds into that most capacious love described in the Bible as agape.

The Whiteheads’ book, Holy Eros, explores the cultivation of eros, and recovers eros’ potential to “reveal God’s action among us today.” It’s a book well worth investigating.

NEXT: The Passion of Christ (Part 3)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1)
The “Incident” in the Temple
Pasolini’s “Wrathful Christ”
Why Jesus is My Man

Image: “Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers” - Doug Blanchard (The Passion of Christ).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite the Whitehead's "use" of the Greek word "eros," it does not mean in any sense anything they impute to it. Eros, is both generic desire, and also sexual desire. It is NOT a form of agape, philia, or "anger."

"Eros of anger" is incoherent, if not outrageously obscene. Anger is its own emotion, which ethically balanced by cultivation of "personal excellence" (arete) is necessary to establish justice, a necessity in order for humans to flourish. The notion that we would DESIRE anger in itself, for itself, to become just: is obscene.

Do authors just make this crap up? They seem more far afield than Pastor Rick Warren, and just as dishonest.