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"Dear God, I Am Angry! A Prayer from the Charlottesville Seventh-day Adventist Church"

A note from author John Thacker:

I originally wrote this prayer for the Sabbath morning service on August 10, reflecting on the coming protest in our town. When I was writing on Friday evening and Sabbath morning, I had no idea that our Pastor Daniel Xisto, along with those at a prayer vigil near the University of Virginia, were already being terrorized by a torch-carrying mob.

I have lived in this area 54 of my 55 years. I am very happy to say that C’ville SDA church has long been an inclusive community. I learned to appreciate God’s love of diversity at this church.  When I was a child in the early 1970s, our church school here in Charlottesville was integrated while many in Virginia were establishing private schools to avoid desegregation. I had a wonderful African-American teacher, Mrs. Warfield, and an Asian American teacher, Ms. King. Our congregation was also integrated at a time when few in this area were. Since God sent us the Flowers family, the diversity in this little church has blossomed! So, I found, and we as a church found, this past weekend’s events terribly difficult.

I would like to give a special thank you to Karen Flowers, who has been very helpful in preparing this prayer for publication. I have no need for ownership in this writing. Karen has contributed greatly, and all those in my history at C’ville SDA have contributed as well. So, I think of what follows as a prayer from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Charlottesville.

Dear God, I Am Angry! A Prayer from the Charlottesville Seventh-day Adventist Church

Great art thou, oh Lord, and greatly to be praised!
     Great is Thy power,
     Perfect is Thy wisdom,
     And infinite is Thy love.

I confess. I’m angry.
Like our first parents,
You give us permission, and a warning:
     The permission to be angry,
     And a warning to be careful that anger not lead us into sin.[i]  
The burden of free will seems too great for us.
It seems to push us farther East from Eden. 
Please dear Lord, draw us closer to you.

Dear God, I am angry!
Many people I talk with are angry.
The climate of our nation is angry.
We seem to be in a sea of anger,
and I fear we are losing sight of the shore.
Death makes me angry.
That good people lose hope makes me angry.
The demons of division, injustice, and hate sweeping our land make me angry.
I wonder, Where can all this anger go?
When I see the death of an innocent, I am filled with anger,
jolted with the clear knowledge of my own mortality,
and the lightning abruptness of death.

My first instinct is to wonder who is to blame.
Was it a stupid, thoughtless accident?
Was it a senseless brutal homicide, an act of hate and rage? 
Was it the deeper evil of calculated terror? 
Or was it an act of self-destruction for want of hope? 
Someone did this. Someone is blameworthy!
Who is to blame?
Surely there is Evil in the world, Lord.
Evil that deserves to be called out by name, resisted en force!
But what of the evil that lurks within, co-mingled with my anger? 
Is it I who is to blame? 
When I chose personal convenience or gain
over the good of another or the common good, I need to change. 
When cherished political views or party
are more important than people or policy effects, we need to change.
We are talking over each other more and more, and listening less and less.
We are bathed in fear, and divided by lies.  
We are 260 times more likely to be killed by lightning than to be killed by a terrorist,
yet we sacrifice our wealth, our freedoms, and other peoples’ children
for a false sense of security.  
We are walking on the edge of a cliff.
Since the earliest years of American history,
our nation has thought itself a “city set upon a hill.”[ii]
In recent decades many of our political figures—
Kennedy, Reagan, Obama, Bush II, and most recently James Comey—
have borrowed this image of America,
asking us to aspire to be a light of hope in a dark world. 
Today it seems at least as accurate to say we are “a city set upon a cliff”:
An impregnable city where immigrants expend life and limb scaling a ruthless wall
only to be thrown back into the sea,
A pitiless city where vulnerable citizens have been pushed to the brink of the precipice, left to hang there by a slender thread, clawing to gain a little security. 
This does not look like the “city set upon a hill” which Jesus calls us to become.

Today, many have come to Charlottesville to protest. 
They protest what they think is wrong with the nation—
too many immigrants,
too many entitled,
the erosion of their privileges,
the erosion of their security,
their loss of control. 
They feel threatened, and they are afraid. 
So their leaders find someone to blame:
as usual, the weakest, the most vulnerable scapegoats they can find. 
It is an old story, practiced by demagogues down through history. 
They say that Nero blamed the Christians for the fires he started
so that he could remodel Rome to his will. 
Hitler blamed the Jewish people for Germany’s economic and social failures.  
Stalin blamed the Ukrainian farmers
for crop failures caused by Soviet economic planning.
Now, in this land of immigrants, new demagogues blame immigrants.
In a nation founded on religious freedom, they discriminate based on religion.
In a community strengthened by its diversity, they want to destroy that strength.

Even as my heart joins in the resistance to such demagoguery,
I confess that I find it hard not to hate those who spread hate.  
I find it hard not to be prejudiced against those who preach prejudice.
I am in danger of becoming what I hate.
I am angry and sin is at my door!
It seems we are at a crossroad not knowing which way to turn,
and our GPS is lost too! 

Father, tell me You too are angry!
Tell me again that You hate arrogance, lies, murder, evil plots, and the path of the wicked.[iii]
Show me again that You are a swift witness against those who lie,
against those who cheat their workers,
against those who exploit widows or orphans, and
against those who mistreat immigrants and the homeless.[iv]
And I will praise you Father God, for you are just.[v]

Remind me that Jesus looked at the Sabbath congregation with anger
when they refused to give a word of mercy to the man with a withered arm,
were more interested in destroying Jesus than in helping one suffering.[vi]
Let me hear the forceful edge in Jesus’ voice after being rebuked for healing a woman on the Sabbath: “You hypocrites!
Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger
and lead it away to water it?  
Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”[vii]
Let me feel Jesus’ ire as He drove business people out of the temple.[viii]
"Take these things away;
stop making My Father's house a place of business."[ix]
Let me experience Jesus’ outrage against those who block the way to His Kingdom of Light:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces.
Penetrate my soul with His stern rebuke:
“For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” [x] [xi]

There is a time to be angry,
a time to rebuke,
a time for justice.
It is one such time today in Charlottesville.
It may be such time for a long time to come in our city and in our nation. 
But we must also look through our anger toward resolution.
We must look to the Source of the Light, who alone can make of us
“the light of the world,” “a city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden.”
Oh God, nurture the anger within that gives us energy to resist hate,
to protect the vulnerable,
to confront our own prejudices and injustice within and without,
to stand up for human rights for ourselves and others.
At the same time, keep us aware of the cliff edge,
the perilous line where God-given anger ends and sin begins.

Help me to honestly assess whether I am I angry for myself,
or for the wrong done to others?
Jesus promised that I have no reason to fear,
no reason to be angry for myself:
To You we “are of more value than many sparrows.”[xii]
We need not fear “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” [xiii]
Eternal life is in your hands,
and it is the “Father's good pleasure to give [us] the kingdom.[xiv]

Do not let the sun go down on my anger.[xv]
Help me to forgive those who hate, and despitefully use me.[xvi]
Help me to remember they also are children for whom you died.
Remember they are imprisoned in fear, and devoured by hate.
They are led into darkness by the Blind, and the Evil.
Help them Father. 
Forgive them Father.
Do not let me turn my anger on my brother or sister.[xvii]
We are all your children. 
We are all brothers and sisters. 
Help me to focus my angry energy toward correcting wrongful actions,
rather than in seeking revenge against the actors.

Help me to hear those crying in pain, and give them your hope, 
to hear those spewing hate and dissention, and see your son or daughter.
Restore my hope. 
Keep me from despair. 
Help me to see your light, the only Source (my Logos).
If I say, “the World is darkness,” I condemn myself for not reflecting Your light.
Help me to better reflect Your light. 
Turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.[xviii]
You have washed us in Your blood and made us clean.
     Deliver us from evil, deliver us from despair.
     Revive our hope, and grant us Your peace.
     Let Your love roll over us like the oceans.
Let Your justice pour down like Niagara Falls. 
Take away our hearts grown stony with anger, and give us one heart of flesh.[xix]
We plead in your Holy Name. 


Notes & References:

[i] Ephesians 4:26

[ii] A Model of Christian Charity was preached by Puritan John Winthrop.  In 1630.  Based on Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill ...

[iii] Proverbs 6:16-19

[iv] Malachi 3

[v] Revelation 16:5

[vi] Mark 3:1-6

[vii] Luke 13:15-17

[viii] Mark 11:15

[ix] John 2:15-17

[x] Matthew 23:13-29 

[xi] Matthew 23:4-7

[xii] Matthew 10:31 Luke 12:7

[xiii] Matthew 10:28 Luke 12:4

[xiv] Luke 12:32

[xv] Ephesians 4:26

[xvi] Matthew 5:44

[xvii] Matthew 5:22

[xviii] Malachi 4:6

[xix] Ezekiel 11:19


Image Credit: Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

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