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.