Angry Young Men

Is it ok to be an angry young Christian man? In light of various TV reports that freeze the blood of all genteel small “l” liberals here in the West (and boil the blood of all the right-wingers – Ed) the media reportage of various outrages, perceived or otherwise, in the Islamic world, have invariably focused on angry young men waving flags and weapons.

Faced with the possibility that young men, in the search for something masculine to attach to, might succumb to anger, guest blogger, Providence evangelist Damon Sokolowski, puts forward a case for a different kind of angry young man altogether, one whose anger has been re-appropriated by Jesus:

The recent amateurish video depicting Mohammed evoked the anger of particularly young Muslim men worldwide. I was struck by their fervour. Whether they were genuinely angry at an apparent insult to their prophet, or just simply angry young men looking for some reason to vent their testosterone, one could not doubt their passion.

It got me wondering: what does Christianity offer to angry, young men? Maybe they think of an elderly woman visiting a quiet cathedral to sit silently and participate passively in some sort of religious service once a week. Islam offers them an active religion where they must pray 5 times a day, seek to discipline their lives, and conduct Jihad – whether against their own selves, or against outside forces which threaten Islam.

Is a passive, feminised Christianity really what testosterone-fueled angry young men are looking for? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my old mates don’t find some of Islam attractive with its masculine tones and seemingly active participation in a life and community which lives and dies for something. Do Christians live and die for anything? Or are we merely telling young men to settle down, become passive observers, attend casual worship services, and seek to be better people?

Of course, Jesus has a lot to offer to angry, young men. Just think of the first disciples. There’s Simon Peter, rebuking Jesus when he realises that Jesus isn’t going to be the sort of Messiah he thought – one who would smash the ‘infidels’ – those Roman oppressors who had taken over the Holy Land and subjugated its people, infecting the lives of Jews with polytheistic and pagan practices. He obviously didn’t get because later there he is again, cutting off the High Priest’s servant’s ear with a sword at Jesus’ arrest. There’s James and John, asking Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven to toast the town which just rejected his message.

So what did Jesus do with angry, young men? He first of all gave the order: “Come, follow me.” Follow. Jesus is one who calls angry, young men to follow him. In fact, Jesus wasn’t offering an easy way. To the rich young ruler he says, “One thing you lack: Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, then come, follow me.” After just telling his disciples that he must suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, and be killed, Jesus calls a crowd to himself and says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Why is Islam successful among angry, young men? Because it doesn’t just offer them something to live for, but something to die for. There are convincing enough reasons why young men will blow themselves up (and others) for a cause outside of themselves.

Jesus offers both a better reason to live, and to die. He calls all people, – including angry, young men – to come follow him. But instead of seeking vengeance on enemies, he himself hands himself over to his enemies to be mocked, beaten and crucified for them, that his enemies may be forgiven. And he calls angry, young men to follow his example, in life and in death, submitting themselves to the will of God and following the example of Jesus in the most masculine act of all human history.

But Jesus won’t leave angry, young men angry. He will change them. Jesus also raise as mighty victor and conqueror, defeating sin, death and Satan. Where there was rage, he will redeem and ignite holy passion for the glory of God. Where there was lust for blood, he will transform and create love for enemies. And where there was a young, angry zeal for the advancement of an earthly kingdom, he will reveal the true nature of the kingdom of God and channel a righteous zeal for its advancement.

Jesus stills calls angry, young men to follow him. Church, and especially men, I challenge us to not forget the Jesus who called radicals to a radical new way of submitting their whole lives to God for his sake and the news about him. And angry, young men, Jesus is calling you to submit to his supreme authority and advance his kingdom in the way he prescribes.

10 Comments

  1. I reckon young men need to know more about righteous anger and shown that it can be a powerful tool in a sense. I remember watching Machine Gun Preacher and seeing the woman who had had her lips cut off for no apparent reason. I was angry that anything like that could happen and wanted to be able to do something about it. When used appropriately it can be a powerful tool which gets people doing things. However it never seems to be talked about in churches. Imagine what a group of say 20 righteously angry guys could do when working together. That sort of thing I believe would appeal to a lot of guys whereas the idea that you should stop these feelings and be ‘passive’ and ‘gentle’ all the time isn’t and may be a reason why young guys leave church at a certain age. Thats just what i think though.

    1. Hi mate – with you all the way. Guess we need the gentleness of the Holy Spirit to ensure that it is used “appropriately”. I’d be interested to know what your generation of Christian young men thought about it Padraig, and how you experience being a Christian in the workplace and Reserve

      1. Yeah I agree with it being used appropriately as it would be very easy to misuse it.
        Haha I would have a bit to say about those things as well.

  2. Hi Steve. I just found out about your blog and thought I might add my 5 cents worth,too. I’m with Padraig on this. Jesus certainly got angry. Righteously angry (not for Himself but for others), and I think there is a mandate for us to act accordingly, too, when appropriate. Choosing to turn the other cheek as an individual is probably the correct response (to personal mistreatment) and very admirable but we are called by Jesus to seek justice and stand up for the oppressed. To remain unmoved and unchallenged and yes, “unangry”, is perhaps the reason why injustice and oppression is still so rampant. Maybe we should get a little angrier, and at the same time allow the Holy Spirit to temper our actions with love. The gospel does offend many. Ae we too afraid of offending to make a difference? Anyway, just some thoughts.

    1. Hi Denise
      Yeah exactly the case. The personal turning of the cheek is always hardest, and the general disinterest in injustice abroad is always the easiest. The trick is to get it the other way around, and as I said to P, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job in us. Yes we are afraid of offending, though with the shift in the culture away from the Christian worldview it is becoming easier and easier to do it! A tricky couple of decades ahead for us in the Western world I believe. Nice to hear from you too! 🙂

  3. Good one Damo. Interesting subject…
    I’m pretty out of touch with the anger of young men, although I do recall quite a bit of door-slamming and the like when one of my brothers was an adolescent! (He is now a mature, godly young husband and father, with a penchant for paintballing!)
    My feeling is that anger, even vehement anger, is by no means unique to (young) men, but that they are simply more likely to be violent. That is, all the extra testosterone seems to make them physically more volatile (which is obviously combined, generally, with greater physical strength… hence male-dominated phenomena like wife-beating and assault, king-hits and the like), but not necessarily more angry as such. I’m sure it would only take a quick foray into a discussion about Mitt Romney among a bunch of feminists to discover how angry women can get! But I think what you see in sport, battle, video games, playground fights, and abuse situations is a particular kind of “let me at ’em” aggression, which I guess is the kind of anger you are talking about?
    I must say I was caught out by this: “following the example of Jesus in the most masculine act of all human history.”
    I guess my inner feminist reacted a bit initially, thinking why was Jesus’ going to the cross a ‘masculine’ act? Then I thought… maybe you were reflecting on the description of Christ the husband-prototype in Ephesians 5. Maybe part of God’s depiction of himself as masculine, and part of the image of himself that he has placed in men, and calls them to live out, is that element of radical self-sacrifice. Not that I think that is, or should be, unique to men. Afterall, the first type of person that comes to my mind when I think of self-sacrifice (apart from Christ) is mothers! And maybe part of the reason Ephesians 5 specifically calls men to lay down their lives for the wives is because it doesn’t come easily/naturally to men?
    Interesting that our culture would, I think, acknowledging *dying* for someone to be the most heroic act, moreso than *killing* for someone (though that might persist in the fairytales… otherwise the knight wouldn’t live to marry the princess!). And yet Jesus’ calling people to lives (and maybe deaths) of self-sacrifice is so offensive, and so grates against our instinct for self-preservation. In fact… isn’t it interesting that even though people who give up their lives for others are lauded as heroes, people also openly talk about “looking out for #1” as a totally okay, justified motto to live by!
    Hmm… time for bed.

  4. Oh, I was also going to say that maybe the reason following Jesus’ call is not appealing is because generally the sacrifice he requires of you is usually the hum-drum kind that doesn’t win you any medals!

  5. Slay the wicked? (well they did in OT times?) but maybe not so likely today unless in a righteous war…now that is a big debate in itself.

    Overturn the tables of corruption and mediocre boringness within church groups. Release the power. Fight the just wars. Metal Missions. The vibe… (The Castle)… Win the championship for the Lightning. Boxing for Jesus. Jesus Racing. Attack some races with endurance. Plenty of righteous options for the use of anger by Men and Women. One of the best things one can learn or teach in sports is to use/channel angry emotions into good purposes, so when people lose, or get injured or fall down, or get an unfair call, the best way to respond to percieved or actual injustice, is to ride the lightning of the angry emotions to do what is good in an even stronger manner. Problem is a lot of church groups don’t value those things, organise them or encourage them. Some church groups or churchy people do Thank God. The ones that do will progress. The ones that don’t will cease to exist in a decade or two at the longest IMO. I’m excited. And angry. But I’m not drunk or on some illegal aggression increasing drug, although plenty of angry young men (and women) are acidising their brains in a rapid manner these days, and that is a tragedy that life and emotions are being wasted on such pointless unproductive, meaningless outlets. Instead of trying to eliminate anger (and fits of rage, and hateful anger are without a doubt abhorrent, wrong and require law enforcement etc in some cases), we should be trying to use that anger to accomplish something good, which is exactly why the death cult has some short term success because it offers an opportunity to express anger in a world which has large sections of nanny state legislate away the expression of anger places. Should be more encouragement of fight the good fight, fight for what is right, serve and protect the community as a firefighter, a policeman/woman, or fight for Team Australia in the military. Don’t think God ever commanded us to suppress our emotions and try to eliminate them, although managing them and directing them towards good goals is something he certainly always has wanted us to do with anger and other emotions….

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